Behavior Modification

I wrote this one Saturday but didn’t get it proofed and posted. Because I fell soundly asleep—that’s a good thing. You’ll understand in a minute.

Here ya go:

It’s just been the new moon of the new year and today we had an eclipse. New beginnings are everywhere.

And that’s good because shite gets old quick.

So many things have changed in my household over the last few weeks[1] and it’s taken me a minute to find a new groove. I think I hit one today.

Part of our year-end celebration at Winternights was to ceremonially dispose of all of our ritual remains. We cleaned out our fireplaces, firepits, cauldrons. The deal was that on the new moon, I would bury the ashes. So I did.

Then I did some overdue animal care. You can tell a lot about my psyche by how my animals are cared for. When they need baths and haven’t been brushed in a few days (OK, weeks), you know I’ve hit a rough patch. On Friday, I got the dogs and cats vetted.  Got everybody deflead and heartworm treated. Today I even gave the li’l dog, an elderly Lhasa Apso with a skin infection, a(nother) bath.

I also cleaned the chicken coop. I used to clean it every few days. Over the summer, with 150% more chickens than I had in the spring, it got harder to keep right. First it was every week, then after just two weeks it became oh-my-god-this-is-just-too-much-to-handle-alone, so I’d wait until The Hubby could help. Now I know I have to go back to every 2-3 days.

For a little while, everything in my household seemed entirely out of sorts.

But today? The dishes are done. The family is fed. The laundry is—I’m working on it.

I also made homemade eggnog with real vanilla scraped right out of the bean and whipped cream with my son—but that’s another post.

I took care of an encroaching mold issue (that, in fairness, I didn’t know existed until a few days ago) and a weird “drain fly” thing (that, in fairness, I didn’t know WTF was happening until yesterday).

It might seem like this was a productive day. And it was; but there is a cost to this level of productivity. I ran the risk of falling into old habits. I had a lot to do and a little time to do it in. Such a predicament is apt to throw me into a manic tizzy which will, as the old narrative goes, then toss me off a cliff into a sea of despair. And—ain’t nobody got time for that.

You see, I have Cyclothymia, a type of bi-polar disorder where periods of hypomania can be followed by mood crashes. It’s not as severe as the mood swings I experienced while in the first years of grad school—way high to way low in the bat of an eye. The improvement comes from behavior modification and a lot of internal-work, “shadow work” if you will. Meditation. Watching what I eat. And, um, drink. I’m not medicated. I don’t want to be medicated and I don’t need to be medicated because the behavior mods work for the most part.

Aside from the fact that I often feel like an underachiever when I don’t live up to my personal Wonder Womanesque standards of accomplishment.[2] But as long as I keep my drive to “do” in check, my moods don’t cycle outside of normal parameters.

I get a lot of “How do you do it all!?” and “When do you sleep!?”

It’s nothing to envy, I’d say. It’s not a life I’d wish on my worst enemy.

There’s no shame in something like bi-polar disorder any more than there is in diabetes or myopia. The problem is in not being treated, in denying the situation, and in exacerbating the syndrome with inappropriate activities.

I know I’m lucky. I’ve gotten better but I still remember the roller-coaster ride of hypomania and depression. I’m also lucky in that I don’t have to be medicated. Deciding between drugs and mental health is no easy row to hoe.

Another important thing that got done was an important element in my behavior modification. Today I cleaned out my temple.

I have an auxiliary area of the house that I used to have cleared out and set up for regular Ceremonial work. Then I started taking on more students and I turned it into a classroom for the sake of family privacy. Then I started having too many students to fit in the small area (and eldest when off to college, so privacy was no longer an issue) so we moved back into the main house. Unfortunately, the area then became an inventory area for The Wyrd Sister and a post-kindred-ritual dumping ground. Today I reclaimed the area by cleaning it out, reorganizing its contents, reestablishing the temple area, and finally giving it a good “clearing.”

And then I cast my arse off.

I figured that I’d already worked myself into a near hypo state, best to do something productive with that energy rather than let it cycle my brain into a chemical frenzy. I’ve learned that it’s better to wind down a near-manic day with a solid grounding to get rid of any residual buzzing.

It worked and I’m sleepy.

Here’s hoping that when my head hits the pillow the proof will be in the—sleep.

I hope you all remain hale and hearty.

~E

Here’s a thing that gets me—and I think I’ll take this opportunity to sound off—I hate, hate, hate when bi-polar disorder is misrepresented in fiction. For instance, Carrie Mathison from Homeland.[3] Love the show. Great conspiracies. But.

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There is a distinct difference between bipolar disorder and the persecution delusions that accompany schizophrenia. While I’m not that kind of doctor and am not qualified to comment on a fictional character’s diagnosis, and while I know that a lot of symptoms are comorbid, the kind of mania Carrie displays on a regular basis is far wilder than anything I (or my similarly affected friends and relatives) exhibit.

Carrie’s obsessions (right or wrong), her chronic belief that someone is out to get her, and her Emmy and Golden Globe[4] winning manic eyes[5] are more indicative of either schizophrenia or really severe bipolar disorder.

Her drinking and hypersexual behaviors (complete with pregnancy tests—I won’t spoil how that goes), her risky behavior and up all night projects indicate—yup, bipolar. I’d expect to see her have bouts of overspending, redecorating, fast driving, and cyclical anorexia too though. Her delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and heightened emotional responses mixed with blunted emotional responses seem a little less like bipolar disorder and more like schizophrenia.

But that’s based on research, not a degree in psychology or medicine. Take it with a grain of salt, man.

Saul. Now there’s a harder one. He’s both awesome and a bastard. And I am qualified to make that diagnosis. 😉


[1] And in a year of really rapid-fire changes, that’s saying something.

[2] I mean, I didn’t get my nails done. Yet.

[3] Which, I admit, I am watching while I type.

[4] Also Screen Actors Guild and the TCA Award.

[5] Turns out the frontal lobe and the irises develop together. This means that there is something to the “crazy eyes” phenomenon. Thank you Criminal Minds.

Speaking of Criminal Minds, did you see the Salem Witch Trial one where Garcia planned a Dia de los Muertos party. The conversation about “the scary side” has me thinking about our need to play dress-up.  I hope to post about that soon. But not tonight.

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2 thoughts on “Behavior Modification

  1. Firstly, congrats on getting yourself into the swing of your life again, starting up after things overwhelm you is not easy or fun. I struggle with many of the same problems you mentioned, and commend you for being un-medicated, and able to manage yourself the best you can. I can see myself dealing with the different hurdles at your house, including the “drain fly” problem.

    We found out about them after we let dishes lag during my bouts with upper respiratory issues and depression, and after worrying about them for days, I finally was able to get rid of them. We still have a few if the dishes back up again, but it isn’t as bad. I think we boiled water, added some soap and bleach, and poured the (still hot) container down the drains where the flies were coming out of. Maybe that will help you too?

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I think we all have more similarities than differences. Don’t you?

      The flies are gone. A little bleach and hot water did the trick. It was in a bathroom we hardly use. Because it’s in the basement, roots grow in there. Ick.

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