June 1, 2011

How I Learned To Love My Mental Illness. ~ Chrystos Minot

Photo: little sourire

Where do I start? Every beginning is an ending.

I am “mentally ill.” I have a “cyclothymic disorder.” SI-clo THY-mik disorder. Sounds like a biking condition which is messing with my thyroid gland, doesn’t it?

The cyclothymic disorder is fairly rare and not well popularized. How exotic! No doubt the carbon fibers in my bike frame are interacting with the myelin sheaths of my neurons! And my chakras too.

But seriously, folks. This is a deep and sobering subject, worthy of careful, officious sentences only, which have a sober, descending pitch.

I like my “illness”‘sother moniker, “Cyclothymia”, more. Cyclothymia is sort of like bipolar, lite. “Bipolar Lite! Full bodied, less calories!” Think it’ll fly?

I can go through many intense emotions in a very short increment of time.

Photo: Shandi-lee

For example: sadness, anger, joy, angst, bittersweet melancholy, and then amusement, in ten seconds flat. Zip! No joke!

My moods can morph like a hummingbird with too much mocha latte. (It’s the cinnamon sprinkle that does it.)

This would make me a great M.C., actor, comedian, auctioneer, choreogapher or a superb empathic bodyworker. Which I am. Okay, not the auctioneer part.

I read peoples’ body language, breath-patterns and moods just like a dog. You dog owners know what I mean. I was born in the Year of the Dog (Chinese stuff. Get used to it. It’s a small world after all!)

Dogs rock. I identify with them.

But I don’t sit up and beg. Except with my wife. Oops. I also have somewhat loose boundaries. I like sharing if I’m not growling.

But I digress. I take lithium.

Lithium works for me better than Depacote. Lithium functions like a keel for my moods. (Along with yoga, acupuncture, swimming many laps, hiking, dreamwork, organic foods, laughter, sacred dance, meditation, and communing with dogs.) These are foundational and intrinsic to my self management.

But I digress. Back to the keel analogy.

For you non-maritime readers, a keel is a heavymetal fin on the bottom of the hull of a sailboat which lowers the center of gravity of said boat, thus rendering it more stable in rough seas. Hobie cats and rowboats have very minimal or nonexistant keels. Now, a swing-keel…OK, that’s enough now…I get carried away with this educational stuff.)

The great thing about lithium is that if I run out, I can always chew on a battery from my camera. Maybe it’ll help my vision, too!

The other good thing about being in the “bipolar family” is that I’m in pretty darn good company with my wonderful brain.

Who, might you ask? Counting the bipolar folks and the depressives:

Photo: Alejandro Cordón

Bill Moyers. Robin Williams. Buzz Aldrin. Carrie Fisher. Sir Issac Newton. Lily Tomlin. Jack London. Jane Pauley. Florence Nightengale. Tom Jenkins (oh, he works over at that Burger King on 30th and York streets. Nice guy.) Dick Cavett. Winston Churchill. Harrison Ford. Fancy that.

I think you know this but I’ll say it anyway: I’m not saying all of us who have neurological challenges are all geniuses or accomplished actors or famous mathematicians who had fierce temper tantrums (that was Issac Newton).

Incidentally, many visionary people in history had some pretty appalling habits/made some pretty inhumane choices. Ben Franklin, for instance…but that’s another story.

Fun fact: Including those with learning disabilities (ADD, dyslexia, ADHT, Asberger’s etc), mental illness and mental disability accounts for about 26% of the overall population.

So that means that about a quarter of your co-workers at the office, or your neighbors, or fellow masticators at the local eatery, are wackos, noodle-brains. Not.

Mostly, they have jobs and friends, have close relationships, worry about their waistlines, have hobbies, watch too much TV (which engenders increased fear and weight gain, but that’s another story).

Fun fact #2: Contrary to popular belief, the percentage of mentally ill / mentally disabled are not responsible for the majority of violent crimes. The regular folks are. Say what?

So if you are assaulted or raped or pushed around, chances are greater that the guy (it’s mostly guys–the reign of testosterone. But that’s another story,) is a regular dude. A non-“mentally ill” person.

Despite what the movie industry (eg Psycho, etc) likes to suggest and teach, over and over.

So think about it: Most “crazy people” (including the “learning challenged”) are not responsible for the 683,000 assaults per year (or 1871 per day, or 78 per hour) — most likely it is someone “normal.”

Interesting factoid: did you know that for most people, their second greatest fear is that of dying? No surprise there, but their greatest fear is that of public speaking.

So at a funeral service, most of the people in the audience would rather be the the woman in the casket, than be the guy giving the eulogy!

Okay, back to the violence and the mentally ill theme-ette. (Enough of this fruitless levity. More bing cherries!) This is accounting for the fact that the mentally disabled are in the minority. The overall per centage of that population is smaller than of the non-disabled. So it’s pretty darn teensy.

Photo: Alan L

I know, you dropped out of Statistics class because that cute guy Bruce Temple transferred to Probability class, and you followed him. Then he went steady with that tart Angie Ruthorford!

Life is cruel. Marilyn Ferguson said:

“Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.”

Here is a sobering scientific fact. Certain emperor penguins actually build two homes and then migrate many miles between them. The scientific community has coined a name for them. Bipolar!

But I digress. Here we need some words of wisdom from Lily Tomlin:

“What is reality anyway? A collective hunch!”

Go Lily!

And I should give a nod to the dead white guys. Aristotle said:

“No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.”

Go ‘Stotle!

So what’s the gist here? The bottom line, the take home, the bumper sticker slogan for this nano-sized, New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” wannabe, this coming-out, self disclosure piece which will appall my beloved spousal unit?

(Maybe that “Sit up and beg” joke will save me. Nah.)

How’s this? (Cue the slow and sincere french horns, symbolizing Noble Actions, and Rich, Natural Goodness):

We are all weird. We are full of “warts” and gifts, if you look close enough. Some of us are just out of the closet is all. And some of us have learned to manage them, and thrive. Woot!

So let’s be non-fearful and compassionate to those who are still struggling to manage.

We are more evolved than those in The Scarlet Letter. I hope.

(Saw on a billboard in the Houston airport: “Depression. If it was cancer, you wouldn’t say, ‘Why doesn’t she get over it?'”)

Yeah. That’ll do for now. Each ending is a beginning.


Chrystos Minot has been doing massage therapy since 1979. He has been a dancer and performer for thirty-five years and doing yoga for thirty years. He is a poet, sculptor, and dedicated dad and family man. He lives with his wonderful wife, Dr. Tara Goldin, and awesome son, in Louisville, Colorado, near coyotes, wild geese, and the occasional red tailed hawk. He volunteers at his son’s second grade class eight hours a week, and it is profoundly rewarding. Chrystos hopes to get certified to teach grade school and make good use of his adoration of, and great proficiency in, teaching science, art, writing, yoga, dance, math, crafts, music, performance skills, social EQ, conflict resolution, and teaching really cool sound effects that the kids love.

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