Overcoming Fear of Failure in Life

This is my own story of overcoming fear of failure in life…the boat is simply a metaphor.

 

Solo Sail FB copy

I was four years old when I made the decision with promise that I was going to live on a boat. That decision was as constant as the northern star (everything rotated around it and it never changed position.)

So my whole life I’ve turned everything away that got in the way of me living on a boat.

The one really KEY thing I didn’t turn towards was learning how to sail…how to be Captain.

I was my dad’s #1 first-mate, but I was scared shitless of being Captain. I just expected that by the time I bought my boat, I’d be married and he’d be captain.

When I became a licensed psychotherapist and began earning a decent income…most of my money was saved for the boat that I didn’t intend to buy until I was married. But I never told people I was waiting for the married part and that I was so incredibly scared of being Captain.

No one knew how scared I was to be a Captain. No one knew to what extent I did not believe in myself and my abilities…even after 34 years as first-mate…I had NO confidence whatsoever that I would ever be Captain. It was my little BIG secret. I think the only person I would’ve told was my husband. I expected that as we were dating he’d be the one to truly learn how to sail and I’d be his first-mate.

Life doesn’t happen as planned. This time last year, my dad was living at Cedar Sinai Hospital being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia AND he was DETERMINED AND PERSISTENT that it was time for me to buy my boat.

He had no clue how scared I was AND no part of me was ready to be Captain. I wanted him to be Captain (since I wasn’t married). But Leukemia took that dream away too. Even though no part of me was ready to buy a boat, I bought a beautiful boat.

The whole process made me a little more manic than usual. When it sunk in that my dad was really sick, way too sick to be Captain…that I might lose my dad, he might die…I sunk into a depression for several months…yet I was joyous at the same time because I was living my dream of living on a boat. I was manic-ly depressed.

From the moment I bought my boat I lived on her. But I didn’t take her out of the slip. She became the best condo ever. We weren’t going to go anywhere. I had no clue as to what I was doing whatsoever AND I had no intention of changing that.

I was afraid of EVERYTHING. I was afraid of messing up everything and breaking stuff. I was afraid of sinking my home, damaging my home. I had no faith in myself…no confidence whatsoever that I was capable of being a Captain of my boat…or the Captain of my life (that fear was caused by Bipolar Disorder).

Whenever I thought about sailing, I said to myself, “Hell no! I’m not sailing my boat. That’s stupid! That’s a horrible idea! That’s just asking to lose everything I’ve worked so hard for. I’ll wait until I find “the guy” or even “a guy”.”

I resisted sailing with everything I had in me. I had every excuse in the book. I told myself and everyone else that I was perfectly content with my life tied to the dock. I went out to sea on other people’s boats and got overwhelmed easily anytime anyone tried to teach me anything on my boat.

A good friend of mine saw right through me. He said to me, “You’re afraid of fucking up.”…”We’re taking your boat sailing. You are going to be at the helm the entire time and running all of your systems. And you don’t get to leave the helm until you know how to do EVERYTHING. I’ll coach you, but you’re doing ALL of the work.”

I had no choice but to go along with it.

I hated every moment of it. It was hell. It was scary. Nothing was fun about it at all…but I did it anyways.

I did discover that by being forced to do things, I actually did know how to do them. I just wanted someone else to be doing them.

Certain things came intuitively and things like docking scared the crap out of me and I never thought I would be able to do it.

Docking Perfectly FB copy

That’s me docking my boat…my dad on the right on the dock.

But I learned that even when I failed, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. When I failed at docking, I didn’t sink my boat or do damage to anyone. I eventually got the boat tied up in the slip.

BUT I still did NOT want to be Captain. I wanted to go dance on my bow (the front of the boat instead). I didn’t want the responsibility.

After a few sails, my friend saw my resistance and stopped sailing with me. He gave up on me. I felt like a failure. I failed. I was a failure. I stopped sailing.

The first week of September, a family friend died who was in the hospital when my dad was in the hospital. This friend said to me, “Honey Hush” every time I gave him an excuse for not sailing.

After his funeral, I took my boat out sailing.

I made a ton of mistakes and I broke things. I faced every basic human fear out there on the water. And I did it. Everything was and is just fine.

So I kept sailing her over and over again. I single-hand sail her every week.

I now am the Captain of my boat, “Living My Dream”. Becoming her Captain one sail at a time empowered me to become Captain of my life (in spite of Bipolar Disorder.)

I make mistakes all the time. Things break or breakdown. I don’t know how to fix them. But people help and there always is a fix (eventually)…and more things will break and I’ll mess up, and its okay as long as I’m being safe and paying attention. I have the confidence to know that no matter what happens things will be just fine.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of how I overcame my fear of failure became Captain of “Living My Dream”.

 

Captain of LMD FB copy

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The Essay that got me into Graduate School to become a psychotherapist. Robin Mohilner’s actual graduate school application essay.

The following essay was written in 2003 in order for me to be accepted into Graduate School.

I began Graduate School January of  2004 and completed August of 2006.    I practiced as a “Marriage & Family Therapist Intern” from 2006 until 2011 earning 3,000 hours of experience as a therapist in diverse settings.

 

 

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The Goals Statement is an important part of Phillips’ application process. You are required to submit a three- to seven-

page, double-spaced, typed essay outlining the following:

A. AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Describe in an autobiographical essay your personal, professional, and educational history, specifying how these

elements interrelate with your chosen field of study and career objectives. This section will give the Admissions

Committee:

•Insight into who you are and what history has brought you to this point in your life

•A sense of your capacity for introspection, reflection, and critical thinking

•An indication of your understanding of commitment to serious master’s or doctoral level work

PLEASE NOTE: Merely submitting a resume, curriculum vitae, or one-page synopsis will not be regarded as an

adequate autobiographical essay.

B. CURRENT PERSONAL, INTELLECTUAL AND PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS

Describe your current personal, intellectual and professional interests and activities, giving particular attention to the

nature of your work, studies and current reading, areas of special interest, and career plans. Indicate your reasons for

seeking a degree from Phillips Graduate Institute. This section will help the Admissions Committee understand:

•The nature of your life now and how master’s or doctoral level study will be integrated into it

•Why you want to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree, and why you feel you are prepared to study at the master’s

or doctoral level

•How you came to know about and why you chose Phillips Graduate Institute

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I chose question A.  It gave birth to this essay.  This essay combined with a good grade point average from UC Berkeley got me an interview to go to Graduate School to become a psychotherapist and art therapist.

This is not be the final version.  I could not find the final version …it is longer and addresses why I choose to be a therapist.  This is good enough…

____________________________

 

I can remember the whisper of the words, “Robin! I don’t want you to go to hell!”; that came from the voice of my best friend when I was seven.  That moment shaped my identity as a Jew.  Her father was standing behind her and with conviction assured me of my fate if I did not choose to change.  I struggled with how to handle this because he was like a second father to me. I respected and trusted his beliefs and values.  I also desired to be accepted and loved in his home.  Doing so meant that I would have to accept Jesus as God.  In the moment of making the sign of the cross on my chest, I realized that I had betrayed my ancestors.

I could feel myself being torn from the roots of my own family.  My self defense mechanisms protected me from the pain.  A burning rage grew within me.  I distanced myself from my best friend.  I struggled with my relationship with God and my duty to my ancestors.  In doing so, I realized that I wanted to go to heaven, but not if the price was to deny who I am and live in shame.

As the years passed and I faced more Anti-Semitism, I felt an intense sense of duty to live for my ancestors.  I knew that I had to celebrate their life in a way that did not manifest as the hate that ended it.  I realized that I could love them most by loving others, that I could give to them by giving of myself, and that I could be their voice by taking a stand for others who may not have the ability or resources to be heard. And so I live.

I experienced my greatest loss and pivotal change between the years of twelve and thirteen.  When I entered middle school, I felt confident in my childhood friendships and was excited to welcome new people into my life, but then in one day it was gone. I had suddenly been banished to become an outcast.

In the beginning of my banishment, I sat alone at lunch and cried. I felt abandoned, weak and powerless.  I begged for their friendship. However, the more I cried the deeper they dug their knife into my heart. They knew that they could hurt me and my tears fed them fuel. Like clock-work, they would trash my locker.

The days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months and I could no longer cry. I was emotionally numb. One Friday, I happened to be going to my locker and I caught the person who I once considered my best friend destroying my belongings. For the first time, I walked right up to her, looked her in the eyes, grabbed a book out of my own locker, ripped off its cover, threw it on the ground and walked away. With this action, it was as if I’d said, “Fine! Do it! You can’t hurt me any more!”

What I learned from this experience is how to stand up for myself, and make my actions heard when no one is willing to listen to words.   I developed issues with trust.

Age 13

As I grew up, there were three women after whom I modeled myself: my sister, my mom, and my  grandma. They defined the kind of person I wanted to be.

I hoped to be just like my older sister. I saw her as being cool, intelligent, and fun. She was popular and I wasn’t, so I tried to be like her. Attempting to take on my sister’s identity caused her to push me away because she needed to be unique. Therefore, by the time I was thirteen, my sister and I no longer had a relationship; I had become insignificant to her. In order to get her attention and approval, I started competing with her for her identity. I copied the way she dressed, the way she spoke, her mannerisms, her favorite music, and did anything to be like her. I also tried to win over her friends so they would make my sister pay attention to me.

The other two powerful women in my life influenced my core values, belief systems, standards, and principles.  They gave me emotional support and strength. These women, my mother and my matrilineal grandmother, were my rocks and my heart. When I was thirteen, I needed their support more than ever, but the tables had turned and they suddenly needed me to be the support.

My mother could no longer be the woman of strength that brought stability in my life. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to face her own battle, which weakened her spirit and caused her tremendous pain. Around the time of my mother’s diagnosis, my grandma moved in with us because she had a minor stroke. As my mom faced cancer and my grandma’s health deteriorated, I was determined to be strong. I didn’t show my pain or struggle, not wanting to add to their’ own.

Grandma stayed in my room, which placed me on the couch. As the time passed, I grew to resent her being there because I no longer had the privacy to grieve. Then, in the peak of my resentment, my grandma died. I felt so guilty because I loved her with all that I am, but I didn’t show it to her until it was too late. Furthermore, I felt great shame because I could not be there for my mom to mourn my grandma and I could not handle her suffering.  I was unable to cry. The only thing I knew how to do was to emotionally run away.  So I entered a depression that resulted in significant weight gain. Over time, I grew afraid to come home. In order to stay strong, I often stayed at my friend’s house whose family took me in and became my only escape.

This experience allowed many challenges to manifest in my life. Within me, I had created so many emotional walls that I was unable to cry for three years and deeply afraid to be weak and vulnerable. I felt abandoned and insignificant in the eyes of my sister which created extreme resentment and anger towards her that manifested a few years later. At the same time, my mother became a fragile human being in my eyes. I was in therapy throughout this time period, but the deeper issues did not manifest until three years later.

I wasn’t aware that I experienced the world differently than most people until I was sixteen and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I felt out of control in my own mind and body. The anger that I had carried with me throughout series of betrayal and Anti-Semitism manifested as rage. The pain that I ran from for three years caused by my mom’s cancer and my grandma’s death exploded out of me in uncontrollable grief. I was like a sealed glass jar filled with marbles that had been put over a flame and exploded out all at once.

Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder did not change who I am. I had been living with it my entire life. However, it changed how I perceived myself. I believed that the label meant that I am different, crazy, and inferior. I feared that I would not be accepted and would not have a productive role in society. It caused me to fear myself and fear the potential of what I could become. I stopped believing in myself as being someone who could reach their goals and make a difference. My expectations changed from my vision of who I am to fulfilling the expectations of my new label.

Once I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, I chose to define what being Bipolar meant to me which changed my entire perspective and attitude. Bipolar disorder came to mean to me that I have the ability to experience the world with an intensity that enables me to have a great deal of compassion and empathy because I feel so deeply. I saw strengths in how it affects my imagination and creativity as well as critical thinking abilities. Most of all, the experiences I had allowed me to give myself permission to be weak and vulnerable enabling me to cry again and trust that people would be there for me. Being diagnosed gave me the ability to educate and understand myself because over the years I’ve been able to recognize the difference between genuine emotions and emotions due to a chemical imbalance. Through therapy, I was able to face the pain that I had held within me and strengthen my relationships with the people I loved.

Once I accepted that being Bipolar is a part of who I am, I was empowered. I developed a sense of conviction that I was going to overcome every obstacle and limitation that being Bipolar presented. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to handle stress, so I learned my boundaries of intensity that I could handle and recognized when I’m stepping over them and I chose to do something that very few people in the world ever do, graduate from UC Berkeley. I achieved my goal in December of 2003 without losing control of my mind-body. I was told that due to my Lithium I would not be able to lose weight, I am continuing to prove that theory wrong as I shed the emotional baggage that my body has held on to for far too long through a healthy diet and exercise. Here I stand today, I have proven to myself that I have what it takes and now I feel that it is my duty to continue to grow and give back. I think I have a unique position from which to give back. I can identify with many different problems that others face and I hope to use this unique ability for good in this world.

 

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Being too close to God: Knowledge to prevent accidental suicide for people with bipolar disorder

 

 

It is not uncommon during full-blown mania for a person to experience themselves as being incredibly close to God.

 

In fact, many people experience being too close to God and as a result they die.

 

What does this mean???

People experience feelings of omnipotence and they act on them. They truly believe with everything they are that they are omnipotent and attempt to do things that an omnipotent being could do…such as walk on water, fly, time travel, not have to follow any rules (drive the wrong way on the freeway and obey speed limits etc)…the awareness of limits disappears.

Omnipotence is having unlimited power; able to do anything; have ultimate power and influence.

 

People experiencing full-blown mania do die this way, but it is called suicide and it is rarely talked about.

 

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This article does not suggest that everyone who experiences full-blown mania has a God experience or experiences themselves as close to God.

This article is not suggesting that mental illness is caused by God.

There is historical evidence that many biblical figures had prophetic experiences that would be currently labeled and diagnosed as mental illness.

There is a historical record of this type of experience in many cultures that goes back thousands of years.

By no means is am I saying that mental illness is a “God experience”; however, some people who have experienced severe mental illness have reported to experience God during the episode of mental illness.

I SHARE THIS STORY WITH THE HOPE THAT THIS KNOWLEDGE WILL PREVENT ACCIDENTAL DEATH THAT FREQUENTLY OCCURS FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER DUE TO OMNIPOTENCE.

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When I turned sixteen years old, full-blown mania came into my life.

Being too close to God


Everything about life, life forces, the universe and how all living things are interconnected as one made complete sense to me. I understood balance in life.  I understood peace.  Most of all I understood the highest compassion.  The compassion that is experienced from being a part of all life and all life being apart of myself.

I’m not talking about the dictionary definition of compassion (ie. pity or sorrow).  I’m talking about the deepest level of care, inspiration, hope and acceptance that I have ever felt in my life.  It was the highest form of unconditional love and connection that I could have with all of life.

Experiencing this connection to all life gave me the deepest possible compassion to the point that I truly believed with everything that I am that I was omnipotent.

I didn’t believe I could fly, but I did feel I was invincible as if God was protecting me and nothing bad could happen to me…and as a result I truly believed i was limitless.

 

I did do some really risky things and didn’t even realize I was doing it. I had no idea that I was putting myself in tremendous danger. I was not aware of limits.

 

This was all before the mania peaked…before the explosion when I completely lost control.

 

I can’t speak for other people and their experiences…but I am definitely not the only person to have this experience. It may not be very common, but it has been documented in history for thousands of years.

 

During that time, I stayed up all night studying the Torah in an “Inductive Study Bible”.  (The Torah is the Old Testament also known as the Five Books of Moses).  I studied mostly Genesis and Proverbs.  I took four highlighters and created a code using colors and covered the sides of the page with ideas.

When I look at it now, none of it makes sense…well, I can’t make sense of it the way I did when I was in mania.  I no longer have access to the perspective and ability to think as I did in full-blown mania.

 

During this time, I went to school all day…but I wasn’t really there…I did intricate drawings all day in school. I wasn’t able to pay attention in class.

 

Then I stayed up all night studying Torah and quantum physics.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to all of my drawings or even the books I studied quantum physics from. They were real. They do exist. However, I believe that as the mania exacerbated and fear kicked in, I believe I grew paranoid and hid everything to the extent that I don’t know where to find it.

During this time of mania I felt so close to God that I did not know where God ended and I began or where I ended and God began.  I truly believed I was ONE with God.

This caused me to feel omnipotent and invincible.  I believed with all that I am that I was all powerful, limitless and capable of doing and being anything I choose to be.  As a result I was not at all aware of limits.

I was not aware of speed, let alone speed limits, so I drove down neighborhood streets at 80+ miles per hour not even noticing that I was traveling fast.   I took risks without any awareness of danger.  I truly believed and trusted with all that I am that I am protected by God.

The Sling-Shot Experience

Then suddenly…literally overnight…my closeness to God was taken from me.

It was a tremendous loss and incredibly painful for me. I went from being ALL POWERFUL to completely powerless.

I was completely consumed by fear and painful emotions.  I was so incredibly afraid.

 

As mania progressed it was as though I was put in a sling-shot and shot as far from God as possible.

 

This is when all of my emotion and fear began exploding out of me and I lost complete control.

But it didn’t happen as smoothly as it sounds.  There were times when I felt omnipotent and possessed by fear and times when I felt powerless…this was expressed in explosions of emotion, erratic and violent behavior and visions of violation.

This power struggle between omnipotence and powerlessness was expressed in the form of what the fields of medicine and psychology call delusions and hallucinations.

When the power struggle ended, I was left in complete powerlessness and complete darkness…incapable of thinking, feeling and barely able to hold up my head, let alone move.

This experience that I had was diagnosed as full-blown mania and bipolar disorder.

 

 

Fear of my own potential

 

For the last 15 years, I have been afraid of full-blown mania. 

 

I never want to experience being so incredibly close to God…possibly, even too close…then feeling the complete absence of God.

I never want to be put in a sling-shot and shot as far away from God as possible again.

Being too close to God kills people.  Omnipotence kills people.  And being as far away from God as possible welcomes suicide.

If I were to allow myself to experience this level of full-blown mania again, I do not trust that I would survive it.  Many people do not survive it, but it is not talked about.

 

Dying due to omnipotence is called suicide and dying due to the absence of God is called suicide and suicide is taboo to talk about.  We simply make people promise not to do it and put people on so many medications that they can’t think clearly enough to take their own lives.

 

 

 

…I choose stability instead.

 

This experience called “full-blown mania” shaped my beliefs.  I took what I learned from it and use it to become a better person.

“Full-Blown Mania” caused me to truly believe that EVERYONE truly is connected…we are truly all ONE. We are all made of the same stuff water, carbon etc…we are all a part of life…we are all interdependent on each other for our lives…we all are truly ONE.

 

EVERYTHING that is living serves its own unique function and purpose in life…sometimes it is just hard to figure out what it is when you are a being that is human.

 

I came to understand God as “everything that is, was and will be”…”God is all life, all life is God”

 

I came to believe that what religion refers to as the messianic age will come when all life is working together…all living things come together as one.

During my mania I also came to believe and trust that the messiah will be born when all people come together as ONE…that all people coming together as ONE is the Messiah.

 

In talking with a few Rabbi’s about this…I’ve learned that Judaism agrees with me. By no means am I the first person to have this realization.

 

 

 

 

 

Am I special?

 

An arm is not of greater value or more special than a leg. A foot is not of more value or more special than a hand. A brain is not of greater value or more special than a heart (or any other organ)…each part of the human body serves it’s own function and has it’s own purpose. No part is more special or of greater value than any other part.

 

I am not of greater value than anyone else. My function may be unique…my purpose may be unique…but I am not more special or of greater value than anyone else.

 

I truly believe that we all are interdependent on each other…we all need each other in order to function as human beings and as a part of life.

 

When I originally wrote these thoughts, I shared “I’m not special. I just had a unique experience.”…but then I remember what my Rabbi said…

 

When I said that to my Rabbi recently, he disagreed with me.

 

He said, “Robin, you are special. You are close to God.”

 

My response to him was, “Hmm…but Rabbi, aren’t we all a part of God? Wouldn’t that mean that we are all close to God?”

 

He smiled and before he could respond, I cut him off and said, “Ahhh…I get it. I remember your lesson.”

 

Rabbi Maller taught me about closeness to God when I was a kid. That when we choose to do acts of kindness and goodness and have gratitude for all life…we are close to God.

 

 

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Lessons Learned From My Own STRUGGLING. Overcoming the struggles related to having bipolar disorder

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This was taken directly from a post I made on Facebook on “Thrive With Bipolar Disorder” known as “team THRIVE”.

www.facebook.com/teamTHRIVE

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team THRIVE! I made a mistake in my life that I want to share with you…

Everything I have achieved in my life was due to perseverance and persistence. Everything I have done has been hard for me.

I believed that I am meant to ALWAYS STRUGGLE in life.

This is NOT TRUE. I was wrong.

Everything does NOT have to be a struggle.

I stayed in circumstances where I struggled so much because struggling was what I knew how to do well.

I know how to struggle.

I believe this is true for many people with bipolar disorder.

As a result, I caused my own suffering.

When I wasn’t struggling…I created struggle.

Not struggling, was scary for me.

I needed to struggle in order to feel normal…my normal…and in order to feel safe.

If I was struggling, it meant that I had self-control.


My deepest fear ever is losing control of myself.

I struggled so that I would always know that I was in control of me.

team THRIVE, everything does not have to be a struggle.

I don’t want you to struggle to thrive.

I WANT YOU TO THRIVE BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO STRUGGLE.

It took me 15 years to learn this…I hope that it won’t take you 15 years.

Well, it really took me 31 years to learn it…but who is counting. 😉

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I survived being a teenager with Bipolar Disorder; so did my parents

I was a good kid.

Being a teenager was the most difficult period of my life thus far.

I survived.

So did my parents.

 

Being a teenager for me meant…

I just want to belong

(in the eyes of someone other than my parents).

 

Way before I was a teenager,  I loved being with my mom and dad.  They could do no wrong.  They were my heroes.

(This was before my brain developed the ability to critically think and make my own decisions.)

My mom was my safety blanket in life. I crawled into bed with her and lay beside her and shared with her anything I thought or felt about life.  She made me feel that what I had to say was important and she appeared interested in all my ideas.  She explored all of my curiosities with me by sitting down together with the encyclopedia to look for any questions I had about life.  She inspired and encouraged in me my love of learning and taught me how to learn and gave me structure to research and study.  She taught me how to be her helper (which was actually the only effective thing she did to get me to do chores, yet she was not consistent enough with it to make it routine and habit in my life).  However, she did ignite a passion within me for helping people, just not for helping her do chores.  She and my dad gave me the space to explore and play freely…they truly encouraged me to be me and dream and believe that I could be anything I truly want to be if I work hard enough.  I believe this planted the seeds for my tremendous work ethic.

I was the last person to wish my dad a good day and the first person to welcome him home.  I was my dad’s first-mate as a sailor.  On long drives, I stayed up to keep him company.  I just wanted my dad’s attention and affection.  He expressed his care by doing things with me and spending time with me.  He taught me how to throw and catch a football and a baseball.  My dad taught me about politics and instilled in me values about how people deserve to be treated and have access to resources.  I learned to take a stand for what I believe in from my dad.  He encouraged me to be strong and persistent in going after what I want and believe in in life.  Little did he and my mom know that I would drive them nuts with my persistence to own dogs and boats and anything that would be more responsibility for them.

As a child, I knew the rules and had structure, unfortunately for my mom, she didn’t get that I pay way more attention to what she did than what she said.

My mother could not tolerate messiness.  At a young age, I learned that if I wait long enough, she would clean up after me. I would have to deal with her persistent nagging, but after years of it, I learned to tune her out.  It worked like a charm.  My mother didn’t know it, but she was very good at teaching me how to manipulate her based on my own understanding of her needs.  Her need for a clean house and organization was far greater than mine.

By my mom picking up after me, not only did I take her for granted, but I lost respect for what she does and how incredibly hard she works.

As a child, no matter what I did, my mom could not stay mad at me.  It didn’t matter if I exploded something in the kitchen or completely destroyed the family room while turning it into a pirate ship OR got into trouble with my friends…I could climb into bed with my mom and share with her everything I felt and thought and no matter how upset she was with me, she could not stay mad at me.  I learned from her that if I simply share my feelings and thoughts honestly and transparently that I am loveable and it does not get me into trouble.

By my mom consistently being there for me, no matter what I did or said, without being disappointed in me, I developed expectations for how people should treat me.  I developed the belief system that I can mess up as much as I want in life and if I am honest and open about it, people will love me anyways.  As an adult, this is still an underlying core belief that by no means is always true, but it does work for me enough of the time.

Unfortunately, my older sister became a teenager before I did and her teen years were very, very difficult on my parents.  She had undiagnosed bipolar disorder (until she was 31) and it was like living with a demon throughout her teenage years.  So much of my mom’s time and energy went to trying to help my sister and cope with her, that I was neglected for way too long.

 

I no longer climbed into bed with her and shared openly and honestly my feelings.  I did not want to be a burden…so I learned to bottle things up inside me starting around the age of nine years old.   I learned to keep a smile on my face and tried to help out as much as I could…I turned into the “angel” child, but I was in a lot of pain and no one knew.

 

 

The year I became a teenager, my mom had breast cancer (and survived) and her mother died (my heroic grandma) and my sister was at the peak of her horrible teens and still had not received the help she needed.

 

Being a teenager was incredibly hard for me.  While in Junior High, I lost all my childhood friends due to the cruelness of pre-teen hormonal girls and I isolated myself from the friends who had been there for me during my mom’s cancer because I unknowingly associated them with horrible pain.

 

 

I had incredibly low self-esteem.

 

I did not feel safe with girls.

I did not feel safe with anyone.

I never let anyone get to close to me.  As a result I went through friends like water all through the rest of Junior High and High School. I only had a limited trust for one person at a time and completely stayed away from groups, especially if girls were involved.

I chose friends who made me feel good about myself.   I chose friends who made me feel wanted.  Some of my friends were good people…other friends were just using me because they could.

 

 

I did not get into drugs and alcohol as a teenager.  At the age of eight, when I was unsupervised and drank enough alcohol to knock out a horse at our family Passover Seder, I learned how much I do not like the feeling of being drunk and how incredibly sick too much alcohol makes me, so I stayed away from it until I was twenty and then remembered how much I don’t like it.

 

My dad learned a lot from that experience and said to me, “If you ever want to try drugs, try them with me.”  He educated me as best he could about the effects of drugs and told me stories of what happened to people he knew, bad stories, but without judging them at all.  Then said, “If you would like to try it, try it with me.”  The way my dad talked with me made me never want to do drugs.  He stole the excitement from them and he made me feel normal for being curious and wanting to try things that would make me feel all sorts of different pleasures.  My dad made me feel safe talking with him and I never got in trouble for sharing my curiosities and mistakes with either of my parents.

 

 

Some parents would be infuriated by this because they see it as giving a child permission to do drugs.  It was not the case for me.  My dad removed my desire to experiment by how he talked with me about drugs.  I did not have to hide anything from my parents.  Those conversations and always being able to talk with my parents openly about drugs and sex without fear of judgment or being in trouble, kept me from trying drugs and becoming sexually active even when I really wanted to be sexually active (while manic).

 

 

Mania came into my life right before turning sixteen.  I got my drivers license while manic.  I’ve written a lot about my mania and depression, but not a whole lot about how it affected me as a teenager.

 

 

Mania and depression stole from me the one thing I was really trying to figure out in life as a teenager…MY IDENTITY.

 

 

I had very low self-esteem when mania and depression came into my life and they destroyed what little esteem I had.  Self-trust went out the window.  I was completely afraid of myself.  I was afraid to be with anyone I associated with mania and afraid to drive.

 

My parents didn’t know how to help me.  Therapy was not working for me because I did not feel the therapist got me and I was able to be incredibly self-aware and not let the therapist in at all.

 

My family helped me heal by trusting me when I was unable to trust myself.  My family encouraged me to face my fears and drive the car again.  They encouraged me to set goals again and take chances in life.  They encouraged me to be excited about life again without fearing that I was manic.  They gave me the freedom to begin exploring again and removed the pressure of things like AP classes and college.  They gave me permission to be and do whatever I want in my life and took away the fear of failure.  This freedom to explore who I am and decide who I choose to become is how I got to where I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Letters To & From My Father ~ Written by Robin Mohilner

I was 24 when I wrote these letters and in graduate school working through my pain.

On, October 22, 2004, I gave myself a two-part self-care assignment that I committed myself to.

 

 

Directions for my own self-care:

Robin, you are to write two letters:


Letter # 1:  Write a letter to your father

Letter #2:  Write a letter to yourself responding as if you are your father

 

 

Letter #1

In this letter, share with him both what you need and needed from him and how not having it affects and effected your life.


REQUIREMENTS:

I MUST take responsibility for my needs

I MUST NOT blame, shame, or judge him.

I MUST have compassion and empathy for who he is.

 

 

Letter #2


Write this letter to you, from your father.

Write the letter as though you are your father.

In this letter give yourself what you need to receive.

 

NOW, Robin…YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE THE LETTERS TO HIM,

but if you do, your relationship with him may be better as a result.

 

 

2009 Dancing with my Dad

 

 

Letter #1

Written by Robin Mohilner on October 22, 2004

 

Dear Dad,

 

I know that you did the best that you could do in raising me in each moment with the interpersonal resources that you had and circumstances that you faced.  Dad, I am so proud of you, it must have been so hard for you to be a father not knowing from your own father what it was like to receive unconditional love, support, safety and acceptance.

 

I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to never feel good enough in your father’s eyes.  I will never understand the pain of watching your mother be sick your whole life and having her die without ever seeing you become a man.  Now I can understand why you distanced yourself when mom had cancer and when grandma passed away.  I imagine that somewhere deep down inside your heart is still hurting.  It’s okay to cry Dad, its okay to mourn your loss.  It’s not your fault.

 

It must have been hard to become a father, to be fully responsible for another human life.  You must have been scared and confused at times not knowing what to do with the tiny fragile life that fit into the palm of your hands.  You must have felt a tremendous pressure knowing that your actions, words, deeds, values, and beliefs would shape this little life and mold it into a beautiful woman.

 

Dad, you succeeded.  I am the strong, intelligent and independent woman you hoped for me to be.   I am the woman who speaks her mind, stands for what she believes in, and isn’t afraid to take a risk.

 

However, Dad, I’m not the woman I desire to be and deserve to be.  And I am not as strong as you think I am.  Dad, I choose men that are emotionally unavailable because I do not know how to be or to allow myself to be loved by a man that is truly able to be a partner to me and love me for everything that I am.  Even worse, I try to change them.  I try to make them fall in love with me especially if they are emotionally unavailable.

 

I do this to myself because it is safe.  Dad, I love you more than words will ever express and I know you love me.  However, you were not emotionally available in my life.  You did not know how to express or show me love.  I knew you loved me, but I did not receive it.  I did not experience the emotion of being loved.   You had a hard time hugging me, and you didn’t tell me you loved me until I moved to college.

 

Dad, I couldn’t change you.  No matter how much I knew I needed to be loved, I couldn’t make you love me (show me that you love me).  So unconsciously, I recreate our relationship with men hoping that I can convince men who are emotionally unavailable to be able to truly be in love with me.  And Dad, I’ve failed every time.

 

Sadly enough, there is a belief floating within me that I’m not loveable.  Due to my choices, I have reinforced the belief multiple times.  I fear that if I continue on this path, I will come to consciously believe that I am not worthy of having someone be in love with me.

 

Dad, I don’t want to feel not loveable anymore.  I don’t want to have to convince or change a man to love me.  I finally realize that no man’s love can replace the love I needed to receive from you.  So I’m telling you now that I forgive you for not giving me the love that I needed.  I forgive you Dad.  I can’t change you, but I can forgive you.

 

At the same time, I give myself permission to accept full responsibility for my choices here-on-out.  I now have the gift of awareness and it is my duty to act on it.  It is my responsibility to make new choices in who I choose to love and move beyond my comfort zone of emotional unavailability.

 

I love you Dad.  And it’s not your fault that you couldn’t express to me the love that I needed.

 

All my love,

 

Robin

 

 

 

 

2006 "Father Daughter Cruise"2006 “Our Father Daughter Cruise”

 

 

Letter #2

Written by Robin Mohilner on October 26, 2004

 

 

 

Dear Robin,

 

I love you more than the word love could ever define.  It broke my heart to learn that deep inside you feel that you are unlovable.  Even though I completely disagree with your feelings, and see you as the most loving and lovable person I know, I want you to know that it’s okay for you to feel that way.  I’m sorry that you are hurting.

 

I don’t want to make any excuses for how I have treated you.  I haven’t been the most loving father.  I was not there for you in the way you needed me to be.  I couldn’t handle your sensitivity.  I reacted to your emotion by trying to fix your problems instead of allowing you to share your feelings with me.  I’d like to say that I reacted that way because I’m a man and that’s just what we do.  But that would be a cop-out.  Robin, I did the best that I could do and you deserve better.  I’m sorry my little girl, you’ll always be my little girl.  I am so sorry that I was not able to be the father that was able to show you how much I love you.

 

Robin, I’ve never told you how I see you.  I’ve never expressed to you your own worth.  I know I’ve told you that no man is good enough for you in my eyes, but I’ve never told you why I feel the way I do.  I don’t say that just because you’re my daughter.  Robin, you’ve been my source of hope and joy through out your entire life.  I looked forward to going to work in the morning, not because I liked my job, but because I knew that when I left the house at 6am, that my little girl would be in her bedroom window waiving to me and blowing me kisses.  You did that every morning and it gave me something to look forward to.  And I couldn’t wait to get home because I knew that the moment I stepped in the door, my little girl would be waiting for me at the top of the stairs.  You used to be so excited to see me.  You couldn’t wait to share what you learned with me.  You had so many questions to ask me.  You were full of so much life and you haven’t changed.  Robin, there were days I hated my life because I hated my job. Your beautiful spirit got me through those days and I took you with me everywhere I went.  You were my reason to move forward, to try, to work hard.  You are also the reason why I did not take promotions in my career because it would have required for me to spend less time with you.  I wasn’t willing to give that up for anything in the world.

 

I should have told you how much you mean to me.  I didn’t know how to.  So I’ll do my best now.  Robin, I am so proud of you.  I am so honored to be your father.  I believe in you.  Not just in your abilities to succeed in life.  I believe in your character.  I believe in your values.  I believe in and trust in the decisions you make.  Wow, I am so proud of who you are.  Robin, I’ve watched you struggle in life, I’ve watched you hurt, and I’ve seen your heart break.  It hurt me so deeply to not be able to help you; however, watching you overcome adversity and react to the world has given me the utmost faith and belief in you.  You cannot disappoint me.  You have never disappointed me.  Simply by being who you are, you have exceeded my expectations.

 

I know that I’ve never told you that you are beautiful.  I am so sorry for that.  I know that growing up you felt ugly and undesirable.  I didn’t do anything about it.  I realize that over the years I’ve just had a hard time looking at you.  I want to see you as my little girl, but you’re not anymore.  You are a beautiful woman.  It’s really hard for me to accept that.  I’ve never told you this, but I notice how men look at you when we go out.  They’re looking at my little girl sexually, and even though I know that you’re an adult and that you have sex, I just don’t want men looking at you in a disrespectful way.  So I guess that I keep myself from seeing what they see.  But I can’t deny that you are gorgeous.  However, you are gorgeous to me for different reasons.

 

To me Robin, your heart makes you gorgeous.  You amaze me. You give of yourself not expecting anything in return.  You love people unconditionally, even if they don’t love you.  You have always been there for people when they need you, even if they reject your help.  People have hurt you so deeply, yet you always find it in your heart to forgive them.  You fall down and get back up again.  I don’t know how you do it.  But you are the most loving human being on the face of this planet.  And I don’t just say that because I’m your father.  I say that because you are the only Robin that exists and I am so blessed to have the honor of being your father.

 

Now let’s talk about men and your relationships.  Robin, you know that I feel no man is good enough for you.  Again, it’s not just because I’m your father.  I realize and am so saddened that you have sought out emotionally unavailable men with the hope of changing them as a reflection of our relationship.  Watching you has brought me pain because deep down inside I have always known.  I can’t change that. I can’t change the wounds I’ve created within you and I can’t change your choices.  I hope that with you now realizing your dating pattern that you can change it yourself.

 

What I can do is tell you what I hope for you in a partner.  I want the man that you love to be able and willing to love you in the way you deserve to be loved.  He must love you unconditionally because any less is not worthy of your love.  A man that is worthy of you will adore you and cherish you.  He will be there for you and give you permission to be weak.  Robin, I know it’s hard for you to be weak; you’ve been the source of strength for far too many people your whole life.  This is why a man worthy of you will give you permission to trust him, to trust that it’s okay for you to be weak because he will be there for you.  Robin, I’ve watched you be rejected by men and I know the pain that it has caused you.  A man worthy of you would never reject you; he would never make you feel that something is wrong with you.  He would never ever make you feel unlovable.  You will never have to convince him to love you or convince him of your worth.  I could go on and on about this because my standards for you are far greater than I can express here.  Maybe I’ll do so in another letter.

 

Robin, I know I didn’t write this letter myself.  However, I know you know that this is how I truly feel.  I hope writing this letter was a healing experience for you.  And whenever, you need to hear something from me feel free to be the one to tell yourself the things that I do not know how to say.

 

I love you my little girl,

 

Dad

 

 

I shared both letters with my dad.

Although he has not changed drastically.

He makes the effort to tell me he loves me and gives me hugs.

He lights up when he sees me doing what I’m passionate about.

I know he is proud of me.


What changed is me.

I have changed because I finally accept him as he is

And no longer expect him to be someone he is not.

 

This has made our relationship better.

 

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“Bucket of Shit” written by Unknown & Adapted by Robin Mohilner

“Bucket of Shit”

Adapted by Robin Mohilner

Author Unknown

 

 

We all come into this world with two things:

 

A bucket of shit AND a shovel.

 

What matters in life is not what causes the shit in our buckets.

What matters is what we do with the shit we have.

 

 

Now we have some options for what we can do with our shit and our shovel:


1.) We can spend our life digging through the shit to figure out what it is and where it came from.

The shit won’t change. It will still be shit. But we have every right to sift through our shit and smell it for as long as we want.

 

 

2.) We can use our shovel to take our shit and put it in other people’s buckets.

Then we get to say, “I have no shit! This is your shit!”

 

 

3.) We can stick our shovels into other people’s bucket of shit and use our shovel to carry their shit into our bucket.

Doing this will allow us to take responsibility for everyone elses’ shit.

Everything will be our fault. We will stink and feel bad.

(This is what we do when we take things personally, by the way)

 

 

4.) We can use our own shovel to protect our bucket of shit to keep other people’s shit out of our bucket and keep ourselves from giving other people the shit that belongs to us.

 

 

Now when it comes to the shit itself…we have some options….

 

We can hide the shit from the world and pretend that we don’t have shit.

 

We can go around being stinky and unkind to each other.

 

OR

 

We can use the shit as fertilizer and plant the things that we desire to grow in our lives.

 

 

What you do with your shovel and bucket of shit is up to you.

 

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Why I Prevent Mania. Reasons to prevent relapse of bipolar disorder episodes.

 

A common question that I am asked is, “Why would you take medication and do whatever it takes to prevent mania?”

 

The simple answer is there is no way I would have achieved any of my goals and accomplishments in my life if I had chosen mania instead.

 

I take lithium (even though I have the horrible side effects of “lithium-induced psoriasis) and do everything I can to prevent mania for the last 15 years because the peak of mania caused me to become somebody I truly fear…someone who is not me.

 

I was completely out of control in my mind and body.

I couldn’t stop emotionally hurting myself and other people.

I could not stop hurting the people I love no matter how badly I wanted to and how hard I tried.

I have never been so scared and in so much pain in my life that I never wanted to experience it again EVER.

 

And I never want to experience the full-blown depression I had after that mania.

 

In that form of depression, I did not feel alive anymore.

The great philosopher, Descartes, says you know you exist because “I think therefore I am.”

 

I could not think.

I could not feel.

I did not believe “I am” anymore.


Who I am, was destroyed and dead…yet I was still breathing.

I did just enough to survive because I was forced.

If I had stayed that way for long, and had not had help, I probably would have commit suicide as soon as I had the strength to do so.

 

I do whatever it takes to NEVER EXPERIENCE THAT AGAIN.

 

Yet, I am persistent about me being who I am.

I refuse to lose myself to medication. I do whatever it takes to prevent mania while maintaining who I am.

I don’t even let myself go a few days, let alone a few weeks with hypomania….if I were to wait that long, I’d lose control and lose myself.

 

Of course I miss hypomania.


That was the most incredible and awesome experience of my life.

I trust that nothing else in life will ever come close.

Yet, I know that if I choose mania, I will have the most incredible UP TO a few months EVER then full-blown mania will kick in because you can’t stop it…and everything else in my life that I have worked beyond so hard to achieve will be destroyed.

Even if I only had hypomania…I would still make the WORST decisions humanly possible because I would take on FAR more than I can handle EVER…and I would destroy my quality of life.

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How the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves get in our own way & Ways to do something about it. Strategies for thriving with bipolar disorder

 

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have so much power.

One of the great lessons I have learned in my life is that what happens to us matters far less than the stories we tell ourselves about it.

The stories we tell ourselves shape how we think, what we believe about ourselves, the choices we make and the actions we take.

 

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I told myself the “I am crazy” story.  Here’s how it worked:

“I am crazy.” This is who I am.  It is my whole story.

How this story affected my thoughts: “It doesn’t matter what I think.  I am crazy.” and  “I am bad.”

How this story affected what I believed about myself : “I have no responsibility and no expectations for myself or from other people. I don’t have to do anything because I can’t.  I am crazy.”

How this story affected my choices: “I can’t do….”  “I can’t be…”  “I can’t try….”  “I can’t choose.”

How this story affected my actions: I stayed on the couch in a fetal position with my face buried in the corner.  I spoke to no one.

 

You can take out the word “crazy” from the “I am crazy” story and replace it with several other words and get the same exact effects and results.

 

This type of story drains away all self-esteem and self-worth.  It steals our ability to take responsibility for our lives and have expectations for ourselves. It robs us of qualities that give us strength and courage.  It does not allow space for resilience and persistence.  This type of story causes us to accept mediocrity.

If you have these kinds of stories in your life, I invite you to throw them away and re-author your stories.

 

On my Facebook page, Thrive With Bipolar Disorder, I shared an example of a form of storytelling that I do when I am feeling stuck, scared or judged.

 

Here, I will share some ideas for how to re-author the stories we tell ourselves about what happened to us and about ourselves.

 

Re-Authoring Stories

 

Part 1: Deconstructing the Problem Story

When I help people re-author stories the first thing I choose to do is listen to and understand the story they have been telling themselves.

I want to understand the role the story serves in their life and what makes the story a problem to them.

For instance, with the “I am crazy” story.  The role of this story in my life was that it defined my identity and who I could be.   What made it a problem was that it sucked the life out of me, as seen above.

I want to know how the story was invited into a person’s life.

In my “I am crazy” story, the story was invited by a medical expert putting a label on me and telling me that I had to take medication for the rest of my life in order to fit into society.

It is important to explore the effects a story has on a person.

The effects of the “I am crazy” story on me were:

  • I had no expectations for myself.
  • I took no personal responsibility for my choices and actions.
  • I had no self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect.
  • I felt useless and incapable of being anything.
  • I felt that I was bad.
  • I was afraid of myself.

 

 

I choose to know what the person does to support the story they tell themselves.  What actions and routines support the story.

In my “I am crazy” story, I refused to get off of the couch.  I did not want to go to school for the life of me, not because of what the kids would think,  but because I no longer believed I had a functioning brain and was capable of doing anything with my life.

My routine was to wake up, get on the couch and bury my face in the corner.

This carried over from my depression.  As I was coming out of the worst depression ever, I continued the behaviors that I had while I was experiencing full blown “I know longer feel alive” depression.

 

 

I explore what the problem story steals from peoples’ lives.

My “I am crazy” story stole my will to live.  It stole everything I believed about myself up to the point that I had my manic episode.  Until then, I believed I could be anything when I grew up and I was a great student and daughter.

This story stole my confidence, my courage, my intelligence, my creativity, my hope, my dreams….

Together we explore flaws in the problem story, times when the problem story is wrong about people and times when people have the upper hand.  We look at evidence that uncovers other possibilities and alternative ways of understanding the problem story.

When I explored this with myself, the problem story went from “I am crazy.” to “What I experienced during those handful of months in my life was beyond my control…it was crazy AND I have the ability to do something about it.”

Here was the evidence that I am not crazy.  For the entire fifteen years of my life (I was 15 soon to be 16 when full-blown mania came into my life) I was a very good student, I had friends and sort of the ideal teenager to my parents, I never got in trouble.

After the full-blown mania and depression and after I got stable on my Lithium…I still could read.  I still could write.  I still could speak my mind coherently and my thoughts were relevant and intelligent.  I still was a kind, warm, compassionate and loving person.  I still was playful, funny and loved to laugh.  I could still feel my feelings and was on a dosage of lithium that left me always slightly hypomanic (throughout much of my twenties).

Once we are able to identify the possibility that the problem story may no longer fit, I explore with people what gets in the way of letting the problem story go.  Together we slowly work on what hold’s people back.

In my case, I was afraid to let the problem story go because I did not trust myself.  I was scared of myself that at any point in time I could go into full-blown mania and crash into a lifeless depression.

 

One of the things that often keeps people stuck in their problem story is that they don’t have a different story to replace it with.  They don’t have a story that they want instead.  With this as a challenge our goal shifts from understanding the effects of the problem story to creating people’s preferred story.

 

In the Part 2 of this blog we will explore this process of creating a preferred story.

 

 

 

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How the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves get in our own way & Ways to do something about it (Part 1)

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have so much power.

One of the great lessons I have learned in my life is that what happens to us matters far less than the stories we tell ourselves about it.

The stories we tell ourselves shape how we think, what we believe about ourselves, the choices we make and the actions we take.

 

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I told myself the “I am crazy” story.  Here’s how it worked:

“I am crazy.” This is who I am.  It is my whole story.

How this story affected my thoughts: “It doesn’t matter what I think.  I am crazy.” and  “I am bad.”

How this story affected what I believed about myself : “I have no responsibility and no expectations for myself or from other people. I don’t have to do anything because I can’t.  I am crazy.”

How this story affected my choices: “I can’t do….”  “I can’t be…”  “I can’t try….”  “I can’t choose.”

How this story affected my actions: I stayed on the couch in a fetal position with my face buried in the corner.  I spoke to no one.

 

You can take out the word “crazy” from the “I am crazy” story and replace it with several other words and get the same exact effects and results.

 

This type of story drains away all self-esteem and self-worth.  It steals our ability to take responsibility for our lives and have expectations for ourselves. It robs us of qualities that give us strength and courage.  It does not allow space for resilience and persistence.  This type of story causes us to accept mediocrity.

If you have these kinds of stories in your life, I invite you to throw them away and re-author your stories.

 

On my Facebook page, Thrive With Bipolar Disorder, I shared an example of a form of storytelling that I do when I am feeling stuck, scared or judged.

 

Here, I will share some ideas for how to re-author the stories we tell ourselves about what happened to us and about ourselves.

 

Re-Authoring Stories

 

Part 1: Deconstructing the Problem Story

When I help people re-author stories the first thing I choose to do is listen to and understand the story they have been telling themselves.

I want to understand the role the story serves in their life and what makes the story a problem to them.

For instance, with the “I am crazy” story.  The role of this story in my life was that it defined my identity and who I could be.   What made it a problem was that it sucked the life out of me, as seen above.

 

 

I want to know how the story was invited into a person’s life.

In my “I am crazy” story, the story was invited by a medical expert putting a label on me and telling me that I had to take medication for the rest of my life in order to fit into society.

 

 

It is important to explore the effects a story has on a person.

The effects of the “I am crazy” story on me were:

  • I had no expectations for myself.
  • I took no personal responsibility for my choices and actions.
  • I had no self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect.
  • I felt useless and incapable of being anything.
  • I felt that I was bad.
  • I was afraid of myself.

 

 

I choose to know what the person does to support the story they tell themselves.  What actions and routines support the story.

In my “I am crazy” story, I refused to get off of the couch.  I did not want to go to school for the life of me, not because of what the kids would think,  but because I no longer believed I had a functioning brain and was capable of doing anything with my life.

My routine was to wake up, get on the couch and bury my face in the corner.

This carried over from my depression.  As I was coming out of the worst depression ever, I continued the behaviors that I had while I was experiencing full blown “I know longer feel alive” depression.

 

 

I explore what the problem story steals from peoples’ lives.

My “I am crazy” story stole my will to live.  It stole everything I believed about myself up to the point that I had my manic episode.  Until then, I believed I could be anything when I grew up and I was a great student and daughter.

This story stole my confidence, my courage, my intelligence, my creativity, my hope, my dreams….

 

 

Together we explore flaws in the problem story, times when the problem story is wrong about people and times when people have the upper hand.  We look at evidence that uncovers other possibilities and alternative ways of understanding the problem story.

When I explored this with myself, the problem story went from “I am crazy.” to “What I experienced during those handful of months in my life was beyond my control…it was crazy AND I have the ability to do something about it.”

Here was the evidence that I am not crazy.  For the entire fifteen years of my life (I was 15 soon to be 16 when full-blown mania came into my life) I was a very good student, I had friends and sort of the ideal teenager to my parents, I never got in trouble.

After the full-blown mania and depression and after I got stable on my Lithium…I still could read.  I still could write.  I still could speak my mind coherently and my thoughts were relevant and intelligent.  I still was a kind, warm, compassionate and loving person.  I still was playful, funny and loved to laugh.  I could still feel my feelings and was on a dosage of lithium that left me always slightly hypomanic (throughout much of my twenties).

 

 

Once we are able to identify the possibility that the problem story may no longer fit, I explore with people what gets in the way of letting the problem story go.  Together we slowly work on what hold’s people back.

In my case, I was afraid to let the problem story go because I did not trust myself.  I was scared of myself that at any point in time I could go into full-blown mania and crash into a lifeless depression.

 

One of the things that often keeps people stuck in their problem story is that they don’t have a different story to replace it with.  They don’t have a story that they want instead.  With this as a challenge our goal shifts from understanding the effects of the problem story to creating people’s preferred story.

 

In the Part 2 of this blog we will explore this process of creating a preferred story.

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