TRAUMA SURVIVORS ANONYMOUS: a bypo journal

I sit by the water—I came here to write….The river ebbs and flows and pulsates with energy…It reverberates with the power to sustain life and the power to take it…

I came to write about my mind—to write about the social construct known as bipolar disorder…This diagnosis has been an organizing principle of my life for 15 years…

To many, this condition is pure pathology—a nearly impossible conflagration of psychotic manias followed by ruthlessly persistent and often suicidal depression…

But I have always seen its strengths: the creativity, the empathy, the insight, and the connection with the sacred…

But now I am in recovery and I have studied trauma through a deep dive in grad school…I feel myself on the precipice of new insights–I feel I have new stories to tell and new truths to unearth…

In my first truly psychotic mania, I was taken to a hospital by police, identified as a John Doe…Without even the benefit of a psych ward, I was diagnosed as a crack addict and dispatched into the streets of East Harlem in Manhattan…

This calamity of malpractice was brutally scarring–the incomprehensibility of it all led me to re-enact this trauma for months and years to come…I had a liminally conscious drive to re-create avoidable conflicts with police to prove to myself that I could by some magical or temporal means get away unscathed—this was both insane and logical at the same time…

There are a number of other vectors of trauma gestating within me as part of this new perspective.  Trauma is subjective. I lost dozens of relationships—friends who didn’t know what to do with my extremes created distance or cut me off—this too is trauma and I learned some painful lessons…

Now I am at ease with a far smaller circle of care and support…And it is easier to be my friend when I’m not getting psychotic on a monthly basis…

And then there’s the drugs—the endless permutations of hedonism and self medication…As I look back on my manic episodes, almost all were triggered or exacerbated by drugs…Cocaine or Meth—Alcohol or Poppers—Cannabis or Acid…

By the end of February 2022, I will have been clean for two years—but recovery is much more than not using…

I have been introduced to vital tools—I have a spiritual framework for understanding my life, my drives, and my choices…I have community—and as part of this vast recovery organism I feel my own insight and self control sinking deeper roots…

But I would butcher this narrative without centering gratitude for my family–my shepherds, my safety net, my constant support…

My blood family loved me when I made no sense–when my choices were bizarre and incomprehensible…they loved me when I was repeatedly arrested…when I was the polar opposite of the creative, energetic, and intelligent first born son…

My far flung extended blood family have been with me as well…with so many of us living with mental health challenges I found solidarity and understanding–and for all of this I am profoundly grateful…

And then there is chosen family: through all of the wreckage my untamed energy generated, some trusted friends hung on–and I treasure these spirit sisters and spirit brothers…I treasure every one…

Last April, I wrote my first of these journal poems—and I called it Truth Serum…I reflected on guidance from a teacher with profound spiritual power…He suggested that perhaps I am called to seek the spiritual meaning of manic depression…

So here I am now, grappling with this very question…Can I free myself from the shackles of psychiatric determinism? Can I achieve a radiant creative stability without risking psychosis?

As I write each of these questions, an insistent yes reverberates through my mind…

I have faith in my capacity to remain grounded—faith in my connection to my omnipresent higher power.

I have learned enough about trauma to know that I need to examine my life story and my psyche with courage, honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.

I want to bring integrity to my understanding of my past. Integrity both in terms of fearless honesty and the capacity to grasp the totality of the experience, amidst myriad contradictions…I seek a working analysis of what was at play in both my conscious and unconscious minds at pivotal moments…

Restoring integrity is powerful…A dear friend introduced me to the concept as I was grappling with how to be accountable for harm I caused within my community while manic and abusing substances…We can never undo past harm, but we can work to transform ourselves, make amends, and hold one another accountable to sacred principles…

I began writing on the Georgetown waterfront by the Potomac River…An interesting choice—only a few hundred feet from Key Bridge…The bridge I jumped from in February 2014….

Never consciously suicidal, I had been utterly shocked by a visceral dream I had the night before coming to work as a server in Georgetown… The dream relived past trauma but also was about the restaurant, and I felt an intense sense of dread that I was about to be fired…

When I got to work, I watched the dream re-emerge in my lived experience—I had a panic attack that led to the suicide attempt…

I now feel like I understand that dream—and I have faith that my higher power will protect me from what I can’t handle…I have faith that I can grow and evolve in symbiotic relationship to the spiritual forces in our world.

So maybe we need a new twelve step group: Trauma Survivors Anonymous… Maybe understanding trauma in all its faces can be a master key opening the door to seismic social, psychic, and spiritual transformation…

–Images are by SLAVA MOGUTIN >> @slavamogutin on IG or twitter

–BYPO PHOENIX c)2021

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