ponedeljek, 28. december 2009

No Pain No Gain

Some weeks ago I ran into an old friend of mine. We have known each other for a long time. We got to know each other in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital in the previous millennium. When I ran into her the other day, I told her about my book. She was very happy to hear that the book is nearly finished. She said: “I wish I finished something for a change. For the last 10 years I have never finished anything I started.”

Well, it’s not easy to live with a mental illness. However if you do something to improve your moods and your self-image, you will pretty soon find out you are capable of a lot of things.

I remember back in 2004 when I read a book written by L. Hay* that I didn’t know HOW TO START. Her book is full of affirmations and visualizations you can do, yet I didn’t know how to start. It felt odd back then. However, today I know why I felt that way. It’s called resistance. Our mind resists in a very weird way. As if our mind was saying: “But no! I don’t want to change anything. I got used to the way things are. If I get happy, I won’t know how to live anymore!”

As stupid as it might seem, that was the way my mind reacted. Yet there was a little desperate voice in my head saying: “Look. You are constantly wishing you were dead. It cannot get any worse. Do something.”

And I did. I read one chapter of the book each evening. When I got to the end of the book, I started with the first chapter again. I was doing this for half a year, so you can imagine how many times I read the same chapter over and over again. On one hand I was too reluctant to start doing the mental exercises described in the book. On the other hand I didn’t want to give up and forget about the book. So I kept reading it.

After half a year I decided it was time to start the real mental work. I picked 3 exercises from the book and promised myself to do them twice a day. I chose the 3 exercises that felt the least unpleasant. They took me only 10 to 20 minutes — depending on my level of concentration. I was doing them in the morning on the bus to work and again in the evening in bed before falling asleep. I am not sure, but I think I picked the following exercises: 1. The one when you visualize the person that has hurt you on the stage. Then you let the person experience all the good. It’s an act of forgiving. 2. The one when you visualize how your life should be. It’s an act of allowing you to be happy. 3. And the one when you visualize yourself as a five year old child and hug yourself. It’s an act of accepting yourself and loving yourself the way you are. Then you do the same with your parents — you imagine them when they were five and hug them. It’s an act of accepting and loving your parents.

The wish to finish something we have started is not enough. We have to push ourselves to work. And don’t worry — the first mental work is the most difficult. Anything else in life — any kind of work, not just the mental — will be easier to accomplish, if you hang on. It’s like starting a car in extreme cold. The beginning is always the toughest. And remember: No Pain No Gain.

*: The book is called
You Can Heal Your Life and I have mentioned it in several blogs.

You can ask me more about my experience with mental work:

ponedeljek, 21. december 2009

At the ambassador's

I was standing in front of the fireplace in the ambassador’s house. A woman who was also invited, seemed genuinely interested in my story. I told her I was writing a book about my life. “So young and already writing a book about your life?” she wondered. I said: “Yes, you now, after a month in Germany I got seriously ill. I ended in a hospital.” At that point the protective glass in front of the fireplace broke into a million of pieces. It was the kind of glass that cars have in front.

I was only shocked for a split of a second, right afterwards I felt relieved. The glass broke at precisely the right time. I would have gotten too personal, if it hadn’t broken. I felt safe. As if the universe was taking good care of me.

13 years ago I was about to spend a semester studying abroad. I chose Göttingen, Northern Germany. After a month I got a full blown psychotic episode with all kinds of delusions and I heard sounds that weren’t there. I ended in the locked ward of the psychiatric hospital. A week ago the German ambassador held a reception at his residence for the former students that have been granted various scholarships to study in Germany. I couldn’t have entered his house, if I hadn’t overcome the pain that such memories bring. Now I feel I have made the final reconciliation with my past in Göttingen.

ponedeljek, 14. december 2009

Your daily routine

Some people find “a daily routine” boring. What I experienced today shows the contrary.

I have this daily routine habit that I try to keep regardless of weather. I go for a walk. Some days I prefer the forest by the river close to where I live. I call it a magical forest, since it is so quiet. All you can hear is the river, dry branches falling to the ground and the beautiful songs of birds. The path is only reachable by foot, so there is no traffic.

If I have more energy I ascend a hill nearby and enjoy the great view of the town beneath and of the Alps in the distance. I walk past isolated farms, fields, forest patches, meadows and pastures. Sometimes the sound of a farm tractor interrupts the silence but most of the time it is quiet.

Despite this mild beauty of my solitude in the nature — on some days I prefer to take a walk towards the centre of the town I live in. It’s usually when I don’t have any appointments. I work at home, so if there is no meeting, I start missing company a bit.

Despite these three variations it might get a boring routine, if I wasn’t paying interest to details. I notice all kind of changes in the nature: the level of the water in the river, the color of the leaves, the new blossoms, the color of clouds, the moods in people passing by etc.

However today I experienced something anyone would notice. It was the first snow. I was happy as a child. Snow makes my joy for life surface. I do feel a lot like a child, when the first snow covers the streets and gardens. There’s nothing like the creaking of the snow under one’s shoes. And the beauty of the snowflakes that come in all sorts of shapes is just marvelous. All the worries of every-day life seem to be covered. The world seems to have fallen asleep. After a while one starts freezing and then there’s nothing nicer than sitting inside a warm home and watching the snowflakes slowly falling to the ground.

There are some days, when I don’t want to go for a walk, because I think I have to do some more work. I always regret it, for the next day I wake up with a headache. I could see my sensitive brain as my drawback, but I choose not to. I see it as my jewel enabling me to marvel at the nature’s beauty every day or to run into an acquaintance in the town centre and have a nice chat.

How different from the times years ago when I was so depressed that I wouldn’t even get out of bed the whole day. I remember struggling for hours to get me up, put on my shoes and go for a 10-minute-walk. I think it wasn’t even half a mile. I felt like a loser, because prior to the depression I had done some really long hikes and I had even run the 26-mile-marathon. Yes I felt like a real loser back then, when I was only able to walk for 10 minutes very slowly. But if I think of it today — it wasn’t in vain. Every step counts. Whatever you do — never give up totally.

ponedeljek, 07. december 2009

Why worry - we only last a split of a second

Yesterday my husband and I went for a 4-hour-long walk along an Alpine valley. The path was covered with snow. There were icicles hanging from a very special rock-formation called “spodmol”. From a distance a “spodmol” looks like a large opened mouth. The path led us through this mouth from one corner of the lips to the other. So when we were in this rock-formation, it felt like a nice shelter over our heads with a great view into a mountain creek below. The icicles looked like curtains over the upper third of our “window” that was offering us the great view. There was an information-plate telling us about the history of this rock formation. When we saw the millions of years it took for the stone to become such a nice “mouth”, we suddenly became aware of the age of the universe. And we thought of ourselves as being just a shooting star in comparison with the rocks surrounding us.

Well, the upper paragraph might seem as a very useless imagery. However it might actually be put to some use, when you are desperate or very angry. First think of those rocks that have patiently waited for you to appear and marvel at their beauty. They don’t mind the rain, the cold, the heat. They don’t mind the forces of time changing them. They don’t even care if some day they break, fall off the creek-bank and end up being some insignificant pebbles nobody notices. We – human beings – on the other hand worry too much about our short existence. We only last a split of a second compared to rocks. Yes I know it seems like eternity when you are in pain. Nonetheless it might relieve some of the pain, if you think our existence is nothing compared to the infinity and eternity of the universe.

I forgot my camera so the picture is of another “spodmol” taken this summer.

If you would like me to write about something very specific regarding my life with the schizoaffective disorder, please feel free to send me your questions to the following e-mail-address: bb.bukle@gmail.com.

ponedeljek, 30. november 2009

Failure is not an option. Says who?

Have you ever felt you have failed (badly) in your life?

I could say I have failed. I have failed to make a career as a scientific researcher. After years of studying to become a researcher all of a sudden the illness hit me. It was schizoaffective disorder and I could not believe it. I somehow came through the first three episodes. However, illness and working day after day in an uncomfortable environment made me say goodbye to my career dreams at the age of 34.

Some people think one has to reach the peak of their career between the age of 30 and 40, for after 40 one starts to get old. Now I am beginning a whole new profession - helping others based on the experiences I went through. I don't plan to start getting particularly old at the age of 40. Actually I plan to be a peak performer as a self-help writer and a motivational speaker sometime around 50. So now at 35 I still have 60 more years to go, so I have time.

I also don't care if I fail, because in all these years of fighting with my schizoaffective disorder I learned to fail properly. Something on the lines of Frank Sinatra's song I did it my way. »I bit off more than I could chew«, but then again I ate it up all by myself. So, frankly speaking: »The record shows I took the blows and did it my way«.

Or if I put it in modern new age terms: I made my decisions, I took action and I accepted all the responsibility for my action. And frankly speaking: I don't care if I fail, since I can always say I did my best.

I have learned that blaming somebody else for your failure is not an option. One has to take responsibility for one's life. However, failure IS an option, because sometimes you have to admit defeat.

ponedeljek, 23. november 2009

Why me? — Part II

Last week I attended another business seminar for beginners. It lasted for three days. It was so intense that after the first day I got up in the morning and I thought to myself: »What if I skip the first lecture? It's going to be a lecture on business negotiation. I don't need that right now. I can attend a similar seminar later.« But there was another thought equally strong going through my head: »I must go. No explanation why. I simply have to go.«

Luckily the second thought won. I went to the seminar. The moment the first lecturer appeared on stage I knew why. It was K. E. S. that stood there and smiled just like 6 years ago, when I first saw her. Her presence filled the whole conference hall. I was dazzled.

Back in 2003 I attended my first business seminar ever. K. E. S. was the first lecturer. Her topic was the basic motivation to start one's own business. Or in other words: How to start doing something we really like before even thinking about the »big money« ahead. Back then I wasn't a bit ready to start my own business, but I remembered two things she said up until now:

- She mentioned that negative thoughts were like weed. If we want our plants (positive thoughts) to grow, we need to keep removing the weed. Up until that moment I had thought that the happy people didn't have any negative thoughts at all. Wrong! We all have them. The happy people are just better gardeners.

- She emphasized how important it was to find out WHAT WE REALLY LIKE DOING. She asked: »Do you ever jump up and down in the morning, because you are so happy to go to work?«

I couldn't relate to that jumping scene at all. I thought she was talking about some science fiction. But she planted a seed in my head. A tricky question that kept popping up evertime I felt dissatisfied with my job. This went on for 5 years. Then in 2008 I finally gave notice and started writing a book. Of course my husband agreed to support me.

Back than in 2003 K. E. S. was one of the stars shimmering on the horizon. One of the stars that made it impossible for me to give up totally no matter how depressed I felt. Yet I needed another psychotic episode later that year to force me to think. So in 2004 I started the mental work described in Louise Hay's books. I knew that it was crucial for me to find out WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO FOR A LIVING. Yet I was only able to find this out in 2007.

Today I really feel that writing self-help books IS what I want to do for a living. And it makes me happy. Hadn't I had that last psychotic episode in 2003, I would probably still cling to my job and remain semi-miserable for the rest of my life.

So: Why me again? Because everything is perfect. I am grateful for all the good and the bad that had happened to me. It has made me who I am today.

ponedeljek, 16. november 2009

Why me?

I can laugh about it today, but this was a very serious question 13 years ago when I had my first psychotic episode. It seemed sooooooo unfair. My brain was producing numerous questions of self-pity: »What have I done to deserve this? Is this a punishment? For what? Have I not been taking good care of my health? How come it has happened precisely to me and not to somebody else? My class mates are finishing their studies, some are already married. Some have been already promised a job. And here I am – my BA not finished, single, no job perspectives, no boy-friend perspectives. I'm doomed.«

Well everyone has bad moments of self-pity. That's normal. The problem with my self-pity was that this »mode« was »on« 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, for 7 years. In the meantime I had finished BA, got a job and a wonderful boy-friend, but the »self-pity-mode« was still »on«.

How is this possible? It's called thinking patterns. One gets into the habit of self-pity and that's how it stays, even if the outer-world-situation changes. So in the summer of 2004 I decided to change my »inner-world-situation«. I was encouraged by my boy-friend's friend, who lent me a book by Louise Hay You Can Heal Your Life. I started reading. It didn't seem to work. I started doing the mental work described in the book. It didn't seem to work.

I said to myself: »I hit the bottom. I am constantly thinking of committing a suicide. I cannot fall any deeper. I will continue the affirmations and visualizations. It must start working some day.« I was stubborn as hell and so I persisted. Twice a day for about 20 minutes. The first results began to show after a year. They were not real results you could describe. I just began to feel a bit better. And so I went on with the mental work. Later I added the method of Phyllis Krystal. A year ago I joined a school for emotional intelligence. Now after 5 years of working on my ways of thinking I can say I have changed.

It's either the hard way or no way. It's your choice. But don't worry – after a few years you begin to like the mental work so much, you cannot stop doing it.

ponedeljek, 09. november 2009

Take it easy – take a break

It has been almost a month since I first started chatting on healthyplace.com. Some of the stories really broke my heart. I wanted too much to help. I kept thinking about the healthyplace too often. And then a few days ago I realized that even such a lovely place as healthyplace can turn into an unhealthyplace, if I overdo it. So I took a few days off. I have had a most wonderful weekend.

On Saturday me and my husband drove to the Adratic Sea. We had been invited by an old friend of mine to participate in olive-harvest at her parents' olive-farm. The farm is situated on high terraces above the coast. The view of the sea and the calming autumn colors on the terraces behind the coastline was magnificent. To me the most astonishing plant is the ruj-shrub. The color of its leaves ranges from yellow over orange to red. The flowing pallet of these warm colors shimmering in the distance made me feel very alive and full of love for the wonders of nature. And of course also the warm colors of various plants growing on the farm among the olive-trees gave the day a touch of magic. The red vine leaves contrasted the greyish-green olive leaves. We could taste delicious mandarin oranges and take some wild lemon fruits for decoration to our homes. The intense orange color and the special taste of kaki fruits added another color to the pallet and a taste to the day. And not to speak of the red pomegranate fruits and all the wonderful flowers ranging from yellowish-white chrysanthemum over orange tagetes to red bougainvillea.

Compared to this colorful autumn scene the company was even more fine. We would joke the whole day while picking olives. We had a lot of breaks with delicious traditional food ranging from vegetable stew over pickled adriatic fish and Bosnian salty cream cheese to a large variety of cakes. The owners of the farm took really good care of us. We picked over 500 kg of olives and are looking forward to taste the olive oil when it is ready.

I discovered something new about myself this day. Due to all these years of digging into my subconsciousness, into my past and of analysing my thinking patterns and relationships I somehow lost the capability to just chat on the way. So on occasions like these I am re-learning the small talk techniques. I am getting back the feeling for »not going too deep«. When a person changes the subject for example I try not to drag them back. Or for example I don't tell somebody I have just met that I have schizoaffective disorder. I tell them about it if the conversation leads to it. I try to make it casual, not a big thing to announce. Boasting about it or hiding it for any price are just too extremes of not being able to accept it as something very casual. Accepting this illness was crucial for me.

Photos by: Miha Bercko

ponedeljek, 02. november 2009

Why volunteer? Why not!

Do you watch or read the news regularly? How many good things, events, phenomena are presented there? Almost none. Does it mean that good things rarely even happen? So you can look around and try to make them happen. You don't need any spare time to wait a few seconds and hold the door for the neighbor climbing the stairs that lead to the main entrance of the building you live in. Neither do you need any spare time to smile to your neighbors instead of just saying Hi with a dull expression on your face.

Of course if you happen to have spare time, you can inquire in your local neighborhood whether some social institutions like schools or retirement homes or some non-governmental organisations like charity need volunteers.

I read in several books how good it feels to volunteer. So a year and a half ago I volunteered in a retirement home close to where I live. I still visit a lady that lives there every week. She is only 44, but she cannot walk and has nobody to take care of her, so she decided to live in a home.

It was very depressing at first. Every time I came home after my visit in the home, I felt guilty for being able to walk and do all other things she cannot. It was horribly tough to swallow the pain and go visit her again. I even thought of quitting. However I kept saying to myself: »You cannot make her walk again. All you can do is keep her company once a week. If you stop doing that, you are only going to make her life worse.« So I kept going there and after a few months I managed to accept the fact that she cannot walk and also has to put up with a lot of pain.

Now we are friends and I must say she helped me a lot more than I helped her. She always gives me wise advice, she jokes a lot. She is optimistic. She very rarely laments. The most amazing thing is that she - who really has a lot to lament about - hardly ever does it. She is so much fun to chat to. Which is very valuable in these days when there is no time to chat.

ponedeljek, 26. oktober 2009

Drink your cappuccino, girl!

Hi everyone!

It's a lovely coffee bar I am sitting in this afternoon. Alone – for I need a break. Some hours of solitude per week are my absolute need. To help facilitate the brain to calm down. I sit here alone which is less common than sitting in a pair or a group. I write while sipping my cappuccino. Which is even less common. I look at the people at the other tables and I can't get rid of the thought: »They think I am a lunatic.« It's the self-programming of a psychiatric patient that is ON in my brain now. It's not reality. I don't actually act weird. It's just less common what I am doing at this moment. So how could people around me possibly know I have schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. The thing is: they don't.

So after having written the upper lines I looked up again. I looked at the people in the coffee bar again and the annoying thought was gone. What a bright day! At that moment I also understood, why our teacher at the workshop earlier that day had said: »Why do you worry about what we are going to think? Now you look completely healthy. We don't care about your past. And we don't even know precisely, what this schizoaffective disorder or even schizophrenia are. Don't create stress you don't need. Don't do this to yourself.«

The workshop was about marketing. We did a practical exercise. We wrote an add for our products or services – for the business we are in. Mine went like this: »We present the book ...(title)... The author of the book Helena Smole is a young woman, who learned to live with schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type.« That's how I got to the point when I told them about my illness. This wasn't a self-help group. They were some business people I have never seen before. And they liked my add. A computer engineer even offered to donate a web page, designed for the purpose of the promotion of my book.

So as you see – no need to worry about your public disclosure. Just get stable with medication and go out into the wonderful world out there.

ponedeljek, 19. oktober 2009

Soothing autumn colors

Hi everyone!

Today I want to share with you something that might be useful to you. It's autumn now in Europe, the States etc. Have you tried walking in a forest? It's great. I noticed that the older I get the more I am impressed by the warm autumn colours ranging from brown to yellow. I enjoy the whole palette: orange, crimson, scarlet, pale yellow, intense yellow and of course the soothing brown.

Yesterday I went picking chestnuts in the woods. I heard nothing but the birds, the cracking of old branches and the falling of chestnuts to the ground. The sun gave the reddish bark of pine trees a magical touch. The odour of pine resin worked as an aroma therapy. The silence of the forest silenced my mind. The soul peace set in – a crucial thing for any person, the ones with and the ones without the schizoaffective disorder.

torek, 13. oktober 2009

Gold of the Desert Kings

Hi everyone! People with and people without the schizoaffective disorder!

There is no crucial difference. Just that us – people with this disorder – have a bit more sensitive brain than others. We can be totally lovable though.

Here is what happened to me a few days ago.

First I should tell you that I am writing a book about my experience with the schizoaffective disorder (=SchAD). The experience is beginning to be so much fun I want to share it with you.

As I am not a famous writer I figured the best way to sell my book would be to self-publish. So parallel to writing the book I study and plan the promotion and sales.

So a few days ago I took part in a workshop called Gold of the Desert Kings. The point is to learn your weaknesses through a business simulation.

I went to the workshop not knowing who the participants will be. Usually I like meeting new people so I don't care if they are all new to me. This time however there was a girl I know. After the workshop we went out for a cup of tea. I told her my life story in short. Which means I also told her I have SchAD. And I didn't scare her off!

Frankly speaking: If I did scare her off by telling her I have SchAD, then I wouldn't be interested in being her acquaintance anyway.

And there is another thing from the workshop I want to share with you. At the end of the workshop there was a discussion. The teacher asked me: »By the way – what business are you in?« So I told everyone about my self-publishing project. No details. Just a sentence. Yet a lady who participated in the workshop was so rude to tell me to find a publisher. I was a bit rude too: »Thanks for the encouragement.«

I didn't want to put up a fight in front of others. I waited till the end of the seminar and spoke with the teacher privately. I said: »This game was very valuable for me. I found out that fear was my greatest obstacle. That's what I have to work on.« She asked me more questions about my project. I told her a very short version of the story of my life. I also told her about the SchAD. And guess what: I didn't scare her off either! On the contrary – she was very happy with my plans.