Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Prayer Life, Maturity, and Habits.

Daily living is a series of habits. Some of my habits are good. Some of my habits are bad. Finding a way to my concept of maturity is necessarily going to involve culling out my bad habits and forming new, good habits. Some habits are easy to change. A lot of them seem harder. A few things I tend to see as habits aren't habits, but artefacts of my body chemistry and the way my brain was wired since I was very young.

I suffer from what my psychiatrist called Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder. I run through a cycle from mania to clinical depression in about a month or so. When you're on the upswing, its a heavenly state of mind with clarity of purpose, constant inspiration, and energy to spare. When you're all the way up, emotional states become brittle, prone to change. You feel everything more. Happy becomes ecstatic. Angry becomes a rage. Sad becomes devastated. When you're down, your emotions become more understated, but you feel like the world spins too fast, time flows too quickly. Physical and mental reaction time diminishes. You're angry when you're manic because it's hard not to be. You're frustrated when you're depressed because you just can't keep up.

I say all that, because I have always tended to self-identify with a temper, the same trait that people often mistakenly ascribe to people with BPD. My medication helps. It alters the amplitude and wavelength of my cycle. The massive, disorienting changes in the mental landscape become less oppressive, more manageable. The medication is cheap. With decent medical coverage, you pay no more than the dispensing fee. It's a very cheap, very necessary crutch that moves the user back into the driver's seat. It's not a wonder-drug, removing a temper and erasing sadness, but it makes all the emotional states that come with being alive closer to what someone without BPD feels. It turns life into something you can manage.

My habit, one of my major habits, is to take the medication only when I am having problems. It's not a wonder drug. Like any other drug that affects brain chemistry directly, it takes time for a usable amount to build up in the system. Two weeks is the old rule of thumb. You miss one dose, you're probably okay. You miss two or three, and you're starting over. It metabolize too quickly, you see. The perfect drug, if you take it every day at bed time like a good, responsible adult.

So, a good habit I want to keep building upon his my medication. Another is my Prayer Life, which I guess is how this becomes relevant. I bought a book recently called Christian Prayer. It's the liturgy of the hours published in a single volume, which I suppose means the publishers probably pulled something out of it. It's an easy enough book to understand, once you come to recognize the system for selecting the readings. Each office takes maybe a half hour to pray, if even that long. I've always liked the Divine Office.

Now, lay Catholics aren't under any obligation to say the Divine Office, but it's a sort of ever-changing but static, ritualistic prayer that I enjoy. My hope when ordering the book was to say four or even five of the offices daily. A more realistic goal for me is to say the Morning Office and the Evening, or maybe Night, office. One right as I get up, the other right before bed. That's a good habit to make.

I have bad habits, too. I spend more money than I should. Despite being a trained and accredited cook who was once well on my way to becoming a Red Seal chef, I eat a lot of junk food, a lot of packaged crap. I drink a 12-pack of pop, in cans, in a day. The only thing stopping me from doing that every day is the chore of going to the grocery store to get it. So diet needs to change. A lack of exercise needs to change.

... I wonder then, what are your good and bad habits?

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