Living Out of Darkness: A personal journey of embracing the bipolar opportunity
by George Denslow
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Summary"It's been said he's been to the far unknown lands and beyond...He speaks at council in times of strife...He is the keeper of hope." - George Denslow (Living Out of Darkness: A personal journey of embracing the bipolar opportunity, p. 108)
1987: 17-year-old George Denslow is released after an enforced stay in a mental institution for being actively suicidal and refusing treatment. "I had one purpose in life," says Denslow, "not to lose my freedom again, ever." Armed with the conviction that he was created the way he was for a reason and that "God doesn't make junk," Denslow set out to master his inner swings — without medication. Now, 22 years later, a solvent professional and unmedicated bipolar individual, he shares his story and the tools that have helped him, time and again, to break free from the personal hell within.
In Living Out of Darkness: A personal journey of embracing the bipolar opportunity, George Denslow's ability, earned through a lifetime of conscious unmedicated spiritual engagement with his bipolar experience, to navigate the extremes of the inner human terrain shines forth like a beacon in the dark of the underworld maze of psychological suffering. As he says at the beginning of the book, he is not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist; this is not a clinical dissertation on how to treat bipolar. It is a true, practical, written on the ground, map of what he has discovered living the terrain himself.
In this slim, highly readable — even in times of crisis! — volume, George shares what he has learned about living with the unique sensitivities that psychology calls "bipolar." He shares tools of self-care — from daily spiritual practice to exercise and finding the foods that best nourish your individual body to working with, rather than against, your natural emotional and energetic cycles whenever possible. He talks about how essential it is for bipolar individuals to find and live their own unique vision. And, most significantly, he truly demonstrates that bipolar is an opportunity unlike any other, and that those who share that experience are endowed with unique gifts — from both the "up" and "down" swings — that have very real and important applications on our planet today, gifts which were honored by indigenous cultures. As if that weren't enough, George also shares his substantial wisdom to help readers maximize and increase their "calm" or "normal" moods, in order to increase quality of life.
Denslow is very clear that his approach is not a cure for bipolar, but rather a life-long practice of self-care that has enabled him to function, and even thrive, as a bipolar individual, without medication. He shares his holistic spiritual approach to functioning as a bipolar individual — honed by using his body and his life as a guinea pig — with the goal of helping other bipolar individuals and their loved ones understand their sensitivities, meet their highly specific needs, and then step into the word embracing the unique gifts embedded in their bipolar opportunity.
Designed from cover to cover with the bipolar reader in mind, everything from the intuitively flowing bite-sized blocks of prose, to the integrated anecdotes from Denslow's life — infused with the author's gentle humor and abiding trust — is designed as an antidote to high-anxiety states.
"Part 1: What is Bipolar" begins with a brief reminder of the traditional definition of bipolar, and then introduces Denslow's own bipolar-centered alternative definition, explaining that the manic phase is visionary, and referring to the depressive part of the cycle as the "empathy phase." Bipolar individuals, Denslow suggests, might think of themselves as lacking the 'autopilot' in their brains that most people count on — and therefore it is essential that they learn to manage their systems themselves.
"Part 2: A Holistic Approach," is an overview of holistic and preventative body, mind, and spirit techniques that Denslow has practiced himself, with positive benefits. Denslow addresses everything from attempts at self-medicating with drugs and alcohol (and why these will never work), to the importance of food, exercise, and hugs, and the benefits of getting counseling. Journaling, reading uplifting books, listening to enjoyable music, and meditation are also encouraged. Last, but certainly not least, Denslow introduces the reader to simple spiritual practices such as meditation, gratitude, and breath. Each of these tools is presented in a highly doable format that can help bipolar people to manage their swings and, ideally, extend their stays in "normal" — whether in a moment of crisis, or as pieces of a long-term sustainable wellness plan.
"Part 3: A Guided Tour (Up, Down, and Back to Normal)," presents a road map of the inner and outer terrain of bipolar swings, and how they may be consciously navigated. Bipolar readers will benefit from Denslow's experiential knowledge of the different types and speeds of "ups" and "downs" they may encounter, as well as suggestions for how they might facilitate their return to balance. Loved ones and therapists will be grateful for the inside view into how their bipolar family member, friend, or client feels life.
In "Part 4: The Symbiotic Opportunity," Denslow shares the gifts of being bipolar and describes the opportunity it presents for all who are lucky enough to be bipolar or to know someone who is. "Being bipolar," Denslow explains, "is an opportunity to practice every day the way we can serve others in the same capacity we have to serve ourselves. We lead people to a better life, through being an example of continual discovery and overcoming our inner swings. We provide nurturing comfort and guidance because we know firsthand the need for it. .... Compassion is the gem of living with our mental opportunities. The better we are at taking care of ourselves through highs and lows, the deeper we can feel connected with people that experience any size of bump or vision in the road."
Denslow is on a mission to ignite a fire in each of our hearts to take personal responsibility for our mental health. His life story and wisdom are a guiding light both for all who are still learning to dance with their shadows, as well as for those stuck in the darkness. He not only shares positive healthy methods for breaking free from a personal hell within, but invites us to dream again while envisioning the possibilities we desire. Denslow acknowledges the dark side, and does not run from it. Here is a truly valuable guide for the mental landscape of heaven and hell.
"Passion and truth, are like food and water for a bi polar person," he explains. "Without them we are lost or numb. We really can check out anytime we want. Blow a gasket going high, or sink into the dirt lost forever, but if we stay connected with planet earth and this life what we can do right here right now, then we can have a reason to hang out for longer periods of time in the middle ground."
If he could imbue each bipolar person with just one piece of wisdom, he tells us, it would be this one: "Clear your energy, Honor your Rhythm, Live your vision."
With its candid, informal, and authentic voice, inviting and welcoming the reader into its author's soul, mind, and heart, Living Out of Darkness is a true gift to us all. Whether bipolar, friend or loved one of a bipolar person, going through a personal crisis, or simply wanting to learn to navigate our own psychological experience consciously and with exquisite self-love, all will benefit from George's deep wisdom, compassion, and inspiring will to find the gifts in his most difficult moments.
Especially, for the countless beautiful and sensitive souls who, having been diagnosed with bipolar, have been crying out for a better way, George Denslow and his timely book are indeed "the keepers of hope."
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