To OZ? To OZ!

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I Must Be Up Inside The Cyclone

Ah, the mighty Vortex.  I picture my life at times as if I live in a house without a roof, with the tornado swirling directly over my head and filled with shattered glass, twirling tractor trailer trucks, deadly washing machines and nails at a speed of four hundred miles an hour.

I am rooted to the floor, holding on to the house for dear life.  If I look up into the vortex all I can comprehend is the aforementioned maelstrom.   If I look down to the floor, everything looks pretty normal — except I can hear those howling winds directly above me and feel the pull on my body increasing.  That vortex wants me to be just another piece of shrapnel in those mighty winds.

My emotional life is sometimes like a tornado in a trailer park: it totally sucks and it’s loaded with deadly litter that can decapitate me if I’m not rooted to the floor and keeping my head down.

When you’re struggling with life, it can feel this way.  And when you’re struggling with being bipolar or have another mental disorder, that nasty tornado is seemingly always over your head.  If you let go, you’re liable to end up riding the cyclone; you can’t get footing, you’re swirling, being peppered with sharp glass, emotional shards and trauma detritus.

For me it has everything to do with fear.  Fear generates most of the negative and harmful emotions we experience, so that in and of itself is no shock.  But when you have no grounding, when you can’t make the wind stop howling, you’re up inside the cyclone.  And there are things you can do so that you’re not up there with the Wicked Witch of the West.

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Grab the Dog and Head For the Storm Cellar

How many times have you watched the Weather Channel and seen a devastating F5 tornado beating the crap out of a Midwestern town?  There is some real wisdom when they inform you that the tornadoes are touching down and you’d better get underground.  If you hunker down and protect yourself then perhaps you’ll live through the immediate peril.

That means yelling over the wind and letting someone know you’re in danger.  Holding on to a dear friend when the winds whip up and the dust gets in your eyes.  Screaming for Aunt Em to open the door and let you into the storm cellar!

When you have a mach-1 wind directly overhead, you should not be too picky about whom you ask for help.  Just get the help!  It’s an emergency!  For people suffering from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses that means seeking out mental health resources in any way you can.  If you can’t afford it, call someone and ask how you can; believe it or not, it’s not at all difficult to find out what you can do to keep that house of yours on the ground where it belongs.  In fact, you could call 211, a benefits resource line for the United Way, and get information you need.

Do anything you can, because just sitting on the farmhouse wreckage isn’t getting you anywhere; just get your butt into an office with a counselor or psychiatrist that can get you some help.  If you don’t, you could be over the rainbow and in a crazy technicolor world of trouble before you know it.

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The Consequences of Ignoring a Falling House

There’s something to be said for a pair of ruby slippers.  Everyone has a pair but like Dorothy, they don’t know how to use them.  Not so for the Witch of the East.  She knew exactly how to use them; she simply didn’t look up in time for if she had, she would have clicked those heels and made tracks for somewhere else.  But she didn’t pay attention, and the end result is pretty obvious (and pictured above).

But seriously, do you really want some hick chick from Kansas taking from you the most powerful magic that you have, not to mention crushing you beneath a substandard dwelling?

The idea here is to keep your shoes on, or you will be at the mercy of the wicked witch, and I believe that Glinda explained that in fairly accurate detail.  The warning is fairly clear; you see, the shoes are your magical transporters that can take you away from danger and into therapy, where you can dodge that weathered gray house that’s aimed for your head.  Your therapist can teach you how to watch for signs of danger.

When you hear the tornado a’comin’, it’s a good idea to look up for danger.  If not, something could easily come down and mash you into an ugly pulp.  A therapist can help you keep your shoes on your feet (and nice and shiny, too, with a little extra elbow grease).

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Believe Me, She Won’t Wait Forever to Get Those Shoes

If you don’t pay attention and a) lose or give up and b) are forced to surrender your shoes, who wins?

One guess.  She’s green, mean, lean and a nasty flying-monkey machine.

She’s worthy of some fear and respect, and her name has the word Wicked in her title.

Be warned: if you lose the fight to keep yourself on that brick path toward Oz, toward fulfillment and healing, then the Witch gets your power, not you.   I mean, she’s got flying monkeys, for God’s sake.  She definitely does not deserve your ruby slippers.

If you don’t get into therapy, you could lose a lot more than just your mental health.  You could founder in that tempest in a flying farmhouse without a working rudder.  You could be in mortal peril without an observant, knowledgeable and well-educated therapist to help you out of that messy vortex and back to the Kansas prairie with the chickens where you belong.

To continue the metaphor, you truly do need three very important things: brains, a heart, and courage.  You need the brains to recognize you need help; you need a heart to let yourself heal; you need courage to get yourself moving forward and be as happy as you can be.

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Think of your therapist as the Wizard living in the Emerald City.  In the film, as Dorothy and the others approach the city, it is to singing — and the lyrics:

You’re out of the woods, You’re out of the dark, You’re out of the night.
Step into the sun, Step into the light.
Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place 
On the Face of the Earth or the sky.
Hold onto your breath, Hold onto your heart, Hold onto your hope.
March up to the gate and bid it open

Such optimism!  Looking for the answers to your dream describes our journey.  We need others; fiends, family, kind strangers we meet along the way; we need others to help us get there, to help us make the journey.  We need somebody like Glinda to show us how to use the shoes, and we need to believe her so that we can get back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

If you don’t head for the Wizard, you’re never going to get the help you need to make it back to Kansas.  In other words, your therapist is the one holding the magic bag of tricks that aren’t really magical — but you’re the one that has to make the journey to find that out.  His bag of tricks are the tools that you need to get things back to reality, and the Wizard is there to help you.  And if you don’t hit the Yellow Brick Road and get moving, well, I sure hope you like Munchkin land.  No ruby slippers for you.

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