Decisions, decisions…

Whether you like it or not there will be decisions to be made today, tomorrow and every other day of your existence as an adult. From inane decisions like the colour of underwear to wear today or whether or not to eat that 2nd slice of cake to decisions rooted within your very soul, some that are so important to us as individuals that we may spend our entire lives pondering which road to take. Decisions like what to do with your life, who to love, what to believe, who to trust, what kind of person we want to be… Some may never find their direction, some hide from the pressure of these decisions, some will take the wrong path…

But how do we know, really, what is wrong and what is right with decisions like these?

I like to think of myself as fairly self aware, Bipolar disorder has forced me to analyse myself in microscopic detail and I feel as though I can say with confidence that I know myself fairly well. What I don’t always know is my mind – how can you make decisions on such an epic scale when you aren’t sure what you really think or feel? What do you do when that ability to make decisions is faulty?

What shall I do with my life? I have tried many, many times to make this decision. I know not everyone will find the answer to this one but I don’t want to be part of that ratio – I want to do something meaningful with myself, I want more than I have, I want to be more than I am. But it seems as though Bipolar is always standing in my way; my university education fell through because stress exasperates my illness and so when deadlines would crop up or exams loomed my moods would swing out of control. I have no qualifications to speak of and so my only hope for a job is some dead-end retail position… which is fine, but meaningless; of course I’m not even sure I can cope with a job, some days getting out of bed feels like a full time job; what if I mess up? How will I cope with the people I will inevitably have to communicate with?

Who do I trust? I trust no-one, I don’t want to be this way and the people around me have given me no reason to feel this way but still I do. I am afraid that eventually they will get fed up and leave, I am afraid of their changing moods and whether I can cope with a confrontation. I am afraid that I am not good enough. I do not understand why they want me around, maybe there is an alternative agenda? I am paranoid.

I don’t want to be this person – I want to be a somebody but how? and why?

I read an article recently that spoke about people always striving to be somebody, to do something magnificent or unique and whilst they pushed and pushed to reach this unattainable and abstract  goal their lives passed them by, their children grew old and their opportunities dwindled until one day you die and all you have ever accomplished is trying to be someone else’s idea of greatness… I found it so mesmerizingly poignant and it sticks in my mind as I reach this moment in my life where I feel there are decisions to be made. Perhaps the only real decision is whether or not I should be true to myself and really live my life as me.

So maybe I won’t be the woman with the six degrees and the fabulous job, I won’t be the one that my family boasts about to their friends or the person who always knows exactly what decision to make. But I’ll always strive to be happy, I will love my children and live my life watching theirs blossom, I will forge deep and meaningful relationships, I will ponder life’s mysteries and write in the hope that my experiences aid the experiences of others. If what I am now is all I ever achieve I have won, because I have never been more me than I am now, I have never lived as a truer form of myself than I do now and that can never be called failure. I am me and that is all I was ever meant to be.

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Lay to rest…

I often write poetry to relieve some of my pent up emotions; I haven’t done this for quite some time but tonight I feel I need an outlet…

There is a beauty about this night, ‘Tis clear for all to see

The stars shine brightly in the clear midnight sky

The air smells of freedom, of new beginnings, of home

The moon makes promises of a lighter tomorrow,

And naught but the whisper of the wind can be heard

Yet still, the madness comes for me

It seeps into my pores

It clings to all I am and erases all I was

It speaks to me in whispered words

Plants the seeds of hate and worry

Paranoia is in bloom

For I  am the despised, I am your certain doom

Still it comes, this creature in the night

Like a beast, it stalks me

Like a fiend, it feeds upon my very soul

My hopes, my dreams, gone, devoured

Gone, like my happiness

Gone, like my drive, my control, my very self

And those eyes are always watching

They judge as I make my decent

Dive, into the familiar ocean

Of nothing, of everything,

Of insanity.

I despise the fall

And yet, I crave the silence

Crave the inverted ball of ignorance that I become

Crave the selfishness

An excuse to give in,

Oh, what I would give

To lay rest to this monster

and finally, to live…

Nothing is quite as it seems

I can’t trust myself, can’t trust the thoughts running through my head – my actions, my feelings, my emotions…

How can I live the life of truth that I so desperately want and need when I don’t even know if I am being truthful to myself? How can I manage an illness that lies in such an accomplished way that I cannot discern fact from fiction?

Does everyone hate me? Logic would tell me that is unlikely but my brain, so convincingly, tells me that they all do… they don’t like me, I am a burden, I am nothing to anyone, including me. How do I fight that? Am I behaving badly? My brain says no but those around me are suffering, how do I stop that? How can I learn to see when that is happening? Why do I do that? How can I cope with all that is thrown at me – the bits of life that everyone has to deal with and this hellish illness?

I am tired of the constant exhausting battle raging within my mind – no matter the arguments of positivity and light I place, anarchy inevitably ensues, I wish it would quiet, I wish I could turn it off.

I’m sure I will find my fight once again, pick up the pieces and rebuild once more what Bipolar has demolished but then what? Then, I will be left to cycle right back to this stage again – there is no relief, there is no end.

I am past the anger stage it would seem. I think perhaps there are phases that all, or many, Bipolar sufferers go through after finally being diagnosed… I had a brief period of relief, relief at finally being told why I was the way I was, it was life-affirming and changed my perspective on every event of my past; it gave me reason. Then, I was angry, fiercely, maddeningly angry! I don’t want Bipolar disorder! I don’t want this to be a thing that will never leave me, I want a cure, I want this to be over – Why me?!!! Now though I have moved on from anger and into dejection and hopelessness… What more can I do? and is this it for the rest of my life? Am I doomed to forever repeat the same mistakes, the same moods, the same lies, fears and the seemingly never-ending bleakness that plagues my existence? Is this it, is this me?

I can’t seem to do anything for myself; the things I place in my life to manage my illness all fall away when things get tough, when I can’t bear to leave the house, my bed… when I can’t answer the phone or the door or face the world… and then things seem to improve for a while and I go about rebuilding, I start Zumba classes, I go swimming, I seek work, I am more social… and again the cycle moves, I am ignoring the people I was socialising with, I am missing classes and sitting here, writing to you… This is me, this is my life.

I wasn’t me until I met you

Things are changing. I don’t know if they’re changing for better or for worse but change is upon me nonetheless. I am in a sort of limbo where my medications are changing my illness but they have not finished changing things yet and so I cannot settle with this new me because there is more change to come…

I am apparently a calmer version of myself. I don’t see it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, I’m often the last one to know when things shift or improve a little. My moods are definitely lasting longer than they were which is sort of a blessing and a curse all rolled into one… A blessing in the sense that my moods are more predictable and a curse because when I am in any given episode it feels as though it will never end and it is harder to keep my head above water.

Life is changing too. I’m not the same person that I was and that’s not easy for everyone to deal with. The person they knew is here in a different form and they didn’t sign up to spend time with that person… I remember this happening last time I was medicated; I was still with my husband and things started to change, I was more independent and confident, more outspoken – I was ready to embrace change and that included change in my relationship. My husband didn’t like the person I became whilst medicated, he didn’t marry the medicated version of me, he married the unruly mentally ill version… I eventually took myself off of that medication because of his dislike of the person I was. I never regretted it or even really looked at it as a poor choice, I was harbouring the belief that the medication had turned me into someone I wasn’t and so coming off of it seemed like a logical decision. In hindsight, with a proper diagnosis and a mass of knowledge about my illness, I can see that coming off of the medication was the wrong decision; firstly I never should have taken myself off of the medication without my doctors help, withdrawal symptoms are awful and secondly, I was not being changed into someone who I was not, I was actually free of many of the symptoms of Bipolar for the first time in many, many years and so my real, symptom free, self shone through. The problem is that I don’t know this version of myself and so it is easy to be afraid of the changes I am seeing, it is easy for others to tell me that I am not myself. I have been so immersed in Bipolar symptoms for such a long time that they have become ingrained in my personality, they are how people know me and there are some symptoms that even I cannot discern from my nature… Will the people around me like and accept the real me? or am I alone once more? Will I be able to accept this version of me?

My daughter was in an accident a few days ago, we were all on a bus when a car pulled out into the side of it. My daughter was the only one injured as she hit her mouth against a metal bar, bit deeply into her lip and smashed several of her adult teeth. We had to go in an ambulance to the hospital where thankfully she only needed cleaned up a little. The driver of the car is being charged with careless driving. My daughter is slowly repairing, her lip is healing quickly but the dentist says it will be a long haul to repair the teeth… It was the most terrifying day of my existence, I have never felt so helpless, not knowing what to do to help her; she went into shock and went a grey colour, she was clammy and her eyes were rolling in her head and I had no idea what to do… It was all a real slap of perspective for me and I am immensely grateful that all I have to worry about is repairing some broken teeth and that the accident was not worse. I still have my two beautiful children… Life with mental illness may be difficult, almost unbearable at times but the two little people who I made make my life worthwhile, I am nothing without them.

 

 

The elusive manic maniac

I am currently revelling in the great destruction that is a manic episode. It is not very often that I can recognise a manic episode when I am in the midst of one; usually recognition comes in the form of regret and embarrassment afterwards when I have to deal with all of the ridiculous and destructive things I have done to make my life harder. The more destructive my high mood is the darker my episode of depression will be, making it much harder to pull myself out of it. Not being aware of a manic episode whilst it is happening is perhaps one of the most disturbing things about my mental illness; in the moment I believe I am better, I am well – mental illness? what mental illness?! Who needs medication and who needs to manage an illness when I feel so flipping awesome?! Everything I do is great and I’m going to start this, this and this and not finish any of it, though obligating myself to either finish it later or induce many panic attacks while I try to find some way out of it, who needs to pay bills when I could spend exuberant amounts of money on crap I don’t need and/or want?! and friends? I am clearly way better than all of the people on the face of the earth especially the ones that are trying to tell me I’m behaving like a moron – who needs friends?! Seriously, if I could see myself when I’m in full mania I’m certain I would die of embarrassment.

Perhaps the cocktail of new medications I am on have aided me in recognising this manic episode or perhaps I am just getting more accomplished at reading my moods but either way it is much easier to manage a mood when I know I’m having one! Although sometimes it doesn’t feel as though I am managing it very well; when I am in the throes of a manic episode I am filled with a kind of nervous energy, I can feel it thrumming through my veins, it isn’t a nice type of energy… it’s almost painful, but not – hard to explain really… I can’t sit still, I have to find some kind of activity. My brain goes into overdrive, planning – always planning, but not in a reasonable sort of way, more in a ‘that will never, ever, ever happen but I’m going to plan for it anyway’ kind of way. I get quite irritable and sometimes, aggressive. I want things done in a certain way, I get a lot of housework done at odd times of the day, like 3am… I mostly feel accomplished, confident and act in ways that are completely irrational. Sometimes I don’t have the confidence and sense of accomplishment and instead feel bad, I believe I am a burden to everyone, I get very paranoid that people are talking about me and that nobody cares about me; I get caught in an incredibly selfish cycle, its all me, me, me and those are often the most destructive manic episodes.

I don’t have many tools for managing this kind of mood other than directing the immense amount of destructive energy into something practical or consuming that is not going to be damaging for me later on. Last night I stayed awake until around 2am doing crafts, I made loads of little puppets for my kids… I know that staying up until that time doing crafts may not sound like much of a solution but there is no way that I know of to expend that sort of energy without doing something with it and to my mind it is far better to stay up late making something than it would have been to either go to bed and have to listen to the incessant chatter of my irrational brain or stay up spending money online/ making ridiculous plans … etc and so though it may not be ideal, I do believe that I have accomplished something in directing my manic energy into a harmless activity and hopefully because of this, when my mood inevitably falls it will not fall so far.

I think I know why I am so manic at the moment, it has been spurred on by the activities I have planned this week and the beginning of the kids summer holidays and the fear of failure I have in relation to that. This weekend I am going to a music festival with the kids and some friends, we will be camping – this will be the kids first time camping and my second time. I went to this music festival last year and I remember feeling anxious about it then too but this anxiety is much larger, because not only do I have to look after myself but the kids too… I keep playing scenarios in my head; trying to pre-empt what might go wrong… I have written a summer holiday plan but I have changed it drastically from those of the Easter holiday plan and February holiday plan; this plan is not a strict day by day activity sheet, it is instead a list of potential activities, most of which are very cheap or free, and my plan is to cross each one off as we do them and add any others that we may do to the list – I am hoping that this will show me just what I have managed to accomplish throughout the summer holidays so that even if I feel like I haven’t done much or I’ve had a week or two where we did very little I can still look at my list at the end of the holidays and feel good about what I did manage to do.

Something else that I have noticed about my mania is that my thoughts are scattered, nothing seems to flow in the way that I want it to and everything seems to be pouring out into this blog in a much faster rate that it does when I am in a low mood…

Now what can I do next to get rid of this ridiculous amount of energy?!