New things!

Life has been moving and changing as it invariably always does. The most immensely sad things have happened and in equal measure the most beautiful and wonderful things have occurred.

To detail all of the pain or celebration of the past few months would be to spill the pain and joy of not just myself but also others; perhaps I have finally learnt that the world and all its misery does not revolve around me… So instead of deconstructing and analysing the swing of events, as I feel so compelled to do, I will simply say that I survived it all once again.

I changed my hours at work a few months ago, I felt ready for a new challenge and the monotony of what I was doing previously had me feeling dangerously close to destruction. My brain needed some stimuli and the Open University course that I am doing didn’t really feel like the right fit – though I am dedicated to finishing it.

When a position came up in work that meant I could take on some overtime I thought it would be ideal – I start early in the morning and can take on a later shift too. I thought it would be the perfect way to help me transition from part time to full time hours. I applied for it, had an interview and got the job. I was so proud of myself! I would never have had the confidence to even apply for something like this a few years ago let alone make it through the interview process.

Change is always stressful, management of my moods and the strategies I have developed rely on very little change happening – when I moved house almost two years ago it hit me hard and took me a really long time to re-balance my moods, my foundation and security had been taken away from me. Work is the same, it is familiar – the people mostly stay the same, the routine is the same, the building is the same… it is safe. I found moving my hours stressful but because the change was minimal, in that it was within the same building and with familiar people, I managed to balance myself fairly quickly.

It was not the wondrous thing I was hoping for though… I wanted to be challenged, I needed to feel as if I could progress but all I felt was a looming dead end. I was put in a small and isolated area of the store and once I had managed to tidy and organise it, there was nothing left to do. I am proud that I managed to run it so efficiently by myself but being isolated in a quiet area of a busy store is not healthy for me at all, my paranoia has blossomed in my time there and my social skills have declined.

This would usually be the perfect excuse for a downward spiral, a deep decline into woe brought on by the misery that, despite my best efforts, I have not managed to make anything better for myself.

I didn’t give in to the decline, this is quite a feat for me! As my moods started swinging a little more frequently and both paranoia and anxiety got bored of whispering and began to shout – I began to consider applying for something new and happened to see an ad for a job that seemed pretty perfect for me, I applied, I went through a dreaded and difficult group interview, I got the job and handed in my notice.

I start in just over a week and I am so excited about this new job, I really think it will be a challenge for me – it’ll engage my brain and hopefully boost my confidence. I’m proud of myself for grasping hold of this opportunity despite now also feeling utterly terrified of having to build a new foundation of security on which to build my management techniques and the inevitable swing of moods this massive change will bring.

I feel as though this is the start of great things for me, though I am sad to leave all that I have built and the people I have come to socialise with behind.

I didn’t give up when progression didn’t work the first time… perhaps I’m still learning after all.

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The future of me…

Dare I look, must I see
What likely will become of me
I saw your trials, your tribulations
I heard your gloomy declarations
You stagnate, you fester, you weep, you pester
I wait, sequester, too late an investor
Now, the end
As bleak as the start
All you’ve left, a broken heart.

Am I allowed to feel?

I find myself in new, unbidden territory; the world is awash with magic and I am sat in wonder inside the cyclone of emotion that is my mind. Just what am I allowed to feel?

I have never been here before. I have thought I was many a time but now the difference is stark and harsh.

The sweep of new emotion is so gargantuan that I would be remiss not to ponder the effect it will have on my mental health. I practice such careful management of my affliction that surely this newfound bliss will throw my stability out of the window? Am I allowed to feel this happy, is it ok to allow myself to be carried away in joy? Or in allowing this am I setting myself up for a deep swing into depression?

I find that I don’t care to know the answers to these questions. Logic tells me that these emotions, these feelings, are too full, too much, too wonderful for me to ever hope to cope with. Logic tells me that this is bordering on mania and that destruction and a fall will surely follow and yet this doesn’t feel like mania – this feels like a mutual meeting of destiny, is that the mania talking?

I am going to allow this wave of emotion, if I shut it down then perhaps I close the door on the future and what point is there in stability if I am too afraid to live? If only there were some way to look forward and see if it is worth the risk of shaking my slowly built foundation… but I feel, deep in my soul, that contentment lies at the feet of this choice and so I thrown caution to the wind and I live. I really live.

 

Reclaiming my soul

You should know that I’m a dreamer; I am whimsical and ever so slightly odd. I am woefully socially inept but I try hard to get involved anyway. I am passionate and probably a little too rash. I long ago banished bitterness, hate and negativity from my life and from my soul and I do not invite it near me anymore. I practice painful honesty because secrets kept do more damage than the momentary discomfort of truth.  I care very little for material possessions which is lucky because I’m abysmal with money. I love my children more than anything they are the reason I am alive and I have worked hard to be more deserving of their unconditional love for me. I don’t like confrontation and will always strive to treat people with kindness. I am a thinker, an aspiring poet and an avid reader. I’m a hopeless romantic but sometimes I struggle with emotional intimacy. I am flawed. I am me. 

I have not always been this person. In fact I feel as though I have lived a great number of lives, each equipped with their own persona, in my relatively short time on this earth.

Somewhere, in the mess of lives that I have lived, I forgot who I really was. Or perhaps I didn’t ever really exist. I have sculpted this person from all the experiences of my past selves, I have moulded the mistakes into lessons and fashioned lessons into blessings. I have not created a perfect person – I have become a real one.

Living with the weight of mental illness is not easy but I have learnt that though some things are always going to be out with my control, I cannot use this affliction as an excuse. It does not justify bad behaviour or selfishness and it does not give me reason not to try. These are beliefs easier said than put into practice but I have made it my mission to push through the instinct to fester, to recline and revel in the misery that is mental illness. It is, after all, far easier to allow yourself to remain stagnant than to fight against the swelling, impossible tides of despair and hopelessness.

I didn’t realise when beginning this quest for balance and wellbeing that instead of pretending to be someone that I’m not once again, instead of another front or carefully constructed mask – I would actually uncover the person I was always meant to be. It lends a certain vulnerability to be you in every way and that is what I both love and despise about it but despite my reservations and discomfort I will endeavour to never be any less than me again.

I have worked hard to reclaim my soul, to live for the first time, to breathe. It is liberating to finally meet the me I should always have been.

1D Me

Ah, the first gleaming post of a new year… Full of hope and high expectations, just like all those before it – though my heart isn’t quite in it; I want so much more than the empty promise that this year will be bigger, better and more successful than all of the others. I want more than to get to the end and have to steel myself against the bitter disappointment that I am still merely human and no, I have not yet put an end to world hunger, found fame in a travelling circus nor brought world peace about with nought but a smile.

This year is about realism. January was shit. It is always shit. I forget this every year because it is easier that way than to be honest with myself. I flounce extravagance throughout November and December – it is a hub of social activity; if not with family , then with friends. Money flows through my fingers as though I were manufacturing it and as if that wasn’t enough to overstimulate and push ever closer to the clutches of mania, it is also all glittery, shiny and twinkly!!

January is the hangover month. Money is tight, because the me that existed at the end of 2016 couldn’t care less about the feeding and housing of the me of 2017. The last of the glitter has been cleared away and the family and friends have all retreated into normal routine once again – likely recovering from similar afflictions to mine.

And thus, here I sit – pondering. It is February and the hangover is receding yet hasn’t quite left the room but despite its lingering presence I feel more like my self than I have in a very long time. I don’t think I am myself very often – I don’t think I even know which version of me that I present is the authentic version of myself. I was with friends tonight and I recognised myself whilst there – I was relaxed, calm and simply spoke all of the things in my head with very little editing. I have realised that I don’t share myself with people. Most of the people who would claim to know me actually know very little about me or the things I have experienced in my life; they share personal details with me and I give a little in return but my stories are the edited version – they portray the me that I would like them to see or the me that I feel most relates to them. I am not every facet of myself with very many people.

I realise that I have grown to do this for a reason – it must be some form of protection that I have learnt along the way. I spent most of my childhood being judged and criticised for the person I was developing into; anything that was ridiculed, I changed it (even so far as changing my accent – to rid myself of the Devon lilt of my home that I was told made me sound as though I lacked intelligence) I would agonise over what was wrong with me and how I could fix it – I spent a long time believing that the true me was not interesting enough to be liked and lying to create a ‘better version’ – I made a conscious decision not to lie anymore when I was in my early twenties, the lies were growing and causing trouble and hurt feelings but I can see now that where the lies stopped, the evasiveness began. This is not something that I particularly want to continue… I am lonely. People can’t get close to me and nor will they want to if I continue to present this one dimensional version of me. I am so much more than you see – I am so much bigger on the inside.

This year I am not going to make empty promises to myself. I probably won’t significantly reduce the mammoth size of my bottom or win the lottery or get a job as an astronaut. But I will promise myself that I will try harder to be present in my own life – I will try harder to share the many weird and wonderful facets of me; to lay myself bare to the possibility of ridicule and rejection and just see what happens.

This year is not going to be any different than any others than have been before nor unlike those that will come after but I will be different, I will be the more that I have been looking for.

 

Well if you wanted honesty…

Hello my faithful old friend. It has been a while.

Life changes so quickly and yet progress seems hard to find; these past few months have been nothing short of abysmal and yet, not even close to the worst things have been – I suppose that is what I must remember when feeling as though my life and my progress are sliding backwards into the hungry maw of doom; things have been much worse, much, much worse.

My medication stopped at the end of January and though I can’t blame that for all of this gloom that hangs around me right now – it played its part like a weathered actor, it tore down my every defence; bashed against the walls of my management strategies and spat at the feet of mental health. I have had to learn again and all while my brain does the tango with the ebbing drugs that so soon before had been it’s lifeline and saviour… One might say it has been a rather unpleasant time and one might be understating things by gargantuan proportions.

I, rather naively, thought that the withdrawals would be the worst that I would have to deal with when coming off of my medication and they were dreadful – on the worst day I actually though I was going to die – but the worst of the withdrawals lasted only around a week, after that, though I felt odd, unfocused and generally unwell I could cope with them. It seems obvious now that it would not be the physical but the mental side of things that would bring me such trouble and despair… hasn’t it always been that way oh brain of mine? Haven’t you always made me suffer?

I use an app on my phone to chart my moods – I’ve done it for a while because it can be so difficult, whilst living and functioning, to stay mindful enough to recognise the swinging pendulum of moods that can be my downfall until it’s too late and by then I’m too far into an episode to heal and bring myself back from the brink. Before I leapt into life without medication I had reached a spree of middle ground type moods – my swings were fewer and there were less peaked moods. My charts looked clean and healthy… since stopping my medication the charts have been feverish; great peaks and troughs; spikes of anxiety and paranoia lace the pages and my life grows ever more unstable. Until, this month – or rather these last two weeks… Now, I can start to see my moods calming and though things still feel desperate, dismal and dark I can finally start to see the faint glimmer of hope shining on the horizon… I promised I would be O.K. regardless and I will; because I fight, because I am trying whether you see it or not, whether you believe it or not. My progress may not look like much from the outside but on the inside I wage a war to rival all wars, a battle to end all battles, it is a race for health, a dash for sanity…

And sometimes remarkable things happen when you show what you can do and who you can be and then stumble for a while – the people who you fought so hard to convince the first time round – the ones who were unsure anything was wrong with you, the ones who, though you didn’t see it at the time, fought alongside you – they believe this time and they become the strength at your back, urging you on because they see it now – they understand now that this shell of a human is not you – your potential is much greater. So, though we stumble and regress and end up in the waters of oblivion once again – now, we have a hand to hold, a tether to the real world, a lifeline… mine is my mum – without her, I would not be here; I owe her a lot… and could there be more fitting a day to tell her than this, mother’s day?

So yes, life is not so good right now, decisions must be made and outcomes fought for. I am in a limbo – awaiting the correct paths to take and hoping all of this despair and anguish is happening for a reason. But whether there is light or darkness surrounding me, I see the sparks of hope and where there are sparks, there shall soon be fire.

The media circus *Trigger warning*

I am loathe to write this post; I almost feel as though in doing so I am adding to the very problem I am about to complain about and yet if ever I needed to write something; this is it.

It has been a tough week in the world of Bipolar disorder. I’m sure we have all been struck by the untimely death of Robin Williams; it is a tragedy. My online support group has been finding the whole thing incredibly difficult (as have I) not only the way the way the media has spun the story in as many ways as possible to make reading it all unavoidable but also the apparent ignorance in claiming he suffered with depression when it is widely known that he was a fellow Bipolar disorder sufferer… (a very different illness)  I believe they reported it this way because it is a more widely coined term and they believe more people will understand this; however, many within my support circles believe it is a missed opportunity to discuss Bipolar disorder in a more open forum and perhaps attempt to de-stigmatise what has become a disease that is so widely ridiculed.

I do find it incredibly sad that this apparently effervescent man found that he could no longer carry on and as a person with Bipolar disorder it fills me with dread and sadness; is that my future? You always hope you’ll have it all figured out by the time you get to that age; this somehow just confirms that it will always be a struggle – there will always be a fight to be fought.

It is hard to explain in a way that the everyday person will understand but the constant publication of details of a mans downfall, leading to suicide which is explicitly described in several publications is very dangerous to many with Bipolar disorder; it plants the seed of suicide – which then has the potential to breed within your mind. I have a very visual mind and when I was in the midst of my biggest suicidal period, hanging was an obsession of mine – I can literally picture myself dying that way; from finding a rope, to the actual act itself and all the motions in-between… I realise that will be disturbing for some to read – so imagine what it is like to have that image on a loop within your mind; meaning that even if you aren’t low enough to contemplate suicide ordinarily, reading about it described so thoroughly means you are still at risk of obsessing about the act and then potentially following through with those obsessive thoughts.

My Facebook is literally filled with tributes and news stories about him and his death making Facebook a dangerous place for me at the moment. My Bipolar support group is all suffering in the same way; we cannot seem to stop reading and we cannot seem to stop discussing it all… does it mean the same for us? Are we bound to reach the same sad fate? Even as I sat on the bus two days ago I was faced with multiple images of his face and headlines of a provocative nature from the many strewn metro newspapers. There is no escape and no reprieve from this story and so it is all consuming…

I think the ignorance of the media is that they believe in publicising his suicide in a sensitive and understanding way, they are not causing damage; I do not think they are aware that a whole massive community of people are potentially on the verge of copycat action because of the sensationalist and relentless way in which they have approached this.

And yet; I cannot tell you how they could have done it differently. He deserves the many gleaming tributes; he had a massive impact on so many lives – the way his children have paid tribute to him is heartbreakingly wonderful and a glimpse into the man he truly was – he has played part in many of my favourite films… yes, he deserves to be mourned.

And the truth is; I wanted to know how he died and the news that he was also suffering with Parkinson’s disease makes sense to me; for dealing with both this illness and another is something I’m not sure I would stay to weather either… I don’t now how we fix this damaging age of media sensationalism and propaganda; I certainly am not one to suggest the censorship of media and the truth is that it has always been this way – only in the age of the internet, mobile apps and all manner of other instant communication it is a lot harder to avoid reading this kind of hype. The really harrowing thing is that we all want this information – we seek it and feed upon it like the vultures we so often are; but just because we want something does not mean it is healthy for us – it does not mean we should have such instant access to such a font of information…

If this week has brought anything to light it is that we still have a long way to go before mental illness is understood or at least de-stigmatised within the public domain. One day we will get to the point where ignorance does not prevail; maybe one day it will not be too much to ask for all provocative media publications to carry trigger warnings as food would declare its potential allergens… at least then there is an element of choice for those of us at risk… something to make us stop and think before we read/listen. And maybe one day it won’t be too much for the media to state the correct mental illness rather than using a blanket term for ease of understanding…

To all my fellow Bipolar sufferers I say, be cautious – be mindful of the things you read and expose yourself to; pay attention to how it makes you feel before your mood/obsession has leave to get out of control; talk to those around you or failing that, find an online group of people who understand that you can vent these emotions to – the therapy in talking through the way you feel is bigger than you can imagine; communicate with medical professionals – stay open, stay honest; however silly or illogical it might seem.

To those who do not suffer with Bipolar disorder; I hope this has at least given you a small insight into what I am sure it is hard to fathom… and I hope that you too will be mindful of the content you share, knowing, now, the potential effect.

 

 

Perfection

Nothing will ever be perfect. And yet, we all strive for perfection – we carry on until the day we die, accruing possessions, furthering careers, furnishing rooms and gilding nature… There is no end to it because it is never enough. How ironic then, that so many of us seek reprieve from these never-ending tasks in the wiles of nature – unblemished, untouched nature; where the sky and the sea meet in a silent confrontation of wills, where bird song reins supreme and instead of the choke of pollution, the breeze carries the smell of life in its wake.

Why do we build these fences, just to sit outside of them for a sense of peace?

Almost every thought I have lately is about the future – betterment and contentedness. How do I reach a point in time where I feel as though I am being all that I can be and doing all that I can do? The answer, I now realise, is that it will never happen – I am chasing nothing… an impossibility.

I will never feel as though I am all I can be because there will always be more I want to achieve or more I feel I could have done; and that’s ok… but it doesn’t mean that I am failing and it doesn’t mean I’m not doing enough, it doesn’t mean that I am not enough.

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool that I learnt to use during my CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy –  It is essentially, as I understand it, the art of being present in the here and now. Feel what you feel today, see what is around you right at this moment… live today. There will always be the stresses of tomorrow to contend with or the heartaches of yesterday but why ruin this day with thoughts of what if or bitterness over something that isn’t happening right now. When we hold on to pain we only punish ourselves and fill the rest of our days with agony that only grows in strength and aggression… When we worry or plan for things that are out of our control we only ruin the time we have… we miss the positives of the now – I dread to think of the smiles of my children that I have missed while consumed by depression; but instead of dwelling upon those dreadful times I choose to notice and appreciate every smile in the here and now… I cannot correct the past or map the future but I am the master of the now, I control today.

As I sit here I can practice being mindful… I can feel the tap of my fingers on the keys of my laptop – feel the breeze from the open door next to me and smell the night air that I love so very much and find so fresh and crisp… I feel the music I am playing as I write this; I feel it in my very soul – as it surges, so do I; as it calms, I follow suit. I do not berate myself for any negativity that might cross my mind – loneliness permeates the night… I feel it and then I let it drift away on the beautiful night time breeze… for I have my words for company and my mind to fulfil me.

It is time to start appreciating the things I have done, the good I have around me… Time to let go of feeling as though I am somehow failing at life. It is not time to stop the climb to betterment or contentedness for why wouldn’t we strive for more positivity… but it is important to remember that no matter how far up the ladder to peace I reach, I am worthwhile and I have done all I needed to.

I have so much more than so many other people and there are so many things that I will never know what it is like to do without… I have my health, I have two healthy, sassy and independent children, I have family, I have acceptance, I have budding possibilities… my life is full.

I know that I will not always be able to think this way – that is the inevitability of living with Bipolar disorder; things that seem like common sense today will tomorrow feel like impossibilities… but I hope that I will look back on this and that even in my darkest hours, I will strive to be mindful of all that I am and all that I have accomplished.

Upon reflection

I like to sit back and reflect at where I am, where I have been and where I’m going. I do this often, a sort of contemplative ritual and yet I am always taken aback at what I find; how far I have come.

So why does life feel as though its always at a standstill? Stagnant…

The small victories that I learnt so diligently to praise myself for, no longer feel like achievements.

This time last year it was all about management; making it through the kids summer holidays without falling into despair. I wrote a plan of action; an itinerary of sorts to keep myself on the move… this year I did not write a plan and yet three weeks into the seven week holiday and we have already, without thinking, done more than I ever thought possible – or managed – previously. Still, it doesn’t feel like enough – there is too much empty time, too often I lay in lethargy – unable or perhaps just unwilling to move.

Where does life go from here?

Such a lot has changed over the last ten years and yet nothing has changed – it repeats, it repeats… Forever doomed to live my tortures over again.

My mind is the poison, my thoughts the disease – there is no antidote, no cure for this ailment of mine.

I feel good about my soul; the person I know I am inside – I know that person shines through for those who take the time to look hard enough but it shouldn’t be a hidden thing. Why do I continue to hide when the past is the past and can no longer hurt me. The person I am inside has no influence on this dismal ‘safe’ life I’m living… There is no me in these walls.

From suicide to catatonia. From screaming to silence. From tears to debt. From destruction to hatred. I have come so far; I have weathered so much – it cannot all be for this miserable life, there must be more.

Spring forward

I wonder how often our lives fall into sync with the earth. The petals fall from fragrant cherry blossoms, flowers begin to bloom and leaves appear – animals prepare to bring forth new life and April showers leave the earth fresh and cleansed. How keenly the spring mirrors the events of my own life… The ending of things past and the beginning of new, fresh adventures; How difficult it is not to sully the now with memories and fears of the past.

Today I had my very last appointment with my support worker and a couple of weeks ago I was discharged from under my psychiatrist’s care. I knew this was coming and I know it is the right time to sever these elements of support – they have done all they can for me – and yet, it leaves me with mixed emotions nonetheless. I say goodbye to what was essentially a very empowering, yet difficult, piece of my life (seeking and seeing through the help I so desperately needed) with a heavy heart and move forward with hope and the faith that I am able to maintain this wonderful level of stability. I also hold a great amount of fear and doubt though… What if I fall once again? Do I have the strength to get up again? Would I even want to? I suppose my fear has heightened now because there is no fall back – I am responsible for me, I must manage this condition alone and that is a scary prospect regardless of whatever support I may have around me.

I was thinking just the other day about the difference a small passage of time can make to a person… I am well aware of the difference I have made in my own life and even my personality over the past ten years but even the past two years hold a great significance and many accomplishments – My life now, but my outlook on life especially, is vastly different to what it was then. In 2012 I was watching myself begin to crumble again – I had to give up my English degree and accept that it was just too much pressure for me at that time… I sought help for my illness properly for the very first time, I did battle with family members who weren’t ready or able to accept my illness and realised exactly who I could rely on. I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and sent into therapy… I was a mass of anger, bitterness and pain.

Life is eons away from that now. I hold no anger or bitterness – Its often hard to remember the massive strides I have taken into health and the work that it took just to get me to a place where I could get up and out of bed every morning – take pride in my appearance and really love and respect the person that I am. I may not have a big career, I may not have money or any of the other things that other people use to judge success and happiness by but I have health, stability, I have the support of those who love me, self respect, two fabulous children and a future that doesn’t look quite so gloomy…

And so, like the spring, some things must end and others are just beginning. I am in a new relationship – one that feels healthy and right and wonderful. I am looking to maintain my management techniques in stepping up my meditation times and keeping busy – among other things. I remain painfully honest about anything and everything; even within my new relationship… it is not always easy to bare your soul for others to judge but the liberation that comes with knowing that you never need to be anything less than your authentic self and nothing is ever going to crop up an ruin your happiness, that freedom, is worth any awkwardness.

I move on; to new challenges, new adventures – and I take you with me Bipolar disorder – wherever I go, but on I move regardless…