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.

 

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Life is a minefield

I often wonder if its worth it; the eccentricities of everyday. Was life not simpler when all I did was sleep? Why worry my life away in a wakeful torture when my dreams await to soothe my aches and pain…

Now there are fights and battles galore. There are tears and feelings, cuddles and kisses and pain and emotion… There are others to consider when you’re awake to the world and their strategies at coping with the everyday are often different and foreign… It is rather ironic and very like me that I would not give myself long within a world of balance and peace before throwing in a load of noise and disruption to ripple the tides once more.

Is change a good thing? Or should we forever stick to the comfort of the status quo… Does change not enrich our lives and the people we become? Every battle I have fought, every torture that I have overcome has simply draped another layer over the person I am today, given my character another facet, enriched the mind I share here and with every experience, whether turbulent, pleasant, emotional, painful or otherwise; I become a richer version of me.

So again, I ask myself the point of all this… life, living and putting myself through so much change and upheaval… and I suppose the answer is a simple one. It is that there is no living at all in remaining stagnant, standing still… yes it is safe, yes it is comfortable but nothing will ever become anything more than it always was and for me, that will never be enough. There is power in standing alone and independent, strength in finding yourself and learning that you have worth all on your own… These past six years alone have taught me that. But I suppose there is also a great strength in learning to stand beside someone else. Finding that the world will not end should you let go of the reigns for a moment, letting another share in the person that you are to a depth that no other would dare to tread.

Its not all pain and torture in this new world of mine but it will take time to adjust to all that comes with sharing the complicated woman that I am… and then; regardless of the outcome of this new venture, I shall become a better version of me.

The glorious fall

Every year I forget; but that only adds to the awe I feel – I love this time of year, I love it with a passion that I feel in every inch of my being.

It seems rather illogical, when you think of the cold, the shorter days, the dark, dark nights and even darker mornings… it would seem as though that should be detrimental to me rather than bringing so much joy.

Regardless, I love it because no matter where you look there is a riot of colour just waiting to grab your attention – it is almost as though the world is putting on a show; its like fireworks without the noise, like a painting, its surreal, its anticipation, its the visual representation of poetry, emotion and the hopeless romantic inside my soul… The crunch of those leaves under your feet is utterly sublime, many a time me and my children have played amongst them and doesn’t it just feel so magical with those leaves falling all around you, like a cascade of nature. I love that crisp chill that fills the air, its so fresh and clean and beautiful; it fills me with a child-like excitement that I can barely explain – I love wrapping up warm in a cosy coat, gloves, scarf and hat, I love hot chocolates and hot water bottles and cosy blankets while the world rages outside the windows and there is something fiercely delicious about the low autumn sun beating down on you as the bitter wind wars to chill your bones, it makes me feel alive. Walking is a sheer pleasure in this weather and somehow, despite the world dying to hibernate for winter, it feels more of a time for nature than any other to me. In fact, just a few weeks ago I spotted my first robin of the year and got so excited I think people were quite worried about me!!

Why is it that I feel healthier and happier at this time of year? All my research would suggest that the sun (or lack of) should play a large part in my mental health and wellbeing – but this is my time, this is when I thrive.

I must say that life is better than it has ever been for me and it just keeps improving as time goes on; though I still stumble and live through peaks and troughs, I survive, I carry on and nothing seems so impossible anymore, what everyone said would happen, has happened and now all my mental health management doesn’t feel as though it is such a conscious battle; more and more it is becoming second nature to me.

I’ve noticed that I’ve started practicing mindfulness a lot more – ironically, not purposefully, it is simply coming naturally. For example – when waiting to cross the road; instead of feeling the impatience at my wait and debating whether to cross early; I feel the wind, I notice the sky, I smell the air, I hear the trees rustle in the breeze, I feel my feet where I stand – it sounds almost silly but I truly believe it has been healing for my soul to find patience in my life and a sense of calm and peace. There is no rush; nothing will implode if I do not rush across the road – I have time to wait, I have time for peace. There are many issues that we with Bipolar disorder suffer and I would hate to narrow it down to one point and spout the lie that this is the cure because the truth is that it is different for everyone, we all find peace in different ways; but I do believe that we need to take more time to listen to what our own mind and body is telling us. If you have a million thoughts inside your mind and it will not calm enough to let you rest; don’t attempt to block it out or ignore – grab a pen and some paper and write each thing down; dissect why they are in your mind, embrace your feelings and calm that mind with time, show yourself the courtesy of listening.

I’ve also started noticing that nobody is as together as we all assume; I’ve started seeing people properly instead of seeing them all as above me and believing that they had something that I didn’t. You may not have a degree, but they don’t brush their teeth. You may not have made it out of the house today but they forgot to remind their son to do his homework. You may have had an argument with your mum/dad/sister/uncle but they have realised they’re unhappy in their marriage. Perhaps you have smelly feet, they have debts up to their eyeballs. You’re addicted to gambling, they’re addicted to online shopping. You didn’t iron your shirt this morning, they’re wearing yesterdays underwear; this is life, this is humanity… our problems are different but they’re the same because no matter the scale of severity they feel hopeless to us. This is ok; this is as normal as it gets.

This time last year I couldn’t have imagined being as healthy as I am now. I often say that to myself in times that feel dire and unbearable ‘this time next year it’ll all be different and there will be progress; things will be better’ and though it changes nothing in that moment; it gives me a goal to strive for and when I reach that year I can look back on all that I have done and see through clear eyes that yes, nothing is quite so dire anymore.

So much  has changed for me and yet nothing has really changed; it is almost an imperceptible change but it is there nonetheless. I have a job, I have a boyfriend, I enjoy life more, I am more positive, I am calmer and more accepting of others, I am more confident, I am happier, I am healthier and I know myself inside and out.

Perhaps that is why I love the autumn with such a passion. Because it mirrors my own sense of renewal; shed the old, the negative, the unnecessary baggage – spend some time, alone, bare, naked in the sense that you strip back the façade, the mask that says ‘I’m ok’ and then, when the time is right, bloom.

‘…It doesn’t mean you’re failing’

I have felt like a failure my entire life. I know I’m not alone in this feeling; I think perhaps we all feel this way from time to time… but what is it that we are failing to do? Who decides what constitutes failure and what is a success?

I set my own goals. Once upon a time I would set those goals based upon what I thought others would see as success; I based my life’s ambition upon my perceptions of what others might see as greatness but, of course, it was never enough – for me or them. Written like this, it is a clear recipe for disaster and misery… but I ask you; have you not done the same? Is there not that one person whose approval you seek but never receive? That one thing that you think; if I just had that, everything would be ok… It is an elusive mission – an unending pool of desolation to seek what you will never receive. Those who love us will always see our happiness and contentment as success and those who don’t are likely blindly projecting the perception of their own failures onto you.

My father was the man I felt I could not please. I always felt clumsy around him, panicky – which led to more mistakes, which in turn led to more of his disapproval. I thought that a career would make him proud of me; would garner his approval.. and when it didn’t immediately seem to make him love me,  I would not see it through – I would quit because it was never something I was doing for me and you will never be happy doing something that it is not in your heart to do… I used to think he made me feel like a failure and certainly he could have done more to prevent me feeling so worthless; but really I made myself feel this way. I set myself unrealistic goals, I sought things that I could not put my whole heart and soul into – I ignored the person I was, I thought success would come with approval I didn’t realise that the approval I needed was my own.

Blame is poison to the soul. It eats you from inside out and all that is left is the bitter shell of what you once were. My father and I are too different and yet startlingly similar and it caused a great many clashes throughout my life. I have blamed him for a many things through the years – we no longer talk because it is better for us both that way – I wish I had not blamed him for all the things that went wrong in my life, he was, indeed, a negative force in my life but I know he didn’t seek to be that, we just both found ourselves there one day and it was too late to turn back. I don’t blame him for anything now. I don’t blame anyone… Life happens and the awful parts are just as important as the good, they shape who we are; they graft a character out of the mould that is our soul. I am the woman I am today because of all that has happened to me… there is no blame to be laid.

What is success? A career? Money? Children? A house? Happiness? Friends? A large social calendar? Social standing? Fame?

If I feel like a failure, what am I failing at? Life?

What does it mean to be worthless? If I make someone smile in a day is that not worth enough?

If for the rest of my life I do no more than I do now… Love my kids, strive to always be kind, let people into my heart, work to keep a healthy mind, learn, forgive, play, laugh, smile, cry, love my family, despair at my family, write to ease my troubled mind, write to enliven my soul, make memories… if this is all I do for the rest of my days, have I failed at life? Have I been worth any less?

I challenge this feeling of worthlessness, I analyse this notion of failure.

I have fought a battle with my mind – I have come back from insanity – I am raising two healthy and happy children – I have a home – I have family – I have love – I have friendship – I have health – I experience joy – I feel emotion – I know myself – I know how to be happy – I love me.

There is no greater success story than being able to simply accept who you are and what makes you feel content. I am a success.

Learning to love

Life has been moving at both a very slow and a very fast pace of late and both interact with each other to create a level of calm that I have seldom experienced, but that I relish.

I have only recently begun to understand what a vastly different person I have become; stronger, kinder and more compassionate – less demanding… Of course, I have my flaws as we all do but I am so very proud of the fierce independence I feel emanating from within. When I look back at the person I was I shudder to think how anyone could stand to be around me… I  wonder if I have the potential to be that dark, self absorbed person again – and I know its within me but I also know that things are different now and it is unlikely I would ever let go long enough to allow myself to slide that far down the dank well of depression. I have worked hard to reach this stage; worked hard to be able to get out of bed every morning and function in the way that I do – it does not seem like much to others but it is akin to climbing mount Everest to me. There is more I need to do; there will always be more, but if I have learnt anything in this period of management it is that I must pace myself to avoid falling over my own feet.

I am finding it rather difficult to manage both a new relationship and my Bipolar disorder. Many of the management techniques I have in place did not factor in the possibility that someone else might become entwined within my life and so I must adapt and learn once again how to control my moods and emotions. Though, with so many new and often strong emotions happening right now, controlling my emotions is proving to be somewhat of a challenge as well – leading to bouts of illogical tears which tend to confuse both my new partner and myself. I am certain I will overcome these obstacles but it is frustrating that even something that should be exciting and pleasurable has become something that requires work and management – though even as I write that I realise that all relationships require work and management and so perhaps I shouldn’t concern myself quite so much and I must say that despite these stumbling blocks, I do find this new chapter in my life both exciting and pleasurable.

I find it difficult to know how to deal with certain situations and I have been slightly reckless on a couple of occasions within this relationship – I am trying to be transparent in my flaws and with my difficulties but it is not easy, its never easy to confront the worst of yourself – especially when you have no excuses or reasons for a lot of your behaviour. I know this is right though – this is worth the work and effort; I will overcome my downfalls.

Sometimes I wish I was not such a deep thinker – I wonder what the world and its many experiences would look like to me if I could take everything at face value and never concern myself with more than what was glaringly apparent. But if I were not such a pensive person I would not be me… if I did not overthink and brood I would not have developed into the person that I am; I likely would not be learning how to cope and manage my illness – I love to think, I love to analyse and though it sometimes creates trouble where there is none, I believe it makes me more compassionate, caring and that I see more of the world; as if my eyes open wider the more I open my mind… I embrace things that I perhaps would not even notice were I not so prone to thinking. Would I notice the smell of the air at night or the way my heart swells when standing within a powerful breeze, would I realise the pleasure that writing brings me? Would I know the joy of standing in the rain?

What use is it to wish for what will never be… let’s love who we are and be beautiful and free.

 

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…

Liberation is love

It was the night of the new year; 2010 and a very inebriated me declared ‘Liberation is love!’ as the bells tolled the start of new beginnings.

The saying has stuck with me ever since but only recently have I truly begun to think about and to understand its full meaning. When I first coined the phrase, I had not long left my husband and moved myself and my kids into my mother’s very small flat. I had met a friend who was kind enough to envelope me within her social circle, I was single for the first time in over 10 years and my mental health was in a dangerous place (though not quite at my lowest point) – At the time, all Liberation is love meant to me was how I felt in that moment – I was recklessly happy, it was my first real taste of what a social life might feel like and I felt free – I felt like I was in exactly the place I was supposed to be at that time; surrounded by the drunken, merriment of some of those who have become my closest friends within these past few years.

With every passing year Liberation is love has taken on a new meaning; letting go of blame – both toward myself and toward others, letting go of fear and negativity (I’m still working on this one!), saying goodbye to negative influences and embracing positive ones. It has followed me through all of my milestones and all of my stumbling points…

Liberation is a beautiful thing but when I spoke those words, felt that phrase, I did not understand quite what it meant. Liberation; letting go? Setting free? Must I wait for someone else to do that for me? Or can I liberate myself? Can I find the help and support I need for my mental illness and liberate myself from suffering? Can I remove the people from my life who bring nothing positive and liberate myself from negativity? Can I love myself enough to work towards liberation?

Nobody set me free, released me from my cage or liberated me. There were helping hands but I had to reach for them and allow them to grab hold of me – I liberated myself. Liberation is love. That is what it means to me now, that I finally loved myself enough to let go of all the hate and blame eating at my very soul; that I love myself enough to be true to myself and live a life I feel is worthy and be a person I can feel proud of. I have many more things to accomplish but I have never been more content with my life than I am now.

I used to wish for someone to come and rescue me; from within the darkest recesses of my mind I would scream for help and wonder when someone would notice, when they might come for me – I thought a man was the answer, I thought a marriage was my salvation… I never thought to look inward first, never held enough faith in myself to believe that I might hold the key to my own happiness.

And now, embarking on new ventures into love and romance I can finally say that I’m in it for the right reasons – I don’t need love, I want it and there is a vast difference between the two.

Liberation is love… and you hold the key.

Lttf

Life. It is never what we feel it ought to be. It does nothing that we ask it to and yet; it always takes us exactly where we’re meant to be.

I have come to the conclusion that tears are good and laughter is better, that instead of ruling my emotions I must allow them to breathe, watch them, learn from them, deal with them, talk about them to people who care. Suppression never made anyone feel whole. What an important lesson to have learned; that emotion is ok, that feeling is ok, that the way I function is ok! I feel as though I know myself inside and out, there are very few stones left unturned and it leaves me feeling secure in my own skin and free to sense who and what I should surround myself with. I feel more love than ever before pouring in from those around me and I can’t decipher if it because they love me more or that I see it now, I feel it now but it doesn’t matter because I feel it and I know that I deserve it.

I am proud, painfully proud, of the me I am today and of the battles I have fought and am yet to fight and yet I am oh so disappointed; but that is good, because that means there is more to come from me, I can do more, I can be more… I have finally come to the place where there is no desperation. no need, just hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought I would reach this place.

I have never felt so free within myself, so in control and terrified of the potential drop from these stable heights…

There will be turmoil. There will be desperate lows and maddening highs; nothing will stop my Bipolar. But I hope that on those days I return to this post and see that it is ok… because the people around me love me regardless, I have lain myself bare and they have accepted me, it is ok because I love me regardless…. It is ok because I am invariably good! It is ok because once the tears have fallen, the money spent, the harsh words said and the darkness banished, I have me and I have them and I will be ok again.

Moving on Vs Staying stuck.

We can all suffer with an inability or lack of desire to move forward, we get stuck in the rut of life; comfortable but not always content – it is not a trait bestowed solely upon those who suffer with Bipolar disorder, it is a curse of humanity and I doubt there is anyone that can avoid falling into the oblivion of what we feel is safety and security because it is what we have always known. It takes gumption, perhaps a little slice of insanity (optional) and a whole slab of confidence to jump into the pool of the unknown, to risk what is cosy and familiar for a real shot at happiness.

I thought I took that step, that leap into the unknown, when I left my husband – neither of us were happy though neither of us would admit it. We were wrong for each other in so many, many ways and though we cared for each other and were both pretty wonderful people in our own right, in a relationship we could not create any more than a comfortable (and sometimes uncomfortable) rut for each of us to hide in. I left, wasn’t that when I took the great bound into the waters of the new? I was sure the answer to that was yes but now I just don’t know. My husband, has moved on in great leaps and bounds – he essentially replaced us all; he is in a new relationship and has been for quite some time and has a new child… does this mean he has moved further away from our mutual rut than I? It has been three and a half years and it is still painful to learn that he has moved on in such a final way; why is it painful? why should I care? I think perhaps it is more frustrating than painful because now I have to face the reality that, unbeknownst to me, when I left my husband clearly I did not take the leap both physically and mentally, my body may well have been creating a life here but in my mind I had the option of going back to my rut as a back-up if living got a little too scary and though going back was never really a feasible option I have subconsciously been holding on to it like a child holds its favourite teddy, comforting, safe, misery.

Hearing that my husband has created a new life for himself is only painful because I haven’t managed to get there yet and part of my self-depreciating mind believes that I never will because I don’t feel as though I am worth anyones time, I don’t feel desirable, what could I possibly offer that anyone might be attracted to? The truth, of course, is that moving on with another relationship would never have been the right move for me then, I needed to learn a little about myself first, I needed to accept that I have an illness that will need to be embraced by whomever I may move forward with.

Of course in other areas of my life I certainly have moved forward. Mentally I have taken massive frog jumps into uncharted lands, I am dealing with my illness in a more hands on and honest manner than I have ever done before, I have embraced the management of Bipolar disorder in a way that I don’t even think I was capable of before, I have a larger support network of both mental health professionals, family and wonderful friends and though the numbers of people around me are small, I am learning to rely on others for support a lot more meaning the relationships with those people are stronger and more secure than all those before them. I feel I am a more competent mother than I was when stuck within my rut, I am more careful in the way that I parent, more vigilant and with so much of my illness being managed in better and better ways now I am becoming a more stable parent and I suppose, despite my swinging moods, I am actually happy now. (a definite first for me!) So even though I have not moved forward in the same way as my husband, I have done what is healthy and right for myself… it is tough to remember that on the nights I am so lonely that I consider calling the talking clock just for some company but in the long-run I am sure I have made some positive moves for myself and really that is all taking the leap is about; positive change and happiness.