Live

Once there was a child

She sat upon a cloud

And pondered life’s rich questions

And sometimes asked aloud

Why must they cry, why must they weep

Why do the demons come as they sleep?

She asked it of the thunderstorm

Who growled his deep reply

That joy will shortly follow the darkness of the sky
As she watched she grew perplexed

For she did not understand

They found another to share their lives

And held tightly to their hand

From her perch upon the cloud

She deigned to ask again

Why do they choose to love just one, what makes this love I see. This girl is plain and ordinary. How is this love to be?

She asked it of the rainbow

Who wove magic in the sky

Love is born within the soul

Not for the eyes of you and I
High on her cloud the child remained

There for all her days

Upon the questions of our lives

She dwelt ’til she was pained

If only I could talk a while

And help her understand

What little hope there was for her

If she never touched the land

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Realism

I built you up inside my head

I lived our lives alone

I tied my heart to yours,  I thought

But lo, I was alone
Then we met

And you were not

The man inside my head

And yet I fail to regret

The life we never led
I’d like to get to know you

And live a life that’s real

But it’s all been such a fallacy

I’ve forgotten how to feel

Cacophony of life

My heart was made for many a thing

It beats a steady tune

I cannot live without it

and without me, it would face its doom

We form an unlikely union, my aching heart and I

For one knows all the secrets and the other, only lies

How magical the dreams within my barren chest

Of serenity and peacefulness, a state of waking rest

A fellow soul to guide you as your story does unfold

A connection that goes deeper than another hand to hold

 

Oh this cacophony of life

It brings me to my knees

But my heart sees the horizon

It can see between the trees

Onward to morning, to fight another day

My heart may be bleeding but I’ll not pull it from the fray

Love of love is breathing for this weary heart of mine

and breathe it shall

all in good time.

 

Fear to spite its owner

This time last year I was set on a crusade to enrich my life. I was tired of waiting for the future to find me and had decided to reach out and grasp at the potential happiness I felt I could see. Of course, what you think you want isn’t always what is best for us, I put myself out there and I failed; but I also gained so very much. I gained patience, self esteem, a better understanding of what it means to be loved, a closer relationship with my loved ones and a higher standard for who I allow to entwine themselves so deeply into my life and the lives of my children.

I am in a pensive and emotional sort of mood, one that analyses every facet of life, inspects every feeling and prods at my precarious hold to positivity and stability. I am a little cowed by recent events, new experiences and challenges bring panic in the realisation that as my life grows, so diminishes my control on the situations I am faced with and the judgement I must deal with.

When I was just beginning to take control of my mental health I removed all negative influences in my life and kept only a very few people around me, these people I trusted with everything I was – both good and bad. I let nobody else in and though it wasn’t really a fully conscious decision it is obviously one that was pivotal to my debatable success in learning to manage my health. Now; my life is moving forward in great strides and getting a little harder to juggle. With but one or two people of trust there are no secrets, no intrigue, no gossip or foot-in-mouth moments. With few people there’s no awkward clashing of events or excuses and explanations needed. The people I held around me were so trusted that I could tell them anything and receive no judgement but now I must mind my words, I must remember the lessons in social interaction that I have rushed to learn over the past few years and I must listen to my instincts as to who to trust with my most inner-workings; sometimes those instincts will be wrong and my faith will be placed upon someone who will pass judgement and create situations that seem dire and again I am left in a position that is beyond my control and painful to traverse.

How much simpler life was when only my mind created havoc for my soul.

Of course there is some good in embracing new people and experiences and there have been comments from people I have known for some time about how much more sociable, open and easy-going I seem now.

One woman who I met only recently upon finding out (beyond my control) that I have Bipolar commented that she couldn’t believe I had a mental illness because I ‘seemed far too calm and positive for someone with Bipolar’ I wasn’t sure of how I felt about her comments, though written now they seem fairly tame… at the time I was both insulted and pleased, I suppose. Insulted because of the ignorant stigmatic view of Bipolar that she clearly holds… Her comments also made me feel very anxious, would she treat me differently now? Her only reference to Bipolar is a few episodes of Eastenders (which I haven’t seen) where a girl with apparent Bipolar is seen having a breakdown and while I have certainly lived through those devastating stages and may very well one day return to them, I doubt the drama of a soap opera compares to the reality… My fears however were unfounded as she hasn’t treated me any differently at all but I never needed to feel that kind of fear of judgement until I started living again. What risky business it is to be alive. I was also pleased by her comments because I am both of those things now. Calm and positive, but not without considerable effort and thought so if that is how people see me then all this work is not for nothing.

There have been epiphany’s aplenty in recent days and yet more grim acceptance of my flaws. Despite my negative experience in grabbing the bull by the horns and attempting to move life faster than it was willing to go – I am not adverse to moving forward and I refuse to shy away from new experiences, friendships and relationships for fear only spites the owner and I didn’t work this hard to live only to die in other ways.

I cannot control every situation for the rest of my life, I cannot control the actions of others, the judgement they pass or the poisoned words they might spread but I can control how I let those things affect me, how deeply I let them wound and so I am going to continue to be me; I am going to stop feeling the need to hide my more eccentric idiosyncrasies and I am going to move forward with my head held high knowing that those who love me do so unconditionally and that anyone who doesn’t is not worth but a thought let alone my fear.

 

 

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.

The chaos bubble *trigger warning*

I’m on my third day at work and it’s all going pretty well I would say; the work is simple – the people are friendly and my family has rallied around me to help with the kids. I’m being congratulated and told that people are proud of me and on the surface its making me feel pretty good.

If I think any deeper, scratch the surface of the chaos inside, stop and wonder at what I’m doing, then the screaming woman bursts from her chaos bubble of fear, terror and dread spreading negativity like the plague. It happened to me this morning… I was walking along the street to get a cup of tea before work and must have awakened the beast inside me because all of a sudden it seemed a wonderful thing that I might get hit by a car; a fleeting thought – easily shrugged off, but scary nonetheless! The screaming woman’s rationale was that we wouldn’t have to cope with all this if we were dead. You can’t fail her logic but why, when everything has been going so well, am I thinking things like this?!
It’s the pressure. The responsibility and change.

Hopefully time is the cure. When that which was change becomes the norm, is it still frightening?

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.

‘…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.