Anxiety

Anxiety has been eating me alive.

I was 21 when I had my breakdown. I was ill for quite some time before then but the breakdown is the thing that took everything from me.

Being in the midst of a breakdown is terrifying. I didn’t know what it was at the time and I’m not sure I’d have cared, all I knew was that the world was suffocating me, darkness was a closer friend than all those before and that I was lost; perhaps forever. I was a towering inferno of agony. I don’t remember great chunks of my life and I’ll never get those memories back; perhaps I don’t want to – I was not in my mind. I was gone, I was a shell and because I was not in my mind I didn’t learn how to function, how to live – I didn’t want to live. I never learnt how to cope with emotions, I only had a two of them and they were desperate misery and seething anger. I didn’t learn how to cope in social situations, how to behave – I isolated myself, I drove people away from me, I was not fun to be around.

I feel, sometimes, devoid of enough tools to cope. I feel uncertain of the accuracy of my actions and that induces crippling anxieties which only serve to make me more socially inept; stumbling over my words and offering a nervous giggle when no giggle is necessary. Saying things that are inappropriate – or not saying anything at all and still spending the rest of eternity living these inane conversations in the vain hope that eventually I will get it right and have cracked the elusive code of conversation.

I have come so far. I don’t strive for isolation any more, yet I still find myself isolated. I do partake in conversation instead of shying away from it – no more the silent mouse in the corner. I speak to people every day now, I laugh and participate and there is seldom a day where I don’t have to talk to someone new or cope in some form of social setting but still anxiety plagues me and it frustrates me that I can’t move past it. Some days I’m not sure I can push through it – but I do, I have and I will likely continue to. Still, what is so difficult about being around people?! What am I afraid of? Why must I seek acceptance in every facet of my life? Does the approval or disapproval matter when coming from a relative stranger?

Sometimes, though less often now, I wish I had let the breakdown have me. It would have been so much simpler, easier and less painful if I had just let it win and embraced the darkness. I would be done now. Free?

There are so many things that I had to learn to do – I had to learn to function, to sleep properly, to wash, to organise, to talk, to share, to live, to breathe… and so many of these things come so naturally to me now – perhaps one day I will be able to interact with others without anxiety and paranoia. But for now, I’ll keep trying, I’ll strive to be more transparent and less defensive and perhaps I’ll just embrace my woeful social ineptitude.

 

2016 and fighting regression

2016 has been an awful year for me, there have been moments of light in the gloom but overall the darkness has pervaded so profusely that it has encompassed most anything it came across. Only now; in October, am I starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and enjoying the race to the end of this year of regression, loss and massive change.

I had taken myself back to my psychiatrist after some of the worst regression since my breakdown this year. People think that I am so strong – they tell me as much, they worry but in the same token they do not… and considering I am still here and fighting I suppose they are right to do so but during this episode I really was concerned, terrified even, about whether I would make it out of the other end and if I was capable of enduring, it was a struggle even to  get home safely on some days after work and how I even continued to go to work every day is beyond me.

I have now been discharged from my psychiatrist again – no doubt I will be back but I hope that it is in the distant future and that now I can begin to rebuild my management structure and find a new sense of contentment. I am pleased that I did not take the offer of medication this time – even though I was in some desperate situations and faced some tough circumstances once the circumstance was removed the depression was not so dire that I can’t fight my way out.. though had my circumstance lasted longer I am certain medication would have been invaluable to my staying mental wellbeing.

Having to move home 4 months ago played a large part in my regression and struggle and since moving it has been hard to follow the management techniques I once used to stay stable. I have realised that moving into a new environment has negated a lot of the methods I used to use to find calm and restore order in the cataclysm of biology that is my brain. I have lost my ‘safe place’ lost my anchor and place to hide. I feel vulnerable here and as though I need to face the world a little more than I did previously. I was angry at first – furious, in fact, that my previous years of work to find the ever elusive balance meant nothing in the face of these new challenges and that I was essentially thrust back to square one, back to being lost.

However, once I had accepted that I needed to start again and build new management techniques and find new ways to cope I began to see a change – it is gradual and I am still woefully depressed, my anxiety is higher than usual but I can feel the control returning to me and logic is beginning to come in to play where it had no power before. Frustratingly it even seems that I may be building a stronger foundation of coping mechanisms than I had hastily constructed before and so it would seem that all things really do happen for a reason and that there is a positive to come out of all that has happened this year.

I now just wish for a little peace in what has been such a riot of storms.

It’s a relapse

There are times when you must accept the painful, unwanted and difficult truth. Though it may be tempting to carry on regardless – for oblivion holds less sorrow – there is no health in ignorance.

I moved house a little over a month ago. Around a year ago the end of another in a long line of troubled relationships gave me plenty of fuel for self pity. Then, just before Christmas, money became an issue and I thought I had hit rock bottom and reached the limit of what I could cope with – apparently not though because soon after that situation was resolved, in February, I was told that I would need to move out of the property that I have been living in for six years. I wrote before about the almost ridiculous sense of grief I felt for the loss of this, the only home I had ever really cared about, my sanctuary. I lived there, as an adult, longer than I have lived anywhere and for once I felt no need to run from it.

I wish I could say that I coped well but I did not. Though I am assured that nobody copes well with such occurrences. I tried to find a new home for myself and my children but it appeared nigh on impossible… I had agencies that would not even let me view homes, some that let me apply only to turn me down in favour of a more suitable person. I had agents just not bother to turn up and all of that on top of the crippling anxiety that plagued me in having to do any of these things. I had, as always, a fantastic support network who fought alongside me with a mass of strength, practicality and understanding. I am more grateful than it is possible to convey.

I got so ill and despairing during this debacle; it is the first time in a long time that I have actually felt concerned for my wellbeing; I was not safe in my own company and with no end of circumstance in sight I felt I had no choice but to seek help in coping. Truly I did not realise how dark and dismal my mind was until I sat in my GP’s office and sobbed about suicide and frustration, anger and terror.

My GP offered medication (what else I expected her to do I don’t know) – I have been medication free for around two years now and though I credit medication for a lot of my health – I did not go and pick up the prescription she gave me. I felt that this blip was due to circumstance, that had I not had to break up a relationship, had less than no money for a while and been in the midst of losing my home and facing the potential of homelessness then I wouldn’t feel so despairing – I would be ok, wouldn’t I?

My GP also referred me straight back to a Psychiatrist and I went along to see him fairly quickly. As luck would have it he was a consultant and very helpful. This time I went in with enough knowledge of mental health to offer my own take on what was wrong with me – he listened, I cried, I poured everything out because painful honesty is the only way to go when you need such help. He recommended medication… Though he accepted my argument for this being a circumstantial relapse he also brought concerns that made sense to me; he said that depression can change our brain chemistry and if you let a depressive episode go past a certain point it is much harder to bring the chemicals back to a neutral point. This appealed to my sense of logic and I said I would consider his advice. I came out of the appointment feeling lighter and better than I had in a while. Then, shortly after, a home was found, we moved and all manner of stressful, but essential, tasks were completed without much of a hitch and I decided I didn’t need to consider his advice because I would be ok now – it was done.

So this is it – I have been in my new home for a little over a month now. It is beautiful, spacious, I am familiar with the area and have friends nearby. It is close to my family and the children love it too. So I should be better now? Shouldn’t I? The dust has settled, our things are unpacked and there are no more difficult circumstances to blame – but I’m not ok. If anything I am more unwell than I was before and only getting worse.

I have Bipolar and I have to manage my illness daily but this is a depressive episode, this is a relapse into oblivion. I don’t like the person that I am at the moment; it isn’t me. I am angry and bitter. I am paranoid and insecure and anxiety tortures me daily. My management techniques don’t work and I don’t have the motivation to try harder – I am sinking.

It’s time to face the truth. What may have been circumstantial is not anymore. I need to accept help and the advice of my doctors – though it feels like a great leap backwards, things will never get better if I embrace oblivion.

 

 

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.

 

 

Hallmark

These few months have been a trying few. I admit freely that I hold responsibility, at least in part, for just how difficult it has all been and I hold on to the knowledge that the end of chapters seldom fly by without issue.

I like to pull the positive from every situation; even those most dire and depressing and so in this dreary time I have found a plethora of things to be grateful about and to celebrate!

My health is not as unsteady as I would have believed. I have been completely without medication (at the advice of my doctors) for around six or seven months now and while it was certainly not an easy transition it has shown me that with the right self-management I can cope with a lot and feel emotion without allowing it to cripple me. That is not to say that I would be adverse to taking medication again one day should I need it; I am not so delusional as to think that I will absolutely, without doubt, maintain this relative stability and I truly believe that medication played a heavy part in keeping me alive. There is far too much rumor and stigma associated with anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and other such drugs and this is mostly due to the fact that everyone is different and it can take a long time to figure out the right drug or combination of drugs for you. Many of the drugs I was given have left me feeling zombiefied and unable to function but with good doctor and patient communication it is possible to make them work for you and though I’m sure not all doctors are as co-operative as mine have been, I have not yet met a doctor that wishes to purposefully impair your ability to function or think for yourself.

Something I also found difficult in regard to medication was realising that the thoughts and ideas that disappeared when I was medicated were in fact a symptom of hypo-mania and not my creative self beating her wings. Find yourself, learn what is healthy for you and acceptance will follow.

And despite being un-medicated I am not on my knees after recent events. I am hurt and upset and all of those normal things of course but I am functioning and I am coping. This is absolutely incredible and so much more than I could have ever expected of myself!

I am incredibly thankful for my resilient, loving, compassionate and incredible children. They are my every reason for living and in every dark corner and deeply depressing situation all it takes is one thought of them and my vigor to fight is renewed. I feel blessed to have them and very proud to have had a hand in the people they are becoming.

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I am thankful for friendships that last through the toughest times. My recent actions might dictate that I don’t deserve such loyalty but it is a testament to the people around me that they are still here and they never give up on me even when I was not the best version of myself. When you live in a positive way and maintain a good attitude, practice patience and embrace love you absolutely do get it back tenfold. Yes, that sounds like a particularly cheesy greetings card but it is so also so very true. I feel as though the world saved up all of its wonderfulness and is doling it out to me as and when I really need it and it is a great feeling to have people to catch you when the world crumbles at your feet – even if they saw it coming three million miles before you did.

My family, but in particular my long-suffering mother, who has grown, alongside myself, into the acceptance of my illness and the nuances of the management of it. She is my rock and when I stumble, she is always there. As I’ve gained more independence and confidence she has adapted along with me and her support always reflects just what I need. She also happens to be a wonderful person, full of love and acceptance – in whatever way you might need it. She brings the fun that I so often forget to indulge in and the comfort that no other can offer quite like her.

My brother is also a great source of strength and drive for me – his own journey is not mine to tell but it inspires me greatly and has shed enlightenment on many a grey area of my life. He is supportive and frustratingly, he is often right! I value and treasure his friendship immensely.

I have also managed to maintain a job (and be pretty awesome at it) for an entire year. It is exactly a year today that I started work and I am so proud of myself. It has not been all plain sailing – there have been times that I wanted to give in and that I felt it was all too much for me but it has developed into something that has boosted my self-esteem and makes me feel worthwhile in a way that I haven’t in such a long time; if ever. It is an incredible achievement for me.

I am healthy, I am beautiful, I am good, I am honest.

So what is the point of this gush of a post? Simply to dwell upon the amazing facets of my life. Yes, this is a hard time but if I continue to focus upon that I will drag myself down into a pit that I have visited before and quite frankly is not somewhere I want to return. I don’t hate anyone or anything. I don’t hold grudges and I refuse to be bitter about my own failings and the failings of others. We are all human, some things work and some things don’t. We all err and we all fall but I will see the good and I will move forward in positivity.

 

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 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 land of the living

Tomorrow I enter the land of the living. Yes people, I have actually managed to get myself a nice little job that works out nicely for family life. There is a lot to organise in this situation and I am sort of fumbling my way through it… How will the kids cope? How will I cope? What if something goes wrong? What do I do with the kids during their school holidays? What if, what if what if…?

I have to keep within my anxious mind that this is a massive step into positivity for me and that even just a year ago this would very much have been beyond my ability. I have to keep praising myself for those little inconsequential things that are so huge for me – making it through an interview, attending my first day, asking for help, accepting help…

I also need to keep within my mind that I am incredibly lucky! I have a vast amount of people around me; helping me to cope – helping with the kids and helping me prepare myself for what will be such a great leap in my progression into the real, functioning adult world.

I have done so much to be proud of lately; I attended many job interviews but none more scary or intimidating than the group interview of last week – We had to do a few role-play games including creating our own song and singing it in front of around 50 other hopefuls and our would-be employers!!! Scary stuff! But I did it and I obviously did it well because I managed to get a call back for a second interview with them!

My medication is also being slowly reduced. I don’t really know how to feel about this. I think it could be a great thing; I’d love to be medication free and for my physical health I’m sure it’ll be a good thing. I am also cautious about it; because I’ve come so far and I’m so stable right now that I’d hate to set myself back… I’m also having a few unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (to be expected since my doctor reduced my medication by a whopping 75mg!!!!) I’m clenching my jaw again which is making my jaw ache and giving me a lot of headaches, I have muscle pain – which I had when going on this medication… Things are settling down though which is a good sign that it may well all be okay.

So often in the world of Bipolar disorder and really I suppose in the world of anyone; we forget to discuss the good that is happening in our lives and when we talk to others, or write or even spend thoughtful moments alone – we circle around only the bad, the dank and depressing, the gloomy and unpleasant… Take a moment each day to be mindful. Find one positive and cling to it… it will grow, bloom and blossom until it fills your entire heart, your being and soul with that pleasure and joy. It could be something as simple as an unexpected kiss from your child or as mundane as the bus turning up on time… but don’t neglect it, let it grow.

And so that is why I have written today, because though there is much to fear and fret about – this is also a huge positive for me; life is moving into a new chapter and I intend to let it grow.

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.