Reclaiming my soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

If I loved me…

I’m not doing too well and yet nothing really has changed. Everything I have built, management techniques, ambitions, my motivation, it all feels like its crumbling around me and I am powerless to stop it… everyone seems quick to blame themselves; did they not do or give enough? perhaps too much? just the wrong thing?… but I know it isn’t them, they give what they can afford to give and it was enough before – I know that this is because of me, I have let go of something; I just can’t figure out what it is or how to fix it and so I am staring at the deepening swell of the dark ocean that is oblivion in the very moment before it swallows me whole.

My emotions are heightened to the point of ridiculousness, paranoia is in overdrive and all of the elements I had in place to protect myself from just such a downfall, are nowhere to be found – creating distance between them and insanity. There are so many opinions being flung in my direction that I cease to decide things for myself and I find that when I wake; I am somewhere I never would have taken myself…

For the first time in quite a while I wonder if I’m good enough, I feel as though I don’t deserve the positives and I know that it is my depression talking but it does nothing to take the edge off of this worthless feeling. Will it always be like this? That no matter which path I choose I will be losing someone? Letting someone down? I feel the disappointment and judgement that is weighing in my direction and I am uncertain whether is comes from them, or me…

Is this more self destruction?

Why won’t I let myself be happy? Why must there be issues with every facet of my future? Must I lay stagnant to simply stay healthy or will I also deteriorate there, given the time?

I cannot do this. I can’t be a functioning singular entity. What happens when you’re all gone, as you are now – even temporarily? I am nothing, I am sleep and tears, the dark road to nowhere… I am apathy, I am negativity.

I cannot begin to explain the fear that I feel in knowing that although I have worked at becoming healthy and functioning to the best of my abilities and had truly started to believe that I could prosper at being a human being – it all falls away when the people aren’t around; I haven’t actually fixed anything, nothing is better… I still can’t do this; all I found were people to prop me up and pick up the slack – I am still incapable, still a towering inferno of pain and bitter emotion underneath the façade of health.

What a negative post.

What must I do to fix this? Another battle? Another war? I’m not sure how much fight is left in me – I am so young but that only serves to frighten me more because there are so many years of this ahead of me and already I am worn, I am tired…

I won’t give up the fight, I have my beautiful children whom I keep at the forefront of my mind in times like these – I won’t give up for as long as they need me.

 

 

Decisions, decisions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elusive manic maniac

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I know I’m on a losing streak…’

Here I sit, a perfumed breeze full of the joyous smells of summer drifting in from the open window, the glow of a magnificent full moon lending its light to the darkness and the calming sound of falling rain, along with the heady and crisp freshness of the night, yet inside turmoil reigns, noise overwhelms and overshadows all of the beauty, all of the glorious and magnificent comforts that life has to offer – the very things that keep us moving/living/breathing and yet my gluttonous, selfish mind wants all of the attention, it screams at me, it spreads the disease of worry and cultures the infection of paranoia leaving me very little room to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy the beauty of life.

I am a towering inferno of fire, burning too brightly to ever hope to be extinguished…

The wonderful after effect of a rather reckless high mood is picking up the pieces after you come down. I have made a big mess, I hit the self destruct button and did a marvellous job of tearing my life apart. Oh, it was fun while I was doing it – it felt good, it felt right and those around me, for the most part, thought it was good and right too – I looked happy, I was sociable, though quite inappropriate and bordering on rude at times… I seemed in control but it wasn’t me, it was my disease. Now, not many people are going to buy this defence, let’s look at it honestly ‘I spent all of the money for bills on chocolate that I never ate because I don’t eat when I’m happy – but it wasn’t me, my Bipolar made me do it.‘ Yeah, right. The most supportive person in the world might have a few problems choking that one down… But hey, it’s all I’ve got.

So, I missed a lot of appointments that were pretty important, there will be consequences. I missed a few bills and bought a few reckless things, now I need to try and fix the mess I have made with the meagre amount of money I have. I told a few lies and I messed up a few friendships, I treated people badly and paranoia made me believe things that weren’t true and persecute those who care for me; bringing an immense sense of guilt and now some bridges need mending…

The other wonderful thing about the after effects of a prolonged high mood is the inevitable plunge into darkness that comes afterwards. This high was fairly big for me and so the low I am currently inflicted with is not so easy to climb out of. The weight of the mess I have made is crushing me, I feel as though I am at a dead end, I can’t cope; how can I begin to move forward? What is the point in fixing things/getting out of bed/living/breathing… and here is where my brain turns against me; he has a magnificent solution to my every woe, suicide. (My psychiatrist is aware of this and supporting me as such)

I am afraid of myself.

I am also afraid of the perception of others, the likelihood is that this will come across as melodramatic as I have so often been told in the past. That I will be perceived as an attention seeker. It is quite remarkable how the careless comments of others, through your childhood or any moment of your life can damage you, leave you unable to express your true feelings for fear of the repercussions that will likely never come because they were merely the perception of one closed mind. 

For now I will carry on, one day at a time, minute by minute, hour by hour… I will search for my reason to fight, I will put one foot in front of the other and I will survive.

Depression lies…

Warning! High paranoia!

Today I am feeling incredibly paranoid. This happens a lot. Frustratingly, I am aware that my paranoia is likely just delusion and that there is seldom any truth in my fears, there is no evidence to back up my paranoia but I still feel as though everyone around me is whispering about me, as though I am hated, an irritant to those I care about. I feel useless and clumsy, I feel as though I am in the way, a burden.

My therapist, the wonderful Evelyn, says that to combat my paranoia I must attempt to find things that contradict my paranoid fears but most often that would mean confronting people and asking out-right if the way I feel is truth or delusion and though that may negate my paranoia it would increase my anxiety ten-fold.

Paranoia is one of my early warning signs. Early warning signs are the gravitating forces around any Bipolar sufferers world, they are not always the same but we all have them and the importance of finding them is almost all I hear about from my therapist. They are the triggers or repetitive actions that signal a mood swing and so in order to attempt to manage our condition we must first discover our early warning signs.

There are those that are fairly synonymous with all sufferers, deep lethargy within a low mood, reckless abandonment within a high but these are useless to us in a management sense because by the time we get to the point of these symptoms manifesting it is too late to reign the mood in. Then there are the early warning signs that are generally less apparent, I am still learning about mine but I have found a few; Anxiety triggers a low mood, the higher the anxiety the lower the mood – Anxiety can also trigger paranoia which in turn breeds stress, stress can trigger a high mood, the higher the stress, the higher the mood. I talk in a quiet voice before a low and a loud one before a high; I have a limitless sense of confidence right before a high hits, a deep lack of self-worth before a low… there are many triggers and the more I find the more sense it appears to make, though in the beginning the whole concept seemed utterly ridiculous to me.

The difficult part, I find, is that even if you reach the point where recognising all of these signs is just second nature (which seems so impossible to me right now) and you know what mood is coming, how will you ever really know what to do about it? I am learning though, in the case of my anxiety (which is by far the most common symptom within my Bipolar disorder) I have found that although I cannot make the anxiety go away, by facing situations head on I can sometimes lessen the severity of the low that is to come afterwards but I cannot make it go away entirely.

So in the case of paranoia no matter what I do to combat it, the mood is still going to swing and this is the warning that a high mood is coming but knowledge of what is coming seldom brings any comfort…