Am I allowed to feel?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

Choices

My mind has been an invariable fortress these past weeks. In attempting to spare the people around me from the negativity I feel inside I have shut everything and everyone out and retreated to that black place inside me; which is the lesser evil? Sharing your suffering and feeling a slight bit better or suffering in silence and leaving those you love in a state of blissful ignorance… and will suffering in silence bring about the end of my precarious grip on sanity once again?

~I know that my loved ones would insist that they are here for me no matter what mood, however negative. But is it not my responsibility to own this illness? It would be so very easy to drag everyone into this hellish pit with me but what good would it do, what use are they there? When I was in CBT with my fabulous therapist, Evelyn, she would tell me to use the people around me for what they are able to provide, whether that be nurture, companionship, sociability, fun… etc. She would tell me to learn what to expect from these people and not to ask any more of them than that. She would say that then I could enjoy their company without the nagging feeling that something was missing, without the constant ache for more than they were giving. Watch the people around you, take them in, learn who they are and their finer qualities and remind yourself often that those people are there for you in that capacity and no other… It seems such a cold way to deal with people; a detached and almost cruel way to view a human being, especially those that you are supposed to care for. But when social interaction is something to be forced, when you do not understand how to accomplish the basic need for that interaction then it is a logical form in which to view such a complex thing, such a difficult thing to comprehend. We all weigh people up in our minds, though often it is subconsciously, I need to do this in conscious thoughts. What good can I get/give from/to this person I have brought into my fold? If the answer is none then why remain close to them? I wish I had had that advice when moving into relationships as a young woman, I could have spared myself from a lot of bad situations. I wish I had thought of the good/bad I was bringing into my life. Of course a person bringing negativity or bad things into your life does not necessarily make them a bad person; just the wrong person for you… and that lesson is a hard earned one.

People in general strive for good, for positivity and so it is rare to come across a person who is purposefully bringing bad things to you. But desperate situations can cause desperate reactions and therein begins the great heartache and pain; I have caused a great amount of heartache and pain and I have also felt my fair share but none of this makes me or those others bad people, we were young and stupid, we were incompatible and impulsive; we made mistakes and were too foolish and naïve to know that relationships are a carefully forged things based on hard work and chemistry; not something to dive into and hope for the best and definitely not something that will come naturally to all.

I have come to the realisation recently that I have never considered a partner before jumping into a relationship with them; I was always amazed that anyone wanted me at all and that was the only criteria for them to fit – you simply had to like me. But that alone will not sustain a relationship and in the end it would always turn out not to be enough for me. I craved love so desperately that anything, anyone would do and so of course it was never going to work. I don’t know why I was always so terrified to be alone, I was so convinced that I wasn’t worth anything… I have more self worth now and if a potential relationship crosses my path it will have to be the right one.

I suppose another block for me in forging relationships is that I always felt so intimidated by men and still do often; my dad was a force to be reckoned with and we rarely saw eye to eye. Growing up with such an imposing male role model has certainly impeded my ability to connect and properly communicate with men. Though my interaction with men is slowly improving with the introduction of male friends and acquaintances.

I am still fearful that I will forever be alone and that nobody will ever want me; but I believe that I am strong enough now not to let that fear dictate my choice of partner. There will be no leaping into a relationship with just anyone – that’s not to say it will be the right relationship and that I wont still make mistakes but it will be one I am happy to enter into and that feels right to me.

As for my relationships with friends and family; I don’t quite know that to do there – they are so unfailingly supportive that more often than not I feel as though I am letting them down, I wish I could motivate myself to do more because there is so much more I could to improve my situation and my mental health but it feels so far beyond my capabilities, so out of reach that I cannot see a way forward.

I wish I had logged my thoughts and feelings way back from the very start of the decline of my mental health, through my psychotic break, the breakdown of my marriage and births of my children – through every bust relationship and attempted suicide because I am certain that if I were to compare then to now the improvements would be staggering to me but without that visual proof it is hard to remind myself and convince myself of how far I have come – how much lighter the darkness is compared to then…

I still struggle with the knowledge that there is no way to fix this, that this is my past, present and future and that management is my only way forward. It is a bitter pill to swallow; knowing that I will be mentally ill for the rest of my days and that I must forever manage this illness. I may relapse into uncontrollable swings and then once again have to climb the ladder of sanity… I will forever be fighting this battle – what positivity is there to draw from that? What hell awaits me?

Managing Progress.

Last night I took a really positive step. I couldn’t have done it alone or rather wouldn’t have done it on my own and I can’t pretend it was an easy step to take but I do know it was a worthwhile one and it has left me feeling uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the management of my illness. Last night, I went to my first Bipolar support group meeting! My therapist, Evelyn, recommended that I go before Christmas but, though I intended to attend last month, anxiety got the better of me and the same would have happened again this month were it not for my wonderful friends taking away all other forms of stress, like who was going to look after my kids while I was there… My mum came to the meeting in support of me and it was a valuable experience for both of us; my mum, having never experienced mental illness personally, often can not relate to a lot of the issues that I deal with and though she is tremendously supportive and believes in my illness she finds it difficult to understand (I can’t really blame her, I find it difficult to understand half the time!) – there can be an awkwardness in how she deals with my symptoms, I am sure she is not the only parent of a person with Bipolar disorder that copes this way. Having her at the support meeting last night not only gifted her a new understanding of the management of my illness and a little insight into the difficulties of living with this day-to-day but I feel it also brought us closer together.

The meetings are on the first Thursday of every month and I am aiming to attend all of them, some valuable management techniques were learnt last night. It was also curiously comforting to meet others afflicted with the same illness as myself and realise that they all looked perfectly fine, there was no sign emblazoned upon their forehead declaring their disease, they were just people… Kind, friendly people… I don’t know what else I was expecting, of course they’re just people, I am, but I suppose sometimes I wonder if other people have more obvious signs of their illness than I do – it can be such a subtle, abstract thing that its hard to reconcile with normal expectations of illness.

The group welcomes a different speaker each month from some professional capacity within mental health. This month it was a psychological therapist named Tracy Williams who gave a lecture on Mindfulness. I practice a lot of mindfulness already, my cognitive behavioural therapy with Evelyn is essentially the same thing; teaching you to be more aware of things like early warning signs, stress, knee-jerk reactions and to stay in the present rather than dwelling in the past or surging towards the future. It teaches breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and take stock of over-zealous emotions. It can sound a little ridiculous and I can imagine many people rolling their eyes as they hear about it, I can hear my dad in my head mumbling about ‘new-age rubbish’ and that it may well be but a lot of it really works and, whether ridiculous or not, if it works it works! I learnt a few new things that I’m going to try out such as Mindful eating, where you attempt not to let your mind wander whilst you eat – you remain focused on each mouthful and savour the flavours and textures in every bite and taking 5 mindful breaths when I wake up each morning. It was a very interesting and informative meeting, it was tough being in a new environment with new people and it’ll probably still be difficult next month but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

In the spirit of good management of my illness I have drawn up a plan for the upcoming school holiday next week; the lack of routine always hits my Bipolar hard and I end up with a swinging mood that could rival Tarzan in the jungle. My therapist and I have agreed upon a plan to combat this, I have written a rigid schedule for each day of the holiday; where, when possible, the children and I get out of the house and do something entertaining (but cheap or free so as not to spark my reckless spending, high mood self!)

Planning for a sane school holiday

Planning for a sane school holiday

I have set a time to get out of bed every day because without this I rarely have the motivation to move. I thought that 8am was a fairly acceptable and manageable time as on school days I get up between 7 and 7.30am and it is a holiday after all! I tried to make it bright and eye-catching and then sat down with the kids and we came up with ideas of fun days out; Feeding the birds, going swimming, a walk around the hills where we live… making sure to write out more activities than there are days so as there is still an element of choice and leeway if the weather is bad. I tried to make my schedule exciting for the kids so that in an attempt not to let them down I will do my damnedest to force myself to move no matter how lethargic I feel.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t; but it is worth a try, if it doesn’t work I will just have to find something else to try because that is what managing my illness is about. I have to take the time to be mindful of my needs and ask myself, what is it that I need? what works for me? what can help me? Its going to take time and its going to be disappointing when things don’t work out but hopefully it’ll all be worth it in the end…