Dating at 40

Dating as a 40 year old is fun.

Said no one ever.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve collected some really interesting stories. At first I thought were shocking but now I realize are actually incredibly predictable.

My experiences with dating have mostly been in the online realm and people I know like to remind me “this is how you meet people these days.”

Sure.

I don’t like it.

I’ve tried a variety of sites. Tinder when it’s a Friday night and I’m bored or with girlfriends and we want to laugh. I’ve paid the money on eharmony, match.com, elite singles. And for the most part it’s all the same typical scenario.  Which can I just point out why would  someone pay the money and then act like a douche canoe? Cheaper than a lap dance at a strip club perhaps?

Here’s a synopsis of my favourite experiences:

The yes I’m super interested in meeting up with you let’s plan something but I’m never actually going to follow through and I’m just going to ghost you. one. (okay ghosting is probably a little premature but you get what I mean.)

The hour before our meet up I’m going to send you a text to tell you to “wear something sexy like a sundress that shows off your body.” (I responded with a polite I’ve changed my mind good luck in your search.)

The we had two really fun, seemingly healthy dates that turned into “let’s go to this sex club in Toronto.” (I may have went).

The I’m going to just spend the evening complaining about my ex partner and the amount of child support I have to pay. (I don’t care about the history between you – you pay her that support to take care of YOUR children and you do not complain).

The let me find a pic with my build… one sec and then BAM naked pic (I did not reciprocate but replied with a “no because I’m really a 55 year old drag queen named Bob”, and no hate on Bob the Drag Queen who I actually adore and think is brilliant.)

This is why I’ve jumped into dating with both feet and immediately jumped right back out because the water is frigid and uncomfortable.

I’m not a prude.  I’m a lot of fun, I’m a professional, and Bipolar Disorder aside, I’ve actually got my shit together. I’m funny and fierce and loyal. But maybe the universe is telling me it’s not my time yet.

So excuse me while I go get my favourite drink from Starbucks and wander along the aisles at Indigo secretly waiting to bump into someone with like minded values so I can leave all the very typical, highly predictable online dating profiles behind.

Oh yeah and I’ve added to my current dating profile, “don’t send me naked pics or i’m going to write about it on my blog.”

Legit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Declutter

I started last night cleaning out the basement. I have boxes of papers, books, photos of random things from university still. I have Christmas ornaments and decor that filled a 3600 sqft home and now my new home is 1400sqft. My decor taste have changed too and I seek a simple less cluttered style.

My mind is less cluttered so I want my space to reflect this as well.

The other thing. I have things squirrelled away that I wasn’t able to face until now.

Like my wedding photo albums. I took out a few photos for the kids and a nice one of my parents and my sister and brother. And then I threw out the rest. The entire thing fucking thing.

It was symbolically freeing.

Going it Alone

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I hate being alone. But I want to correct this. I hated being alone. While I still don’t enjoy the seemingly endless alone time and periods of internal dialogue I can appreciate the necessity that this period of being alone has provided.

I needed to find myself. Myself without the distractions of being in a relationship. Giving pieces of myself to a partner which inevitably ended up as me giving up my identity to be some version of a person the particular person wanted.

If you had asked me “who is Shivonne” the answer would have been shaped based on who was asking, who I was with and the outcome of what they wanted. For example, to gain interest from a particular person who said to me “I bet you have so many good stories,” I crafted an elaborate story of a past filled with exciting romantic adventures. All which was based on some fact but definitely a major departure from reality.

I don’t consider myself a liar I’m actually honest to a fault at times. In a way I did lie about who I am and things I’ve done but it’s hard to explain. It’s a combination of a very visual imagination, a strong storyteller, but also not having a clear sense of self. It’s been easy to just be who others needed me to be.

I have done a lot of work with a counsellor I trust and she is DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy)  based. One of the things I’m really getting a solid understanding of is the idea of multiple truths.  That thinking, living, people and situations do not have to be black and white. That the distance between a black/white, good/bad (or insert whichever judgement) is a lot more narrow. With this idea of multiple truths and time alone I’m actually getting a clearer picture of who I am.

 

I think part of the reason why I’ve easily adapted to what others want me to become or why I have been unsure of who I am is because I am so many things. I have a larger than life personality at times and a passion for living. But I’m also quiet, shy and sensitive.

I am fiercely practical when it comes to organizing, work, managing my home and taking care of day to day business.  Yet at the same time it can be a huge struggle and I have to rely on lists and constant reminders to get things done. Sometimes I’m hard on myself when I drop the ball or forget a task but I’m learning to let it go.

I can be an amazing care provider as a mom, teacher, sister, daughter, friend yet still wildly sensual.

Tattoo’s don’t make me scary. I don’t have the wrong body size/shape (yes I have had a man tell me this) for them. I find them beautiful and edgy and mine are a tribute to people and moments. And no I have no plans of stopping or slowing them down.

I’m a cautious risk taker. I love the thrill of doing something exciting, or controversial but I also need to decide for myself if the benefit outweighs the cost. I use to really care if my decision made others disappointed but I care a lot less about that when I know I’m making decisions based on what is really best for me.

I love to get dirty. Gardening with my bare hands, paint on my clothes, face. Muddy rubber boots from an afternoon on the trail or jumping in puddles. But I also love getting a manicure, my hair done or totally glitterized up for a party or a night out.

I love the whole spectrum of music. My playlists included meditation music, jazz, classical, country, pop, 90’s hip hop, metal, alternative, rock, blue glass all.of.it.  Music plays such a key role in my life as a child and certainly as an adult.

I eat healthy I’m careful in my food choices and love the way delicious good food tastes and makes me feel. Being single and learning how to cook but like I mean really cook is one of the major wins I’ve discovered about myself. But I’m also a major candy addict.  Rockets are my personal favourite.

I love being around people. I love the energy I get from others.  Laughing and making people laugh is the best feeling. But I also require quite a lot of time to me to recharge and reflect. I am a classic ambivert (extroverted introvert) 

I know the things that I should do, the best decisions that will yield the best results but often I like to just throw my chips out there and see where they lie. I want safety and security but I also want to keep things interesting, spontaneous.  When I am a very old woman I want to look back on my life and be confident that I didn’t play it safe that I lived with my whole heart.

So going it alone hasn’t always been easy. There has been a lot of tears, a lot of gut wrenching loneliness. But it’s also been an amazing time to really gain a good sense of who I am and what I want for the rest of my life.

I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned about myself is that I do not, do not have to change who I am in order for someone to love me!

 

 

#1Thing

I’ve been struggling to find a way to share this.  A way that honours my story but also respects and values others. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  I’ve waited until the end of October because I was hoping that the urge to share would go away. It hasn’t.

The campaign for October has been #1Thing I can do to end domestic violence. The suggestions are fantastic and my hope is that anyone reading this can take away something but also put actions toward it. I found two images on instagram tonight that sum up my intention of this post.

Awareness, action and change. That’s it. I’m going to try not to be ranty, I’m going to try to not personalize this post and I’m going to try to respect that sharing this makes others uncomfortable and potentially unhappy with me because maybe they don’t want to hear about it.  Maybe they’ve moved on from it. Maybe it paints a picture that they don’t want people to question or see. But I strongly believe that we need to be accountable for our actions no matter how uncomfortable and messy that might be.

So here are my #1things (yes I’m going to share more than one) on the topic of Domestic Violence.

When you hear about it, domestic violence, you don’t get to decide if it was a “big deal” or not. You’re not the judge of the severity of the incident. In fact you don’t need to weigh your opinion on this. You can listen, you can provide relief and support, you can talk about it because hiding it makes it shameful and we need to take away the shame. Also know that likely if you’re hearing about it, things have gone on before this. It likely wasn’t a one time incident but even it was, it still holds the same level of seriousness.

The circumstances surrounding it do.not.matter.  It is absolutely unacceptable for a human to physically harm another human. That’s assault and that’s illegal .

Walking away “graciously” when you’ve physically hurt someone when you could have “blown it out of the water” because revealing details that paints the survivor in a poor way does not make you a stand up person. That’s victim shaming (see above point) and you need to be held accountable to your actions.

If a survivor wants to keep it quiet they get to decide. If they want to tell every single person they’ve ever met. The also get to decide. You don’t get to share their story or squash it.

If you’ve ever become so angry that you have physically hurt someone you know it’s about you right? It’s about whatever issues you are dealing or likely not dealing with. Of course people can make you mad they may have done things that go against all of your core values. You maybe are at your boiling point and you flip your lids.  But it’s not okay and you need to be accountable for your actions. Get help, talk about it and talk about where you went wrong and what you are doing to make it better. It takes a ton of personal growth and strength to stand up and say yes, this is what I did. I own it and here’s how I’m fixing it.

It’s easy to ignore. To walk away. To think it’s none of my business what goes on between them. It’s easy to turn a blind eye. After the fact it’s easy to pretend it didn’t happen. To want to stay neutral because what you’ve learned about your friends or family is shocking, messy and uncomfortable. It’s hard to take a stand. To support a survivor and not put your personal judgements onto them. It’s hard to look at your friend or family member and say what you did is not okay. I’m going to support you but I’m absolutely going hold you accountable for your actions.

But you have to.

We need you to.

Only through awareness and action will change happen.

A Bit of a Break

It’s been quite some time since my last post. It’s been an intentional break. Not because life has been horrible or too busy – it is busy though. Not because I’ve had nothing to say. Simply because I needed space.

I think that when you reveal things  you need to let it sit there and breathe.

I wasn’t worried that my sharing would cause a lot of judgement because let’s face it, it’s human nature to judge and I’ve been judged on far less than a hospitalization or an affair or undeniably irrational behaviour fueled by mental illness.

I wasn’t worried that people wouldn’t understand because the right people for me would seek to understand and that by sharing I could help others on their journeys to understand.

I wasn’t worried that my family would be disappointed in me because the family members I am close with would also seek to understand.

So truly the space came from a place of need time to sit with it before I continued.

I am in a good place. I’m not ashamed of my story or my truth. I’m proud of myself for finding and using my voice. It was done fearfully at first but now it carries a lot weight behind it. I don’t feel shame for how I acted during the downward spiral of my mental illness.  Those people who don’t understand it, well that’s their journey not mine.  However if you don’t understand it,  you need to seek to understand because at some point someone close to you will be struggling and will need your support.

I am on my comeback tour. I’m in a place where I understand that black and white thinking is harmful. That the grey area is far more accurate and compassionate. That you can hold multiple truths about a person or a situation. That perception of reality has way more to do with anything than reality itself.

I have a lot of content in my head to share.  I have even started a few posts but I wasn’t ready to put them out yet.

But I’m back. I can breathe again and I can share.

Oh one thing that’s excited I officially have the domain http://www.thebipolarblonde.ca

 

Yay!

 

When She Was Down She Was Very Down

A friend recently lent me the book Furiously Happy A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. It’s furiously funny.  I’ve been laughing the whole time while reading and again when thinking about it. She shares her personal struggles and victories with mental illness in such a way that sometimes I think, “should I be laughing at this?”  It’s perfectly imperfect.

The book has come a welcome time because I’ve been down. It’s the cycle and after a few euphoric weeks I’m in the low.

What’s different this go around? Awareness.  Support. Self-Compassion. Proper Medication.

It all contributes to success.  When I say success that doesn’t mean perfection either and that’s a hard lesson for me to learn.

The kids left on Friday last week to go to their dad’s for the week.  When they leave it’s hard on me if you co-parent with an ex you will understand what I mean.  I big piece of your heart literally goes.  I don’t mind co-parenting with him.  That’s not the hard part but the week on, week off is.  I wanted a different arrangement of time maybe a 2-2-3 but some things can’t be the hill you die on and that was it.

Anyway the kids left, I was home from the cottage, my insurance company called to ask if I was going to apply for Long Term Disability (I am not), I missed my oil change appointment the week before and they were calling, I missed an ultra-sound appointment 2 weeks ago and I needed to call back, I hadn’t unpacked from the cottage yet. These may seem like simple things but for me it was a whole mountain of down.

So I dug deep, looked for signs and focused on wellness instead of my sadness. A few months ago I would have cried a lot. I would have fought self-harming thoughts and even acted on a few.  I may have crumpled onto my bedroom floor and cried for hours in a messy heap. I would have been so anxious that I would feel like my stomach was on the outside of my body. I would have replayed scenarios in my head over and over again hoping for a different outcome. I would have texted a few friends, got angry when they didn’t reply but would have also gotten angry when they did.  I would have posted passive-aggressive quotes on social media, delete some, repost them then disappear from social media for a while. I would think about making a coffee for a few hours but not actually have the ability to do it. I would cry and ask myself if I should have a shower or eat something but be unable to do either. This would continue until all of a sudden it didn’t and then the euphoria would build again allowing the cycle to repeat.

So it’s better but not perfect.  Here’s what a typical low week might look for me now – based on this week.

On Friday I went on a date. It was perfectly normal but in the end not for me. All I could think was how can I even date, or think someone could be interested I’m too broken. But I also refuse to hide and if sharing my story makes me unloveable then so it is.

Saturday. I ate an entire box of cookies.  The whole box. By myself. I also watched the entire season 2 of Glow, Honey, Honey 2 and the rest of Good Girls.  I met up with friends in the evening. I went even though I was having a hard time and I’m glad I did because the laughs helped me perk up.

On Sunday, I saw a praying mantis while I was pulling weeds in my backyard. Praying Mantis’ hold a special place in my heart and I explained why in an IG post. It made me cry but it was cleansing because it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

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Monday I didn’t go to group therapy.  I forgot and it wasn’t until Thursday that I would realize that I did. I told my counsellor that evening that I hate that I have to share my kids.

Tuesday I pulled it together and made a list and got it done.  My parents also came to town and stayed with me.  I had the kids for a visit that night and this time with family helped restore my mood even more. We had puppy training class and that was really fun.

Wednesday I don’t know. I have zero recollection of what happened that day. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave the house.

Thursday. I met with my psychiatrist that’s when I remembered I forgot to go to Group. I shared with her that I was struggling.  She told me I need to give myself a break because it’s a lot of things going on. She told me she understands because on top of Bipolar Disorder I’m a perfectionist and I’m very hard on myself. She asked me what I was doing for self care, to just love myself. I’m also starting a group in August for eating disorders.

After my time with her I stopped at the Tim Horton’s booth and the hospital and treated myself to a coffee and a peanut butter cookie. I didn’t have my son with me, he has a severe peanut/tree nut/shellfish allergy so I indulged. The young woman who served me was super cool and she asked me about my tattoo and said it was incredible, and when I told her my artists name she told me she follows him on IG.  I thought that was neat!

I cried when I ate the cookie. PB Cookies make me think about my mom. She made the best PB Cookies when I was little. I really loved them when she used crunchy PB. There’s some struggles within our family right now. Things haven’t always been easy and right now isn’t an exception. But my parents have taught us love, and resiliency. So I know we will persevere and get through it.

I noticed a leaf that had a splash of aqua paint on the leaves. I’ve noticed it the last few weeks but this time I was intrigued by it and I doubled back and took a photo of it. How did the paint get on it and why wasn’t it on any other leaves?  Why did I really notice it this week but not others?  What did it mean?  I also saw a couple in the distance sitting on a bench. She was leaning into him and he had his arms around her. I wanted to take a photo because the moment was powerful but I also didn’t want to violate their moment.  It made me feel sad and amplified my own loneliness.

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Later that afternoon a storm rolled in. I went noticed it because I heard a loud bang – my welcome sign had come crashing down. It was so windy and the sky was a mix of grey and orange. The dust cloud blowing around made it hard to see.  I brought my dog to the step and the two of us listened to the gusts, the thunder, the rain pelting the sidewalk and streaming down the eavestrough. We started at the intensity and took it in and I felt a sense of calm wash over me. I regretted after that I didn’t run out into it. But, I actually got a second change. The storm started once again and I went for it. I no longer cared about what my neighbours might think or that perfectly styled hair would be ruined.  I ran out, up the street and twirled around. I danced around like 5 year old me would have. And it felt so good.

I was given a second chance and I took it.

Just like on March 21, I was given a second chance of life.

And I’m taking it.

Let’s Talk About IT…

I have this recurring dream.  It started when I was probably 17 or 18.  It’s neither scary or happy, it feels kind of empty. In this dream I am at an art gallery. It’s fancy and everyone is in black, there is music playing. Soft classical piano. The art changes. Sometimes modern paintings, sometimes sculpture, often photography black and white. In the dream I am there but I never see my face. I know it’s me because I’m present in my body but I’m also detached and watching from over head. It’s this really strange two perspective sensation. I always look the same. Hair is up, pearl earrings, black dress that is backless. I am always thin even during times of my life when I am not. My hair is always blonde. I’m looking at the art work and I have a glass of champagne in my hand, a delicate tall thin flute. My nails are perfectly manicured. I’m looking at the art work but I don’t actually see it because I’m not paying attention to it.  I’m waiting. For someone. I assume it’s the artist but I can’t really say because I never actually meet the person I am waiting for. The dream ends in different ways.  In some versions I finish the champagne and leave and I wake with such a heavy feeling of sadness. Sometimes I study the artwork and then the dream just dissipates. Sometimes I feel a hand on my shoulder. That’s my favourite version because I know it’s who I have been waiting for even though I never get more than that feeling of their presence.

I feel like this dream infiltrates my awake world. I often feel that sense of detachment. Like I am in my body but at the same time a spectator watching my life unfold from above. I usually have the feeling of sadness because I am alone. It always feels like I’m waiting for someone, anyone. Just to notice me.

I mentioned before that not all of these posts would be comfortable. For me to write or for others to read. This is going to be one of those.

**Warning**  I am going to talk about sexual things that may challenge your values, attitudes and beliefs. If this makes you uncomfortable especially if you are a family member or friend then I suggest you stop reading.  Browse another blog post like this one, or go back and analyze my dream.

I’m terrible at interpersonal relationships.

With friendships I can come on too strong. It’s like I miss the social cues. I may come for a coffee but stay over too long. I’ve been told by someone else that this is an issue that others are too polite to mention. I can get slightly obsessive and focus all my attention on a particular friend or group and basically ignore my other friendships. I struggle with balance and boundaries and take it personally if a friend tells me they are busy or don’t respond. A good friend of mine, who has been with me every step of this journey said to me, “silent just means busy.”  But I read into and catastrophize the silence. I often have difficulty seeing others needs and take this a personal attack rather than understanding that other people are dealing with their own struggles.

During a manic state it’s all about what is fun, daring and risky and little attention to consequences is paid. I’m the “life of the party”.  My libido is intense and my extroversion is sky high. After the inevitable crash I’m left with a sense of shame for acting outside of my core values. I’ve crossed boundaries and lines sometimes it’s just a toe over. Something like a hug that lingers, extra held eye contact, a brush with my hand on a leg or an arm. Sometimes I go a little further over that line. I might bite an earlobe during a simple goodbye, make overt sexual comments, grab and hold a hand, lap dances because really it’s just “fun”. In some instances I’ve not only crossed the line but crumpled it up and stomped on it. I’ve put myself in some potentially dangerous, compromising situations with individuals that are little more than strangers. And… I’ve had an affair.

Why? I don’t know, I don’t understand it.

I’ve always felt a little like something is wrong with me. That I lack values or maybe I’m a sexual deviant. But I struggle with that idea too because I do have values and this behaviour contradicts what I value.

Recently I came across a term for this – Hypersexuality. 

“Hypersexuality tends to occur during mania or hypomania and it creates the need for sex such that it seems you could claw through a wall if it meant getting to the sex on the other side. Picture being turned ravenously on by a dish towel. Or a floor lamp. Or a piece of tuna fish. And then needing to sate that need with the nearest warm body. Hypersexuality sort of like that.

(Of course, the opposite phenomenon also occurs. When in a depressed phase a person with bipolar may want nothing to do with sex at all.)”

Also:

  • People with bipolar are more sexually adventurous than the average
  • People with bipolar are more likely to have had sex with both genders
  • People with bipolar may or may not identify as bisexual, regardless

I do know that impulse control, especially during a manic state is a thing.  Some people will struggle with drugs and alcohol, shopping, gambling, driving too fast, hypersexuality. Or some people all or many of the above.

Being bipolar means being insatiable. The high of the mania is never high enough. There is always a desire, a need, to push the high to the next level, in the same way a drug addict constantly requires more and stronger drugs. For a person with bipolar disorder, risky behavior can be the best drug of all.”

Hypersexuality is a struggle for me. When I’m manic it’s like I don’t have an off switch.  Jess Melancholia in her post puts it to words better than I could. She says,

“When I’m hypersexual, I get intense cravings for sex. It’s similar to the sort of “butterflies in your stomach” feeling when you fall in love. It’s an intense high that gives me a massive boost in self-confidence. The temptation to act out is so strong I can practically feel it on my skin and taste it on my tongue. The worst part about hypersexuality is I’m never satisfied. I have to actively resist what my body is essentially trying to do on autopilot. If I’m not careful, then I’ll do something I’ll regret.”

And I’ve done things I regret.

But I’m also trying to forgive myself.

And learn to be better.

This is one piece of my bipolar disorder puzzle.  It’s not simply hypersexuality. It also comes from my fear of being alone. So the attention seeking behaviour fills that need. It makes me feel that by being desired that I’m not alone.  It kind of works the same way with friendships.  If I constantly lend myself out, offer to help, and go out of my way it fills that same need of not feeling alone. I guess it goes back to that dream.

I also struggle with boundaries. Not just other peoples boundaries but my own. Someone will ask me to do something (personal or work related) and my head is saying no but my mouth instantly says yes. Then I feel guilt for saying yes when I don’t want to. I’ll take it on and pile my full plate a mile high or I’ll last minute make an excuse why I can’t actually fulfill the commitment. Recently I had an oil change for my car. I had to reschedule it and the day she gave me I knew it didn’t work but my mouth said yes. I then tried to cancel it but I couldn’t so I just didn’t go. Now they are calling me to rebook it but I feel humiliated that I just didn’t go.

Here’s what I am learning.

I’m learning to change the behaviours.  That doesn’t mean I’m always going to get it right. I’m learning to value my time alone and find joy in that time. I’m training myself to love the space I’m in by creating a structured routine of my day, much like I would do when I have the children or am at work. I’m learning to respect my friend’s boundaries and show empathy toward what they are going through. I’m trying to ask them how they are doing instead of launching into a rant about how I am. I’m understanding that silent often does mean busy and not get out of my life. I’m learning to respect my own boundaries and establish for myself what those are. I’m learning that “love” and manipulation are NOT the same thing. I’m learning that I am who I am. I can be me in a way that is risky, fun and exciting but is also safe and doesn’t harm others too.

On Friday I went on a date.  Like a normal, lets have a drink and a bite to eat kind of date. He seemed nice, conversation was great and I was thinking I’m not sure if he’s what I’m looking for but I thought if he’s interested I would go out again.

However, before I left I set up the following boundaries for myself.

  • A kiss is fine but that is all. But ask me, even ask me if you want to hold my hand or hug me. It’s all about respect and consent!
  • I don’t want to be called “beautiful, gorgeous, honey” etc.  Those are presumptuous  terms from someone who is basically a stranger. They make me feel icky.
  • I don’t owe you an explanation so if you ask me something and I politely decline or say that’s a story for another time, it needs to be respected and not probed deeper.

He didn’t follow all my boundaries. And to be fair I didn’t share them but I am kind of looking for someone who just is naturally that way. Someone’s who values and boundaries align with mine.

When he texted me the next morning I instantly felt compelled to agree to meeting up again, because he was nice enough and I was feeling guilt for not wanting to disappoint him. I also felt maybe my bar is too high I mean let’s face it I’m a risky investment. Getting caught up with me – who would even want that? I also told myself I don’t want someone who is nice, I want daring, risky, dangerous. But really that wasn’t any of it. I went back to the boundaries I established for myself in the first place. He didn’t follow my rules. Period. I can change my mind, I have choices. So I thanked him, politely declined and wished him luck in his search (thanks to my awesome support network for helping me through it).

So I am learning, and I do want to change my behaviour.

I also think, that this week I’m going to go to the local art gallery, and I’m going to let my hair down lose and wild and i’m going to take my time and really appreciate and soak in every single art piece that is in there.  And I’m going to go it alone!

xo

 

Medication

There’s this underlying idea that taking medication for brain disorders is okay if it’s a short term solution. To give your time to sort your life out and get it together and get back on track.

This was the mindset that I had.  When I had postpartum depression with my second child I was relived to be prescribed Zoloft. Everything I understood about PPD led me to believe it was a temporary condition that would correct itself once my hormones were balanced and the medication simply let me weather the storm.  I didn’t feel shame, though I did feel like I fought the fight and then threw in the towel. But I was okay because this was not going to be forever.

A year later I weaned off Zoloft.

November 2016 I went on Wellbutrin (I didn’t love Zoloft because it made me feel too flat).  Again, in my mind this was a temporary fix for a problem directly related to a situation that I needed help weathering. A few months before, in August my long term relationship and marriage to my husband had ended.  This was not a “neat” and “tidy” separation. It was “messy” and “enormous” and built on lies, partial truths, deception, anger and hurt. Storms had been brewing between my ex and I for quite a few years.  We lost the ability to communicate and rather than coming together to find common ground we became angry, retaliatory and distant. Looking back I can see that my mental illness played a huge part in this break down and of course my ex had his own issues to navigate.

The breakdown event was a trigger for what was diagnosed as Depression, Anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder. A misdiagnosis for Bipolar I disorder, which I wouldn’t uncover for another year and a half. So after fighting the good fight for 3 months I took the meds. This time there was more shame attached and eventually I went back to the Dr. because it wasn’t working. I had Celexa added and then this past January the Celexa was removed and Effexor was added, and Wellbutrin reduced. I was also in counselling.  All of this treatment was only going to be short term.  Until I got it together, adjusted and accepted my new life as a divorced mom of two.

Except it didn’t get better.  It got worse. Much worse.

As it turns out the medication I was taking to treat Anxiety/Depression was making me worse.  Because I was misdiagnosed and actually I had Bipolar I disorder.  after a correct diagnosis was given my medication was switched to a mood stabilizer. In my case, Lamotrigine.  I felt a sense of relief and hope. With a correct diagnosis I could educate myself and learn about the illness.  With the correct medication I could take the edge off, get it together, become adjusted and accept my life as a divorced mom of two.

But then she said it.

The psychiatrist on the inpatient mental health floor. “You need to understand that you will need to be on a mood stabilizing medication for the rest of your life. If you come off of it, your manic episodes followed by the crash into depression will return.”  I told her I understood but that night I cried myself to sleep.

Pharmaceuticals are bad for us. They are suppose to be a temporary solution until you find the proper diet, exercise, lifestyle, essential oil, meditation, organic food option to actually keep you well. The aren’t suppose to be forever.

But it’s not true. That might be the truth for some people. But the truth is a combination of all of this is wellness.

What works for me works for me and that’s it.  I shouldn’t feel shame because I’m going to need a mood stabilizer for the rest of my life.  Because it will keep me alive. I may have side effects (brain fog, sleepiness). There may be long term harm caused (I’ve heard it harms your immune system) but the reality is the medication is keeping me alive. It’s taken away all passive and active suicidal thoughts. It is slowing down my brain so when the mania builds and I’m about to make an impulsive decision it gives time for to make more reasonable decision or at the very least turn to my support network.

Don’t assume that because I’m medicated that I’m not allowed to have bad days. I’m still going to have days that are challenging.  I’m still going to feel the euphoria of a manic episode going on.  The medication will not make Bipolar Disorder disappear. It’s not like an infection that will clear up with a good round of antibiotics. It’s one piece of the wellness puzzle.  For me, I need therapy, I need to run and work out, I need to snuggle my dog, I need to journal, I need to sing, I need people – the people who love me because being lonely is a major trigger for my mania. I need a good budget and savings plan. I need to learn boundaries and respect the boundaries I’ve established for myself. I need to write this blog and be upfront and open and honest. I need to become a mental health advocate.  All of these things are what will help me manage my illness.

So I’m accepting that being on medication is going to be for the rest of my life.  And i’m okay with that.

 

 

 

Getting My Finances in Order

Remember in the beginning I said not all of these posts would be easy. This is one and there is a lot of shame and guilt attached to it. It’s about finances.

This weekend I talked to my mom, and my best friend, and my ex-husband (all people who know me well and know that finances are a struggle for me) and they all said I can get on top of this. That I’ve done so much healing emotionally so maybe it’s time to get this in order. My mom said “write about it, it always makes you feel better.” She is onto something because writing is very healing for me. It gives me perspective, it allows my brain to slow down and plan instead of just reacting. It gives me time to process what I want to say.

My best friend said, “I think this might be linked to your bipolar disorder.” I found this a weird comment because how could it be?

Turns out it might.

Naturally, I did some research last night. I read earlier from another blogger (I wish I saved the link) that finances were a struggle for her too that it was a symptom of Bipolar Disorder.  This shocked me because I never considered the two related but it is. There is a ton of research and anecdotal evidence to suggest it is.  

I particularly liked this quote which talks about feeling confident and feeling invincible with money:

“Then you “wake up” after the mania and find yourself with half the savings you had before – feeling embarrassed and worried about your future. This might have a negative impact on your self-esteem, family functioning and confidence in moving forward. It might even trigger an episode of depression.”

This quote was extremely eye-opening as well. “Typically, impulsive or self-destructive behaviour around money and sex are two of the most classic symptoms of mania.” Actually when I read it, my heart raced because both statements were true. I had participated in both types of self-destructive behaviours.  Yes, that’s right – both.

I found these images from a report by Dr. Thomas Richardson called, “Bipolar Disorder and Financial Difficulties.” I connected to the visual and it made sense to me. The impulsiveness, the desire for comfort, excessive generosity, plans to make more money, worry about finances, avoiding finances, poor planning, regret and guilt. Every.Single.One, every single one of these fits my profile!

So the research fits, but here’s my own personal evidence and story.

A few months ago I had a major melt down because it had been rumoured that I couldn’t pay my bills and I was thinking of selling my house. I was so upset because the truth is while it was a strain, even a struggle I had managed to make it happen, I never skipped a bill or mortgage payment even when I was unpaid for a year and a half. It wasn’t always easy but in the end it always worked out. But, there was some truth to the rumour.

I was surviving but no thriving and there wasn’t any reason for it financially.  On paper, my house, my bills worked well within my budget. I would wonder so often why it was always tight, and sometimes needed to use my credit cards or overdraft to make it through. I would joke “thank god for overdraft” while simultaneously feeling sick to my stomach. I would redo my budget only to figure out that the numbers made sense. So what was happening? I concluded that it was simply because I was unpaid from March – August  and then only 80% salary from September – December. But I had savings from the sale of my house, it should have more than got me through.

When I look back on my bank records it’s shocking. There were large purchases like 9000.00 for a cosmetic surgery procedure, 700.00 for an apple watch for a friend plus another 500.00 to get one for me. Close to 1000.00 in tattoos over the year, 1400.00 for flights to Florida plus the condo cost, rental car, food and shopping. 1000.00 to have my house painted (which didn’t actually get done but that’s another post). 8000.00 for new appliances for my townhouse because the ones it came with were clearly not good enough. 2000.00 as a car downpayment.

Those are the huge things the day to day is just as bad!  Typically a month can look like this;

$15.68 Wendy’s

$83.54 Nail Salon

$21.00 McDonalds

#3.55 Tim Hortons

$5.00 overdraft fee

$49.49 Pet Valu

$19.75 Home Depot (for decor items)

$38.57 Canadian Tire (plants for my garden)

$16.82 Symposium Cafe

$46.77 Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

Total: 300.17 in extra, not needed purchases!

This doesn’t account for the Amazon purchases on my credit card either.

Why does this happen?  Entitlement I feel like I’ve worked hard and I have a great career so I deserve it.  To ease guilt for my children for changing their whole world but also to ease guilt for myself to make life seem less of a downgrade. A self-medicating response to stress. When I have extra money/savings I feel so confident, and blessed so I just carefree spend it. Impulsive spending sprees when my mood is good (or in a manic state). It spirals out of control very quickly and I tell myself, “It’s fine, I’ll make it work”, “I can pay it off next pay”, or “I deserve nice things because I work hard”.

But I don’t want this anymore. It brings happiness for a moment, it eases the guilt/shame for a minute. It cures stress for a second but then it makes me feel sadder, more guilty and a lot more stress.

I want to get this in control because only then will I actually be in a place where I am thriving. I overheard my best friend saying this weekend to someone when they were talking about making large purchases or going on trips “Save for today to spend for tomorrow” I want to adopt that mindset. I want less things, and more moments.

My ex told me through my tears, that I need to release myself of my guilt.  That the kids are fine and the love me and they love the life we have created for them even if it’s in separate homes now.  He told me they just want to be with me they don’t actually care about gifts, trips, movies, amusement parks. He said those things won’t be what they remember.  He also said the flip side is sometimes we just have to go for it – he told me getting the dog (I recently purchased a shepherd/husky cross puppy) while expensive was a good decision because now I always have a companion. I know he worries when I am alone.

“Beating yourself up about financial problems when you have bipolar is like a person with diabetes yelling at their pancreas for not making enough insulin.”

I want to find “Financial Harmony” 

Managing finances when dealing with bipolar disorder symptoms can be a major challenge. However, there are many tactics that can help you achieve financial security.

So here is my game plan.

  1. Credit cards are in a ziplock bag in my freezer.
  2. Delete any places where they are saved online (amazon, Old Navy, Lululemon)
  3. Call my EAP to see if they offer financial counselling
  4. Pay off my credit cards (I can do this in 12 months)
  5. Go to a cash system for purchases. Leave money in the account for my bills, and put aside 80.00 a month into savings
  6. Talk about it – share with my support network how it going
  7. Create a spread sheet with monthly purchases to make sure I am on track with my budget.
  8. Sell off things I don’t need or use.

I read this great quote on IG today from @tidymoose  “Look around. All that clutter used to be money.”

So less stuff, more moments.

Like the rest of my healing journey this won’t be easy and without bumps in the road. But I can do it.  Just like I’m doing it!  “A smooth Sea Never Made a Skilled Sailor”

 

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