Year End Reflection

I always say I’m not one for resolutions. But that’s not totally true. I prefer reflection. Looking back at the ups and downs that actually make life beautiful. I like to choose a goal for the new year coming up. In the past it’s been weight loss, finance, organizing, trying a new activity. But this year I want a more universal concept.

Self-Reflection.  That’s my 2019 goal.

I want to continually remind myself to look back and be proud of the challenges I’ve overcome and the successes I’ve had. I also want to pause and enjoy and live in the moment. I want to be less connected to my social media (yikes yes I just said that) and more connected to my family, friends, the natural environment so that means documenting less with photos and stories and not reviewing the content others post as much. This will be a challenge as it’s become a bit of an addiction and I run a small social media business, but a challenge doesn’t mean I can’t it just means I need to set limits and be creative.  I want to continue to have less things and more moments. I want to keep learning to manage my finances so I can finally travel. I want to run not for a speed or distance goal, not to be thin but because it’s the one activity that truly makes my heart joyful.

Last year the kids and decided to collect memories throughout the year. We placed them into a jar. We were not always consistent.  Sometimes we wrote a lot, sometimes a little. We haven’t opened them up yet because shared parenting means sometimes you can’t do the things you want to on the exact day. But I’m excited to go through them and reflect on all of the things that did together. This is a tradition we will definitely continue.

Another reflection tradition is one with my amazing friend @sariendipity  We create vision boards and I love this activity because I keep it in my room and it’s a daily reminder of what is important to me.

Anyway I’m excited for the ups and downs 2019 will bring. I hesitate to say it will be the best year ever, or that it’s going to be great because I can’t actually predict what happens. But I can appreciate the good moments, and handle the tricky ones as best as I can.

I want to end this with a Year End Reflection I found on google.  A head’s up this might be triggering and upsetting if you’ve experienced trauma and/or suicide/self-harm.

YEAR END REFLECTION:

5 HIGHLIGHTS (accomplishments, best memories)

-Being interviewed for 2 podcasts. One has just been realized, Slay the Mic Podcast  and the other one is coming soon and speaking at Healed Hearts, Empowered Spirits

-Getting our dog Scout. She has been a joy and a very welcome addition to our family.

-Wasaga Beach mini-cation with my two besties and our kids. So many laughs and memories!

-Returning to work and killing it!  I’ve found my passion for the classroom again and my confidence has returned.

-My 40th Birthday. I was surrounded by so much love and that feeling is still with me.

5 DISAPPOINTMENTS (failures, missed opportunities)

-Running. It hasn’t gone well and I just couldn’t get it together in 2018. I’m hoping to change it.

-Dating. That is all.

-Finances. The turn around hasn’t been easy and this will certainly be something I continue to work on.

-Over dosing internationally on my medication with the intention to self-harm.

3 GAME CHANGERS (unexpected events that shifted your priorities)

-Being hospitalized and spending time in the acute psychiatric unit. It was humbling, hard but also a massive game changer. Here I was given a proper diagnosis, and it started the learning journey about my illness (bipolar disorder) and armed with the tools needed to manage it successfully.

-Starting this blog.

-Sharing my story unapologetically.

3 THINGS YOU FOCUSED ON (what you put the most of your time into)

*this one is easy

-My mental health. Getting the correct diagnosis (Bipolar Disorder), learning about it and how it has really shaped most of my life and appropriate treatment to manage it.

-Living life authentically. It’s meant having hard conversation. Ending relationships that didn’t have a positive impact on my life, and being honest with myself and others about what I need, even if it’s not always favourable.

-Self care, self care and more self care.

3 THINGS YOU FORGOT (What you didn’t get around too)

-Following my plan for checking the mail and answering voice mail. This is still a huge task avoidance.

-My financial diet. I’ve created a plan but I only follow it loosely.

-Focusing and fixing on my disordered eating. I’ve pretended that I’m better by hiding what I’m doing but I’m still resorting to extreme reduced calorie diets. protein shakes and fasting, and binging when I’m emotionally taxed.

I am excited for this year. When I compare it to the dark inner struggles that I was managing exactly one year ago this place feels good.

Happy 2019!

 

 

Jenga. The Great Relationship Metaphor

There are a lot of great metaphors for life and life balance but when I think about my own personal experience, especially when it comes to love and relationships the idea of a jenga tower comes to mind. First it starts out pretty solid as you build it up piece by piece starting with a stable foundation. You want to make sure those bottom pieces are aligned just the way they should be.  You carefully place the blocks one at a time following the set pattern. Going rogue or off book will inevitably lead to a quick crash. Once you’ve finally built your tower it looks perfect, strong, stable and you have it made! Like nothing is going to take it down. But as you play the game, remove pieces and stack them back on you’re changing the game. Adding instability, danger, challenge. It’s a rush until one moves makes it all come crashing down. You instantly regret the choice but the damage is done. The tower is splayed out on the table pieces everywhere. When this happens, there’s two kinds of people. The ones who build it back up again without a thought and the ones that put it away and save it for when their head is back in it.

Which type of person is right? I guess it depends on their motivation.  Are the rebuilders building it back up because they are resilient and willing to jump back in and correct what might have gone wrong the first time? Or are they blindly building doomed to make the same errors again?  What about those who promptly put it away? Are they throwing in the towel too soon avoiding the chaos and the mess from happening again? Or are they taking the time to process, think of their game plan carefully before returning to it?

Which type of person am I?  Both and neither really. I’ve played a dangerous game when it comes to relationships. I’ve added instability, danger, challenge. I’ve shown resiliency, and tried to correct mistakes and fix what went wrong. I’ve jumped in without thinking of the consequences and impact. I’ve avoided chaos and mess but I’ve also given myself space, time to reflect, to process and return.  The problem is once I return I find myself still feeling unstable like I can’t trust that the whole thing isn’t going to crumble yet again. So I push and back away. The rest of this post is a pretty explicit account of my past relationships. It could be triggering or disappointing so this is a good place to stop if you worry about that.

For being almost 40, I haven’t actually had many relationships to base my experiences on. I started dating quite young and pretty much jumped into longer term “serious” relationships. It was a critical time when I should have focused on discovering myself and findinging what brought me happiness but instead I felt like happiness was related to a sense of pleasing someone else. It was tied to not being alone and feeling like I was part of a larger community. This would remain a constant theme throughout all of my young adult and adult years.

My first longer relationship was pretty standard in terms of a young teenage relationship. He drove, was interested in things I wasn’t but I gave up my interests for his. His family was lovely and they included me in family dinners and activities. He was also the first person I was sexually active with. I don’t want to paint the wrong impression that I was forced because it wasn’t like that. But we weren’t taught about consent and what that meant. He never asked me if I wanted to and I never said that I didn’t. I don’t actually know what the outcome would have been if we had that discussion but it makes me a little sad to know that it didn’t necessarily have to go the way it did. It did because we were uneducated that there could be another way.

Him and I broke up but not before I “cheated” on him at a party with another male that I sort of knew. I use to say it just happened but experience has taught me that things never just happen. When you partner alcohol (especially underage), low self esteem and little understanding of self this can easily happen. But even then I was already engaging in self-destructive behaviour and I wanted out of a relationship I felt stuck in so this seemed like the perfect way to make it happen. Even then the signs of emotional dysregulation and bipolar disorder were evident. I would later on return to this exact situation for the exact same reasons.

My now ex-husband and I started dating approximately 2 weeks after this relationship ended. We both jumped in with strong intensity. It was a few months before our 18th birthdays and it was a pretty serious “adult” like relationship. I was still a confused, lost young girl with no sense of self, dealing with mental health issues I had no idea were issues.

A year later we were making living arrangements because we had decided to go to the same university. At the time it was exactly what I wanted. Again his family was lovely and included me. I felt a sense of community and the loneliness had ceased. I was building a strong, secure, stable base for the life that I thought I really wanted. But I was still a child, we both were and we didn’t give ourselves space to grow into the adults we weren’t meant to be. We had personal issues neither one of understood in ourselves or each other. Mine were extreme emotional highs and lows and his were anger. The combination together was catastrophic. We kept building the tower because the dream was more important than the underlying issues. He doesn’t like me talking about him on here. He’s asked me not to and I’m torn between wanting to respect his wishes – as he is the co-parent of my children-  and wanting to tell my story. He tells me he’s dealt with the things that have happened between us and moved on. I feel like he hasn’t. That he is embarrassed by it and isn’t ready to own it, to be accountable for it and say this is what I am doing to repair harm. I’m also a little envious because if he has actually moved on than what is wrong with me that I’m still so haunted by the things that transpired?

When the tower fell, it fell hard!  My ex husband didn’t know (he does now) but I was having an affair and i’ve talked about this before on my blog. I don’t even pretend that it “just happened” because again experience has taught me that nothing just happens. This “relationship” was was with someone I was friends with. He was one half a couple friend. The four of us were close but hindsight shows me that we didn’t actually know each other well, just versions of what we wanted one another to be. I knew the affair was wrong, I can tell you that the communication between us very early on hinted at being inappropriate. A little too flirty, a little too often. I can tell you the exact moment when the interaction definitely crossed the line. It was April. I was out with girlfriends for an overnight trip in Toronto and I posted a photo on my social media where I was wearing red lipstick and felt pretty. A feeling that I didn’t often have about myself. I didn’t exactly know where things would go between us but I did know I was willing to completely let it go wherever it was going to. It was also an adrenaline rush which now I understand was tied to bipolar mania.  Again he gave sense strong sense of community. His family was lovely, they included me in activities. We had mutual friends and I felt like those friendship were my whole world. His attention made me feel like I was loved and belonged. But it was still linked to my low self esteem, little understanding of self and mental health issues I didn’t see. I also think it is important to mention that I would tell this person imaginative stories about illicit, sexual relationships I had engaged in with others. But imaginative was the key. They didn’t happen but I realized he wanted me to be the kind of person who did. So again I sacrificed my interests for his.

My tower blew up. It didn’t just collapse but it scattered into thousands of pieces like the small glass cubes when a window shatters. While on vacation with our friends and our respective families my ex would walk into a sexualy compromising situation on the beach between myself and our friends. This collapsed his tower too and his anger response took over and he hit me in the face and when I got out of the ocean he continued and I hit him back this likely caused me to break my hand. I remember falling to the ground hard asking for help and watching the person I thought cared a lot for me walk away with his partner. Once again in that moment I felt very a strong wave of loneliness and I wished the ocean could have swallowed me up to release me from that feeling.

I wish I could say the affair ended at this moment but it didn’t. It would continue for another year or so. It was definitely an imbalance of power and while it didn’t cause my mental health struggles or eventual breakdown it was certainly one of the key pieces.

I use to think that in all of these relationships I lost myself. But the truth is I never actually knew who I was. I was able to shape myself and become who the people I was around needed me to be. That was all.

I’ve been doing a lot of work to build my tower back up again. The process is slow and it certainly isn’t linear. I may build a few pieces, knock some or all down. I repeat the process and learn why it didn’t work that time. I’m learning a lot about myself, my challenges but also my strengths. I have a strong sense of empathy. I see things from all angles and shades. I have a gift for creativity and making my space functional but beautiful. I have a strong motherhood instinct and I’ve created a loving, supportive home for my children. I advocate for their needs and I’ve become confident in the parenting decisions I make. I have a talent for baking and cooking and it’s been trial and error with a lot of of error but that makes me want to do it even more. I have a gift for writing and I’m not afraid to share my story even if it makes people uncomfortable. I say “I refuse to stay quiet so you can stay comfortable.” I’m an advocate for mental health and social justice and I have no space in my life for bigoted and close minded thinking. I’m creating a life that is authentic and at the moment I don’t want surface friendships. There’s a time and a place for that but right now isn’t the time for me.

All of this does have an impact on what it means for me moving forward with a new relationship. I’ve tried dating on and off again and it goes the same way. I sign up or start. I have some interesting interactions  and some pleasant.  The pleasant ones make me the most uncomfortable so I push back and abandon them. I’m not sure I’m in a place where I can trust that someone isn’t going to inevitably hurt me. Or I’m not going to shape myself into someone I think they want me to be. How do I bring up my past struggles and my mental health. I’ve tried immediately bringing it up but then I’m left feeling too vulnerable. I’ve tried not saying anything but then I feel the weight of a crushing secret. So I don’t actually have an answer at this time. But maybe that’s ok too.

 

 

 

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.

IMG_3689

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

 

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