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”

 

The Selfish Side of Me

Sometimes we are forced to face the sides of of us that aren’t so great.  You know the ones that you are in denial of or perhaps you didn’t really realize are there.

So here’s mine.  I’m selfish.

Recently I had a conversation with a very close friend. I hadn’t heard from her as much and when I asked her if everything was ok she said to me, “silent just means busy.” Because I’m selfish my mind cannot make that connection. It assumes that if I haven’t heard from someone in a while, or they cancel their plans I’ve done something wrong something to upset them. She has a really solid understanding of mental health and she also told me that mental health can be very selfish, and she’s very aware of this and tries not to let it be.  And she’s correct it can be.

I am not intentionally selfish. In fact I do consider myself very caring and very generous. But there are times when I’m so wrapped up in my mood that it makes me forget that other people have things going on in their lives. That everyone has their burdens, their issues, their struggles. That we are all just really trying to do our best with the cards we’ve been dealt.

I haven’t posted on this blog in a while because all of a sudden I had this fear that it made me seem attention seeking or selfish. That I was just looking for a free pass to excuse things I said, actions and choices I made and sometimes continue to make.  The truth is the selfish side of me is looking for that. It’s seeking attention. Or maybe it’s more forgiveness and empathy.

There are things I’ve said or done that have either been misinterpreted.  Some things I don’t even remember saying but I also can’t say with 100% certainty that I didn’t.  Here’s the thing about a manic episode for me. I am I impulsive and I have unlimited energy it’s not just fun and happy it’s this massive heightened emotional state and it can cycle quickly through all the range of emotion. It often starts out extremely light hearted, maybe silly. It can go through and look like a lot of fun, it turns risky sometimes reckless often without thought of consequences. It then quickly shifts to anger, jealousy, compulsion, obsession. I push people away and then become furious because they listen to that request or because they are scared or maybe sick of the way I’m acting.  I eventually crash and then it’s tears, lots of tears. The guilt sets in (that’s the worst part) and I feel physically ill and I agonize over how I can fix things.  That’s where elaborate gifts come in because I want to show how grateful I really and how sorry I am. I’m embarrassed to say how much money I spent last year trying to buy back forgiveness.  I mean I bought someone I know an apple watch when I wasn’t working, and my LTD claim had been denied so I had no source of income but money from selling my house. But I just wanted everything to be okay again.

But here’s the thing that is different now that I’m on medication that actually treats my Bipolar Disorder instead of working against it. It’s calmed my emotional brain which has allowed my rational brain to have a turn. I’m starting to be able to use the strategies I’ve been learning to manage the emotional highs and lows. Instead of feeling like the world is against me, that all of these terrible things have been done to me and that I’m a failure I can see that nothing has been done to me that they’ve just happened and everyone has challenges but copes. Sometimes really well and sometimes not at all.

I’m starting to be aware that Bipolar Disorder makes me selfish. I’m starting to take a step back and show more empathy toward others. The kind that I so badly crave. I’m learning to forgive myself and forgive others too.  The truth is, nothing that has happened was the fault of anyone, my friends, family or myself. It was simply the byproduct of an illness that I didn’t understand, that was misdiagnosed, and not being treated properly. I knew that I wasn’t okay but I didn’t know how to navigate its storms.

Sometimes I may be selfish still because I also think that we need to once and a while. But I don’t always want to talk about me and how I’m doing. I want to hear about your life, your wins, your loses it’s not adding on to my burdens. I want to be the kind of person that is compassionate and understanding.  I think I could actually be really great at that!

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Forgiveness is Solo and Reconciliation is Joint

After a hard week and half I’m moving out of it and into a place of understanding. I’ve leaned heavily on my support network which includes my family, my friends, my counsellor and even myself. I’ve been able to confront and unload some of my darkness which in turn has made me feel so much lighter. Like the burden isn’t weighing so heavily.

I’ve been reading a lot about forgiveness and reconciliation. I really didn’t realize there was a difference between the two but I’ve learned that forgiveness is solo and reconciliation is joint.   This is difficult for me to accept because naturally I want people to just be ok, to love me despite my flaws and the difficulties I have put them through. I struggle with the idea that my actions hurt people but at the same time I was dealing with an illness that I didn’t understand. But the truth is even though many of my past mistakes were consequences of Bipolar Disorder undiagnosed, untreated, they still had an impact on people I cared for.

I just want to love and be loved. Not cause harm, make people feel uncomfortable, be sad or upset with me.

I remember once, when I was in University I was in a chat forum – if you are 40 ish you’ll remember those. Anyway I was chatting with a male and just as the conversation ended I told him my name was my friends name and gave him her phone number. It was an impulsive reaction to his request and even now this friend is still a very dear friend, and I know she has long forgiven me I haven’t forgiven myself so the issue isn’t actually reconciled.

At a keg party once again in University I arrived late. A male friend made a comment that I could only have a beer if I kissed him. In an impulsive reaction I did. In a room full of friends and acquaintances and here’s the thing I was in a long term “committed” relationship and I acted this way without any second thought to consequences. My partner, now my ex-partner doesn’t know about this action, or similar actions that occurred after so I have no idea if he forgives me, but I certainly do not forgive myself.

I’d like to think he would – because despite the break down of our marriage being quite traumatic and not 100% honest I think he shows me empathy and understanding. Recently I reached out to him and offered him an apology for and event that happened – it was a dramatic life altering evening –  August 24, 2016. He was really made out to be the scapegoat and in fact he deserves a bit more compassion than he was afforded.    (And yes we did get married and I often wonder if the outcome would have been different had he have realized the above events). Here’s the thing, this event isn’t reconciled because  while he might forgive me, I don’t forgive myself.

This is where I am now. Self-forgiveness.  I need to let go. Whether my actions were symptoms of Bipolar Disorder or just really shitty decisions I need to forgive myself. It is very easy for me to forgive others but I’ve never really given myself the same privilege. I need to release my darkness so I can truly heal.

Today is better. The sun feels vibrant. I slept really well. I did a lot of hard work with my counsellor  and she acknowledged that forgiving yourself and forgiving others when you can’t actually get closure is really hard. But I know I’m ready for this step in my journey.

Angry

I’ve had a dip and I feel a little bit like I’m losing ground. Mostly this dip is making me feel all sorts of angry.

I’m not a negative person. But negative thinking and self-talk are a by product of Bipolar Disorder and I’m learning to counteract them but keeping a wellness journal and reminding myself that in spite of everything I’m still a good person. But sometimes even when I have best intentions and even when I try all of my strategies I still feel angry.

Here’s why:

I’m angry at myself for going my entire life and not recognizing that what I just assumed was who I am was actually symptoms of bipolar disorder.

I’m angry at friends who have turned their backs on me. Sure what I’ve gone through, the choices I’ve made, the reactions I’ve displayed, the secrets I’ve kept are uncomfortable. They may challenge your values, you might even judge them. But here’s the thing why would you walk away from someone during their darkest hours? For the record judgement is just fear. So you’re not better than me but something about me elicits a fear response in yourself.

I’m angry because I can’t shake feeling angry, and being emotional even though I’ve been in a really good place since my hospital stay.

I’m angry because my medication increase happened on Friday and I’m not feeling calmer just tired and angry.

I’m angry because I cried on the phone when a friend called me and asked how I was doing and for one of the first times I wasn’t able to just put on a brave face and say “pretty good.”

I’m angry because in a heightened emotional moment this afternoon my travel coffee mug broke on the driveway… confession, I threw it on the ground because the actual mug when I picked it up triggered such strong physical response that I felt like I was going to be sick so I acted without thinking.

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I’m angry because I’m struggling with past choices. I want to just forgive myself, make peace with my past and move forward but I can’t.

I used my journal today to remind myself to breathe. To show myself compassion and self love and pray that tomorrow is a new day and I feel less angry.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Guilt

Before I start, I want to put this out there.  This post could be triggering. If you have dealt with suicidal or self harming thoughts/actions or know someone who has. If you have lost your mom or a child or struggled with miscarriage/loss/infertility. Please stop, close this down and go about your day.

 

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I’ve had a hard week. My progress since my hospital stay, re-diagnoses with Bipolar Disorder, and medication switch has gone really well.  I’m off work, taking it easy. Exploring my creative side, learning to be grounded and working with professionals to help me do so. But that’s not to say there aren’t any challenges and this week has been one. My counselor even noted this week that the light-heartedness that I’ve been showing is dimmed. While it’s been a combination of a few things it comes from Mother’s Day just being around the corner.

Why would Mother’s Day have such a negative triggering effect on me?  I have two vibrant, loving children. I am a single parent but I’ve worked hard to create a safe, stable, warm home for them. Life with them is generally easy and simple and when we are together we just love each other. From warm Saturday morning snuggles in my bed, working on our new garden, going for long walks, park dates, baking and cooking. Generally our life is really good.

Behind the happy moments, I’m often struggling with my own battle with Bipolar Disorder. My kids make it easier to push through the tough moments, to keep going and work to get better but unfortunately in March I just couldn’t anymore. I ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. It’s hard for me to admit this and I am struggling with  the idea that it came to that even though I have so much to live for. I feel guilty that my two beautiful babies weren’t enough to keep me from going to that dark place.

So that’s where I am. How can I actually enjoy Mother’s Day after what I tried to do.

I am well aware of the stigma “how could she do that to her kids”, “but she has children”, “how could she give up and not see what she has”, “could she be anymore selfish”, “clearly she is just seeking attention”.  My heart goes out to those experiencing grief this time of year. Maybe you’ve lost your mother or a child. Maybe you don’t have a good relationship with them. Maybe you’ve struggled with infertility and loss. But here’s the tricky thing.  I didn’t do this to my kids, and I’m actually a really good mom.

It’s hard to explain it when I don’t really understand it myself. I fought the darkness for a long time. Even that day. I didn’t want to go home that night because I was alone and I was terrified of what was going to happen. I knew what was going to happen and I felt alone and afraid. My disorder caused this to happen.  This expert from an article by Katie Hurley, “There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide” explains it really well and certainly applies to Bipolar Disorder.

Suicide is a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression.

People who say that suicide is selfish always reference the survivors. It’s selfish to leave children, spouses and other family members behind, so they say. They’re not thinking about the survivors, or so they would have us believe. What they don’t know is that those very loved ones are the reason many people hang on for just one more day. They do think about the survivors, probably up until the very last moment in many cases. But the soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.

That night. I did think about my kids, my family, my friends. I thought how they would be better off without my constant ups and downs. The grand plans, the crash, the pushing away, the guilt, the asking for forgiveness… again and eventually yet again. I thought about how I ripped my children from a neighbourhood full of friends and though we were always welcome to return I struggled because it brought on extreme feelings of sadness and heightened paranoia made me feel like we weren’t welcome because we didn’t belong anymore. I was getting divorced and didn’t fit the image of a suburban two parent “perfect family”. I would be moving us into a small townhouse so no more vacations, promise of a pool, and all the the things that they had become accustomed to living their previous life. I thought about a life for my kids that didn’t include having to live split between 3 homes, how it could be simple for them again. How their dad could remarry and they could be once again part of a unbroken family. I thought about how in the future they wouldn’t have to be embarrassed of a mom struggling from mental illness. Or handle the disappointment of a promise made during a manic episode and then broken during a crash. Bipolar Disorder convinced me that my kids would be better off without me.

I know that this is not true. None of those. I know that I’m really doing my best and being a mom with Bipolar Disorder will always make it a little bit more difficult. But it doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy my time with my kids or be grateful that I’m still here. I get to enjoy Mother’s Day because I’m living and loving and celebrating it with those I love and love me too. And I’m really sorry if you don’t get to. My heart truly feels your sadness,  but it isn’t my fault that I survived. Having ill feelings toward me won’t actually reduce your pain.  I promise you I’m sending you extra light and love this weekend but I’m also going to send myself extra love and light and try to have a guilt free day.

I want to end this with something written by Mindy Morgan

I see you, Mama. You’re going to do this thing. You’re going to make it and your kids will be OK. By loving them with every fiber of your being, you will save them and yourself in the process.

We’ve got this.

Poetry is a Language.

 

Recently I started writing again. I’m finding it very cathartic.  I’ve always been better at explaining myself through the written word then explaining orally.  I am someone who needs time and space to organize my thoughts and being able to write it gives me what I need. The forms of writing I’m currently working with are journalling, this blog and writing poetry.

 My mom is an artist. When I was a child she created stunning water colour paintings.  I loved looking at her art supplies. I loved the way her paints that she squeezed onto her pallet to dry looked but mostly felt. I would trace my finger tips over the flattened by water blobs of colour that she used frequently and compare it to the mountain colours that didn’t get used hardly at all. I loved taking the liquid mask and brushing it onto a surface and then once dry rolling it into a teeny rubber ball. I loved how the brushes all felt so different, some bristles delicate and soft some coarse. My favourite was the brush which was a fan shape. It reminded me of a mermaid tail and I imagined my mom creating soft waves over her page.

I tried hard to be an artist, to be like her because I admired her ability to take nothing and make something beautiful. But a painter I was not. I found my art in putting words together. So my canvas became paper and my brush a pencil. My watercolour was the collections of words carefully crafted in a poem.

Recently I was in hospital. The days tended to be long and sometimes I felt like I might climb the walls. I took to my journal to create poems. I wrote 3 while I was there and I have 2 more that are inspired from my time.

The one pictured above titled “Quotes out of Context” was the first poem I wrote in hospital.  It was born when I re-read my journal from the last year and a half.  My entries were often formed out of things that people said to me that stuck, that I couldn’t shake away. A lot of time they were empowering things that made me glow, but often they were negative and often from the same individual.

This individual could also be a poet. They crafted their words to make me feel powerless. Sometimes it was positive they would pull me in and I would feel like I was larger than life. Often they would reduce me to nothing short of a broken shard of glass, only for the cycle to continue.  I wrote many times that I felt vulnerable, too dependant but I was afraid that I would end up alone and I felt broken and worn down. I also wrote that I just wanted to be more confident, stand up for myself and not allow this person to control my emotions.

This is what this poem achieves. It counteracts the negative quotes with confident statements. With this poem I have taken the power back. Instead of staying quiet when I have an opinion I’ve spoken up, and it’s a statement that I will not allow words to make me upset and be turned against me so I am seen as “crazy and dramatic.”  The poem has a shift, an acceptance, it takes notice of the positive quotes that had been shared with me. The truth is I have a whole crew of people in my corner who are cheering me on. They see my value and they want me to find peace in my heart.

On January 7, 2017 I wrote in my journal “I am worth being loved, I am worth being cherished, I am worth being an effort, I am worth being somebody’s everything.”  I’m learning that this is truth that I’m holding myself up with purpose. That I am stronger, better and confident and I do not have to chase people for opportunities or let their manipulation of truth hurt me and break me down.

Oh and some positive quotes that didn’t make the poem but I still think are worth mentioning because the last month and a bit I’ve returned to them over and over are these ones below.

“You are a brave woman.”

“Your hair colour is great.”

“You are amazing and beautiful.”

“Your kids are lucky to have you and they know they are loved.”

“You always look so put together.”

“Your new neighbours don’t know how lucky they are.”

“You’re doing the right things.”

“You are a great person, a great friend and a great mother.”

xo Shivonne

P.S. Here are some of my mom’s paintings. The one top left I actually own 🙂 I’m thinking my mom and I need to collaborate sometime, she paint and I write.

Distance Between Friends

 

Self blame.  That’s a game that I am really good at. When things go wrong I take all the blame. I over analyze what went wrong, what I could have done to change things and what I am going to do to fix it. Often it comes in the form of a long written out justification/apology, baked goods, gifts,  flowers, coffee, sometimes even more elaborate and expensive gifts.

Why do I do that? Obviously a relationship is a tide. An ebb and flow. Sometimes one person needs a little more and the other person can offer that and sometimes it’s the reverse. It works the same in tough times. Sometimes one side demands a little more and the other side has more to give. Without keeping score, it always seems to balance out. I guess this is the key to a healthy relationship.

Sometimes though, the relationship isn’t healthy. One side demands a little too much and it cause the other side to break. Sometimes one side is really doing all the giving and the other side taking. Sometimes one side doesn’t make sense or is downright shocking.

Sometimes one side walks away when the other just really needed them to be there. To put aside their values, judgements and lack of understanding. They just needed them. It’s important to put yourself in their shoes. To reflect on their backpack so to speak of life experience. Where they have come from, their value systems, their insecurities and the internal and personal difficulties they are experiencing.  You never really know what is going on with a person.

It happens.

Distance between friends. It’s a thing. But I’m learning that it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Absence can make the heart grow fonder, we’ve heard that before. Or time heals all wounds that makes sense too.  But what if moving on, appreciating the past moments but recognizing that the future moments will never be the same or not even happen is ok too?  My sister recently told me friendship happens for “a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I really loved this and it’s made me come to peace and feel settled with the idea of the distance between.

So rather than feeling sadness, anger and regret I feel light.  I am able to send people, even ones that I feel caused harm, warmth and light and then move about my day.

And I like that.

xo

 

 

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