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

 

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”

 

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.

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