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.

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

 

 

The Funny Thing About the Truth

Confession. I really struggle with the concept of “the truth” and here is why.  Let’s say for example you have a situation. Chances are you’re not the only individual involved, which means all players are bringing their values, their opinions, their background and their experience to the situation. Naturally, their reflection of the truth is modified based on that. It’s also shaped by what they need the truth to be for them.

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The other issue I have with “the truth” is sometimes in order tell your story you can’t give a full honest account because your story involves other people and is so entwined so how can you tell it without revealing theirs? And sharing their story without their consent just isn’t right.  Nobody has the right to tell someone’s story.

August 24, 2016. It’s a complicated story for me and it really was a catalyst for my Bipolar disorder. I only recently found out that what I’ve been battling the last year and a half was Bipolar disorder but August 24th was the spark.

To be fair, I’ve always had Bipolar disorder. When I look back at the series of life events it was definitely there, I and my family just didn’t know that’s what it was. Don’t fret, I’ll get into more detail with that later.

But here’s where I struggle.  I really want to share August 24. It explains so much of my why. But my truth, my story includes other people, and their truth, experience and why is likely very different from mine. Also, how can I share without exposing their story? I can’t really. All I can do is give the crafted/partial story that I’ve revealed to some individuals and to be honest, it doesn’t sit right.  I wish I stuck with my previous standard answer of “it’s complicated” then sharing a partial encounter. #Thestruggleisreal

I’m afraid the problem I have with how to share “the truth” really doesn’t have a solution.

May The Fourth – 2 Years Apart

May the Fourth, Star Wars day.  Always a fun day in my home for William and I since we are fans.  Admittedly I love it even more because how much William does.

Facebook memories showed me the photo on the top left this morning from 2 years ago.  The bottom right picture is from today. Not that long ago I would have looked at the old photo and looked at myself now and be upset that I was much thinner then.  I would have tried the shirt on today and immediately remove it in disgust. It would have ruined my day.  I would have been emotional, short with family and friends.  I probably wouldn’t have eaten very much and worked out a ton. I probably would have researched diet options and developed an intense calorie restricted plan. But today I didn’t. Today I proudly wore my same shirt, took a silly photo to represent the joy I am starting to feel.

I did compare the two photos. Blonde hair, bold glasses, and smile.  The girl in the top photo.  She wasn’t actually happy. Things internally, emotionally and in her world were escalating and spiraling out of control.  Control. Control made her feel like life made sense. As she was starting to feel out of control she learned to find it by striving for perfection. She had lost a significant amount of weight but kept losing because she felt that it would make her happy,  desirable. It would make people want to be around her and love her . As mentioned before her greatest fear is the fear of being alone.

The girl in the bottom photo is about 15 lbs heavier but she doesn’t care. Or at least she tries not to care. She’s learning that people don’t love her because of her hair colour, or size or what she puts on even though she had been made to feel that was important. She sees that people don’t love her because she’s perfect, but rather because she’s not. They love love love her because she’s quirky.  She’s mischievous and full of spark. They love her because she’s fiercely loyal and values their presence in her life.

Today’s theme was really about reflection. Reflection is so important. It’s not the same thing as dwelling on the past. Rather it’s taking inventory on where you were and where you are in this moment and where you want to go. I have to say I like where things are going.

 

May is Mental Health Month

This is a mixed viewpoint for me. While I like that there is an entire month dedicated to speaking up, sharing stories and awareness for Mental Health, I worry that for the rest of the year we become complacent because we put our time in during that one month. It’s how I feel about Bell Let’s Talk day, Day of Pink, Red for World Autism Day, White Ribbons for ending violence against women. The list goes on as you know. It’s amazing that we are being supportive but what about the rest of the days – are you thinking about it or going on about your busy life?  Obviously you are going to align yourself with causes that have a personal impact. But the fact that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people – chances are it has a personal impact.

For the most part I have a very supportive community. My village is strong, loving, empathetic and if they don’t get what i’m going through they try to understand it. The fact that so many of you are reading and commenting on my posts is evidence of the support you show me everyday. And I want to thank you because it gives me the courage to continue to speak and share and to feel brave and not ashamed of what I’ve gone through.

Today, my family doctor told me that my story is mine. And I get to share it and write it how I want.  It doesn’t have to be a story of falling apart, of coming to the brink and failing. But rather it can be a story of struggle, vulnerability, and strength. I like that.

So May is Mental Health Month. I saw something online that said 1 in 4 people battle a mental illness, you can be the 1 that helps.  I love that. Start a conversation. Share on your social media. If you don’t understand something, or have questions then ask. I’d rather people ask me about the things I’ve gone through that may seem confusing then shut me out, horrified and shocked about what happened.

For the record. I’m going to keep sharing, and educating and learning. It’s really part of my personal journey and success and I hope it can help others as well.

Home Sweet Home – 1 Year Later

One year ago today I took possession of my house. It was a bittersweet day. Yes I was excited to start the next part of my journey. Yes I was proud of myself for finally being able to purchase a home for myself. But I was sad to leave my old home. My marriage had ended 8 months before and the house, the neighbourhood was the last grip on everything I had known. It was a security net for me because I was terrified to go my own way alone.

I have always been good at hiding. On the outside my house was immaculate, the kids were always put together, my hair and nails done. I organized and hosted parties where details and loving touches were always in the spotlight. I was able to shine in social situations, laugh at the jokes, contribute to the shenanigans like climbing fences to retrieve stray nerf bullets or late night swims in neighbours pools. In the inside I was a struggling to hold it together. I had lost a lot of weight – 70 lbs intentionally because I thought that would bring me the joy that was lacking on the inside. I won’t lie it did feel great for a while. I felt unstoppable – and I did things, acted in ways that now I regret. But looking back that was definitely a pattern in my life. What I know now is it was just part of the cycle – the weight loss, the extreme attention to detail, the life of the party behaviour, extreme training for my half marathon, a manic episode. Which was always followed by a crash, a depressive episode. But I was good at hiding it. I’d stay inside and “clean” while my ex took the kids outside and interacted with our neighbours. In between folding loads of laundry and scrubbing bathroom floors the tears would stream down my face.  Once, we had our neighbours over but I stayed in my room. I had my ex tell them I wasn’t feeling well. I sat in my bed in tears because I didn’t want to be missing out but I just couldn’t bring myself to join.

I was good at hiding. Some people in my life feel that this has made me a liar, like I hid from them who I was like they never really knew me at all.  This isn’t exactly true. It’s hard to explain what you are hiding when you don’t really understand what’s going on yourself.  When you are afraid that opening up means your whole life will drastically change. It’s hard to open up when you don’t even know yet the vocabulary for a very real medical issue. It’s easy to hide when the things you are hiding will bring judgement or likely a fear of judgement. It’s easy to hide when when you feel like the only reason people want you around is because you are fun and they don’t actually care about the struggles you are going through.  I know now that for the most part this was a perceived fear.

When my marriage ended, I didn’t return to work. I stayed off in order to pick up my broken pieces and stabilize life for me and my children. My daughter, just about 8, who was so strong through all of it said to me, “mommy I just don’t want to change school.” So I fought very hard to make that happen. I found the perfect townhouse, It was really close to my old neighbourhood. A quick 2 minutes. It would have worked out to be a private sale to me it seemed like the stars aligned especially since I had just sold my house in a private sale.

For several reasons, it didn’t work out. Part of that reason was my own fault. For not being confident and strong to make my own decisions. But at the same time I do feel like things happen as they should and if that house was meant for me I would be living in it now.

I would be involved in several bidding wars and each time I lost a little piece of me crumbled. I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to stay in the kids school zone – the only thing my daughter wished. She would have been fine if we had to move elsewhere, we all would have been but my heart told me I needed to make this happen.

I decided to switch Real Estate Agents. That was a hard decision because my previous agent had helped me purchase/sell my previous homes and disappointing people wasn’t something  I was ever good at. But I decided to make a hard decision for myself and I switched. The agent I decided to work with was someone I had met a few years before, we had played baseball together and she lived/worked in the area I wanted to stay in. Everything that happen in life isn’t an accident. Sometimes things that happen seem insignificant or don’t make sense at the time but it’s all a series of doors closing and door opening, paths being chosen to lead you to moments that clarity happens. I don’t think being placed on the same baseball team as Lori was an accident because within days of signing on to work with her she called me with a house that was just listed, that didn’t have the for sale sign up  yet and before that even happened I had in a offer, a counter offer and an acceptance and the home was mine.  Lori got me through a really difficult time – she offered words of support and comfort that I always go back to. I’m not sure she really realizes the difference she made for me.

Move in day was the rainiest day pretty much the worst day to move. The rain held in my tears. I was proud and scared because this was the official start of my reset. It hasn’t always gone well. I’ve had some unexpected setbacks but also a tremendous amount of growth.  It’s taken me a year to fully appreciate and understand the strength and resilience that I have shown, not only this year but my whole life.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is life is not black and white and I have no room in my life for people that are black and white thinkers. You don’t have to forget about the past and move on. The past is a very real part of what has brought us to this moment. The past is lessons, life and memories. I’ve learned that you can be grateful and excited about things that are going on but also be really sad and grieve the things and people that you have lost. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. “Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both.” – Lana Lang.

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The Positive Side of Bipolar Disorder Series One: The Feels

“Bipolar disorder is a severe and debilitating psychiatric disorder with an unpredictable course and a high impact on social and occupational life.”

While this is a true description of Bipolar Disorder it’s also severe and harsh because the truth is, for all of its darkness there is an equal amount of light. Yes, I am saying that there is a genuine positive side to Bipolar Disorder.  I’m not going to list all the great things right now about having Bipolar Disorder but rather I want to do a series and highlight one at a time.

The Positive Side of Bipolar Disorder Series One: The Feels

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Some might see this as a curse. To feel everything with intensity. But I say it’s a gift. Picture the colour purple. To you it’s just purple, maybe the hue is slightly red or maybe a little bit blue but you haven’t really stopped to think about it. To me purple can be soft and velvety and smells like baby powder. It can be electric like the indigo lightning streaks you see over the ocean at night.  Purple feels like gelatin if you stick your fingers into it softly it bounces back and it’s coolish to the touch.

Feelings work the same way with the same level of intensity that I would perceive a colour. I feel with depth and intensity and this makes me a very empathetic person. In a manic or depressed state I will admit I tend to be more self-centred but when my mood is optimal my empathy game is on point.

I am an excellent listener and often I can gauge if advice is needed or just a shoulder to lean on.  I’m sensitive to the feelings of people around me. Sometimes this one is a struggle because I tend to take on the feelings in the room, and sometimes I get self-conscious that I’ve caused the mood that you are in. Often I can sense your mood even if you aren’t sharing it or you are denying it. This can work well for you because I can cheer you up without you having to ask!

I am naturally giving.  If I have it to give you I will. I like to do things just to make you smile. That might be baking you my most amazing banana bread, sending you flowers, or dropping by with a coffee or tea just because. I’m an excellent gift giver. My gifts are with intention and really have you in mind.

When I pay attention to it (ha!) I have good intuition. My gut feelings are strong. My heightened feelings allow me to understand even if I haven’t directly experienced what you are going through. I can easily put myself into your shoes and see it from your perspective.

I forgive easily because I have gigantic heart that is filled with love. I just want to love the people around me and let them know that I care.

I think the range of emotion I feel the highs and lows have taught me to appreciate that the two can co-exist. That the darkness really allows you to appreciate the light. That struggle and sorrow always pass and happiness is waiting on the other side.  Some people see feelings, sensitivity and emotion as a weakness.  Not me, I see it as strength.

 

 

My Underlying Story

 

Yesterday a friend posted this on Facebook and shared her underlying story. I was fascinated by the concept and proud of her for being vulnerable and sharing her underlying story. I asked her if I could use this for a blog post and share my underlying story.

Besides having Bipolar Disorder, I do have an underlying story. Mine is one where I feel like I am never quite good enough and if I let my guard down and let you in to see the true me then you might not like who that is and then I am alone.

Fear of people not accepting me and therefore being alone, that’s my underlying story.

I’m an oversharer, and I am passionate about life but I often keep my opinions to myself and keep things a secret.

These aren’t things like my favourite types of music, food, political allegiances, feelings about sexuality, gender equality, spirituality and so on.  But darker things.  Once, I opened up to someone. For someone reason I felt a security, a rapport an affinity to this individual and for whatever reason I was able to reveal things. I even shared a dark heated moment when my spouse had hurt me and left a very large, visible mark on my shin. I needed the perspective from someone else, an outsiders point of view and I can’t tell you how much courage and strength it took me to share that.  I also shared with this person when I was having passive suicidal thoughts. I felt safety with this person but as it turns out it was a false sense of safety. But here’s the thing, everything that has happened, happened to bring us to the moment we are in now, “there are no wrong decisions. When you’ve done millions of pro/con lists, and you’ve flipped coins hoping you’ll know which one is the one you want before the coin hits the ground, but you’ve come up empty handed, you might need to know there is no such thing as a wrong decision.”

So when do I feel like my true self?  When I am running. When I am creating something beautiful. When I paint my nails, or choose what I think is the perfect outfit. When I take time to really see my surroundings.  When I am on a beach. When I watch my kids run and laugh and enjoy each other.  When I don’t care if someone thinks my sweater with the flowers on it is ugly, or that my hair looks better long.  When I get another tattoo because I think they are beautiful and a great way to express things that are meaningful even if everyone around me thinks I already have too many. When a book ending leaves me in tears, or when I hug a friend so tight I feel like my heart might actually explode. When I put words on a paper and they string together with eloquence and beauty. When I let my heart lead the way instead of worrying that emotions mean I don’t have good business sense.

But mostly as I am learning – I feel like my true self when I am who I am. When I’m not worried what others think or when others choose to see a version of my that they have created and edited in their own mind.

So fear of being not accepted and fear of being alone is my underlying story but “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.” – Natasha Beddingfield

 

 

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