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The Many Moods Of Me

Art, music, living with bipolar and other unfinished projects

Bipolar – My Story

I am Steph and I was recently diagnosed with bipolar type 2. This meant the end of years of suffering and not knowing why, years of blaming and berating myself when I couldn’t manage my life, and years of treatment- resistant depression and anxiety for which there was no correct medication. I am not alone. Bipolar 2 is misdiagnosed as major depression all the time.

I keep active with art, music and staying well. If I am too inactive, I become mentally ill very quickly, and am unable to pull myself out of it. Suicidal ideation creeps in very quickly, and I don’t want to be its victim.

Bipolar has short circuited most of my attempts to form a career and hold onto a job. My brain is simply not wired to cope with things others take for granted. I walk dogs on a casual basis, where I am not required to do too much executive functioning. I just need to have a whole lot of love, and I love dogs a lot.

I care about contributing in my own way towards making the world a better, safer and fairer place. I see too much injustice and destruction of Mother Earth and all her creatures, and this upsets me greatly.

Exercise helps me a lot. I was fortunate enough to discover a group called Mood Active shortly after I was diagnosed, and it has well exceeded my expectations of what a mental health support and exercise group should be. I can’t speak highly enough of this group. It is my lifeline out of years of isolation, transient friendships, and constantly feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. Tennis, yoga and gym have been good for me, and I really like the people in this social and welcoming group.

I am lucky to have close ties with my family, a loving and supportive partner and good friends. This makes such a difference to my mental health, as a support network is everything.

Looking back, I can see how much bipolar has shaped my life, causing me to abuse drugs and alcohol at a very young age. I have been in addiction recovery for years, and this has helped me a lot. Living with bipolar is like having a powerful, cyclonic force inside myself that hurls me up, down and anywhere it pleases, dragging me along with it. My darkest days were the heavily addicted, suicidal ones. I was sick and delusional, overdosing on one occasion, and nearly throwing myself off

the Sydney Harbour Bridge on another. Thankfully, my will to live has pulled me through my darkest times. I have had numerous mental breakdowns even with years of addiction recovery under my belt. There were times I needed to be hospitalised and didn’t get the help I needed.

The road back from the brink has been a long one, but here I am. Maintaining stability is a daily thing which depends on getting enough sleep, eating well and keeping stressful situations out of my life as much as I can. Overcommitment is a problem for me, especially during hypomanic episodes when I think I am superhuman.

In spite of constant and distracting sounds, noise and music in my head, I am getting well. I still get moods, but nothing like before.

Having a pet is wonderful for me. Cuddling and playing with my dog brings me such joy. Having her warm little body cuddling next to me is precious. This, creativity, good people, healthy living and laughter have all contributed to me learning to live with mental illness.

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Making Music and Video’s

www.youtube.com/watch

Music! One of the greatest therapies of all time. Singing, playing an instrument, performing and recording have been my outlet for a long time. Writing songs channels experiences, emotions, seasons, time and place.

I believe having a creative outlet is necessary for everyone, not just those with mental illness. I make no money from my creativity, but it enriches my life and gives it a special meaning. It is vital to my wellbeing, even when I’m not feeling well.

I am interested to know how others here channel their creativity. I bear in mind that some people find their outlet in sport, yoga, meditation or escaping to nature. Those things help me greatly as well, and enrich my life.

I have included a link to a song I wrote and recorded, and a video I made to go with it. I wrote the song on a cruise ship. (A huge shout out to my lovely parents, who financed the cruise in spite of their own sudden financial pressures. I can never afford to go overseas or interstate.)

I have been met with a slow and limited reception sharing this song on Social Media. I must keep going though, in spite of this, and in spite of what others think or don’t think. It is good for my mental health.

My challenge is to persevere, something I have never been good at.

I have a friend who is a writer. She has doggedly persevered with her writing in spite of many years of rejections. She is now releasing a new book. I admire this!

I would like to know what people’s outlets are. So if you are reading this, I’d like to hear from you. And if you are not reading this…

Perseverance

A lesson for me.

No More Blame, Bias or Shame

No More Blame, Bias or Shame

No More Blame, Bias or Shame
— Read on jamesedgarskye.com/2018/04/12/no-more-blame-bias-or-shame/

Bipolar. Acceptance and Self Love

I don’t know what to write about so I’ll just start saying anything that comes to my mind. Maybe that’s the best way, as trying to force writing is a bit like trying to pull a car out of mud. Writing to censor myself in front of an audience doesn’t seem to create inspiration or drive in me. I cannot worry about being judged. I cannot censor myself. I need to take the risk and be vulnerable, to a point, but not to the point where it hurts me.

Accepting that I have Bipolar leaves me with a vulnerable feeling. I feel a bit of a red, embarrassed feeling. I don’t know why. I shouldn’t feel this way. If other people don’t want to talk about mental illness, that is their issue, not mine.

But a thought comes to mind, and it goes like this: “You are exaggerating, being silly, making things up, being dramatic” etc.

About something that has affected me my whole life.

We are not full of “self pity”. We do not make things up. We do not choose to live life on a constant roller coaster ride.

We do not choose to feel so depressed we are suicidal. Nor do we choose to feel so destructive, we want to put our fists through glass, punch walls, kick and throw things, cut, hurt or destroy ourselves.

Bipolar is not a choice. It has chosen me.

I can choose to do all I can to help myself though. I can choose to view myself as a strong woman, not a victim.

Meds have stopped the crazy meltdowns and screaming in the street when something goes wrong. They have stopped the violent rages.

Before diagnosis and meds, I was unable to face the part of me that screamed, yelled, cried and destroyed things, then wept in a little ball for long periods of time. I was simply unable to cope, scared and embarrassed. I constantly worried that people would see me in this state, judging me as mad, bad and dangerous to know. Somehow not good enough.

But I am good enough. And so are you.

The days of pretending to be normal and hiding myself from myself are thankfully over. This sets me free.

I don’t know what ‘normal’ is, apart from that it’s a setting on a washing machine.

I’ll never be ‘normal’ and I’m okay with this.

My moods will never be normal. More controlled perhaps, but never normal.

Mental illness might not define me, but moods define my day. Some days, the moods are stronger, other days more manageable.

My moods change rapidly in a day. I can feel inspired one minute, dull and flat the next. I can be outgoing one minute, then suddenly this will change and I want to hide from the world. Some days it hurts to talk to people or do anything.

The highs feel great when they are not full of irritation, anger or panic attacks. They are great when they are not destructive. I want to do ten different projects at 2am. I feel great, invincible, touched by God, inspired and super-charged. But the problem with highs is that they are always followed by lows. It’s like the crash you get after drinking coffee, eating sugar or taking drugs.

The lows pain me. They are a psychic pain that hurts from deep within, a pain I can’t control or stop, but long for an end to. I can’t help but hang on for dear life, clutching at the couch in despair and fear when the lows hit. All I want to do is sleep away the pain. Eating and self care hurt with the effort.

It is worse than this when I don’t take my meds. I’d hate to think where I’d be without meds. Arrested? In hospital? A chronic drug and alcohol addict. Dead. I have been there when I was young, and live to tell the story.

No meds, no life. No recovery no life.

Today I have a choice: Accept myself and my condition, treat it and live my life.

I can’t fight the moods. It makes them too powerful. I can’t take away the moods. I have tried all my life to do that and it doesn’t work. I have no choice but to ride the tiger and go with the moods, not against them. I’m tired of fighting a losing battle.

I can meditate, exercise, talk, write and do my art and music. There is peace in accepting my illness, peace in the face of no peace. I can be helpful and productive in my life.

I am here for a purpose and so are you.

Our brains might be different, but we do not have to devalue ourselves for it.

We are unique. We are valuable. We have gifts. Always remember that.

Inspiration for Flat Times

I am not feeling particularly inspired today, but that doesn’t mean I am uninspiring as a person. Some days, the creative juices flow more than others. On the days when I am feeling flat, I worry that inspiration has left me for good. It hasn’t. Like the sun, it has just gone behind the clouds for a bit.

Starting new ideas is easy. Keeping with them is harder. Especially when the universe does not seem to be listening. During these times, it can be a challenge to take my place in the world knowing that I matter, that my ideas mean something and are worth pursuing.

Physical and mental disorders can take a toll on the sufferer. Even though meds mean less duration and severity of mood, breakthrough symptoms can still strike me.

Getting on the right combination of meds is a major issue with treatment and management of Bipolar Disorder. Too high and I’m sleepless, anxious, distracted, jittery and agitated. Speech is pressured and constant. I think my ideas are the best ideas in the world. These ideas demand for attention. Thoughts race through my brain like noisy ghosts. I am caught in an undertow, pulled along and swept away. I paint the bathroom at 3am. No activity is too outrageous. Life gets unmanageable very quickly. I cannot function for the anxiety that rips through my body. Anger and impatience take me over. I feel like I am high on drugs without taking any. Take less antidepressants and more Latuda.

Depression is the worst one for me. I’m scared, slowed. An unbearable flatness takes me over. A pain like no other. I can’t think straight. I want out of the pain. I can’t run nor hide. I want to sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t stop crying. Either that, or I can’t feel anything. I feel dead inside. It’s distressing beyond belief. More antidepressants and Lamictal.

Right now, I am flat. Not suicidal. Just flat. And I have many wonderful things to live for. But the fires of the mind are causing me distress, and I can’t cope.

So here are some of the things I do to help myself get through the difficulties:

Pat a dog. Or a cat, or any animal for that matter.

Have a coffee in a coffee shop and write out my thoughts honestly, no censorship.

Take my dog to the beach.

Carry around an adult colouring in book and use it. Helps with anxiety symptoms.

Make art, or music if I am up to it.

Curl into a ball and ride it through, knowing it will pass.

Call someone non-judgemental and talk to them.

Meditate using the Smiling Mind app. I’m sure there are other good meditation apps out there for those who live outside of Australia.

Write a gratitude list. Even if I can only think of one thing to write down. By writing that one thing, I always think of other things I am grateful for.

Help someone. Gets me out of my head. Smile at someone. Be nice to someone.

Watch a movie or documentary.

And the list goes on.

For as long as there is life, there is hope.

Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed – My Addiction and Recovery Story.

There are times in my life where I have become stuck, believing I will never overcome obstacles. When people say ‘have faith’, what does that mean? I am not religious, but if this form of faith works for you, then I am glad it does.

When I first started drug and alcohol recovery in AA, Bill Wilson, it’s founder, talked about having ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’ This concept jumped out at me from the get-go. Faith for the faithless. I could handle that. Faith in bite sized pieces. Faith for people of all ages, nationalities, denominations and beliefs, religious or non-religious. I needed whatever hope I could cling to.

I came into AA and NA recovery a garden-variety wreck. I had no sense of hope whatsoever, because I was staring into the face of death. I didn’t believe anything could improve for me. I hated the world, and myself. I was psychotic, believing I was worthless, that my family were better off without me.

I stole whatever I could get my hands on.

I must have had faith though, because I stepped into my first meeting, thinking, that maybe, there was the tiniest possibility it would help me.

I went to a run-down inner-city meeting of NA for the first time in my young life. I knew I had a problem with drugs, but I couldn’t identify the alcohol problem. Whatever. Booze is a drug so powerful and destructive, it can destroy every organ in the body. It’s just a legal drug. Identifying as an alcoholic would come a bit later, when I showed up at my first detox.

Alcohol and cannabis were my daily-use drugs. Pills, coke, acid, speed and codeine were running a close second, threatening to bloom into full-blown addiction, especially coke.

I didn’t think I was enough of an addict to join recovery. I was too young. I wasn’t sleeping on a park bench in Hyde Park. I was doing postgraduate at uni, writing assignments on Adolescent Development and teaching at Vaucluse High School, totally off my face. It was about that time I overdosed.

Heroin addicts urged me to get help immediately, telling me my drug was worse than theirs because it had made me crazy.

Point taken. So I packed my bags and headed off to recovery. And the rest is history, one day at a time.

Having faith, for me, means I cannot tackle all my life problems at once. It means I stay off abusing substances one day at a time. It means seeing the beauty all around me, no matter how small.

It means taking life one step at a time.

When I am upset about the worlds problems, I have to make a decision to bring my affairs, and my reality back into today.

When Bipolar Depression hits me hard, I remind myself to see beauty in the face of a passing child, in my dog putting her little head on me, in my partner, a kind and good man, in my parents and brother, who I am close too. Addiction didn’t take away my family, and I remind myself of this.

I am hoping this coming Winter will be Depression-free, that the meds will help me.

Whatever the outcome, I will be kind to myself and keep moving in a forward direction, even if things try to send me backwards.

Small Within it’s Raging Torrent

To begin is hard. To get my thoughts out into the world beyond my mind is healing, and yet I don’t always find the time to do this. Sometimes, many times, I find myself small, a tiny fish surrounded by, and swimming within a huge, swirling torrent of Bipolar Disorder Type 2.

Bipolar 2 has been described as ‘Soft Bipolar’ It isn’t. Swirling torrents, and constant noise in the brain are not what I would describe as a soft experience. I may not be running down the street naked, but I have come close to doing so.

24 years of recovery in AA and Al-Anon (and some time spent in NA) has given me the strength so far to not act on every impulse Bipolar throws at me. However, Bipolar is extremely powerful, and, like addiction, it is way more powerful than I am.

Bipolar. Do stupid things faster with more energy.

And I have done some crazy stupid things.

Like driving my car on the footpath.

Nearly killing myself on drugs and alcohol.

Acting out sexually with really stupid people.

Yelling out at people in the middle of the car park exit facing lines of beeping Range Rovers, Nissan Pajero’s and other cashed up army tanks wanting to go home.

“Don’t use this car park, it is stupid!”

Hurling objects through the air in a rage that takes me over, and having people call in the Crisis Team. Then when they finally arrive and ask me how I am, telling them I am fine. Pretending to be ‘normal’ Denying and refusing help when help is offered.

Being a suicide risk.

Presenting myself at Caritas in the middle of the night, but telling them I was okay, when in reality, I was at risk of doing something really, tragically stupid. Devastating for myself and my loved ones.

Telling myself I am stupid, when in reality, I am not stupid at all, I have a condition.

And many other experiences over the years, too many to mention in full.

Fortunately, the myth of ‘Soft Bipolar’ is being debunked by mental health professionals these days.

The reasons for this is because Bipolar Disorder is on a spectrum, with some people experiencing more depression symptoms on one end (blue), while others experience more mania (red) on the other end of the spectrum.

Bipolar 2 Disorder is heavy on the depression side, often getting misdiagnosed for years as Unipolar Depression before correct diagnosis is reached. This happens because people don’t tell the doc when they are feeling high, because ‘hooray! Life is great! I’m not depressed!’

People usually seek help for the nasty, unpleasant symptoms such as suicidal depression. This is what I did for years, because I was in a psychic pain that was indescribable and profound, and I wanted out of that pain. The highs were a relief from the lows.

Bipolar 2 Disorder has a high suicide rate, but I am a woman of tough Scottish blood, and I refuse to be a statistic. I take my meds every day because if I don’t, Bipolar will destroy me.

I was prescribed antidepressants, which are dangerous for people with Bipolar because they send them into orbit, into mania or hypomania.

And what goes up, must come down.

Sleepless highs, then crashes. Not being able to function.

Losing jobs before they are even found. Not being able to concentrate due to the noise inside my brain.

Which really pisses off bosses, coworkers and clients, who have no idea why it is like it is.

I have just lost all my dog walking work, in part due to the sporadic nature of the work, so, not my fault.

However, one woman witnessed me having a meltdown in the street outside her house due to me not being able to concentrate enough to keep track of the keys.

Is this why work has suddenly ceased to exist with her? I’ll never really know, however, I have a history of losing work, not being able to stick to careers or projects, melting down under pressure, and just plain old running away.

Spike Milligan called it advancing in the opposite direction.

Being too depressed to get out of bed or get out of the house. Or so hyper that it pisses people off, or just plain old angry and irritable.

Soft Bipolar has derailed many a career, dream and project for me. I don’t say this to complain. It is just a fact.

If anybody tells you mental illness is made up, fake, attention seeking or deliberate bad behaviour, they are wrong.

I give such people a body-swerve. They may not be fully aware of the facts regarding mental illness, and this is innocent on one hand, misguided on the other, and damaging to my sense of self worth.

I am simply a person doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

And I’ve done well in many areas.

I am a survivor who is flourishing in spite of a mental illness that can really take it out of me.

Do You Want to have an Interview Featured on the Bipolar Writer? — The Bipolar Writer

It has been a pleasure to write the interview feature articles that I have featured on my blog over the last few weeks. It is always hard to tell the story of another dealing with mental illness. But to have people trust in my ability as a writer and allowing to put in words their […]

via Do You Want to have an Interview Featured on the Bipolar Writer? — The Bipolar Writer

Depression is not a Lifestyle Choice

I don’t know what to write about. It feels like such a long time since I last wrote. I am feeling really affected today. I watch video blogs by a lady I find very helpful and insightful. She has Bipolar and Borderline Disorder, so she battles this thing on two fronts. I take my hat off to her. In one video, she talked about fearing depression. I can relate to that. I could be having an off day, or even an off few hours, and I automatically think it’s the big D coming on. It’s understandable we fear depression. Going through it is frightening, stressful, out of control. I never know how long it’s going to go on for. Days, hours, weeks or maybe months? I’ve had it for longer than that, and got very suicidal. Nobody seemed able to diagnose anything or put me on the right meds. It’s testimony to my inner strength and 12 Step recovery that I survived this terrible period. It went on for a year, and it terrified the crap out of me.

Depression is worse than coming off drugs. You can’t sit, you can’t stand, you can’t think. You want to be everywhere, and yet you don’t want to be anywhere. I get the agitated, distressed type of depression where I feel like I am unravelling. My brain is in a sludgy, mushy fog. I can’t get up or do anything. Everything feels dull, turgid, bleak and pointless. My body aches. All I want to do is sleep and escape. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes nothingness. Depression is a pain like no other.

Telling someone to be positive, wake up to themselves and to think of people worse off than themselves is pointless. This approach may work for a normal, blue day, but it does not work for someone experiencing Bipolar or Major Clinical Depression. The reason for this is down to chemical imbalance in the brain. Our brains simply misfire. Our brains cannot be relied upon.

Depression is not a choice. I don’t know where this highly illogical line of thinking came from, and I wish it would go away. Thinking people choose or fabricate mental illness is like thinking people choose diabetes or stroke. Such thinking is harsh and lacking in any form of caring or compassion. Such thinking promotes even more stigma and bullshit.

All we want to do is get well and stay well.

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