We warriors need a bit of time out …

May has come and gone and here is June.  It’s been a few weeks since I posted on here.  Things have been going quite well and I’m grateful.  We all need a break from worrying about how we feel so its lovely not to have to for this window of peace.   I’m keeping up with my exercise programme which is easier in the Summer when the mornings are light and sunny.

When I feel well my thoughts turn to writing.  Just as,  I suppose,  my thoughts also turn to writing when I don’t feel well but in this latter case it is much harder to engage with the process.

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I suppose what I mean is that writing about victory over  struggle is more interesting than writing about a nice day when nothing much happens,  although I am so glad to have a few days of calm when nothing much happens and I suspect I’m not alone!

I recently took part in a mental health focus group where the discussion ranged over many topics including: ‘What do we mean by mental health?’ and safeguarding for organisations. It was an interesting experience but it struck me that we were trying to discuss how to handle ‘mental illness’ ie in the safeguarding aspect,  when we had not even agreed on what we meant by mental health.   This is not unlike trying to measure the distance of a course run by a runner,  when you have no idea where and when he or she started the course.

This focus group consisted of non experts in the medical sense but most of us had either personally suffered or had experience of living with mental illness which in my view is about as expert as it gets.    If I went to a Doctor for treatment I don’t think I would really want one that had not the slightest idea of the reality that I mostly live with, although it seems to my limited experience that this is often the case.  On the other hand no -one wants to be treated by someone who is so depressed they can’t think straight.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  If I go to a Doctor with a broken arm I don’t expect the person treating me to have personally broken a limb in order to qualify to set my arm in a cast! Hopefully, the experience of setting other arms in casts is enough.  But that is not the case with mental health because everyone’s experience is different and because there are not always visible symptoms or a known healing sequence: X-ray;  broken bone; plaster cast; bone sets; move on.

We wish.   I’m sure there are plenty of definitions and diagnoses and learned tomes out there as well as empirical evidence.  But how woefully little is still known about this aspect of human health.

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Paying the Bills in This Bipolar Life

Mental illness and paying the Bills

I was asked to talk about something that I thought would be a perfect blog post subject, how do you pay the bills when your mental health affects your everyday life? I think that is a great question, and a complicated one.

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Paying bill no matter what is a major part of being an adult even with a mental illness. Mental health suffers can struggle to either maintain their current jobs or to find one that will fit your mental illness. In my own journey, I have spent a good part of the last ten years unable to hold down a job or even work.

For years, my mental health kept me from working. There were days, weeks, months, and yes, even years where I was doing nothing. At times in mental illness life, we have no control over ourselves, and it is not that we want to do nothing, it is that mental illness can be debilitating and in many ways, it can be impossible to work. It can be tough to work when depression is controlling you, or your anxiety keeps you from leaving the house.

Take my social anxiety. At times when it is at its worse, it is impossible to leave my house for days or weeks at a time. It can be so scary when I am inside for weeks. When depression and my social anxiety take over all at once it is even harder to function, it is why I chose to go to school and focus on creative writing, first with my bachelor’s degree and now with my master’s degree.

Writing has become my career (I have a publisher for my book, and together we are working towards publication) but I was asked what I have done throughout the last few years to pay bills. This is hard to answer because everyone is different. For me, the last four years of freelance writing, editing, and proofreading have been what pays my bills, but it has always been feast or famine.

I am always writing. It is my life, and I believe that I will make money in the next year with my writing, but this post comes at a good time because I am looking at ways to tutor and teach using my bachelor’s degree. I would like to eventually transition to online teaching, but I have gained some experience, and so there are online options to tutor or teach in California with certain certifications or options to teach online. Right now I am working through my school for help on figuring out other avenues of revenue until my writing takes off.

It is impossible for me to say that this is the right path for you, but if writing is what you love, then do the necessary research. You could go back to school like I do, or find work in a field that you can work online. There is no perfect path because there will always be a mental illness in your life, there is no cure. But it comes down to if you are willing to work on succeeding at something if your willing to work, and if you’re not ready–then give it time. Even The Bipolar Writer has struggled in their life. It is not forever.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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Remember…

Remember…

Remember who you are.

Remember how you got here.

Remember what you love.

Remember what happiness is.

Remember your friendships.

Remember where you’re going.

Remember to accept your diagnosis.

Remember that you are not your illness.

Remember to have hope, to love and have aspirations.

Remember to allow yourself to feel and to live.

Remember that you are human and perfect in your imperfections.

Remember to let go.

Remember to move on.

Remember.

To be.

Remember this,

That your existence proves that there is a perfect world;

That perfect world is within you.

Unleash your inner magic and allow your inner-tuition to guide you.

Love yourself.

Always, remember this.

Love, Francesca

Spring, Mental Health style

brian-garcia-196959-unsplashThis is not a gardening blog. Just as well because I am not a gardener.   But which of us is not encouraged by Spring?   It’s a cold one here in the UK.  The January gloom that descends every year,  swiftly followed by feverish February, has finally departed.    Snowdrops and winter aconite have made their appearance and those that know about gardens are starting to head out there and mull over the tasks to be done.   Soon bluebells will be covering the woods and it is time to feel hopeful again.

Nurturing life is a creative activity.   The trouble with mental illness – and there are many troubles with mental illness – is that when things go well I’m like the town mouse who forgets to store up seed for the winter because, hey its always going to be summer and let’s party!  By the time I remember that it isn’t always going to be summer, I can’t concentrate on storing up seed, and things start falling to bits. When winter hits, and there’s no seed in the cupboards because I was too busy partying and celebrating summer, then I start beating myself up for being disorganized and blaming myself for being useless, then I feel bad and can’t bring myself to go to the Doctor because he’s useless too and so on.    In between metaphorically partying and mentally beating myself up, I am not nurturing but engaging in extremes. So I have developed some rules for my mental health gardening.

  • Protect emotions from snow as snow puts pressure on branches and bends them. Stay warm. Be kind.
  • Check all stakes and supports – accept encouragement where its offered rather than thinking ‘you have no idea what my life is like,’ even if the person doesn’t have any idea what my life is like I can give them credit for trying.
  • Plan ahead – make the best of the good days when it feels like anything can be achieved
  • Prune tendencies to lock myself away – accept help.  Everyone needs a bit sometimes.
  • Feed seedlings something sensible.  They don’t like sugar!

 

Broken wiring

Mmm. Interesting. What are my worst symptoms? That’s a tough question to answer.   Feeling like death every day, lack of ability to concentrate, restlessness, depersonalisation, bouts of anger which I turn in against myself; either caring far too much about things or not caring at all.   Feeling like I am composed of a series of broken switches, none of which is sparking properly.  Not being (or rather not feeling)  a valid human being whatever one of those is.  No sleep.  Exhaustion.   Life looks like one big pointless empty space.

A friend  who was diagnosed with a physical disease said however horrendous the disease was and the treatments,  it was easier to deal with than depression.  People who suffer with mental health issues –  who then also get physcial ailments –  are dealing with both things together.

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Anger is a tricky one.   Some aspects of anger are positive.  There wouldn’t be any charitable causes if people didn’t get angry about poverty.  Without anger, women would  never have got the vote; without anger no-one would ever have taken a stand against racial inequality.   But it has negative destructive sides as well. Keeping that under control is important.

What do I do when I feel this way?  I don’t drink alcohol nor do I take any medication.  That’s my choice and my decision for my own life.    But there are things I can do for myself – exercise is a big one.  I belong to a local gym and go at least three times a week.   I try and avoid too much screen time when I feel this way which is hard as we are all wired these days and writers spend half their lives on the internet.  I have my books, my writing. I used to buy books every time I got depressed but then found I was struggling to afford it.  Safe to say I have a lot of books!   And music too of course.  I listen to loads of classical music.   I often listen to my favourite band the Manic Street Preachers.  Although their lyrics are so full of existential angst I’m not sure why it’s therapeutic listening to them I just know that for me, it is.

Family is important. Sometimes I call my wonderful children who give meaning to my life.  I chant too.  But one of the best ways of making myself feel better is to stop thinking about my own stuff and do something to help someone else.   Not always easy but it works everytime.  I think one of the problems with depressive illness  is its tendency to isolate the sufferer.   This is a trap which is to be avoided at all costs,  because talking and being with other people is always constructive if you allow it to be.

What are Your Worst Mental Illness Symptoms

I feel better. My depression lessened over the weekend, and I have a good feeling about where the rest of February will go when it comes to the depressive episode being entirely over.

I have not felt this good since the first week of January. While thinking about what to write this week on my blog I came up with a question that I want to pose to the followers and contributors of The Bipolar Writer blog. Just a couple of questions.

Identify what you struggle with…

What are your worst symptoms?

How do you dea?

Feel free to leave your comments down below! Let us use this as a stepping stone to something great. Maybe it will inspire you to write a blog post!

Always Keep Fighting

James

unsplash-logoMarc-Olivier Jodoin

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Finding peace in meds

I never wished to discover how medication can be a quick and easy fix at times.

This past weekend, I felt like my old enemy depression was slowly creeping back in as I was suffering with the flu.

After having a panic attack as I started to fear the relapse of depression, I went through my med cabinet to take a mg of Klonopin (which is a benzo).

In about 30 minutes, it calmed the storm in my brain like nothing ever happened.

It’s been about a week and thankfully – I’m trying to taper down the amount I’m taking. But I hate myself for turning to medication as my first resort.

When I experienced my first ever depressive episode, I just terminated my therapy and have never seen a psychiatrist before. But now, I am back in therapy and under a watch of psychiatrist as I have my routine visits in his office.

I am scared, but not as scared. Because I know I CAN and WILL get better once more.

But, is medication really my ultimate answer to win this battle?

Mental Illness, Escapism, and Addiction

I have been on medication for my bipolar disorder – and depression before it – for a great number of years. The most recent cocktail of drugs has been the same since late 2015, when I nearly ended my own life, and it’s been keeping me pretty steady, as these things go. I’m not perfect, but the extremes of mood, the violent anger, and the crushing depressions are lessened, if not gone entirely.

I also drink. Not a lot – not every day – but when I drink, I usually drink too much. It’s contraindicated with my medications, but that doesn’t really mean much to me. I drink anyway. I drink, very specifically, to get drunk. I drink beer, I drink wine, I drink rum and scotch, and I drink quite deliberately, pacing myself over minutes and hours until I fall into a stupor in bed and sleep it off through the night.

I think, deep down, I’m somewhat of a hedonist. I don’t know if this comes from the depression or some other innate personality trait, but I am, for lack of a better phrase, a pleasure-seeker. I very much enjoy physical pleasure, and the sensation of drunkenness falls into this category for me. It’s a form of escapism that requires very little concentration or effort, and when it hits, I can just lie back and let it wash over me.

With medications keeping me level, why do I need escapism, you might ask. Why do I need a vehicle for altering my state of mind, when the whole point of the ‘official’ drugs is to keep my mind from entering that altered state in the first place?

I think a part of it is that I have conditioned myself over decades to avoid misery. I have been so miserable for so long that I instinctively gravitate to anything that feels good, happy or pleasurable. I have very little self-control in this regard; I don’t set rules for myself, like ‘you can have a drink after you do the dishes’; I just drink, and fuck the dishes.

Another part is, almost certainly, a dangerous level of chemical dependency. As I mentioned above, I don’t drink every day – but I do go through phases where I might drink daily for several weeks straight. I usually drink until I’m out of alcohol. It rapidly becomes habit. The same is true of other vices; I recently acquired a small amount of pot from a friend, and against my original intention of maybe once a weekend, I’ve been smoking three or four times a week.

This all leads me to question my behaviors, and the more fundamental motivations behind them. Do I smoke and drink because I’m miserable, because I’m addicted, or because I really kind of just … like it? Like all behavior affected by mental illness, it’s a difficult question to answer, because the very nature of mental illness is changed behaviors … but there comes a point where illness ends and addiction takes over.

I’m not an alcoholic; I know people who are, and I don’t ‘need’ booze to function. I’m not a drug addict; I don’t blow hundreds on weed, and I don’t smoke before, during and after work (for example). But I am dangerously close to this level of functional need, and I recognize it when the thing I look forward to at the end of the day is getting high and watching Family Guy reruns.

That’s usually when I stop – when I see the signs of tipping into the abyss, and take steps to right myself. So far I’ve always been able to come back from the brink, but I worry about one day …

Yet I continue anyway. I refuse to stop permanently. I refuse to relinquish the physical pleasures of drink and drugs. I don’t ‘need’ them, but I want them. Like, a lot.

And sometimes, I wonder if it’s really so bad. I’m aware of the long-term physical and mental changes and harm caused by alcohol and drug use, but I still can’t help believing that the immediate reward is worth it. Intellectually I know that liver damage, lung cancer and mental deterioration are some of the absolute worst ways to die, but emotionally … I kind of just don’t care. I’ve had people tell me that my health is all I have; I’ve heard the arguments before. But when your mental health fails you, you couldn’t care less about your physical health. And whilst the two are most definitely related, it’s difficult to have the second without the first.

That’s when I wonder if the escapism of physical pleasure isn’t worth it after all. The mental toll each day takes, whilst variable, is still a harsh one, and the ability to use a substance – of one kind or another – to forget it is dreadfully tempting. And I recognize this as a controversial perspective – why, you ask, don’t I deal with my problems instead of avoiding them – but I truly believe life is for living, and should be enjoyed daily, if at all possible.

What do you do, when your brain refuses to let you do just that? What do you do, when your own mind is a battleground of misery and despair? What happens when you wake up and simply can’t get out of bed? What is there to look forward to?

And in those trying times, is self-medication justifiable? Is it even self-medication at all – or just an excuse to escape from reality?

And is such escapism really so wrong?

The Bipolar Writer Needs Help… Again

https://www.gofundme.com/rasing-to-upgrade-the-bipolar-writer-blog

This is my GoFundMe under my real name David TC (I wasn’t sure if I could get the funds if I used my Pen Name James Edgar Skye.) Thank you in advance for donating!


So, my goal is $300. The cost to upgrade. If 100 people donate 3 dollars, I can reach my goal quickly (the donation button is below through PayPal.) I am going to try and keep this post going all weekend in hopes that I reach my goal. Please, if you can help it would be amazing, and if you can’t, I understand. I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here it goes!

If you can’t donate please reblog this post or share my GoFundMe link above, it would mean the world to me!

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Always Keep Fighting & Thank You

James

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Whelmed.

“I be high, then I be low.”-Kid Kudi

But seriously, this is how my life used to be. Before I sought out help to maintain my moods and take control of my life, I was constantly told that this is a normal reaction to things that happen in life. I believed that for so long because my life was in constant chaos. I mean, I guess I still have a lot of chaos but I am in more control now. I used to have these reactions to situations that everyone has play out in their minds. I would go from zero to one hundred in the blink of an eye.

What they don’t tell you is that you will plateau. You level out on mood stabilizers and I cannot describe it in any other way but nothingness. I believe that we (those with mood disorders) are so used to feeling an extreme that we lose our sense of being okay. It is almost as if I am looking for the next big dip or rise.

I guess I just need to get that thought out there. Now that I write it, it seems silly or pointless. When I started writing my blog I thought that it would be a place for me to reason with myself and my emotions. A healthy outlet to express what I am feeling and maybe find others who can validate what I am feeling because everything about getting better is new and foreign.

Now I feel that there may be people out there who are searching for a raw look into what those with mood disorders think and feel during “recovery”. As I write this I took time to look up “plateau bipolar” and found a rather interesting article describing the feeling as “whelmed“. LOL…literally LOL. I love that. It is perfect in describing that I am not overwhelmed or underwhelmed. I have hit a spot where my medication is adjusted just right (crosses fingers) and although I know that the appointments and therapy are necessary, I just don’t want to go because it seems like a chore now.

We all have things that we must do, but don’t realize the importance of until we stop. Brushing our teeth is a great one. We just do it and one day we might fall asleep on the couch without brushing before bed and wake up with a very REAL difference. My difference would be late night writing of lists and effortlessly running on 4 hours of sleep until my body gives out and I fall into a heap of exhaustive tears.

tomato tamoto though amirite?

I never mean to discount what all people feel. That is the best part about the internet. There is always someone out there living a different life that can relate on some level. Regardless if they have an identical illness or lead a similar life they can find a way to relate to that feeling you get.

I don’t wish that anyone has this feeling, but if you do I would love to know if you have anything that makes you feel better in the moment. For me, it is connecting with all of you beautifully minded people.