Clarity.

This is a two part post: The next part is scheduled to be posted tomorrow.

I want to start off by saying that I voluntarily see my psych doc weekly because I need a lot of accountability regarding my medication. It is a personal choice and in no way does it reflect my dedication to my mental health. I also have a therapist that I see biweekly. I am in no way manic and this is not a manic episode and it is not religious mania. I have been on a spiritual exploration for a few years now.

I always said that I was an atheist, and then I realized what an atheist is and I am not that. Then I said I was agnostic. I told people that I am too selfish to sit and learn about a particular faith to claim one. People really respected that and I meant it, but I wasn’t agnostic. I believed in a God, I just didn’t know which one. I prayed to a God. My God. It didn’t matter. I knew that I had no true control in my life. I wasn’t an accident. The world is bigger than me.

Then I started finding myself longing to be like a lot of people who emulate Jesus. I wanted something to be passionate about and to continue learning about. I wanted a higher power that I could name and a way to get to know Him. I turned to the Bible. Turns out it is literally thousands of pages. Where would I start? Would I understand it? Will it capture my attention or overwhelm me and I quit?

I tried a few bible studies and I completed maybe 3 of them. I tried and quit several. I really wanted a starting point, a place to get a foundation for the rest of my learning. I joined a small group so I could dive into the Bible and its meaning with an intimate group. It was amazing, and then I felt called out about being the only single person in the room. I didn’t go back. Then I started googling “what the Bible had to say about….” and reading from there.

I was having a really tough time with my sister. We were going back and forth about everything it seemed. Who is cleaning more, who is chipping in more, you name it. It was causing a huge rift. we smoothed it over but I still feel this tension in the air. Like she is waiting for the shoe to drop. It is familiar because that is how I felt when I had to move back in with them. It is strange to be on the other side and needing to forgive. This is the first time it occurred to me to turn to the Bible first. So I googled, “the Bible and forgiveness” and “biblical stories about forgiveness”. It returned wonderful scripture. I then wrote some of it down. Once I reviewed what I had found, I picked out some of my favorites. I noticed a lot of them were from the book of Matthew. I found myself emerged in this story that finally told me the ins and outs of how Jesus came to be. It has all kinda tumbled from there. I think I pick up my bible at least every other day now. I still am not completely independent. I still reach for the internet for a starting point, but I still read from there. I just feel better. I feel like I am in love with learning and also seeking comfort and guidance. It really calms me. I started to wonder if maybe that calm can be obtained through meditation and manifestation. I believe in manifestation. Maybe it is the positivity that it exudes or the feeling of influence it provides. Either way it feels like I accomplished something.

So I started looking into meditation and homeopathic ways of treatments or guidance.

(continued in next post)

Thirty.

30. Thirty. The big 3-0. I want to mark this time. (peep that pic of me celebrating graduation in late May)

If you would have asked 20 year old me what the next 10 years held…she would have thought that it sounded scary and wonderful, but it could never be her. She blamed everyone for her problems. She was endlessly in love with Joseph Anthony but She was months away from the hardest break up she had faced. She was wonderfully oblivious that her life was about to change courses in a big way. She didn’t really have a lot of close friends outside of Joe. Hannah was dating David and you all didn’t really get along with David. She had a less than ideal relationship with her family and believed that it was beyond repair. There were a lot of questions about where my life would lead me. She was also very secure with herself. She of course thought she could improve in her exercise and diet, but she had confidence and it was obvious. She had no idea that these fleeting, endorphin filled time was mostly a product of her bipolar.

 

This didn’t seem like a big deal until I thought of how fast it went by. How quickly 30 years of my life happened. What have I accomplished?

 

I am well established in my career. I have been in the health care field for 10 years.

I got my master’s degree.

I moved to Texas and back.

I have a pet kitty that makes my days better (You count your kids right?)

I received my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and started treating it.

I repaired many relationships that I had broken.

I have moved countless times, and it has allowed me experience more than one small bubble in Arizona.

I bought the newest car I have ever owned this year.

I made the big decision to start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice.

I have realized that it isn’t a relationship I fear, it is that I wouldn’t be accepted or understood. I am asexual.

I have made peace with the fact that I will most likely have my mom living with me for the rest of her life. I am truly okay with it.

 

30-year-old me is on a camping trip in the future. This is 29 years and 359 day old me. Present me is sitting in my room. She is in Mesa and live in a crappy one-bedroom mobile home with mom. That is right, you now care for your mom. Mostly financially because she can’t work but is still independent.  She sleeps in a recliner because you haven’t been able to afford the lift bed she needs. We just got approved for the apartment we are moving to. You prefer to rent an apartment over owning a home and having all the responsibilities or renting a home and having to landscape. This apartment is a dream. You have always looked at the high-end apartments as something you dream of living in. You dreamt of living in a beautiful apartment that looks like a model home. You love the idea of living in a really nice place and decorating it so that you are proud of it.

You love living with your mom. You rarely argue, and she holds you accountable on your self -improvement.

You packed up your shit, quit your job, and drove to Texas where you lived with your dad and Nicole for a year. Much needed. Super impulsive.

Things are rocky with your sister right now. She is following your footsteps and headed down an emotionally destructive path. That is a scary thought seeing as how you went without a diagnosis for your bipolar until you were 25. You have had a couple of relationships that fizzled out. It has been 7 years since your last one. It only feels like an embarrassment to say that when you imagine other people’s reactions. You are oddly okay with this. You have spent the last 7 years working on yourself, nurturing your mental health and mending relationships. You reconnected with Joseph. He turned into a real bar fly when you two hung out together. I do mean hook up if you are wondering. Turns out he had an ex-girlfriend living in the same house. You still love him, and you still think he is selfish and inconsiderate. He has gotten weirder and less mature if that is possible. He loves to wear leggings and outlandish attention drawing outfits and attend raves. He did meet a girl last year. They are expecting a boy next month. You don’t know that Joe has grown up, you think he just found someone to act like a kid with. She has a son in high school….don’t know if that was a teen pregnancy or she is that much older than us.

Hannah is still your true friend. She has changed A TON. She stands up for herself, has really matured career wise and is making more than you! She still feels like she doesn’t know what she is doing with her life. She is living it. She needs to look around. She is still letting pretty boys walk all over her. You constantly build her up and she is so critical of herself and her appearance. She got a boob job that she hates…and botox! As long as it is safe and makes her happy, I will never judge her.

You made the decision that you would start fertility treatments and become a single mother by choice. It is a long and expensive process, but you want it badly. Your mom and grandmother both had issues and could not have any kids after 30. Your aunt Cherril has cervical cancer. She isn’t doing well either. She has decided to not have any kind of treatments and doesn’t even want to take pain medication.

You write. You write in notebooks, on the back of paper plates, you have a blog, you bounce around on your ideas and just end up writing them all in a jumbled mess.

You lost your confidence and have gained at least 100 lbs. But your confidence was gone long before the weight came. After Sean, you were down. You were approaching the BPD diagnosis, but this sent you on a journey that you can credit your life to.

You started gaining weight and staying home. You went to the doctor for weight loss and then disclosed how you were really feeling, and she referred you to a specialist. Between the sadness and the weight gain, you felt ashamed. You stopped going out and packed on more weight. You are hyper aware of those around you. Careful never to agitate or inconvenience anyone. You have actually become pretty boring. You rarely show emotion and are too concerned about other’s opinions to be the silly person you were.

 

You hope that your next 10 years bring more joy, revelations about yourself, dreams come to fruition. You hope to overcome your biggest obstacle. Yourself.

In the next 10 years, you will have a baby. You will do two rounds of IUI before you get pregnant. You will become more confident in your work. You will increase dramatically in your salary as you are beginning to really establish yourself. You will become more involved in politics and religion…after all the wise Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.”. You will continue learning and educating yourself through reading and may even entertain the idea of a doctorate. You will most likely lose your grandparents. That is going to be the kick in the stomach of the decade. I hope you are somewhat graceful in your grief. I doubt this though. You will most likely have some issues in managing medications and potentially start being reckless at this time. I hope you come back here and remind yourself of how far you have come and how many people go through this.

My first 30 years have been challenging to say the least. I was dealt a tough hand and it didn’t help that I was manic for most of it. I have made strides in my mental health that have definitely rippled into the rest of my life. I am happy. Genuinely happy. I have you fine people to thank for some of that.

 

When the Bipolar Writer Believes in Something Special

Kim Johnson Thought Founder of Grounds for Clarity

This Kim Johnson, the Thought Founder of Grounds for Clarity. If you read my blog, you know I promote ideas that mean a great deal to me. If I believe in something that could help me and you, I am willing share it with a fellow sufferer like me.

Even as good as my life may seem at times we all feel the weight of the world. I have felt burnt out lately. In this case, I want to help Kim, a Mental Health Skills Lifestyle Coach, fill her upcoming seminar this Saturday and Sunday. I am participant because I believe in what Kim is doing.

“Right now if you are struggling with the whole world weighing on your shoulders? That you can never do things right. Or you feel like a failure?” -Kim.

I know I feel everything that Kim explains in the following video, please take a moment to watch this short video, and perhaps you will reach out to Kim as I did. Watch this seven-minute video.

About This Weekends Seminar

There are very few times when someone comes into your life and guides you to change. Kim has a spirit that wants to help those who right now are struggling. This week, Kim has helped me open up about my recent struggles with feeling burnt out in this life, and this upcoming Master Your Mind: Immersive, Anonymous Digital Retreat is the perfect opportunity for you to reach out to Kim @ groundsforclarity@gmail.com. Please join Kim and me (myself as a part of the group) in this seminar. She is ready to work with you, and there are still slots open.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Aaaaaand…Action!

Examine the image closely.  Imagine yourself on that stage, under those lights. Imagine all those seats filled with students. There’s anticipation in the air because they are finally quiet. Ready for the show to begin. All eyes on you. On your every move. On your outfit, your shoes, your hairstyle. Is your heart beating a little faster?

Mine certainly is!

Image result for teaching is

I am a socio-phobic extrovert. I was born a complete extrovert, easily talking to whoever, whenever. I sailed happily through primary school, a confident child.

In High School my little world came crashing down. I had gained some weight and by Gr 11 I was bullied daily about my appearance, my glasses, my nose, my “nerdy” long school uniform. I was the academic and music award type, not the party type. No boy ever looked in my direction. The bullying became so bad that I spent a week sitting in the school toilets in my Gr 12 year. I refused to go back to school and eventually completed Gr 12 through a correspondence course. Social phobia, extreme anxiety and depression hit me full in the face. To cut the sob story short, I spent most of my twenties and thirties avoiding people and social situations.

Which brought me to my choice to spend the first 10 years of married life on a farm, having very little contact with the outside world.

But Extrovert me started rearing her head more and more …she was alive and well, it turned out! We can run but we can’t hide from our true selves…

Extrovert me was in agony. No people, no daily goals, no money of my own, no control over my own life! Enough was enough!

Enter…Mrs O, or ” Mam” English teacher as my kids call me. ( find my teaching tales about life as a teacher in rural South Africa here http://teachingtough.wordpress.com)

Teaching brought the personality I was born with out in full force. There are times when I almost have an out-of-body experience, looking at myself from a distance and thinking “Who is this person talking to 40 teenagers ??? ”

Ten years ago I would have run for the hills.

I am so grateful that I didn’t.

Being “The One On Stage” takes it all out of you. Remember, you are a teacher from the moment you drive through the school gates to the moment you drive out. And being “The Teacher” means you are actress, mother, nurse, councellor, disciplinarian. For those hours on the school grounds you are “ON”.

You can’t show weakness, illness, tiredness. Embarrassment, doubt or anxiety. You have your role, and you have to play it. That is your job. Projecting confidence. Showing control. Shoulders back, steady voice, efficient.

Does it take all you’ve got to give?

YES.

Is it worth it?

YES. Absolutely, 100 % worth it. Even for a scaredy cat like me.

Image result for images cat

Unicorns.

In all my time of seeing mental health professionals, I cannot recall any of them simply saying, ” I can help you”. I have had many treatment plans, some successful and some not, but never someone who just came out and said that.

Dawn did. She is my new therapist. And she is a unicorn.

She listened and then explained what she thought was the root of things, a plan to approach it, and why. WHY! I LOVE WHY. Too often people just expect us to sit and follow instructions. We know our bodies and we know our lives. You can’t see us for an hour every so often and tell me that you know what is best for me. Granted, I am a huge proponent for modern medicine and listening to your provider, but sometimes they get it wrong.

I think Dawn is on to something. She has to be, because she is a freakin unicorn. I feel relief honestly. I was worried I was going to go into this and be the one running the show.  I already run the show too often, that’s why I need Dawn. I see a therapist because my mental health doc requires it….I might actually WANT to see her now.

The Zoloft they added to my cocktail has really helped.

I finished my masters degree program last night.

I just wanted to pop on and share my fantastic week with you beautiful people (and it’s only Tuesday!) I will have a lot more free time now that school is over. Hope to write more VERY soon 🙂

Dealing With Bipolar One Disorder as a Grad Student

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

I am a graduate student working on my MA in Creative Writing and English. I am also Bipolar. I deal with panic disorder and social anxiety. I have been successful so far in being a student while also staying focused on my writing. How does this happen?

I wish I could say it easy every day, but it far from the truth. I tend to keep this part of my life private. Discussing it now is an opportunity to share some of my wisdom in how dealing with mental illness as a student is about productivity. You have to put yourself in a good position by being productive, be good planning, and always staying on your toes.

One thing that college students don’t know is that colleges, whether online or not, have something in place for those with a mental illness. It is a disability that can affect your education. You are spending all that money on an education you deserve to be able to be comfortable. Talk to your academic advisor to get something put in place for those days where depression or anxiety can take over a week.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

An example. In graduate school, I am allowed an extra two days for assignments if I need additional days. My school’s resource sends a letter to my professors each semester. I did have to provide proof from my therapist and psychiatrist that I do have my diagnosis, and that is one of the crucial things to know. If you don’t have that, seek out help from your college to get help. Mental health is vital to being successful, especially with the expectations of graduate school. I have used this once in the last year of graduate studies, but its important to have that avaliable.

There are other essential things that I do. I plan my week, which includes working around freelance work and writing. I tend to be big on planning out every hour, but also I give myself time to work on mental health as well. I always take Mondays off, and that has proved useful for my mental health with everything that I do in a week.

Have people you can reach out to when things are bad. I am lucky that if need be, there are people in my life that understand the pressure of a graduate student and what that brings with a mental illness. If you ever need someone to chat with about anything, I am here, but I also am living the student life with a mental illness. It is about finding ways to be effective in your way. A mental health day is a fantastic thing you can do for yourself. I go out and do something that I love. Or I write, which is my sweet spot.

Being a student with a mental illness is never easy. It does not matter if you are an undergraduate or graduate student. There are so many resources out there for you. Take advantage of these things because they are there for a reason. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting.

James

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