My Journey to Stability, Pt. 3

by Shara Adams

A circle of blurred faces surrounded me, all talking at once. The level of chaos outpaced my own mind and I struggled to keep track of what was going on. Drugged and intoxicated beyond capable cognition, the world began to slip away once again. In the mess of voices, the realization of my fragile state caught the action of the paramedics and I was whisked down the stairs from the apartment to the ambulance. Because of the design of our place, a stretcher was worthless. They half carried, and half walked me down the precarious stairway. Once I was inside the bus, one of the paramedics joined me and began a pleasant conversation with me.

Blonde hair and blue eyes watched me intently. It may have been my lost mind, but at that moment, he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen. Smiling, I was lost in his hypnotizing gaze. His voice was soft and inviting. I felt like I could listen to it forever, and I did listen to it the whole way to the emergency room. He conversed with me to keep me awake and cognitive of what was around me, and it worked perfectly. It also kept my mind off the fact my husband had not come with me. I did not notice this fact in the middle of everything going on; he was completely absent from my side.

Once inside the ER, I was forced to drink charcoal from a small cup, and it did not take long for it to make a reappearance. It was absolutely disgusting, and my toxic stomach contents were having none of it. Frustrated nurses yelled at me for throwing it up and then gave me another cup – but I never touched it to my lips. Without something to focus on, I was slipping away from the bright lights of the room. Metal walls of the elevator were my final memory before losing consciousness. I have no recollection of being in the ICU or being ‘asleep’. No dreams or thoughts; it was as if I went to bed and woke up the next morning but waking up this time was a much different experience.

Stirring in the hospital bed, my eyes opened several days after my arrival. I felt lost and confused at my surroundings, but my eyes fell on a familiar face and relief washed over me. I am sure she felt the swell of relief as well. My mom had driven about 740 miles in eight hours to be by my side. We later calculated that she had averaged about 95 mph the entirety of the drive, never being pulled over. There was always a driver going faster than she was, and they were the ones to get caught. Her foot never left the gas pedal, and I will never make fun of her panic.

Once awake and somewhat aware of where I was, I noticed the lack of a certain person from the room: my husband. This was something my mom attempted to fix, but it was only mildly successful. He came to visit me once during my entire stay, but never said a word and refused to look at me. He sat on my bed and I rubbed his back, but nothing I did to interact with the stone-faced body made any difference. His blatant resentment was more than I could overcome. I began to wonder if I went too far to prove my point, but it also seemed to be working.

The chaos from the apartment had compartmentalized in my mind, blurry and distant memories, just like that night.

by Shara Adams

For more stories by Shara Adams, visit http://pennedinwhite.com.

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 2

“…you’re the spawn of the Devil!” 

After watching the pictures fly across the room, my husband turned back to his screen, acting unfazed by my actions or words.  His response, or lack thereof, only confirmed my decision; I had to reveal him to the world as the true demon he was to me. Red flags waved the last four years, but I brushed them away, creating excuses for his behavior and words. He was a narcissistic bastard taking advantage of my ignorance. For all those years, I blamed myself for everything he did said, convincing myself it was my fault for the way he treated me. I needed to learn my place in his sick world. Being young and naive, I did not realize how I was being manipulated by someone who was supposed to love me.  

I wanted to scream, but the sound never left my throat. Instead, I staggered over to my chair, sitting down with an obscene lack of grace and nearly toppling over. My desk was a mess, but what I was looking for was within easy reach. The Jameson thudded against the wood as I snatched up a white bottle. Effexor was the anti-depressant I was prescribed after a questionnaire was given to me for the Bipolar diagnostic process in 2007, of which it was determined I had Major Depression, not Bipolar Disorder. Several attempts to find a medication were made to help me feel somewhat normal. None of them worked, but I stuck with Effexor despite the roller coaster. 

By Shara Adams

I did not feel suicidal, but the world needed to open its eyes and see him for who he was. The world needed to see me, to save me from the hell I was living. Rising to my feet, I opened the white bottle and poured out a handful pills. I reached for the Jameson without counting the capsules and set my reserve; I knew what I had to do to save myself and destroy him. My shoulders rolled back with determination, but my thoughts remained a jumbled mess from the alcohol and my inundated emotions. The world was spinning, and I did not know what to think or feel. All I knew was I had to escape the pathetic excuse of a man. 

“Is this what you wanted?” 

Turning to face me, I smirked with satisfaction. I had his full undivided attention, for once. The impact I planned on having with my actions, played over and over in my head. I did not know what was going to happen, and my mind did not consider the consequences which were possible. Blinded by the potential freedom, I could not back away from my decision. As I held the pills in my hand with a drink in the other, I threw them all to the back of my throat and followed them with the last of the Jameson.

Relief washed over me as I sat back down, ignoring him. I felt I had done the right thing, but after several minutes, the world started to disappear and I began to question myself – like always. I tried to blame it on the entire bottle of liquor, which I had consumed in a matter of a few hours. About ten minutes later, a knock on our apartment door brought the light back, but I could not move. Before I reached the count of three, five to six people swarmed into our small space and surrounded me both physically and verbally. I was confused as to who they were, why they were here, and what they were asking, but I responded to their probing questions as best I could. The realization hit me like a brick after several questions: they were paramedics.

My husband had called 911. For once in his life, he may have done the right thing.

By Shara Adams

More stories can be found at pennedinwhite.com

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 1

Excitedly, I join this blog’s wonderful team. I have been passionate about mental health for many years, and I hope to be able to share my journey as I continue to navigate through life with a mental illness. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II in 2009 (also in 2004, but I was a minor) and just like many others, my road has not been easy. I am a survivor of domestic abuse, so the hurdles I have jumped remind me of what I am capable of overcoming, no matter what life can dish out. Though I plan to write a memoir of all my experiences, here I would like to simply share my road to stability and beyond. It is not a lighthearted tale at first, but it is an important one. Just as the past is important, so is the future. We are amazing and the world needs to know all our stories.

My Journey to Stability, Pt. 1

With a bottle of Jameson in one hand, wedding pictures in the other, and a kitchen knife at my side, tears ran down my cheeks and frantic thoughts pounded in my skull. I sat, knees to chest on the bed, contemplating my next move. After being together for five years, I was beginning to understand the danger of our year-old marriage. You were an evil entity in my life and even my drunk mind believed the thoughts whispered in its ear. I spent more time intoxicated than sober when I was around you or thinking about you. The things you did to me, or made me do, were not normal for a healthy relationship.

After a Colorado courthouse wedding, we decided it was time to move to the state we shared our vows. I found a job before we moved, and you were taking your remote job with you to our new home. If I drank a lot before we moved, it only increased ten-fold with our arrival in the mountains. You were either emotionally absent or degrading me enough to force me to try and forget your words. It was as if our vows, the year before, meant nothing to you. Perhaps they did not, and never had, but I was determined to keep up my end of the bargain. I loved you, but I questioned my sanity because of it.

Another swig of liquor and my eyes thrummed with intoxication. Our blurry smiles made no sense to me as my gaze passed from distorted faces to the shiny metal of the knife. No, it was not for you. It was never for you because I was always the problem…not you. You made me believe I was destroying our marriage, not your flirting, sexual escapades, or even an unhealthy relationship with bottom shelf vodka. At an impasse, I sat on the bed for close to an hour, trying to sort through shifting thoughts and emotions. In my heart, I knew what I had to do, but my courage hesitated as I left the knife on the bed and stumbled to the living room, where you sat at your computer.

My face was set with a determination and anger I had never felt before. Perhaps it was a spark of hatred, but at the time, such a notion was wishful thinking. With the bottle in one hand, and the photo album in the other, I made myself heard. The words poured from my lips with ease, as if I had been wanting to say them for years and had lacked the courage before. I felt no regret and stood tall with a newfound strength. I watched the pictures float to the floor, smiling with a grim understanding of my next move.

“…you’re the spawn of the Devil!”

Your Shadow By Shara Adams

(More stories can be found at pennedinwhite.com)

All pictures by Shara Adams.

Week Two of Life Coaching

Something I learned this week was a great metaphor. It involved rocks, and it was an idea that Kim came up with, and it was my action for my week ahead. The basis is the idea that rock represents all the doubts and the past lying on the ground. The point for me to address the rocks in the backpack. I can go two ways. I can pick up the rock and look at it and move on. Or I can continue to add the weight until it overwhelms me as it did just a month ago.

Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

Life happens in the moment.

If you are looking for your own journey into lifestyle coaching that envokes change in your life, if you are stuck under a mental illness diagnosis and want relief from someone who has experience in the core of what causes suicide, please reach out to Kim Johnson, @ Groundsforclarity@gmail.com. You can find her at www.groundsforclarity.com

I am now two weeks and about to start the third week of my life coaching journey, and I am growing. I started as a seed that wanted to grow by trusting the process, and now I am beginning to understand the growth. Kim has been a great resource to allow me to grow and be the one that is taking the tools she gives me to be in the now. For one hour a day, I connect with my life coach, and then I apply that into my week until the following Tuesday. It feels amazing.

The One Hour Session

If you think you can’t grow in an hour, you should spend some time with my life coach. We began focusing on the feelings that were on the external. Using my eyes as an observation tool to find what was on my mind. The projects that needed to be done, school, money, and situations and bring it back to find me in the present. The peace that you find is incredible when you work on mindfulness. 

We talked about the thing that was on my mind a lot of late. When I spend time living in my past to catch up with the lost years, and how I live in the future. Neither is helpful to me staying present in what I am doing now. I am a work in progress, but I can catch myself in moments when my focus should be on something like working out, and my mind wanders. It is a great feeling to begin to find a level of awareness. Living in those two places made me feel horrible, and it was commonplace since I lost my mom in December. I was not living in the present because my mom is there in my past and here. Yet, as I continue to learn from Shelby Forsythia when I give myself room to grieve, I give myself moments like I had this past Monday.

Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Letting go made me feel so good! I tend to live in my head and Kim and I have noticed and it is the place where things go wrong in my life. My brain is where I carry most of my weight, and that is the best and worst of me when I overthink every situation.

I gave myself a permission slip to just be in the here and now. It makes for a better James. I stopped with the excuses of my mom’s death or even with my mental illness. Any excuse that I was given to live in the past and future. For me, there always had to be a problem to be fixed or something to fill in the time that I was not grieving, because I needed to grieve, but I was not allowing the space.

I was living in a box that was my desktop screen. I was sitting in front of it from the moment I woke to the moment I slept, working on what I believed was a million things, and letting the ego control me. I was letting The Bipolar Writer and James Edgar Skye become defining identities that were feeding the ego, these are a part of me, but when I allow it to control what I do, it never works out, thank you, Eckhart Tolle and Kim. The thought is a tool, not a prison cell. I have this box that full of all the anxieties, the trails, identities, personal issues, mental illness, and all the negative thoughts. I can allow myself to build the door out of the box.

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplas

Something I learned this week was a great metaphor. It involved rocks, and it was an idea that Kim came up with, and it was my action for my week ahead. The basis is the idea that rock represents all the doubts and the past lying on the ground. The point for me to address the rocks in the backpack. I can go two ways. I can pick up the rock and look at it and move on. Or I can continue to add the weight until it overwhelms me as it did just a month ago. I choose to get go of those rocks by taking them out. I actually did this in real life with a backpack full of rocks, and it was a great way to begin my week to see how much of a burden overthinking, doubts, and the past can be.

My week in Retrospect

This last week, I had this moment that was indicative of what I learned about staying in the present. After my work out and shower, I was making tea. While the water heated on the stove, I decided to empty my dishwashing machine. As I was near the end, I found that the biggest pan I own was stuck in a rack. It was the handle. I was so preoccupied with the tea kettle that I struggled with the pan, and I was getting frustrated. I was not in the moment. I brought myself to the present, something I learned to do this week. When that happened, I realized the pan only goes in one way, and so to get the pan out, which had shifted, and put it back in the right position. It came out, and it was all about awareness around me. My mind was somewhere else and not in the present. It was a fantastic moment.

I am working on allowing my business to grow without overthinking every detail. When I stopped overthinking seeking clients, I got a job as a consultant in mental health. I got a friend who is turning into a client for a tremendous ghostwriting book and a potential opportunity to make something unusual as a co-author of a book. I stopped worrying, being anxious, and trying to will life to happen, and it just happened to me. I stopped making workout goals and just ran for as long as I felt good. I ran three miles every day this week. The idea that I have to lose “this many pounds before the end of 2020” is gone. In its place is working out and eating better for my health.

I am feeling more open and in the present than at any time in 2020. My happiness level is skyrocketing, and I can find myself being more aware. I am reading more than ever and spending less time in my downtime binge-watching shows and movies. My life is happening now. I am excited about the future, but I no longer live there or in the past. There is so much to learn, and I trust the process without the ego behind it.

I want to leave you with this:

Clock time: lessons learned from the past are applied now and planning and working toward a goal is done now.

Psychological time: dwelling on the past or becoming obsessively focused on a goal to feel something, to be more complete, now the present is just a means to an end.

If you want to know more about these two important concepts reach out to Kim Johnson @ www.groundforclarity.com

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

Featured Photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash

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.

 

In Dreams

sleepless nights
and sleeping in
aimless walks
on dimly lit streets
shooting stars
above a back yard trampoline
singing songs
to the sky that never listens

binging fruit loops
on a front porch swing
dancing downstairs
in our underwear

last two hits
of our parents’ cigarettes
chugging beer
in the bath tub upstairs
washing it all down
with mountain dew

morning cartoons
snuggling in bed
the morning gleam
through your bedroom window
lighting up your skin
a brilliant hue

in all this time
it never hit me
in all this time
i never knew

no time could be like this time
no future could give me you

in dreams i hold you tighter
in dreams i laugh even more
my dreams can give me
what life can no more

Looking for gold veins in black granite

How is it best to be, think, or feel,  when we are threatened by darkness, whether from external factors or whether in our own minds?  I think this is a question which concerns a lot of people now.  We look around and things are difficult, there is suffering everywhere, terrible ecological anxieties, political upheavals.    It’s easy to feel disconnected,  overwhelmed and hopeless.   Many of the support mechanisms that would have been available to more connected societies in the past – for example in the form of extended families – are no longer available to us.

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As we live in increasingly dysfunctional and disconnected societies.  We look for something to pin our hopes on, try to obliterate the stress we feel with our busy-ness.  We turn perhaps to self-help manuals, books about meditation or veganism, make New Year resolutions, go to the gym,  write more, work harder, party harder,  rush around keeping busy trying to blank things out.

Hands up if you’ve been there.

I don’t mean to imply there’s anything wrong with yoga etc but I’m not sure if these things on their own can combat the kinds of stresses we are struggling with in modern societies.

The term ‘stress’ itself originally comes from physics and refers to the deformation of a body that has been subjected to external forces.  We talk about stress testing metals for car bodies.  We do not talk about stress testing ourselves, torn as we are between our own excessive expectations and feelings of powerlessness.    But just as some metals bear up under stress differently, so do people.  We are not all the same.

We need to hang on to our dreams and we need to hang on to hope.

Elie Wiesel who won the Nobel Peace prize 1986 said in his acceptance speech:

“Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future. Does this mean that our future can be built on a rejection of the past? Surely such a choice is not necessary. The two are not incompatible. The opposite of the past is not the future but the absence of future; the opposite of the future is not the past but the absence of past. The loss of one is equivalent to the sacrifice of the other.”

(https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1986/wiesel-lecture.html)

Wiesel was of course talking about a very specific past, the holocaust.

But how much suffering stems from past mistakes, problems, agonies, losses.  We should not forget them, not even try.  But sometimes forgetting seems like the only possible solution.  How to cope with stress without resorting to harmful thought patterns and behaviours like blotting out activities?  This I believe is one of the great challenges of our times.   How to build a future that is not built on a rejection of the past?    And though, yes, Wiesel was speaking at a societal level, what are societies but gatherings of individual people?

His speech continues with a personal memory:

“A recollection. The time: After the war. The place: Paris. A young man struggles to readjust to life. His mother, his father, his small sister are gone. He is alone. On the verge of despair. And yet he does not give up. On the contrary, he strives to find a place among the living. He acquires a new language. He makes a few friends who, like himself, believe that the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death.”

In the reading I have done around this subject, two  factors have emerged as important in maintaining hope in the future.  Those two factors are keeping our eyes fixed on our own goals, and offering support to others.   Self and others, the banner of a connected humanity.

Hope as Daisaku Ikeda says, is a decision.

“Hans Selye. Who pioneered the field of stress research offered the following advice based on his own experience of battling cancer:  first, establish and maintain your own goals in life.  Second, live so that we are necessary to others – such a way of life is ultimately beneficial to yourself.”

(Hope is a Decision, EG Press, 2017)

What Selye describes is what we call empathy.  I think I am right in saying that of the major world religions, all place emphasis on empathy.  Whether you subscribe to a faith or not, this is the gold vein in all that black granite of our suffering.

This doesn’t always feel logical or even possible.  When we are suffering we want to curl up and lick our own wounds not be worrying about someone else’s.   Nevertheless.

“The Buddhist sutras contain this well known parable:  One day, Shakyamuni Buddha was approached by a woman wracked by grief at the loss of her child.  She begged him to bring her baby back to life. Shakyamuni comforted her and offered to prepare medicine that would revive her child.  To make this, he would need a mustard seed he said, which he instructed her to find in a nearby village.  This mustard seed however would have to come from a home that had never experienced the death of a family member.

The woman searched from house to house but nowhere could she find a home that had never known death.  As she continued her quest, the woman accepted that her child had died and began to realise her suffering was something shared by all people.  She returned to Shakyamuni determined not to be overwhelmed by grief.”

( Daisaku Ikeda, Hope is a Decision, 2017)

We do not carry the burden of our grief alone.   This is a good time to remember that.

Sources

Hope is a Decision: Selected Essays of Daisaku Ikeda Eternal Ganges Press, 2017

Elie Wiesel Nobel Lecture December 11, 1986

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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A Special Thank You to my Friends & Family

Right now I’m at a period of my life where I’ve been focusing more and more on my own inner work & personal development. It’s something I neglected and put off for far too long. I held the belief that if I pushed away the painful memories & experiences I could forget about them forever. I’ve learned though, that’s not the truth. At some point they will resurface and force you to deal with them.

For being 23 years old I feel I have experienced so much already in my lifetime. I grew up in an abusive household for almost 18 years being abused by my mother on a daily basis. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 19. I struggled with an alcohol addiction during that period as well. I hit rock bottom and almost killed myself. I was hospitalized for my mental illness. I was in & out of depressive episodes along with manic episodes. It was only two years ago when I got the help I needed & became stable again.

During the years when I was away at college and struggled with my alcohol addiction I stopped caring about the others around me. I stopped caring when my friends voiced their concerns about me and wanted to help me. My actions became careless and reckless that cost me friendships at that time.

I think back and wonder that if I did listen to them or if I showed more compassion maybe some of those people would still be in my life. I wonder that if I didn’t struggle with alcohol and mental illness that some of those people would still be in my life. It also showed me, who my true friends were, the ones who stuck by me through it all and are still in my life today.

It’s why I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to my family and closest friends who stuck by me through my darkest moments. I thank you for not giving up on me when I was at my lowest points. I thank you for not getting mad or leaving when I wouldn’t listen to your advice. I thank you for always being there to support and show me love even when I didn’t want to receive it.

I believe it’s always through our darkest struggles and moments that shows us the people in our lives who truly care. It strengthens us to rise up even higher than before. So again, thank you to all those who showed me support and love through my darkest moments.

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Sometimes, life gives you lemons. At other times, it throws them at you. Really, really hard. Especially if you’re not looking.

In one moment, you might think you’ve got everything under control:

  • Job = secure
  • Bills = paid
  • Clothes = washed
  • Social life = uhhh…work in progress
  • Prescription = filled

And in the next moment…pure chaos. Cheers, life.

Whether as the result of some external event (eg. an untimely incident or unexpected circumstance) or internal influence (eg. a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic memory), chaos hides around every corner waiting for the chance to strike, threatening dysfunction and disorder.

I believe that in small doses, chaos can bring a healthy amount of excitement and unpredictability to our lives. A life without chaos is a life without challenge; there is a yin to every yang, as they say. But to someone suffering from a mental illness, chaos poses a substantial threat. If we’re already struggling to keep our heads above water in day to day life, chaos can easily overwhelm us.

Depression is a constant battle, and when we’re treading water it’s easy to spend too much time staring into the abyss below and wondering what would happen if we stopped paddling. We get so caught up in the chaos and fear that we lose sight of the bigger picture and start behaving irrationally. Life throws us lemons, so we pick those suckers up and squirt the juices into our eyeballs. Not exactly the best move.

Sometimes, we need to be better than our emotions. Every now and then, it’s important to look up from the abyss and make sure you’re still headed toward dry land.

Let me tell you about a time life threw me a nice, big, juicy lemon.

A few years ago, I was exploring my home state in Australia, driving through the ranges of north Queensland. On this day I’d driven to the peak of the Eungella ranges and spent the morning trekking through the rain forest, conquering the mountainous trails and generally being in awe of the breathtaking views of the valley below. My companion on this journey was a maroon-red ’02 Toyota Corolla hatchback, that I had affectionately named Colin. We had been through much together in our three-year long relationship, and yet nothing had prepared us for the tribulations we were about to face.

After hiking my last hike for the day, I returned to my four-wheeled friend to find that he was almost completely out of fuel. Shit. I wish I could say this wasn’t a common occurrence, but I haven’t met any genies lately.

I was about 70 kilometres from the nearest gas station, and even further from the nearest town. But I had complete faith in Colin, and he had faith in me. I’m sure that if I coasted my way back down the mountain, I’d conserve enough fuel to make it back to the bowser.

So, down the range I went, gliding gracefully along the winding road in my little red go-go machine. I felt every bump, crack and dip beneath the rubber as we rode the waves of asphalt to the foot of the mountain. Every tweak of the steering wheel, every touch of the accelerator and every pump of the brakes was made with intent. It felt good. I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.

In the distance, a sign was fast approaching. “Eungella Dam, turn left in 500m”.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. I freakin’ love dams. Some might call it “an unhealthy obsession”, but I would call it “don’t judge me, asshole.”

I grew up a stone’s throw away from a dam, and they’ve always fascinated me. They’re a true testament to the ingenuity of mankind; monolithic structures with the capability of harnessing one of nature’s most unstoppable forces – lots and lots of water. Eungella was so far away from home, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to see this dam again. How could I pass up the chance at one last incredible view?

I pulled my steering wheel to the left, and barrelled toward my new destination. Surely, this would only be a slight detour.

I started bashing through the bush, leaving a large cloud of dust in my wake. The dirt pricked my eyes but I kept them peeled, scanning every bend in the road for a turnoff or parking area. Minutes passed, and as I strayed further and further from the beaten track, I could feel every meter travelled accumulating in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I knew that I’d made a terrible decision.

“Surely, the lookout is just around the corner. You’ve committed to this, it’s too late to turn back now.” I’d taken a calculated risk, but I was never good at math. The lemon was in my hand, and I was starting to squeeze.

Colin’s petrol gauge was well below empty. I’m convinced that he was completely out of fuel at this point and was running only on the fumes of my sheer stupidity. My red solider, loyal and true, was on his last legs.

I was so focused on seeing this damn dam, that I didn’t notice the next turn was quite a bit sharper than the rest. I brought my foot down on the brake like an anvil, and the car began to slide. Perhaps in an act of protest after being pushed to the brink of exhaustion, Colin threw his back wheels off the road the same way and infant throws his rattle across the room during a tantrum. I went careening into a two-meter deep ditch and came to a humiliating halt.

Great. Now I’m really stuffed. It was going to take some real gusto to get up this slope, most likely wasting the last of my precious petrol in the process.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, emotions make us dumb. Really dumb.

I was so distracted by the fear of potentially being stranded in the middle of nowhere that I wasn’t thinking straight. Chaos had taken the wheel, and I was being pulled along by a four-cylinder engine of emotion straight into a ditch on the side of the road. I was acting completely irrationally. I’d lost control. I’d chosen to stare into the abyss below when I should be been searching for the safety of the shore.

But no more. It was time to look up.

Let’s turn this ship around.

I put the pedal to the metal, and in a Dukes of Hazzard inspired moment of pure triumph Colin and I aimed for the sky and fired. Without the weight of my emotions holding me down, for a moment, I knew what it was like to fly. I was finally acting level-headed, and the Corolla was back on level ground.

By some miracle, I managed to reach the petrol station. I was on cloud nine, and approached the lady at the register like I’d just won the lottery.

“That’ll be $45.67.”

“Here, just take my whole wallet.”

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve decided to squeeze lemon juice into our eyes.

When this happens, often the biggest challenge is having the self-awareness to take a step back and access your current situation, put aside your predispositions and decide what is truly best for your wellbeing. You’ll use any excuse in the book to avoid the answers that are often right in front of your face. You’ll allow yourself to be distracted, and put your wants before your needs. This is destined to lead you down the path of chaos, and one day you might find yourself stuck in the middle of the bush in rural Australia.

You need to know that it’s never too late to grab the steering wheel and turn yourself around. There are many factors that influence our decisions in this modern world, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility to know what is best for you and make the right choices.

If you only follow your heart’s compass, it’ll lead you astray. But, if you play it smart, you’ll find that the little diversions take on a whole new lustre as you start to appreciate life’s various side paths and gravel roads. You’ll be free to pursue your passions comfortably, whether it be writing, mountain trekking, or visiting dams. Know that when your priorities are in order, you’ll have more mental fuel to go the distance in life and enjoy a richer human experience.

So remember to keep your chin up, and keep swimming.