I have spent the last several months going to work and going home. Not much socializing. Sometimes once a month I would go out if invited to something. I was trying to save money. And I was trying to work on myself. I went to counseling and did other activities to pull myself out of depression. I don’t have insurance so that was the best I could do. I remember feeling alone often. I looked for ways to stay busy and distract myself from how I felt. I wished I could afford to go out and spend time with even one person.
As I was getting to a better place with my finances, the pandemic happened. Everything shut down. I lost a lot of work. Other than concerns for my income, my daily routine didn’t change much. I couldn’t read a book at a coffee shop, but I could live without that. I had grown more comfortable with myself and didn’t mind the alone time. I still feel alone but it doesn’t bother me as much. I’ve grown to a place where I enjoy cooking again. I read more. I write fiction more. My creative ideas are never ending.
During the pandemic, there were videos of celebrities feeling upset during social distancing. This reminded me of how I felt. I realized there wasn’t anything wrong with me or how I felt. We were all reacting in a normal way to isolation. I hope people are discovering new things about themselves. If you’re bored during isolation, you need new hobbies. If you’re alone and uncomfortable, you need to love yourself and enjoy your own company. We all should set time aside to be alone. It’s important to our wellbeing. Find your happiness in the alone time.
James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction. Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com. He resides in Tucson, AZ.
I was lucky to be able to take a holiday recently – not everyone is able to afford either the time or the money but on this occasion I could, and I did. It was a much needed break. It felt like the longest time since I’d taken the sort of holiday which is a real rest; a nothing much to do and nowhere much to be sort of holiday. Usually, if I’m away from home, I feel compelled to do worthy things like visit museums and architectural sites, but not this time.
Mood swings and sadness should not be part of a holiday. One feels that they should be put in a box and labelled “deal with this some other time because I’m on holiday now”.
But sadly, they still show up, those old mood swings. Or should I say they still showed up and down, despite the lovely views, the sunny weather and nice relaxing time we were having. My appetite diminished to zero just when we were surrounded by lovely healthy fish and feast style food.
Eating nice food is usually part of a holiday. I find restaurants very difficult – it’s a first world problem I know – but I simply can’t face the amount of food they tend to offer. A restaurant’s idea of a main course is my idea of a week’s food. Then the waiters look crestfallen when you don’t finish their food and ask anxiously what was wrong with it which makes me feel guilty because there wasn’t anything wrong with the food I try to explain, it’s just me.
It’s hard to do nothing in this modern world. We are confronted 24 hours a day by a million images of the things some advertiser feels we should be doing (ie buying) or achieving (ie buying). However many yoga classes we go to or deep breathing exercises we do, however much we like to feel ourselves immune, it is almost impossible not to be affected by some of those images and ideas. From being bombarded by all the supposed things we should be doing, the ways we should supposedly be looking, and the supposed things we should be achieving it’s easy to feel not good enough in some way. Throw in a few health, work, money and relationship worries which most of us suffer from in some shape or form and hey presto!
After that it’s a short step from to anxiety and depression. Although of course not everyone succumbs but stress affects people in different ways. No, not everyone succumbs to depression and that can add to the problem, it can feel like another failure. We should be stronger, wiser, get over ourselves more, think of others less fortunate, pull ourselves together! Although I have no medical knowledge I believe that there are a number of factors which cause pre-disposition to depression and perhaps even bipolar but because these are not looked for in health checks, it is unsurprising that they are not found. Once the disease is present, it’s a firefight.
I wonder how much depression is caused by or started by poor self image? In my own case I am convinced this is part of the problem. Low self esteem and low self confidence. I suppose the second follows on from the first. I know I should have a positive self image and this would certainly help in some ways but thinking I’m great is not something that has ever come easily to me – I’m afraid ageing hasn’t improved that!
Also I have to remember that if I had been diagnosed with a blood disorder (I haven’t) no-one would suggest that I should pull myself together. I apologise if I’ve said this before – which I have on this blog somewhere – but I do feel strongly that there is still a long long way to go before recognition of mental illness gets the same attention from within health services as does recognition of the physical illness from which people suffer. The difficulty comes when those two things are treated as entirely separate. They are not and never can be. It is all part of the same organism – the same being – the same person.
Everyone has their own mission. Everyone has their own unique individuality and talents to create value on our beautiful blue planet. The trick is to remember it, and keep remembering it even on days when our internal barometer is pointing to storms. Perhaps especially on those days.
You are all amazing. Take a holiday now and again. Try and eat some delicious food. Nibble fruit. Find a book, curl up. Believe.
I wanted to find out something. I have been advertising since March about my Patreon account and I even did a $2 Patreon challenge. It has been brought to my attention recently that Patreon is a very hard website to understand. So I wanted to do a poll and what my followers think. Feel free to leave comments if you have no idea how it works so I can better explain. I would love for any of the followers of this blog to be a part of my writing projects.
I would love you hear from each and every one of my follower’s questions about what is Patreon and why I am pushing so much for it to be the next step not only for this blog but for my future writing on mental health.
It’s been three years since I was officially diagnosed as having Bipolar 1 with mixed episodes. The last three years consisted of numerous ups and downs, and many lessons learned. Through the time there have been countless therapy sessions and psychiatry appointments, sleepless nights and sleep filled days. Days of crying without ceasing as well as weeks feeling so numb I was certain that I would never feel another emotion again in my life. Needless to say, I have been all over the map.
Looking back, I can see that I have learned an abundance. I have been privileged to attend two vastly different treatment programs, one in mid 2016 and one recently in late 2018. As well as spending hours upon hours in weekly therapy sessions. We have worked through adjusting medication for the bi polar as well as adjusting my hormones, the combination being an exhausting battle.
During this time, I have been given many gifts. The gifts have been in the form of talking, crying, yelling and there’s been quite a bit of cursing. A huge gift that has been given to me is the gift of being given tools. Through my sessions I have been taught how to use new and different skills that have allowed me to process my thoughts, emotions and feelings and have allowed me to heal, forgive and in some cases forget (and I never thought that would ever happen). I have learned to breathe, to pause, to allow things to bubble up and then calmly allow them to simmer back down. And in each lesson, focus on the gift that I am being given, the healing, the warmth, the peace and the calm. It’s been absolutely the most transformational events of my life.
I wanted to share with you some of the tools that I have learned to use that allow me to better manage the diagnosis’ that I was given and what have helped free me from the captivity that had been keeping me in bondage for oh so many years. With sharing, I hope that you are able to use one, or perhaps two of the items and migrate them into your life and begin to see improvements like I have. As with anything, please always talk with your doctor before making a change to your daily routine. I am not a doctor, I am a regular person simply sharing what has worked for me.
Reciting Three Positives Each Day
At the conclusion of each day, as a family, we share three positives that occurred during the day and expand about how it affected us. I have found that by doing this activity my brain stays on the positives of each day and I do not allow negativity to permeate my brain.
I use the app “Calm” on my iPhone and use the daily calm feature as this provides me with ten or so minutes of relaxation and meditation. A time to destress from the day I had as well as regain my positive, balanced mindset.
I am currently enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class where I am learning how to utilize mindfulness as a way to control and decrease my stress. The class and it’s teaching is assisting me in adding another tool in my tool box in managing my mental health.
Incorporating the practice of yoga and mindful movement (a slower version of yoga) has helped me in slowing down and spending time caring for my body. Spending time connecting with my body has allowed me to appreciate my body for what it is and to eliminate the frustrations I have for what it isn’t or for what I may lack as result of the mental illness. The stretching and movements as part of the practices provides much needed fluidity and releases tension and pain as well as increases mental clarity.
Happy Thoughts/Affirmation Jar
I make happy thoughts/affirmation jar which brings me much joy as I love to craft as I view this as a way of spending time in self-care. Plus, spending time focusing on positive mantras forces my brain to stay in that place of positivity and therefore eliminates the time that is available to focus on anything negative
A walk around the block, a hike along a trail on a mountain or thirty minutes on the elliptical at the gym are all things that I do to take care of my physical health. I may not go as often as I would want to, but I try to go once a week as a way of taking care of my mental, physical and emotional health.
Currently, I struggle to sit down and have my nose in a book, so I rely on audio books that I listen to while laying down resting or while commuting during the week. The books that I choose to listen to are those that are uplifting and motivating.
I have found that having hobbies is an amazing way to increase the time that I spend in self-care. My hobbies include writing, crafting, cooking, baking, photography and hiking. I find that I can do all items alone, for the days when I need alone time, or with others, for the days when I want to spend time with others, and all items that are produced are shareable, which is a way I show my love to others. I have found that engaging in my hobbies helps bring joy and happiness into my life, and also helps me feel like I have grand purpose and value.
I hope that these tools are ones that you are able to incorporate into your toolbox and they can help benefit you in ways like they have positively benefited me and my life.
I always enjoyed horror though I never considered myself a fan of horror. I remember watching Tim Curry portray Pennywise the Clown in “IT” (1990) when I was three or four. I pretended to sleep while my parents (and I) watched the film “Dr. Giggles” (1992) about an escaped mental patient who kills with a surgical theme when I was six. I saw the film “Return to Cabin by the Lake” (2001) about a murderous screenwriter as a teenager. These films standout because they reminded me of suppressed trauma. Repressed memories that only recently returned.
I recall watching many films and having no emotional response. Scenes that made most tear up left me feeling numb or indifferent. I felt out of place and segregated from everyone else who had ‘feelings.’ Even horror films didn’t scare me or make me jump. I felt I knew the scares were coming. In high school and the first few years of college, I was described as ‘creepy’ by many of my peers. I could easily sneak up and scare others. I’d walk behind them for several minutes before they noticed me. One friend remarked after going through a haunted house it didn’t scare them because they had known me for so long.
I didn’t become an avid reader until my late 20s, but I’ve always had interest in writing. In the first grade, I wrote a detective story. It had all the tropes of film noir though I didn’t know what those were at the time. Film noir has similar elements to horror with suspense building and dealing with killers without the fantasy elements. I always enjoyed reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe and he is considered the creator of the detective story.
Many of the stories I have written or plan to write deal with death in one way or another. Some may not be called horror stories but still have death somewhere. I have written a few detective stories as well and they’re much better than that first one in the first grade. Serial killers, murderers, monsters, and people who’ve lost their minds take center stage in many of my stories. These are the topics in which I am most interested. Why do I have this fascination with killers, monsters, and madmen? Why would anyone want to think about these horrors?
I believe this is my way of coping with my own trauma. Upon writing this, I am 32. My trauma began when I was four. It had such an impact on me, I had to begin anger management counseling when I was six. We were cleaning up one day in class to go to recess. I was putting away a puzzle or something and this other boy tried to help. I told him I got it. He helped anyway. I got angry and hit him with a chair. I reacted with violence because I was exposed to violence at home. I thought that was the best response.
As I’ve aged, repressed memories resurfaced, and I’ve started to feel. I tear up during emotional scenes in romantic comedies or dramas. I can feel my heart racing during chase scenes in horror or action films. Horror films and horror fiction remind me of the violence and terror I experienced as a child without causing a panic attack. Writing horror fiction, I believe, is my way of dealing with the trauma and getting all the pain out. My mind has tried to pull my repressed memories forward through horror fiction. I think this is why horror is becoming even more popular as so many traumas continue in our chaotic world.
I am not the only person to experience this and this is not exclusive to PTSD. People with different anxiety disorders have a similar affinity toward horror fiction. Here are a few other articles I’ve found on the subject.
One of the critical components of mental health recovery in my mind is finding the things that work to make you happy. Over the years I have used different things to get me through the worst months of the year (my SAD months.) It differs from person to person because one person’s illness is not exactly alike, so find what works for your specific mental health recovery.
What I have found useful in my life is role-playing video games as they get me through some of the worst depression in my life. It is a way to escape the reality for a few hours and focus on something different. It gives me an opportunity to reach goals and feel good about myself when depression is taking over.
Writing is my greatest weapon to deal with the ups and downs of my mental illness. The writing projects that I am currently working on and this blog are so helpful.
There are other things that I am working towards as we head into the final three months of 2018. I had many lofty goals this year, but there are still somethings that I would like to try out– like photography. I have talked to other artists and photographers about how therapeutic taking pictures is for their mental health. When I use video games or reading books to escape my mental illness for a few hours, it is the same for them with photography. It was one of my goals to start the year, but I got further away from it because of the cost.
What started this blog post was one of the fellow bloggers asking me how people deal using different forms of media like books, video games, watching film, photography, and even writing. This blogger mentioned that people coping with trauma often get into horror movies and books because they connect with the genre. I can relate to this in so many ways. I got into reading Edgar Allan Poe because of the connection to the “dark romanticism” feel of his work, and his influence is in every aspect of my writing.
What I want people to get out of this post is this, there are so many ways out there to cope with mental illness, and these things are essential to finding what will help with your overall mental health.
Before starting The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog, I was lost. I had my writing but it was not enough.
Then I started this blog and everything changed. I have used this blog to improve myself through shared experiences in mental illness, and now I am more open to sharing my experiences. I wrote my memoir because of the amazing mental illness community here on WordPress. It has been what has helped my mental health recovery. Find what helps you get through the tough times, and it will make these times less harsh. Never dwell of the negative and always move forward.