Saving Myself Through Discomfort

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David – TED Talk “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage”

This pandemic caught me at a really odd time in my life, an odd time that has been going on for at least two years and which was exacerbated by the death of my semi-estranged mother. The scenario: 50 years of work (amateur, semi-professional, professional) in a field which always put me in front of people as their entertainment; 17 overlapping years of teaching which always put me in front of people as their instructor and entertainment. These fields were not the only work I’ve done but they were the most consistent, to the point where over the last three-or-so years I’ve been fantasizing about getting out. But my skills and talents fall where they fall and so it has been easy to just continue down these paths, despite a growing desire (desperation) to get out.

The pandemic snatched my work – all of it – right out from under me. Consequently, I have been fortunate to actually be relieved by this situation, almost as though I’d been saved. Yes, my money left but my financial and home situations don’t really require that I make much money anymore (thank you, anal retentive tendency to throw money at my debt until it is all gone). At the same time, about a sixth of my work has been salvaged through the magic of video so I do get to make a little money and still feel released from bondage to my career.

I have every reason to be happy.

So why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

I said before that this pandemic caught me at a really odd time in life. Yes, I’ve been at a crossroads but I’ve just been standing there, paralyzed, looking at all the street signs pointing in different directions and listing to myself all the reasons why none of those roads is a good choice, the problems with each one, and why I just can’t. Here are all my great reasons for staying paralyzed:

  1. In two years I’ve gone from a little inclined not to hang with others to downright unsocial. I prefer my family and I’m uncomfortable spending time with anyone else.
  2. After over 50 years of depression and anxiety, it is exhausting putting myself under the judgmental eyes of people who can probably see all that and I’m uncomfortable with what they’re probably thinking. (Performers know that the artist is one entity, the person is another.)
  3. I hate talking on the phone. I’m uncomfortable giving my very important time away to some voice that I probably don’t want to listen to and don’t want to tell anything.
  4. I already spent way enough time using my office and administrative skills. I’m uncomfortable being tied to a desk all day (although I’ve had a standing desk for years, so there is that).
  5. I’ve been completely self-employed for 17 years, partially self-employed for way longer than that. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being an employee and having a boss again.
  6. I’m 60 years old. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of starting something entirely new, learning something entirely new.
  7. I’m uncomfortable doing the same old things I’ve been doing and using the same old skills I’ve always used.

You get the point by now, I’m sure. I’m uncomfortable with so many things that I have made myself unable to make any choice whatsoever as to what to do with this next chapter of my life. Go ahead, try to think of any field in which I might work without running into one of my discomfort zones.

You can’t do it. I haven’t been able to either.

So why haven’t I been happy? Why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

Because I feel useless. Useless. Of no use. No use to me and, even worse, no use to the world. I have avoided discomfort in favor of being useless.

Today – actually before taking a much-needed long walk and listening to the Ted Talk quoted above – I signed up for COVID-19 contact tracer training. I said to myself, “I bet this is all on the phone. I hate the phone.” I said to myself, “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get a job, so what’s the point?” I said to myself, “People are so angry and uncooperative right now. I’m afraid of dealing with them.” But I started the training (all online) because I had told my husband some time ago that I wanted to learn to do something I know not even a little bit about, from the ground up. (Direct contradiction to #6 above.) This meets that criteria. And I started the training because it most definitely is needed. I said to myself, “I’ll deal later with the fact that I probably won’t do anything with it because it’ll make me uncomfortable.

And then I went for the long walk and listened to the Ted Talk and that brilliant statement: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” The speaker also said, in response to someone whom had told her all the things they didn’t want to feel, “So, you have dead people’s goals.” Wow. Dead people’s goals. She went on to explain that only the dead get to exist without feeling discomfort. Mind … blown.

I’m going to continue on with this contact tracer training. I love learning and even taking tests (yes, I’m a nerd). When I’m done, I will be very uncomfortable with how to proceed. But I will proceed. Because I’m tired of feeling useless. I’m tired of being paralyzed by discomfort; by feelings; by waiting, wishing, hoping for some magical scenario to materialize which will bring me some income and make me valuable to the world again all while making me feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. It ain’t gonna happen that way.

I want to be of use to the world once more. I want to have a meaningful life. So I choose discomfort.

Searching for Balance

Sorry I haven’t been so active here on the Bipolar Writer as I normally am. My life has been so out of whack that I can’t seem to find balance.

I have been coping with this imbalance by binge eating/overeating on a regular basis. Once I open my mouth, I have no idea when I will reach my limit. For the past three days I have felt incredibly bloated because of it which, of course, makes me feel depressed and critical of myself.

Each day I get angry with myself, saying, “Why can’t you just stop, Megan!? You’re not hungry, why are you eating again?”

The stresses of life have been chipping away at my mental health. I get home from work and am immediately overwhelmed by everything that I have to do. The daily chores get done but I feel like I can never get to the random tasks like pulling weeds outside or finally organizing my closet.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time and keep my house the way I want to. Because I go nonstop after I get home from work, I feel like I don’t get to enjoy any Megan time. I want to be able to write again, go to the gym, do yoga with my cats and not worry that I have chores to do.

My anxiety kicks into gear when I start thinking about this sort of stuff.

How do you find balance in life? If you have achieved balance, do you have any good tips?

The State of The World

I normally try my best to not get into touchy subjects when I write my posts. However, after a discussion with some of my coworkers (bad idea…I know) I can’t help but feel that these are some things that I need to get off my chest. For those of you whom are sensitive to the subject, I suggest not reading this article

**TRIGGER WARNING**

Politics + Suicide

**TRIGGER WARNING**

So, for those of you still here, let me first say that I live in America. I don’t hide this fact, nor am I blind to the obvious advantages that a white male gets in this country. However, I can say without a doubt, that the current state of this country, and the world, disgusts me. To the point where I often contemplate if this is even a world worth living in. Yes, I am talking about suicide, as the current state of the world has always been a rather large part of my depression. I mean honestly, if you take a close hard look at how the world is, how can you not feel overwhelmingly despaired. Though, I’ll save my view on World Politics aside, for another time, for now. The reason being, as my coworker pointed out, I have no experience living in another country. So I really have no place to compare to America. A portion of my coworkers are an entire family, of immigrants, who came to America in search of freedom. Freedom that they did not have in their native country. That being said, since they’ve moved here to America, they have too been dyed in the Nationalist red, white and blue. To them, America is the greatest country on the planet, especially compared to their home country. And to be completely honest, I don’t really blame them. Not only were they living in an oppressive regime, but they also were not given the same opportunities that they received here in America.

The one problem that I do have with their views, is that they are I incredibly skewed. They believe America to be the greatest country in the world, simply due to how much better it is than their country. There seems to be a common issue here in America, that in my opinion, effects everyone, whether they know it or not. I am referring to the near toxic levels of Nationalism, or pride in America. In schools, or at least while I was in school, it was subconsciously taught that there is nothing wrong with being extremely prideful in America, in fact they encouraged it. Now don’t get me wrong, there is not inherently anything wrong with having pride in your respective country, however, as I mentioned, it is almost toxic in America. It is not deemed by any law, or required by any rule, to feel immense pride in America. Yet if you start to dissent from that prideful stance, you are almost immediately ostracized by the general public. It’s as if there is this “unspoken” rule that says you can’t show anything but pride towards America.

However, there is this certain scene, of a certain TV show, in which a college kid asks a panel of “journalists” why America is the greatest country on earth (you probably know which one I’m talking about). The first says some stereotypical garbage, the second just double downs on “freedom”, and the third makes a rather obvious non-answer about a popular sports team. It is then that the third journalist sees a young woman in the crowd holding a sign that says “It’s Not”. Upon seeing this, the third journalist starts what would become the most infamous tirade in modern history, on why America isn’t the greatest country in the world, though at one point, it was. Needless to say, the entire crowd, as well as his “colleges” are stunned speechless. And to be completely honest with you, so was I the first time I watched it. Like I said, when I was in school, there was almost an indoctrination like pride being implanted in the students. Almost every day began with the National Anthem of course. Almost every class had their lessons skewed to emphasize the greatness of America. While it certainly isn’t the teachers’ faults, they still remained silent on this subtle brainwashing, that they might not have even noticed happening.

As you can probably tell, there are many, many things that I have issues with about my country. To quote the show I was talking about earlier, “We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.” Also, to add my own to that infamous list, the number of mass shootings each year. There really isn’t anything all that great about America anymore. Sure we have FREEDOM, but so does over three quarters of the world. There isn’t anything special about freedom here in America either. The average citizen of the US spends the majority of their life trading their time for money. Money that doesn’t even really afford them most of the basic things in life, like clean water, healthy food, or a stable roof over their heads. There is another glaring issue with American freedom, the more money you have, the more free you are. For example, that whole college admissions scandal a while back. These celebrities with millions of dollars, essentially bribed various colleges to guarentee acceptance of their respective children. Not only did they succeed in getting their child into college by paying for it, but they also had barely any consequences, despite braking the law. If an affluent person of color did the same thing, they’d be thrown in jail probably for the rest of their lives. That’s another problem with America, we claim to be so free, and yet their is such rampant discrimination built into the cores of our society, it’s appalling. I’m not only talking about racism either, theirs sexism, classism, religious phobia, homophobia, and almost every other kind of -ism and phobia out there.

Granted, most of America’s problems stem from two things: The Ultra-Wealthy, and Stupidity. Often a combination of the two. In history class, we were taught that this country was created by the people, for the people. What they don’t tell you, is those people are those with either a ton of money, a ton of power, or both. Everything is run with profits in mind. War, profits. Laws, profits. Opinions, profits. Inovation, profits. Healthcare, profits. I could go on and on until the end of the world (which probably isn’t that far off at the rate we’re going). I personally like to think that I don’t fall into any political party, I’m solely driven by facts and respect. Though it might be a rather controversial stance, I believe that religion (any religion) has no place in government. You can’t force everyone in a country to follow your rules, just because “you want them to go to heaven” **cough**christans**cough**. Every living thing on this planet deserves some level of respect, regardless of religion, politics, skin color, nationality, “intelligence”, etc. Though where I do draw the line is pure stupidity. I’m not talking about the kind that you’re born with, you can’t change that, not easily anyways. I’m talking about the people who think they’re right, regardless of factual evidence stating the contrary. For example, flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers. These two groups of people believe what they want to believe (which I inherently have no problem with) but refuse mountains of evidence dropped at their feet, just because their “research” (5 minutes on Facebook mostly) claims otherwise. This kind of stupid, is clearly a choice. Anti-vaxxers use a single study from a decade ago, that has been proved false numerous times, and yet they believe it. I honestly want to ask an anti-vaxxer this single question: “Even “if” vaccines could cause autism, you’re saying that you’d rather your child be dead, than have autism.” I’m honestly rather curious on what their answer would be. It would most likely be a rather angry deflection that doesn’t answer the question, but rather somehow solidifies their stance. In my opinion, it’s similar to an animal chasing their own tail, thinking it’s some enemy creature of some kind, only to realize that when they finally bite down on this unknown monster, that they “suddenly” feel inexplicable pain for some reason.

There are a vast number of things that I don’t agree with, and so long as it doesn’t effect the freedom of others, you’re more than welcome to do whatever the hell you want. That’s what freedom truly means in my eyes. If you want to wear rotting fish instead of shoes, go right the hell ahead. But if you start preaching to me, that I should also wear fish on my feet, because sneakers were created by the evil lizardmen shadow government, that’s when it becomes a problem. Not only are you infringing on my rights, and wasting my rather valuable time (as we as humans only have so much time on this earth) you are making a mockery of the freedoms you hold so dearly. Yeah you can stand on your soapbox on the corner of a busy intersection and scream your opinions until the cows come home, but if you start doing so in the middle of the intersection causing an endless traffic jam, or visit my house and knock on my door just to spread the “truth” every day, then we start to have a problem.

If it wasn’t obvious at this point, let me clearly spell it out: I really could care less about what you do with what little life you have, or what you believe in, or don’t believe in for that matter. So long as you don’t vilify me for not bowing down and following your idiocy, you can do whatever you damn well please. I support the important things in life like total equality (gender, sexual orientation, skin color, etc), freedom to do just about anything you want so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, and everyone’s inate, inalienable right to a happy life if you so choose. I don’t care whether you agree with me, or despise me, like I said, I follow the facts, and general respect for nearly all cases.

You’re generally free to follow whatever causes you choose, and I won’t infringe upon that freedom, so long as you really only hold yourself to those standards. I figure I’ve ranted enough for one day. I don’t think I’ll change any hearts or minds just by simply getting a few things off my chest. However, my hope is, is that you’ll begin to look at life a little more skeptically, and decide things for yourself, fully aware of the rewards or consequences that await your actions. Alan Wolfgang, signing off.

No Longer Hiding my Emotions

Over the years I’ve become extremely good at hiding my emotions from others.

I grew up with the belief that sadness & tears made me weak so I did my best to never cry in front of people.

I believed that my problems didn’t matter because out there in the world there was someone else with bigger problems than mine.

I believed that people wouldn’t care about what I was going through or that I would be considered a burden.

These beliefs have stayed with me up until this very day. While I’ve gotten more & more comfortable sharing my emotions & problems with others, it’s still something I struggle with today.

This has probably been one of the most difficult habits for myself to break because it’s become natural for me to just hide my emotions & bottle them up never sharing with anyone.

My entire life I’ve done my best to remain strong through all the difficult situations I faced up until now. I didn’t let others see or know the true pain I was in. There were periods where I would spend many nights crying myself to sleep at night. I didn’t want to dump my own problems on anyone else because I didn’t want to be a burden. I ended up not only carrying my own weight of problems, but the weight of those closest to me as well. I put off working through & healing my own issues, to help the ones I loved most.

It’s taken me up until now to realize that it’s important to take care of our own selves first. I neglected my own healing & stuffed my emotions deep down inside of me. In order to be of service & help to others in our lives, we must heal ourselves from within as well.

Because of the difficulties & pain I’ve faced, I never want others to feel alone or feel like they’re a burden. I am here for anyone and can be that shoulder for you to cry on. Never feel like you are a burden to others or that your problems don’t matter because they do! No matter how big or small the problem you’re faced with, it still matters.

Into Me I See (Pt. 1)

I couldn’t possibly be more unhappy than I am right now.

I’m strapped into a long, metal tube with about one hundred strangers approximately 10,000 meters above sea level, flying back to my hometown in rural Australia. In the next row, three shtick heads are hooting, hollering and rough-housing like it’s a Friday night at the local pub. To top it all off, I’ve carried so much extra emotional baggage onto this flight that I’m surprised I made it past check-in.

Last night, I did something awful to someone I really care about. Something
I deeply regret. And now I’m doomed to spend the next three hours in my
elongated, flying prison reflecting on my selfish actions. I suppose it’s a
relatively light punishment, considering the crime.

My thought cycle of self-hatred is interrupted by one of the obnoxious
morons in the row ahead of me. He shouts to the flight attendant like she’s a waitress and demands that she brings another round of ‘CC and dry’ to him and his pals. The benevolent bringer of beverages makes her way down the aisle in a manner that is polite, yet stern.

“Sir, please refrain from raising your voice on the plane.” Her smile is
also polite, yet stern.

“Also, that’s your third drink in the last 20 minutes.” Smile, smile. “You
have to wait a little while before we bring you another alcoholic beverage.”
Smiley-smile-smile.

The annoying drunks go back to being drunk and annoying. I glance at the
flight attendant and our eyes meet. She smiles again, warmly this time. For a nanosecond I don’t hate myself.

She takes a step towards me, and leans in. Why do all flight attendants
smell like a flower shop in the middle of a small country town? I love that
smell.

“Can I get you something to drink?” How nice. Girls never offer to get me a
drink.

“No, thanks.” My smile is polite, yet troubled. There is no room for ‘CC and
dry’ when I’m already full of guilt and shame. She nods in acknowledgement and sashays away to serve the next loud idiot or heart broken, sulking loser.

Next to me, an attractive young couple are giggling away like a couple of
kids on the back of a school bus. I turn my head slightly, so that I can see
what all the fuss is about. It seems like one of them has managed to stuff
their jacket pockets with sushi, and the sheer genius and hilarity of their
secret snack idea has them both in hysterics. I’d laugh too, if I didn’t hate
them so much. It’s so unbearably adorable that not even blasting Burn The
Priest
through my headphones is enough to blot out the cuteness. It
reminds me of the things me and Freya used to do together, and how they made me feel.

My thoughts inevitably turn back to last night, at Freya’s place. When I
arrived there, I just wanted to talk. But I’d worked my mind up into such a
frenzy, and I was so scared of losing myself in her that I behaved like any
scared animal would – I attacked. I told her that I didn’t want to see her
anymore, because she was needy. I told her that she was slowly smothering me, stripping away the life I had built up since moving to Melbourne six months ago. I told her I don’t want to be her emotional punching bag. Then, I stormed out.

I got exactly what I wanted. She’s gone now, and I have my life back. I’m
free.

So free, and so alone.

Part of me wants to take it all back, to say I’m sorry, and set things
right. But is that because I miss her, or how she made me feel?
Is it just the guilt and shame that makes me want to apologise, or is it
something else? Would I even deserve a second chance, after saying all of those terrible things?

Fuck, this is going to be a long flight.

I decide to fire up an audio book called ‘Silently Seduced: When Parents
Make Their Children Partners’
by Kenneth M. Adams. The book explores how some parents, driven by insecurity and loneliness, use their children as
surrogate partners. It describes the impact this can have on their children’s
emotional development and ability to form healthy, romantic relationships in adulthood.

Yes, perfect. This will take my mind off things.

The book goes on to explain that if one person in a monogamous relationship is emotionally unavailable, the other person will look elsewhere to satisfy their unfulfilled needs. They might start spending more time at work, hoping to find satisfaction by building their career. They may turn to drugs and alcohol, chasing new experiences and cheap thrills. Or they might try to fill the void by maxing out their credit cards with some good old-fashioned retail therapy.

In some cases, however, they will use their children as crutches to keep
their hearts from collapsing.

Sadly, it makes a lot of sense. We’ve all heard stories of parents that seek
validation through their child by forcing them to become what they personally never could. But sometimes, the parents push in another direction. They force a child to become a shoulder to cry on, or an ear for their frustrations. The child becomes the voice of reason when the parent is unstable, and is the one to pick them up when they inevitably break down.

It certainly not the loveless environment that most people think of when
discussing childhood trauma. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s too much
love. The wrong kind of love. And for a child, it’s the only love they know.

It’s hard for a child to neglect the emotional needs of a wounded parent.
They brought you into this world, after all. They raised you, and protected
you. You owe them everything. But after a while, this surrogacy begins to drain you. Love becomes a burden, like a warm blanket on a hot summer day. It’s an overpriced cocktail of guilt, shame and resentment. You learn that to love, is to suffocate.

Each passing chapter of the book peels back a new layer of my childhood.
Each new concept is another piece of the puzzle. Slowly, I’m starting to see
why being close to people scares me so fucking much. Why I become detached, even spiteful, towards those that have shown me nothing but compassion and understanding.

As the cute couple beside me chows down on their jacket sushi, I’m having a
full-blown existential crisis. I pause the audio book, and take a moment to
collect my thoughts. From this crisis, comes a moment of clarity – my return
home has presented me with a rare opportunity. An opportunity to know myself better, and get to the bottom of my mummy issues. An opportunity to see into me.

For the first time today, the guilt begins to subside. As the plane begins
it’s decent, I feel a sense of resolve forming within me. It may be too late to
fix things with Freya, but it’s not too late to change my behaviour and stop
being a shitty human being.

Once we hit the tarmac, I grab my bag from the overhead locker and follow
the Canadian Club clowns as they stumble down the aisle, bouncing off the backs of seats like they’re stuck in a really long, narrow pinball machine.

I step off the plane and take my first real breath in three hours.
Hopefully, my stint in the slammer did me some good. I’ve done my time, and now I’m back on the outside. I’m a free man.

“JAY! JAAAYYYYY!”

Or, maybe not.

It’s the voice of my mother. Suddenly, the space around me begins to
tighten. She wasn’t supposed to be here.

Write for You

Creating is an outlet for emotions unspoken, passion untapped, or stories untold.

aaron-burden-90144-unsplash

Why do I write? Why do I spend countless hours spinning words and sentences into paragraphs attempting to make sense of whatever moment or idea has struck me that day? Why is it so important for me to express myself in a way I have never been able to do out loud to others or even to myself? Why is it when I unleash the pages of my truth do I feel fifty pounds lighter and as if I can conquer the world?

You ask any writer, musician, poet or artist for that matter why they do what they do, you will find that although each individual answer may sound different at the jump, as you peel back the layers, the foundation is usually the same. Creating is an outlet for emotions unspoken, passion untapped, or stories untold. It is a path to express oneself in a way that some may not be able to otherwise. Whether the reason stems from challenges to heartache or from excitement to success, the art of expressing oneself, in whatever manner it may be, is therapy for the soul.

For me, I write for me, it helps me to discover the truth about who I am and why I am here. I write words that sometimes are difficult to spell out and even more difficult to read; I write from a place that only I know is there until that moment my fingers dance across the keyboard; I write because the more I do, the more free I feel; and, I write for you, because even if it’s just one twisted tale or deep emotion shared, and a connection made, it is one less person believing they are alone in this journey of life.

There is no doubt I, along with my writing, has matured and shifted over the years, and while practice has helped, it is not where I place all the credit. In my growing up as a person and as a writer, I have found that the words are stronger and the meaning behind them deeper when they are honest, raw and real. I have learned this honesty by facing fears I didn’t even realize I had, extinguishing lies I have been telling myself, taking responsibility not for those around me, but for myself, and learning patience not just with others, but with me, and I have also found the more words I put out into the world (much like love, laughter, and kindness), the more I get back.

For me, writing is cleansing, challenging and can take me to places inside my head and my heart I never thought I would go, but has helped me carve my path to the real truth that lies within. Whatever your reason for creating, in whatever form that fits you best, do it for you. Write for you, paint for you, sing for you, and do it with raw honesty, that type of honesty that can be more difficult for you to admit than it is for people to hear. The fact is, the more honest you are with yourself, the more those around you will connect with your truth and the more you will realize you are not alone.

Much Love,

Lisa J

Music and the Memories of Depression

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the baroque era to black metal, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to some kind of music, first on a little cassette player, then on CDs, and now of course through online streaming. In fact, the world of streaming music has opened my library up to hundreds of thousands of songs that I would never have thought to listen to before.

According to my iTunes library, I’ve listened to the 10,000 songs in my library over 300,000 times. Some I’ve listened to only once or twice, of course, but the top ten percent of plays – 30,000 or so – are of just sixty songs – by just ten artists.

From Coma White by Marilyn Manson, at 450 plays, to Brief is the Light by Sentenced, at nearly 500, these sixty songs are an unintentional reflection of my mental state over the years. On average, I’ve listened to these sixty songs at least once a week for the past fifteen years (since I first built an iTunes library), although of course there’ve been days when I’ve listened to some on repeat for hours at a time.

You see, music is my memory. I don’t have the sharpest recollection for things, people or events, but listening to a particular song will invariably revisit the feelings I was experiencing when I first came to know and love it. For me, music is feeling, it is emotion, and frequently, it is depression.

When I listen to My Hope, the Destroyer by My Dying Bride, I am returned to the gloriously dark, gothic days of my teenage depression, candles and vodka late at night, wondering if I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. When I hear Join Me In Death by HIM, I remember the blood running down my arms as I cut myself repeatedly, wishing I had the strength to cut deeper, harder, more finally.

These aren’t necessarily pleasant memories, but they are the foundation of who I am today – the essence of my soul. It would be a disservice to forget who I used to be, and how it led to who I am today. There are still days when I simply can’t cope, when I want to sleep all day and forget the world; there are days when I just want to cease existing. This last week has been especially hard, coping with the death of a dear friend and being asked to read his eulogy.

And in those times, I fire up my Depression playlist, and I remember. I remember what it feels like to be alone; what it’s like to be numb, and miserable, and to want to die. These are powerful memories, and they’re important.

Sometimes people ask me why, if I’m already depressed, I choose to listen to music that reinforces the feeling. They wonder why I don’t listen to happy music to cheer myself up. The answer is that I don’t use music to change my mood; I choose my music to reflect my mood. When I’m at my darkest, I need strength; when I’m at my lowest, I need reassurance. And the memories of past sadness is, in a way, just that: a reminder that I’ve felt this way before, and that I’m still here.

Music, in the end, is timeless and eternal. And in this, it serves as a reminder that all things pass, for better or for worse. I too will die one day, and I don’t want that day to come having wasted what’s left of my life.

That doesn’t mean I want to write a book, or cross off a bucket list; to me, that’s not the measure of a life well spent. To me, it’s about feeling. And feeling, be it happy or sad, alive or numb, is the essence of life. For some, they get their feelings from movies, or books; some get it from food, or family.

I get it from music. I am eternally grateful for the music in my life, and I will continue to rack up the plays on those top sixty songs for the rest of my life. Every time I need to remember, every time I need to feel, those songs will be there for me.

So remember to listen, and remember to feel: we aren’t long for this world.

Invisible Illness

I heard / saw somewhere that mental illness is an invisible illness.   That people with mental illness are not afforded the proverbial “ramps” they require in order to cope and survive in the world.  And whilst I would suggest moving stairs as a must have for anyone with mental illness, particularly up hill, it’s actually this suggested invisibleness which amuses me so.  You see, if you’ve ever met me, or anyone who is really chronically ill, let’s just say that there’s a lot you’d rather wish you didn’t see, because this chick with severe Bipolar is a very proudly uninvisible me.  Also, if you didn’t know, I would be worried about YOU,

I know that I am inappropriate, that I say the wrong things at the wrong time.  That my brain mouth filter does not work, no matter how many times I try and lodge the closest item into my mouth, to avoid the lithium language that well, lingers after it’s come out.  Yes, I have been known to be THE singular fart in an otherwise perfume factory.  In fact, this endearing trait is perhaps my only consistent thing I’m able to do.  Basically, the opposite of everything that is socially acceptable and done by everyone else.  I’ve had these extraordinary abilities since I was little.  Even then I would feel and experience everything at least 1000 times more than anyone else.  I didn’t have a precise meter to measure this, other than the fact that my siblings didn’t vomit each day they had to go to school, on account of the nauseating anxiety of being late.  It appeared at least through this example,  that I was gut wrenchingly experiencing something else.  Well at least literally, my little psychiatrist self in the making believed.

I am also the same person that will make you three different kinds of biscuits if you come for tea, will write / draw (with no artistic ability) a little note with biscuits I send to take home, I will share my last piece of bread. I also have an even more extraordinary ability which not all people have:  the patience and understanding to help you cry. The kind of cry that’s tucked away, the pain in teardrops no-one wants to see.  No mental illness is not all sadness – but it is in my experience about hard earned boundless empathy.  When you’ve felt the spectrum of emotion I have in my long short life, there are very few emotions I have not encountered. And although I personally flip flopped through my own experience, I am now a well-versed pro in how to deal with anything uncomfortable, clumsy, drowsy, emotional anything.

But no matter how uncomfortable the world may be with my unbridled display of emotion – or stigmatised madness – I am not invisible.  My experiences are not invisible.  My daily fight to conquer my mental illness is real.  And if my eyes look slightly dazed, it isn’t because I’m mad.  It’s because I’m TIRED.  I am taking a nap, while standing, looking at you.  Yes, I have mastered this art too. Because when insomnia is real, you can sleep awake.  I’ve done and do this, cigarette in hand.   I can sing, and I can cry, even within the shortest space of time.  I feel inappropriate feelings at inappropriate times, and if it’s hard for anyone to see or be around, they are infinitely unaware of how it is overwhelmingly amplified in what I can see and feel in me.

People with mental illness are not invisible, we matter, and how we feel matters too.  The world has done the opposite I think/.  Pretended that mental illness doesn’t exist, or when it does, it should be housed in the strait jacket of psychiatric hospital and disability stuff. ’cause in the absence of ongoing stability (we are programmed to believe we can and will relapse) we do have this:  an abundance of feelings we do and don’t like.  All. The. Time. And if you don’t understand it, just think about this:  you would never want to be, at a minimum, invisible.  Please don’t do it to me.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4M’s Bipolar Mom.

unsplash-logoGregory Pappas

Allow Yourself to Feel, Even if it’s Not Happy

Feelings are like waves. You cannot stop them from coming, but you can decide which ones to surf. – Author Unknown

When setting out on a path to find your “you” or searching for a more positive, happy life, we can sometimes get caught up in the “rules”. To be happy, you must always be cheery, you should always look at things with a positive spin, you should always take the high road, you should, you should, you should… Well, that’s all fine and dandy, and while striving to accomplish just that is admirable, it’s not at all realistic. If we, as living, breathing humans could maintain “happy” all the time, we would not be human. However, how we handle the emotions we are feeling can determine how clear the path to a more positive way of life will be.

This was a difficult lesson for me, because when I have attempted the positive path in the past and sought to inspire it, I felt that if I didn’t follow the “rules” I was fraudulently living and blogging about something I had no business writing about. How can I inspire happiness if I was feeling something other than elated or peppy? This idea I had in my mind derailed me often. I would be disappointed in myself, and that disappointment spiraled into insecurity, which spiraled into thinking I was ridiculous to believe I was the person that could talk about living happy. What I didn’t realize was that I was just in a moment, and if I wouldn’t have fought my emotions, I acknowledged my feelings and allowed myself to feel what I felt just at that moment, happiness could and would have followed.

Happiness does not mean we have to be upbeat and peppy all the time. Maintaining “Suzy Sunshine” at all times is a fantasy and can even have the reverse effects of what we seek.  If that is what anyone is expecting, they are unfortunately setting themselves up to fail. Happy means that when we do feel sad, lonely, angry, or frustrated we acknowledge it and allow ourselves to feel it. Cry, go for a walk, vent to a friend, let out the emotions that are bottled up, and then come to terms with those emotions, and find our way back to our best path more clearly. Burying the negative feelings does not mean they go away, it just means they fester until one day it all boils over, and for me, it meant quit what I knew in my heart I was meant to do. 

My advice to you, is when you feel like happy just isn’t happening that day, acknowledge it, feel it, allow the emotions to flow through you, and release them in a healthy meaningful way, then breathe. This too shall pass, and happiness is still an option, just give yourself that moment. When you are genuinely honest with how you are feeling, the process of healing and moving into a new frame of mind becomes so much more feasible. Remember to breathe, rely on your tribe, be honest with yourself, and soon it’s no longer just a path, but happiness becomes your way of life.

I write these words because I feel it’s so very important to acknowledge the truth of the moment and the honesty of how you are feeling. Be true to you and the path is so much more clear.

Much Love,

Lisa J

Grief and Time – It Doesn’t Get Easier, But That’s the Point

What we want to do is put grief in a box. “Package it up, tape the bitch, and put it somewhere where we can see it.” That’s what we say. With this, we get control over our grief. We can watch it and make sure it doesn’t fly out of the box, ripping at the edges, scrambling over to catch us in meetings and during someone else’s happy moments. If we can contain it, we can control it, and we’ve falsely believed – for quite some time now – that we’ll dis-empower it this way over time; that one day, that grief will cease to exist because we’ve made it smaller by cramming it into something with crippling limits.

I’ve discovered, in the wake of my own grief with loss and depression, that grief in a box is like a tumor. Just because we don’t allow it to grow outward and free, doesn’t mean it will disappear through the existence of time and us not paying it any attention. That’s not how it works, but who am I to tell you how it should? Here’s my experience, and you decide for yourself:

When my grandfather died, I isolated. I knew other coping mechanisms existed, but I didn’t care for them. I didn’t want to reach out to my family and grieve with them because we all isolated from each other. We didn’t create spaces in which to come together; we looked for spaces in which to hide from each other so that we could “process in peace.” And I put that sentence into quotes because, in my family, there is no peace in grief. None found none sought. What we do – successfully – is we push aside the human choice to sink into our feelings for the other choice to rack our brain for a way out: a way out of grief, out of sadness, out of crying in front of one another. We look for a loophole, mentally. And when we find one – whether that is keeping busy, averting eye contact, or making ourselves think about literally anything else – we latch onto it and use that runaround as an escape. “We’ll never think about loss again, and we won’t let grief pull us under.” That’s what we think, but rarely ever say. To my mom, that was a sign of strength. Her Herculean feat was to establish her ground as a no-crying badass who never looked at herself in grief as pieces she had to put back together. She was going to live long in the belief that nothing could break her. To my dad, that was an end result he chased but never attained. Contrary to my mom, he was and still is an emotional opportunity, to actually sit with his feelings and ACTUALLY process them in peace. But that doesn’t work when you’ve been fed the “life’s shit toughens you” mantra for decades. After a while, you start to think that being a no-crying badass in the face of grief is supposed to be a proud staple of who you are. And then there was Me in the middle, the neon-colored sheep of the family. I believe grief is different.

Even though I still run to hide in spaces where I can process in peace, I am aware of my running. Losing someone or living with depression are some of life’s hardest phases through which to maintain this awareness. I was recently inspired to read a writer’s beautiful and accurate description of grief. He likened it to waves in the ocean. I think this is a far better description than the box because the ocean is expansive and sometimes when you look far, infinite. That’s how I imagine grief to be. It’s not this small thing we can hold and stuff into a tiny space when it begins to hurt. It’s the opposite of that. So when we’re faced with the beginning stages of grief – in those first hours and days – it feels like the waves are coming in non-stop. One right after the other. Never-ending. And they come crashing down hard! I mean, “face in the sand, tumbling on rocks” hard. Everything we have gets thrown off track, and everything we control is now no longer up to us. It’s scary! There is no space or time between those waves where we can stand up or stick our heads out long enough to catch a full breath. Everything feels rushed in the slowest way imaginable.

This is how I felt when my grandfather died when my favorite singer died when I went through a hard breakup. A loss doesn’t have to mean the end of life. It’s the end of something. Sometimes, it’s the end of some part of yourself. And in those first few days, I was underwater. You literally have to throw your hands up in the air and allow the flood to blow everything to pieces. And you watch yourself get thrown into the tumult with it all, and I’ve noticed that the more you scramble to stay on top, the more grief kicks you down – like it wants you to get to a point where standing up is no longer even an option for you. I liken this to your own metaphorical death; because when you lose someone, you have to die a little with them, too. Something of yourself has to pass on so that you can understand how grief works so that you can teach your scared and running Herculean family that this death is also OK.

I don’t believe that time heals all wounds. I think that’s bullshit. I think that’s what we’ve been led to believe so that we’ll stop talking about our grief with people who pretend their wounds are just little scars. I also don’t believe time heals all grief. We’ve adopted the mentality that time is an action. And maybe for some things, it is. But for this? Time is just space. Space between those waves where we can finally stand up and take a full breath in without feeling like our lungs are collapsing. Time is space – no matter how brief – where we can get out of bed, or have a normal conversation, or smile just because. And this space exists between crests of waves that are always going to be there because grief doesn’t end. It doesn’t get easier or better. We just get stronger. And we gain more space in which to see the waves approaching, and we can prepare. We can anticipate that it’s going to hurt when we remember their smile or hear their voice in that one song or remember how much they loved to fish. And the only time in which Time will ever give us healing is when we begin to welcome those waves, not as torture, but as perspective.

If I’ve ever learned anything at all by being who I am in a family who is the polar opposite, is that grief and loss and depression are topics of conversation that should exist, freely and wholly. When we share our stories and give words to our thoughts and feelings, we learn. I am not anyone who has stumbled into this knowledge and advice because I’m smart or wise. I am here because I’ve found that carrying the burden of remaining silent is too heavy, and not for me.

I hope you give your waves a voice, unapologetically and without reserve.