Aaaaaand…Action!

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

Mine certainly is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten years ago I would have run for the hills.

I am so grateful that I didn’t.

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

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

Does it take all you’ve got to give?

YES.

Is it worth it?

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

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In The Face Of Mental Illness

There are often many things that fall by the wayside due to mental illness. They include, but are not limited to, hygiene, relationships, motivation, academics, social interaction, romance, honestly the list goes on and on. Though the one thing that I miss the most is probably a mixture of relationships, social interaction, and romance. I’ve had several romantic relationships in my years, none of them ending well, but also providing invaluable experience on what NOT to do the next time. I happen to have a rather uncanny ability to be attracted to women with their own mental health issues. It seems that out of all my romantic relationships, I have not had a single one that didn’t get rocky because of mental illness, mine, hers, or both. For example, my most recent relationship, which was several years ago now, ended because my partner was slowly killing herself through eating disorders and self harm. So, try as I could, I offered her as much help as humanly possible for someone struggling with their own mental health, but nothing helped. I imagine that she was where I reached with my depression not too long ago, where you just accept that life will be this way forever. After a year or two together, I couldn’t bear both watching her slowly fade away, or deal with my own depression. Unfortunately, even though I cared for this woman very deeply, still do actually, I had to end the relationship for my own mental health.

Romance is already a tricky subject for most people. There are those that believe that there is a single person whom matches the other perfectly. Which, from a scientific standpoint, is certainly plausible, as there are nearly 8 billion of us on the planet thus far. Then there are those, like myself, who go through numerous, often painful, experiences, both learning to love and be loved, until they find the right person for them. Humans are supposed to learn about love from their parents, both in an emotional viewpoint, as well as physical (Y’know, the “birds & the bees” talk). For those like me, this doesn’t happen. From my perspective, my parents never had what you would call a “healthy” marriage. So, right there is strike one, I couldn’t learn the correct way to love someone. Also I’ve discovered recently that the love from my parents is often conditional, though they claim otherwise. Strike two, couldn’t learn how to be loved in a healthy fashion. Then finally, the only person in this world that I felt that shared an unconditional love for one another, my grandmother, passed away in 2009. Which, honestly speaking, is still rather difficult for me to speak about. And there is strike three, losing the only “real” and “healthy” love I’ve ever had, caused me to rely on the “unhealthy” love that I experienced as a child. Then cue the numerous, highly unhealthy, incredibly painful romantic relationships that I did have in my teenage and young adult years. Still to this day, I yearn for the kind of love that my grandmother and I shared. I mean, it’s natural isn’t it? To want to be in a healthy, equal and fulfilling relationship with another person.

Now, I do care for my mother, very deeply; and by all accounts, she feels the same for me. However, the problem is, that she, probably unconsciously, sets these standards for me to meet, that I have yet to achieve. Whether it is cleanliness, academics, hobbies, financially, whatever, she has these expectations for me. Truthfully, I don’t blame her, as most if not all parents want their child to not only succeed, but surpass them. This is where I have my issues. My mother is a very driven individual, who has worked incredibly hard to get where she is, as well as what she has. That being said, she expected the same out of me. Unfortunately for the both of us, my depression derailed my progress in life very early on. It wasn’t even until I was 17 that anyone knew I was struggling so much (my first “major” suicide attempt). Granted, for someone like me, it was rather easy to hide my pain, especially from those closest to me. While I certainly do not blame my mother for my depression, she did exacerbate it during my youth. I was always a disappointment to her, from my grades, to sports, to friends, just about every aspect of my life didn’t “live up” to her expectations. While she still will wholeheartedly deny this, I cannot ignore the damage it has done to my psyche. I’m not sure if it is due to being depressed for so long, or if it’s just the way I am, but I am incredibly low maintenance. I am not bothered by unclean conditions, I don’t need the grass cut every week, I don’t even need to eat very often if I so choose. However, my mother is incredulous when it comes to cleaning, I will clean an area top to bottom, yet she will still find something that I missed, or ignored because no one ever sees it. For example, I would spend hours cleaning the bathroom, but she will still find places that aren’t even that dirty, that need to be cleaned, like behind the toilet. Enough about my mother, as you can tell, I am harboring a sizeable amount of resentment.

I do think that I miss social interaction the most, as it is usually the starting point for all relationships. Now that I am not depressed, I can start pushing myself towards more interactions. However, my social anxiety is still a very large burden, that prevents me from socializing quite often. For example, at my new job, despite developing a rapport with some colleagues, I still eat lunch by myself. I still barely speak when avoidable. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being solitary, or what the kids call “a lone wolf”. In fact, I often prefer it this way, because it is less maintenance on my part. Though like I stated prior, I am uncertain if this is due to my mental illnesses, or is just a part of my personality. Often times, especially lately, when I develop a romantic attraction towards another person, I have to take a step back. One because I need to make sure that it is genuine, not just a desire to be in a romantic relationship. Two, because as of late, these women that I am attracted to, are people that I work with. Three, because as I said, I have an uncanny ability to become attracted to women with mental illness(es). Also, there is a part of me that is still afraid of the pain involved with an unsuccessful relationship. Now, this is completely a natural fear, that almost everyone who has been through an “ugly” breakup experiences. Not many people like pain, and therefore we try our best to avoid it. However, I liken the situation with a young chick learning how to fly. As you may have heard, there are many species of bird that forcefully push their offspring out of the nest, where they either learn to fly, or die. Though, when it comes to romance, there often is not a “mother bird” to give us that push out of the nest (our comfort “zone”), so more times than not, we have to just make the leap ourselves, further inducing fear. The reason it is not easy for us (humans) to conquer our fear, is because fear is an evolved behavior of survival. To be afraid raises our blood pressure, increases our heart rate, increases the strain we can put on muscle fibers before they snap, all physically increasing our chance of “survival”. With such illnesses as anxiety, and whatever type of anxiety the person suffers from, we experience a “pre-programmed” aversion towards certain situations or objects. What initially was evolved to keep us alive, now makes our lives unbearable in most cases. I myself suffer from panic attacks, where I experience the physiological symptoms of fear, for what often are situations that are mundane and generally average. Not that I needed to explain a panic attack to a mental health audience, but hey, I’m a Biology Nerd. Anyways, this fear of exiting our “comfort zone” is also primal, as once our ancestors left their caves, they could ultimately die in a large number of fashions. This is usually incredibly multiplied in those of us with anxiety disorders. So even the thought of starting a conversation with a women I have an interest in, can send me into a state of panic (not really a full panic attack, but a “lite version”). So as you can probably imagine, actually doing it, well that seems entirely life or death in my mind. As we are most of the time opposed to death (at least should be) the act of speaking to a “crush” feels like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. Or in my metaphor’s case, jumping from the nest without knowing how to fly.

As a chronic over thinker, I will often isolate for the sole purpose of not over thinking. Conversations can go any number of ways with a specific person, and despite how I write, I prefer proactive rather than reactive. Add that together with my observatory skills, and you have yourself a fine recipe for unlimited anxiety. As during a conversation, I will not only be “preparing” for the different responses, I will be analyzing how the person reacted to my original statement, and further trying to predict the best course the conversation could take. The key word here is could, as despite how much effort I put into steering the conversation, people are near unpredictable. As you can imagine, or even relate, romance has not been easy for me. As many women who have reciprocated my attraction, there are many more whom I have “scared” away. If any of you, who have found a way to overcome your social anxiety, have any tips for me, I would greatly appreciate it. I think I have rambled on enough here, plus, my fingers are getting tired from all the typing.

ANYWHO, thanks for reading! ❤
Check me out on my own blog at Out of My Mind

My Delusions

So, as you are all probably painfully aware, depression is an illness that can take all of the life out of living. This was the case for me. For roughly 8 years, out of the 20+ years I’ve been depressed, I had nothing to live for. I tried to kill myself twice before 2011, when I was barely a teenager. Obviously, both tries were rather unsuccessful, I think that I have my poor planning skills to thank for that. My childhood was not great, but not awful either. Granted there was nearly constant bullying from people that I thought were my friends. However, you get into my teenage years, and it all seems to go even further downhill. I lose my will to live, secretly attempt suicide twice, and go through the motions with school, chores, relationships, etc. It wasn’t until 2011, that I really planned out my “next” suicide attempt. I had shoplifted 2 bottles of over the counter sleeping pills, that I originally was using for my insomnia, which I suppose could be related to my depression or even my anxiety. Though, I had gotten to a point, where I just couldn’t stand living another day. Going to school. going through the motions, getting bullied, going to football practice, coming home to a dysfunctional family, I just couldn’t do any of it anymore. So, over the course of about 3 hours, I drafted my first real suicide note. Posted it to Facebook, and then took roughly about 150 sleeping pills. This was my first serious suicide attempt. By serious, I mean, it actually had a chance of succeeding. Luckily for me, someone called the police once they saw my suicide note on Facebook, and I was saved, by the “skin of my teeth”. I woke up probably a day later, on a respirator machine, in the ICU of the local hospital. My parents both there beside me, with a rather obvious mix of anger, sadness, and joy written all over their faces. I then promptly got committed to an in-patient facility, and began my near lifelong journey in the mental health system. If any of you reading this are also residents of the lovely United States, you know that our mental health “system” is severely lacking, and filled with stigma.

So, the next few years weren’t easy, by any standpoint. Though I graduated high school, enrolled in college, had a rather serious girlfriend at the time, and life was going, not great, but well…at least for a little while. It was in college that I finally tried medication for my conditions, and not quickly, discovered that I was medication resistant. So, I believed that with a mix of medication and weekly therapy, I would be able to get back to living my life. For several years, it kinda worked, though I was still plagued by incessant suicidal thoughts, and severely deep depression. I also developed a rather unhealthy dependence on alcohol, but that’s for another time. Fast-forwards a bit, to 2016. I was technically a senior in college, but due to my inability to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I needed a fifth year in college. As a small side note, I couldn’t pay for my 5th year, as the scholarship I was “awarded” only lasted the 4 years. I was barely keeping my head above water at this point. Seeing my therapist every week, was basically the only thing keeping me alive. Though, with the constant suicidal thoughts, I always had a plan in motion to kill myself, I would just never act on it. My therapist knew this, and gave me some leeway in not committing me. The problem is, I was spiraling the drain, and I knew it, but I did nothing to stop it. What definitely didn’t help, was my chemistry teacher was also my academic advisor. He, when I went to him to schedule spring semester classes, told me that I would never amount to anything in life, or be hired by any company, if my GPA wasn’t above a 3.0, which it wasn’t. This single line is what pushed me over the edge. Turned, what I call “passive” suicidal thoughts, into “active” suicidal thoughts. One day, during my chemistry class, with Professor…oh I’m sorry…DR.WHATEVER THE HELL HIS NAME IS, I got fed up with listening to him pretending to be a good teacher. So I stormed out of his class, went to my therapist, and told her that I was probably going to act on my plan…SO, in what not to do to someone standing on the edge, she called the police on me, and had me committed to in-patient…

Fast-forwards a few more years now, I was single again, and have gone through several jobs with promising companies (contrary to what my advisor said) and began working at a rather large laboratory company. I, once again, began circling the drain, and I saw it coming from a mile away. I hated my job, hated my life, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah you get where I’m headed with this, right? So, this time, wanting my life to be different, and not go back to in-patient, I quit my job. Right there, on the spot, no warning, no advance notice. I then began to look into ECT treatment, which you all have probably heard me talk about before, so I’ll skip explaining it. After about 6 months of ECT treatment, I finally began to feel better. I went from, essentially, the bottom of a ravine, to the peak of a mountain, in the course of a few weeks. Yeah, I’ve read the articles that ECT causes permanent brain damage, and that the “elation” that I felt, was simply a symptom of the concussions ECT was giving me. I don’t believe any of that. I was saved by ECT, because it was more or less, my last resort. After a couple months of feeling like I was on top of the world (or so I thought). I began to “level out” and stopped being so happy all the time (which probably was as unhealthy as depression) and began experiencing what “normal” feels like. It was then that I was scared that a I would fall back into my deep depression, as my mood was starting to dip. What I didn’t realize for a few weeks, was that life is basically a whole lot of “blah” feelings, with a little bit of sadness or happiness sprinkled in at the right moments. So, coming off of this “high” I was on after my depression faded, I was scared of falling back into depression. I was under the impression that this “happiness” I felt, was going to be the way I was from then on. Of course, I was wrong. And contrary to my beliefs, my mood stabilized around a sort of “grey” middle-ground between happiness and sadness. This was not something I had ever experienced before, so I was (needlessly) worried for quite some time.

Y’know, I was under the impression that life would get easier once my depression was gone. While technically I was right, I was also completely wrong at the same time. I have always known that life is not easy, for almost everyone. Of course I also knew that this really depended on where and who you were born to. I have known for a long time, that I got rather lucky, as I was born a white male, to a successful mother, in the United States. Although, I was convinced that once my depression was gone, I would be able to do all the things I needed to do, that I couldn’t while depressed. Such as chores, simple self-hygiene, socializing, finish my degree, get a good job, pay my own bills, move out on my own. Y’know, become a true adult. While life certainly is much easier to manage without constant suicidal thoughts, and all the depression symptoms, it is not as easy as I thought it would be. I was unemployed for 7 months, in order to get my ECT treatments done. Though, because of my bills, I never stopped looking for a job after I quit my last one. Though, I have to say, until I was hired around the end of July, I have never had as much trouble finding a job, as I had during those 7 months. Even depressed, I had a seamless transition between two jobs, for more pay, and less commute. Though, without my depression, with all the energy and motivation that I had regained, I couldn’t find a suitable job for the life of me. I still dealt with all the same issues that I did while I was depressed. I couldn’t take care of myself, I could barely pay my bills, I didn’t do chores, I still had a drinking problem, I still had massive anxiety, it was like nothing even changed. My life was supposed to get better by leaps and bounds without depression, or so I convinced myself. The problem that I didn’t account for, is that life always sucks, whether you’re mentally ill or not. Life is always hard, and nothing will fall into your lap just because you want it. Like I said, life did get easier for me, but marginally (Compared to my “predictions” anyways).

I just had to realize a few things that most people learn in their childhoods (that I didn’t thanks to depression). #1, life is hard, for EVERYONE, regardless of circumstance. #2, life is not all happiness without depression. Like I said, it’s mostly this weird “grey” area, with a little bit of happiness and sadness sprinkled in. #3, if I want ANYTHING in my life, I am going to have to bust my a*s for it, no excuses. #4, my depression is in REMISSION, not cured. Unfortunately there is no cure for depression (yet), and it will worm it’s way back into my life at times. I just have to hope that I have enough experience to deal with it the right way, rather than just kill myself. Once I realized these things, life didn’t seem so bad. I go to work, pay my bills, hang out with my friends, actually live life. So if you are still struggling with mental illness, don’t delude yourself the way I did. Although life will get better if you get your illness under control, it won’t magically become super awesome. So continue with your treatment plan, go to therapy, take your meds, and just bust your butt, until what you want is realized. Having a dream that you are striving towards is usually a double-edged sword, take my word for it. It is great to have a goal in life, but you either have to make it realistic, or be prepared to never reach your goal. Granted, with a wild, outlandish aspiration, there will be a boatload of fun along the way, but it will be incredibly more difficult. So, y’know what, live your life the best you can. When your time comes, as all ours will, just make sure that you had enough good times to look back on as it all fades to black.

Hopefully this wasn’t too depressing for you people. I really wrote a lot didn’t I? Sorry…not sorry…hope you enjoyed reading. As always I would love to hear from all of you on what I should write about next. Especially since the future for the BPW blog is a little fuzzy at the moment.

ANYWAYS, hope you all have wonderful days today, and forever ❤

Life Update

Sorry I haven’t been posting as much lately. I have been super busy with a new job and moving back to my hometown with my husband. Also, lately, I haven’t had to motivation, inspiration, or drive to write anything; here or on my own blog. I just feel drained. I don’t know if it is my depression that is coming back after months of me feeling great, or if I’m just blocked or preoccupied with other things.

Mentally, I’ve been feeling pretty good. But I am SO TIRED all of the time. I sleep 12+ hours a day and I’m still tired. For a while I thought I was sleeping too much so I would try not to but I would always end up taking a nap or going to bed ludicrously early. So, I think I will try to take some B-12 vitamins and maybe that will help.

School is starting soon and this will be my first semester back after taking a year off. I’m excited to go back, but also a little anxious. Last time, I was having a real hard time being motivated and was totally burned out. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen again. I am so close to finishing my degree and I just wasn’t it done with! So, I’ve been trying to mentally prepare for that.

Well, this is basically all that has been going on in my life. I’ll try to write more. I promise!

A Mental Health Update for the Bipolar Writer

Where Has The Bipolar Been?

neonbrand-618322-unsplashSince starting this blog over a year ago, this is perhaps the longest it has been between writing posts for my blog. I have been lucky that my fellow contributors on The Bipolar Writer blog have picked up the slack in writing some fantastic and vital articles since the last time we talked. I thank each and every contributor and follower of this blog for continuing to come to this blog as a safe place.

I have been busy. I am working on adjusting my daily routine to help curb my social anxiety with some success. I have been growing my freelance work also with some success. When you add that I am a full-time student, it means there is little time for me to write my thoughts here on the blog. I miss writing, but there are only so many days in a week. I won’t lie, I am considering taking a break until next year from my blog, I have loved what we have done here, but at the same time, the need to focus on finally getting over the hump and publishing my memoir is growing each day.

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There is an upside of working on my social anxiety (and my overall mental health) as of late. I have broken through some of the isolation that was going on over the last month or two, it helps that I am meeting more clients in the field (which means coffee shops for someone like me) and I am hopeful that I can continue to work on my social anxiety and isolation.

I have to admit, the first time in months going to my local coffee shop to work with a client was a scary thought. The last time I had spent more than ten minutes in a crowded place that I have always felt comfortable was in July of this year. After a while, I found my comfort zone, and it felt so good. True, I need to open up more, but this is a significant step in the right direction. That is everything in this mental illness life.

I can tell over the last week or so that my social anxiety is trending in the right direciton. I still have days where it is a struggle, but given that we are in November, it is to be expected.

That takes me to this week, my anniversary week. I will be writing a big post on Thursday, the actual anniversary of my diagnosis. I have written something about the years that have passed by every year in the past six years. I have come so far, further than I ever thought was possible. This week will be about hope in the face of living with mental illness. I feel good going into this week.

That is it for now. I will try and write more this week. Stay strong in the fight.

James

Always Keep Fighting

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoCamille Orgel

NeONBRAND

Helena Lopes

One Step At A Time

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Sometimes just be. Do not think or worry, do not get angry under stress. Keep patience and see how well things will work out for you. – Sancta Pandey

Some of the content discussed in this blog post or article may be uncomfortable for certain readers and might possibly trigger people living with complex PTSD and PTSD.

When I first got diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Panic Disorder, I was well in my second year of college studying Aeronautical Engineering. Truth be told I wasn’t copying with my studies (I was on the edge of being placed on academic probation).I was extremely overwhelmed and unable to focus. Let alone, I was sexually assaulted that year and failed to report this at the college I was studying at. They later found out when I registered my CPTSD and other disorders at their disability unit (disability services and accommodations at the university). I was later called in and advised to take a leave of absence from my university because i wasn’t doing well as I mentioned.

A lot of students struggle to share how mental health impacts their studies.Lack of concentration is a symptom for so many mental health illnesses and chronic illnesses. Today, I wanted to share my struggles of living with complex PTSD in college. Whenever I studied I could barely read a page and recall all the information I had studied. My short term memory wasn’t capturing new information because of my overwhelmed brain due to my trauma. I couldn’t study in groups and attend lectures because crowds and sounds overwhelmed me.img_0752 I was extremely hypervigilant and hyper-aware of everything in my surroundings, sounds and any movement(s) overwhelmed me. My body was trying to protect me from what had happened of course, because it’s what our brain does if we are in danger.But the problem is our bodies do not know how to get rid of all the chemicals in our bodies after trauma; so we continue to react even when we are in safe zones or in places where we should feel safe. This set my whole academic career on hold for 6 months. I stayed home and tried to get help for my complex PTSD. My voice was gone and I couldn’t communicate in class, do orals or have casual conversation with strangers and friends. Everyone was a danger to me. No one was to be trusted at all, even my family members. I lived in fear of being violated again. The truth is, this stopped me from living and enjoying life, I was surviving everyday. I was constantly crying everyday because I was physically and emotionally in pain.

When I went back to college after 6 months I expected everything to be smooth sailing. But things didn’t go as well as I expected. I went from being a straight A student to being average and that didn’t sit well with me. I was still very paranoid and living in fear of what could happen next. I honestly never attended classes because lectures consisted of chatter and crowds and that would set me on edge – with the possibility of me having a panic attack. Just more reasons for me not to attend. Therapy is not as smooth sailing as everyone ought to think it is. Sometimes it works, other times its takes more time to work and it can be frustrating. jacqueline-day-619822-unsplashI am currently on my way to doing my Master’s degree in Mechano-biology or a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence. All because I chose not to give up. It wasn’t easy, I fought with my psychologist and sometimes with my psychiatrist because I didn’t believe in being medicated. Meds did help me with sleep and with my studies. Having my Professors as my mentors, made the academic pressure more manageable. What made things worse was that I was constantly triggered when I had to take finals, because all my traumas happened before my finals or after my finals. It took me years to speak up. PTSD and CPTSD takes away one’s voice and one’s ability to project or portray their opinions through any medium of expression. That hindered my healing process a whole lot!

I chose not to give up. My marks did eventually improve and I managed not only to finish one associates degree but two. One in mechanical and mechatronics engineering and another in computer science and computer engineering. I was 19 when I got diagnosed. I am only 23 years old. It was a whole lot of work but it was worth is. I never missed my psychiatrist appointments and therapy appointments because I wanted to heal. I took my meds everyday, changed my diet because of bowel issues I ended up having because of CPTSD and I did yoga and meditated often. Be proud of yourself for all the progress you make during your healing journey, you deserve it!

Please learn to say no whenever your intuition tells you to. Learn to trust your own gut, its never wrong. Self care is very important especially when one has a mental health condition or chronic illness. Learn to forgive yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself you’re human at the end of the day.

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You are allowed to cry and to crawl when you can’t run. You are allowed to breakdown. You are allowed to doubt yourself. But you aren’t allowed to give up. – Francesca Seopa

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love,

Francesca

Anxious About the Future

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. – Edgar Allan Poe

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This weekend will be the last free weekend for me as I head into Monday and the start of my master’s program. I am beyond ecstatic about the next two years of my life, and at the same time overly anxious.

I am ready to take on this new challenge. I was anxious about starting my bachelor’s degree, and by the time I completed that I was in the right place in my life mentally and I succeeded. It was great that despite the struggles of having a mental illness I found a way to graduate the top of my class. I know once I get into that rhythm again things will work itself out– still, there will always be doubts in my mind.

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I did have some goals this summer, and while I have not conquered it all as I’d hoped, there was a lot a positive to come out of my summer. I have to move on. My goals for the remainder of the year are to refocus on publishing my memoir, getting back into the groove of school, starting a new fiction writing project, keep growing The Bipolar Writer blog and expand my freelance business. I will continue to get better at writing within my master’s program. I will be stronger, and I will share on my blog my journey.

I am embarking on an amazing jouney.

I have to be positive because there will be days where my anxiety, depression, mania, and insomnia will be fighting a war in my mind. I have to pick the battles that I know are winnable.

So here is to better days ahead.

Always Keep Fighting.

James

Photo Credit:

Nicole Honeywill

Trent Erwin

Peter Fogden

The Things We Do When We’re Lonely

Despite having lived with people for most of my life, I’m no stranger to loneliness. In fact, those of you who suffer from depression as I do can probably attest to the fact that you can feel lonely in the most crowded of places, surrounded by the most loving of friends and family. When it sinks its teeth in, nothing can bring you back.

I’m lonely right now. I’m lonely through situation – my wife and son have left on vacation and I wasn’t able to go with them – but I’m also lonely through isolation. Because of the events that led to them leaving without me (I forgot to book the time off from work), I feel a great measure of guilt, which only serves to deepen my sense of loneliness – a sensation that somehow I deserve to feel this way, and that I shouldn’t do anything about it.

I’ve also been lonely before in my life. It started when I first became depressed as a teenager. The first bouts of depression felt like they stemmed from a sense of insignificance, that in the grand scheme of things I didn’t matter, and nothing I did would ever amount to anything worthwhile. Feeling like a blip on the radar of life is a very isolating experience, I can tell you.

Later, I began to isolate myself from my friends at school, both deliberately and through sheer ignorance and bad luck. It came to a head one drunken night at a friend’s house where I made a fool of myself and got us banned from going over there again. My friends turned on me, left me and abandoned me, and I’d never known such loneliness. This led to some of my first truly suicidal thoughts.

When I went to college in London, I lived in a dorm but with a room of my own. That one year was the absolute worst of my life. I saw no one, spoke to no one, almost never got out of bed; I rarely showered, didn’t shave, stank, and fended off everyone around me with vitriol. I hated myself, hated my life, hated everyone else in the world. And I knew – absolutely knew – that it would never get better.

It did.

I met my wife, we had a child, and for a little bit, loneliness was delayed. But it always returned, in the deep of night or on a cloudy day at home when everyone else was away. And I did some strange things, some of which I recall fondly, whilst others are less positive.

In my teenage years, of course, I dealt with loneliness through self-harm. Before losing my friends, I would compare scars with one of the girls at work. Hers were always deeper, but mine were more plentiful. I dealt with it through drinking, too – sneaking whiskey from my father’s liquor cabinet as often as I dared.

Later, as an adult, I continued to deal with it through alcohol. I would finish a bottle of whiskey every few nights. I stopped cutting, but I drank more and more, and kept the loneliness at bay by minimizing my sobriety as much as possible.

Now, I find myself retreating to drink again, but I’m trying to control it. I know the things that will help, and the things that will make it worse. I’m trying to go out more (I’m writing this at a coffee house instead of my bed), trying to invite people to come over and spend time with me.

My cat also helps me feel less lonely. She is my rock, the one creature who will always show me affection no matter what I do or how I feel. When I pick her up she smushes her face into mine. I talk to her, I play with her, and I act like a complete goofball with her. It all helps.

But in the end, loneliness will always be there in the background, waiting to flood my life and drown me in solitude. I can fight it, I can cope with it, but I’ll never be rid of it. It’s as much a part of my life as my bipolar, my depression and my scars.

What makes you feel lonely, and how do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments.