World Bipolar Day comes around this week on 30 March. It’s 24 hours dedicated to raising awareness around Bipolar Disorder and chipping away at the concrete stigma still surrounding the diagnosis. This date was chosen because it’s also the day that Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853; one of the world’s most talented artists, who also lived in the darkest night of bipolar highs and lows.
“In order for you to live an authentic, meaningful life, which is the principal remedy for the depression creative people experience, you must feel that the plan of your life is meaningful, the work you do is meaningful, and the way you spend your time is meaningful.”
– Eric Maisel – The Van Gogh Blues: The creative person’s path through depression
We’ve all seen war movies with (usually hot) fighter jet pilots (I choose to select Josh Hartnett from Pearl Harbour here, but feel free to insert your own choice). How often do you see them glancing down at a photo of their girlfriend, wife, or children from back home – usually just before they do something incredibly brave that could take their life? It’s as if holding onto that love, that meaning for existence, makes anything else seem possible. [Read more…]
Words have the power to liberate you or to choke you. Not only the words spoken by others, but often times those we say to ourselves. The voices in our head can say, “Get up. You can do this. You’re incredible.” Those same voices can also say, “You stupid bitch. You always mess up. I wish you would just die.”
Over time those words form sentences of tar that pave the roads in our mind. We travel down the same path, over and over again. Sentences become paragraphs, become pages. Eventually we’ve told ourselves an entire story that we absorb into our core beliefs. We are convinced that the road we are on is the road we will stay on. We think there is no way we can turn back. And you know what? That is true. We can’t go back. But we can stop laying down that tar, choose a new direction, and start telling ourselves a different story. Word by word.
The 10 steps below are the first baby baby ones to help you create a whole new story. Just like it took a long time to write your book so far, it will take some time to change the plot. But we all need a beginning. I hope this can be part of yours. [Read more…]
Depression tends to move in connected riptides. You have a bad day at work and feel your mood plummeting. You grab a chocolate for an instant sugar high and unknowingly throw your body into the first current. Later on your blood sugar crashes and you feel even worse than before. Now you’re feeling emotional and irritable and just want to get home and sleep. It takes every bit of energy to drag yourself into your bed, and when your alarm goes off the next morning to go for a run with your best friend, you press snooze and forget you didn’t hear it. Then you start your morning with low energy levels, grab some toast (yay carbs) and off you go, current to current, further out to sea.
Just like with an ocean’s rip, with depression you have 3 options: You can fight it (this only makes you more exhausted), you can go with it (eventually it will spit you out), or you can take action and do the opposite to what your mind is telling you to. In the water you swim horizontal to the rip and escape it from the side. With depression you do the same – you do something counterintuitive to break the pull.
I have a new mantra that helps me do just that. It really goes against what I FEEL like doing when I’m down, but it works. It’s the philosophy that pulled me out of my dark December.
I haven’t written for a while.
My laptop gathered dust. Ashes from a fire that burned me one Sunday night, leaving my world black for weeks.
Bipolar crashes don’t happen often to me, but when they do, it takes a while to crawl out the wreckage.
It takes energy to stay awake. Written words are impossible.
This time was a little different though. [Read more…]
Someone close to me recently received an undeserved and over-reacted explosion of emotion from me. He simply said he was a little angry with me over something I didn’t tell him. That’s all. “I’m a little angry with you.” I fell apart. I can’t bear to upset him, or anyone for that matter. I perceived it as a massive fight and that, just like everyone else, he would leave me. I wasn’t good enough. I was a failure. I admitted to him that I hated myself all over again.
He recoiled, confused. Surely I couldn’t be THAT sensitive. A tiny comment imploded some raw part of my heart and I blew up at him. Emotional shrapnel cut into him; and just like soldiers tread tenderly over areas known to hold landmines, his first reaction was to hold back on telling me how he feels in case another bomb went off. Fortunately, he went with his second reaction to ask me what the hell was going on. I didn’t know the answer.
A couple of days later I was reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown on the plane, and her words jumped off the page, arranging themselves into an explanation like magic. There it was. The answer to the massive question mark I had lodged into the space between my friend and myself.
I’m good at my job. In fact, most days I’m REALLY good at my job.
I excel at sales. I write and edit as naturally as breathing.
I build strong relationships with people and network with ease.
I come up with ideas and marketing campaigns that blow my boss away.
But those are on the days my mood is normal or hypomanic.
There are other days, when depression is pulling the insides of my brains apart and scattering them across the path I walk; debris from the emotional landmine I tried to avoid but stepped on anyway. These are the days that I have the performance of a 5-year-old that was thrown into a management position. And then, quite frankly, I suck.
This is why…. [Read more…]
I’m the girl that lives two lives. The mostly put-together one that people see, and the one I hide away with my winter clothes in the leaking garage. I let her visit when I’m alone at home, the lights are out, and nobody will hear me cry.
I use all my energy to come across as “normal” at work, batting emails back and forth like a pro table tennis player. Reports meet deadlines, word counts are adhered to, I rack up the stars on my forehead. I go out with friends and have a few tequilas to entice the bubbly personality out, then crash when I get home because alcohol and meds definitely don’t mix. Crash means to literally race the car of your pretense life into a massive tree. It hurts, you’re stuck, and nobody can see you bleed. You beg God to open his jaws of life again and pull you out the wreck, but most nights you know you have to let yourself be unconscious a while and let your mind take the break it so desperately needs. You cry. You punch the pillow. And eventually you sleep.
I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time, everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else…
…Be lonely Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.” – Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
Somehow relationships are always stitched into the seams of depression. We’re triggered into dopamine floods of ecstasy, and then, just as effortlessly, with broken hearts, plummet into the darkest version of black there is.
Love, and the often hidden addiction to love, can be very accurate reflections of the gaping holes in our souls. We mirror our pain in the ones we choose to become infatuated with.
The bad boy who destroys me with his manipulation and lies is a recurring messenger with different faces until I learn to see it has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me.
With tattooed arms, wild hair, glorious shoes and eccentric personalities, I met two soul sisters from my tribe last night. Rahla Xenopoulos and Melinda Ferguson were in discussion over Melinda’s new book, Crashed. They’re funny, inspiring, and deep as hell. They reflect on lessons learned from addiction and the edge of sanity. Memoirs reflect their hanging on broken fingernails struggles, and the small daily victories and failures. The message of the colourful conversation danced between their words: Transformation.