I Have a Big Mind, So I Can Keep Dreaming

I have a very big mind. I don’t know if you can quantify the size of a mind seeing as it is abstract. What I mean when I say I have a big mind is that it wanders. I have high ambitions for myself, and sometimes believe in them. I think I’m going to become an award-winning author, a Nobel prize receiving nutritionist (has that ever even happened?). I’m going to run marathons and go on to running ultra’s. I want to play instruments and dance like Darcey Bussell

I don’t just want to do all of this stuff. I strive to do it all. However, one obstacle keeps getting in my way. My mental health. I can be very disabling for me. Sometimes, when I am unwell, I can’t even cook or eat properly. I can’t wash. Going to the toilet feels like a chore. Understanding and depicting between reality and fantasy can be a challenge.

I think a lot. I use mindfulness to tame my thinking – and often my mind may be empty, and still I think a lot. I can switch off, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t want all of these things for myself, along with a fantastic relationship, and friends, and above all – learning to manage my mental health.

One thing I still struggle with a lot is knowing how much I can do. I often feel like I want every waking moment of my days to be achieving something – be that studying, learning, writing, reading, running, climbing, art. Perhaps I expect too much of myself. I’m not sure.

When I’m depressed though, something I always struggle with is my inability to do very much at all – and learning to reign in my ideals of how I want to live my life. Accepting the limitations placed on me by my illnesses is something I have not fully accepted. I have accepted it more than I could a few years ago: it is a process. At the same time, I don’t want to not live my life because of my illnesses. I don’t want to sell myself short. I think most people can relate to wanting to be the best version of themselves, and to wanting to live their life as the best version of themselves.

So accepting that I can only read a paragraph at a time, accepting that I can’t go out or leave the house, accepting that I can’t run 4 times a week because quite simply, I am too unwell is difficult to adapt to each time I get unwell. Unfortunately, for me, getting unwell is still a frequent part of my life and I wonder if ever I will be as well as I hope to be. I expected to be a fully functioning member of society with a brilliant job after being off work for 6 months. That was 6 years ago. Evidently, these hopes and desires didn’t quite pan out.

There are times when I wish I was someone else. There are more than numerous times when I wish I didn’t have my illnesses. In fact, I wish this most days that I’m affected negatively by them. I think that is natural, right? So here, on that point right there I need to do some more acceptance work. By that I don’t mean stop fighting and give in. By that I mean learn when to pull the reigns in and accept that for a period of time I probably can’t do everything I want to do or wish for.

The difficulty of this acceptance I think is compounded by the highs I experience. During these times, life is bloody wonderful and I’m functioning at 200%. I’m productive beyond measure, goal orientated like a world champion athlete chasing after an Olympic Gold. I’m talented. I’m brilliant. I’m capable of anything and everything I set myself to. This is called hypomania – and the part that gets me the most is the comparison.

When I am hypomanic, experiencing myself at 200% and loving it, producing grand plans and ideas of how I’m going to become successful in every sense of the word makes the contrast between this state and being so low I cannot leave my bed a more bitter pill to swallow – and in swallowing my meds, I am to an extent, forfeiting these periods of my best self.

Overall, I know it is worth it because I get severely depressed much more than I get hypomanic – yet the contrast of the, “but I’m so brilliant” during those times is a difficult price to pay for stability. Over the years I have refused medications and not taken my medication. Slowly I have learned that this is in fact the worst thing I can do because 90% I will go down, down, down. I have learned the importance of taking my meds, and the importance of self-care in terms of sleep hygiene, and keeping calm in my overall performance, because what is the use of functioning and being my best self at 200% for a few weeks once a year or so, compared to a functioning level between 60-70% for the majority of the time? It is an equation of better odds in longevity.

But I have a big mind and I despise not being capable. I despise not being independent 100% of the time. I resent the fact that I am resigned to not working full-time, perhaps ever. At times it eats me up inside that I may never reach my full best self due to my illness – and actively accepting that going to the shop for some milk and watching Netflix is as good as it’s going to get for a few weeks is a painful realisation to find yourself in when you have such a big mind.

I know that I need to tame my mind. I may not be able to be brilliant all the time, much to my disappointment – but I can be above good for most of the time when I’m well? Is that a fair price to pay for being 5% of myself, and totally disabled by my mental illness? No. I don’t think so. Is it reality though? Is that just how mental illness goes? Yes. I suppose it is. Do I want to accept that? Not at all. Do I need to accept that? Most definitely.

Many brilliant minds in the public eye are tortured by mental illness, yet they manage to be really quite remarkable. Stephen Fry. Ruby Wax. Catherine Zeta Jones. Demi Lovato. When I see how successful they are, I find myself thinking, why not me? There is an element of self belief required, but the truth is, these people are exceptions. Exceptional minds and personalities with mental illness. They do not represent the majority of people with mental illness. I think society forgets that and that help me to also forget that.

I see a lot of people where I live, and amongst the services and hospitals I’ve been to who experience severe mental illness, and for them, just living in supported accommodation or volunteering 4 hours a week is as good as it’s going to get. Yet I don’t see myself amongst that population. I don’t see myself as higher or better, but I see my mind as bigger. I don’t identify with the people in my living complex who spend all day every day staring into space smoking and drinking – I see myself in the Stephen Fry’s and the Demi Lovato’s: but I just can’t sustain my abilities at a high enough level – and that is something I suppose I need to learn to accept. That is something I need to learn to live with, without thinking I may as well kill myself at the same time. That is something I am sure many of us struggle with, mental illness or not.

keepdremain

I just wish I could be my 200% for 100% of the time. I can dream. We all can. If I keep dreaming, and keep trying, it might become reality – until then, I need to reign in my expectations of myself again – and the heart wrenching reality of my illness hits me hard in the gut, in my soul, at my very core of what I consider to be my being. This is why I don’t work. This is why many people with mental illness don’t work and that’s OK – I just wish every person understood that without judgement. Maybe one day I too will work full-time, maybe I won’t.  Like I said though, I can dream right?

Advertisements

We all want to feel accepted. We all want to be a part of a tribe and can spend years of our lives trying to find our people. Feeling accepted however, isn’t the same as seeking constant approval and admiration from others around us. The only person who *really* needs to approve of our selves is ourselves. Be happy, and so what if someone else is more successful, more wealthy or more ripped than you? Are you happy? If the answer is yes, then brilliant. You’ve hit the jackpot. If you’re not how about focusing on your why to your what?

Book Review: The Bipolar II Disorder Workbook

51oouPTTSLL._AC_UL320_SR256,320_

This week I started reading through “The Bipolar II Disorder Workbook”. The book advises that you don’t read through it all quickly, but instead read a chapter and work on the activities suggested before moving on. This approach to reading and using the book encourages the reader to utilise and work through the book like you would therapy with a therapist, rather the rushing through and not utilising the skills and activities suggested throughout the book.

The first two chapters provide the groundwork for understanding the disorder and the usual treatment options offered, how they work and why they are offered. The explanation for Bipolar II and how this differentiates from a Bipolar I diagnosis is very clear,

“First, everyone with BPII experiences one or more periods of depression; however, depression may or may not bareness in BPI. Second, people with BPII experience hypomania,a less severe version of mania, the episodic high or elevated mood that is the defining feature BPI.” (McMurrich Roberts et al, 2013)

The discussion of treatment options within Chapter 2 are extensive and explorative. It is good to read about which drug categories are used and why, in addition to which therapeutic programmes and treatments are best utilised for the treatment of Bipolar.

The first activity chapter is about working on acceptance. The notion of what is classified as acceptance, and what is not is very well explained so that during the exercises you can be honest with yourself with how much you have, or perhaps have not, managed to accept your Bipolar diagnosis – in addition to highlighting circumstances that you are or are not accepting in other areas of your life. In encouraging acceptance of your Bipolar diagnosis, the book teaches you methods of general acceptance in everyday life: which is a good skill to obtain and have.

My next chapter to read is, “How To Manage Depressive Episodes”

———

Reference:
S, McMurrich Roberts, et al. 2013. The Bipolar II Disorder Workbook. Managing Recurrent Depression, Hypomania and Anxiety. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Switching Psychiatric Labels: And All The Resulting Qualms.

large

For years I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I dissociated, and at one time in my life, I engaged with many of the unhelpful coping mechanisms that accompany the disorder: binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, drinking, cutting, and overdoses. I was constantly trying to understand, and ease the immense pain that I felt from living, breathing, existing on this earth.

I had therapy.

I had years and years of various therapies with various therapists of varying intensities and specialisms. CBT, talking, EFT, schema, metallisation, all of which geared towards healing my inner turmoils in order to build a more stable future. Of course, that’s what all therapies are about right?

But it wasn’t working. I was frustrated. I’d cry in frustration – seriously, why am I so fucked up?

“you’re at the start of a long journey?”

“WHAT! The START. I’ve been in therapy for 8 years, how is this the start!?!?”

Because nothing, nothing I did was working on easing my depression – if you believed I was depressed that is. My psychiatrist didn’t. From their responses I gather they considered me to have a hidden agenda within my suicidal obsessions and deep rooted depression. I didn’t. I was quite literally depressed, nothing more, nothing less. Yet still, I had to get on with it even though it felt very real to me, it wasn’t – and so on and so forth.

And I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but for some reason I just didn’t ‘get it’. I did everything that was advised, and everything recommended from various self help resources. I used my therapy, went to as many sessions as possible – and I engaged. I tried, really. fucking. hard. REALLY. FUCKING. HARD. Yet still, I lived in a descended fog of despair and hopelessness. Fuck this. Seriously. Fuck. This. Shit.

Until I started walking on sunshine. Holy shit. I’d been missing the point for so many years, yet now, now all of a sudden, I had all the answers I’d ever been pining for. Of course life was wonderful. No. It wasn’t. Life was fucking magical, and so was I. It’s the highs and lows of the borderline disorder they said: until I lost my shit.

I lost my shit thoroughly for a whole week, or maybe longer, and finally, some bitch social worker named Penny sectioned me. I was re-assessed, and upon release my GP stirred up a fuss pulling my current diagnosis into question.

“You’re not the first, and you wont be the last to be lumbered with this diagnosis because they just don’t know quite where you fit and can’t put any other label neatly on you”

And she pissed a lot of people of, but she didn’t care. She wanted me to have the correct treatment, and could from her own expertise say that she’d seen me on both ends of the mood spectrum. Finally, my diagnosis was officially changed, I don’t have a personality disorder… I in fact had bipolar disorder, and so many jarred edges clicked into place like a the cogs made for my machine.

At first, this news came with a relief. Finally, they were listening and understanding the mood difficulties that I face. Finally, they were taking me seriously when I was down, and when I was walking on magical unicorn sunshine. Finally, I was given medications at a dose that would actually help a person, rather than eager sprinkles of psychiatric drugs that do nothing, to anyone, in the guise of “trying to help’. I’m quite sure they were trying to induce the placebo effect- but it never worked.

However, from this relief spawned a new vulnerability, and a new set of realisations. Shit, this isn’t something I can “get over, move on from and forget”. Shit, this isn’t going to go away as I’d been told it would for years. Shit, bipolar is life long, and I’m going to have to stay on my meds, and shit, I’m losing hope that those depressive episodes will never reappear in my life.

Within my sigh of relief, at the same time, I had a whole new set of circumstances within which to adapt to, to accept, to manage, and to acknowledge. It is not only a new label under my name, on my file somewhere that is likely a meter thick with truths woven between chapters and chapters of bullshit: but also, I have a new treatment plan to accept and use. I have to accept that these problems are probably going to be challenges for a lifetime, and that these challenges are going to have to be managed, but never recovered from: and that believing in my own invincibility last time i was sectioned, might not be the last time that I thoroughly lose my mind altogether for a while. And that uncomfortable thoughts like, “I want to shoot myself in the face” may continue to haunt me for lengthy periods of time again in the future. And that, it is now important for me to adhere to my keep well strategies and routines even more so, for longer than I had initially planned for, in order to prevent a relapse. And all of this I started to take in one evening, on my own, after the sigh of relief had passed and gone into the wind, leaving me bare, vulnerable and having to re-evaluate my understanding, acceptance and management of my mental health conditions.

I now have answers, more answers than what i have previously had: however, I also have more learning to do, more understanding to gain, and more insight to develop. It is rather daunting, but with the support of those around me, I am rather confident that such skills will eventually be acquired, and such resulting challenges managed, I hope.