Life Update: Hey, I Went To The AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)!

I have not written an update on how things have been going cause quite simply I’ve been too busy living my life for once instead of commiserating about it. Things have been going really well for me these past three months or so. I have gotten into a schedule of sorts which I have lacked for the past five years or so. I am doing well in my classes (as far as I know since my teachers are being procrastinators with posting grades). I actually did an assignment recently in my “Drawing Techniques” course in two point perspective that I adore. It was a simplified version of the Iron (a building in New York City).

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My Assignment of The Iron in 2 pt perspective. 

I also had the pleasure of visiting my best friend in Toronto this past weekend. We went to a VIP Lounge on Saturday night and then the following Sunday we went to one of my favourite places in the world – The Art Gallery of Ontario. I also per chance went to the gallery at the perfect time as they had just made available year-long an “infinity mirrored room” by the art-icon Yayoi Kusama.

“Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever” uses the infinite reflection of the subject (the viewer) and the motif of polka dots to visually allow the self to disappear in the eternal abyss. The clever irony of this concept in our modern, social media era of selfies might be Kusama’s most important contribution yet. After booking a viewing time upon your arrival at the AGO, you get to experience this mirrored chamber of endless reflections. Small stainless steel orbs—which also act as mirrors—fill the room, whimsically hanging from the ceiling as well as covering the peripheral part of the floor. The centrepiece, however, is you, reflected in the large rectangular mirror box in the middle of the installation. Viewing this box in relation to the perimeter of the space is what allows for the type of other-worldly, infinite experiences Kusama’s installation are famous for. Below is a a few images I captured while in this space…

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It was a literal dream come true to experience one of Kusama’s mirrored infinity rooms as I discovered this artist through a deck of art oracle cards last year and was fascinated with her room installations since researching her work. I felt a little overwhelmed though since the staff at the AGO only allow you 60 seconds to experience the room (which is fair given the demand). I did not know where to look so I scanned the room as fast as I could and took in the projected image of myself on the reflective surfaces (there were oh so many!) set back into what seemed like infinity. I had the great pleasure of experiencing this room with both my best friend and boyfriend and enjoyed our images being reflected back to us in so many different ways.

Another art work I found breathtaking was “Untitled (Blur)” by Sandra Brewster which was a larger-than-life gel transfer. Below you see the artsy photograph of me posing in front of it to seem like I am inside of it.

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The Toronto-based artist was born to a Guyanese immigrant family and completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at York University in 1997 and Master of Visual Studies at University of Toronto in 2017. As a Black Canadian, Brewster’s work deals with themes of identity and representation in a world that is often excluding. She is especially attuned to the experiences of Caribbean-Canadians with their migration to Canada and relationships back home.

“Untitled (Blur)” depicts Toronto singer Tuku Matthews and takes up almost the entire wall on which it’s set. Matthews, a personal friend of Brewster, is a fitting subject for the artist’s work exploring legacy. Matthews’ mother is jazz musician Salome Bey and her father was a co-founder of The Underground Railroad, the first soul food restaurant in Canada.

After taking her subject’s photo, Brewster uses a gel medium to transfer the image, a process that captures changes and imperfections. The image is both subdued and gritty, with creases, tears and empty spaces showing throughout the obscured image.

“I work on the walls of spaces because I am drawn to the idea of the work being everlasting,” says Brewster. “Even when the work is being removed, after it has been sanded down then painted over, it’s still there. We may not see it, but there is lasting legacy.”

The work, which was commissioned by the AGO, is just one of Brewster’s that explores layered experiences of Black identity throughout time and space, from their native lands to their journeys in Canada. With Brewster’s laborious transfer process and the experiences of the pictured Matthews, this idea of movement is multi-faceted. Movement is seen through multiple angles, from the creation of the piece to its subject, to its end result.

The AGO had a lot of amazing work and I have several more pictures of it but to keep things simple I am just going to mention these two works. I had a beautiful time in the gallery and city of Toronto in general. It was bittersweet as it reminded me of the hustle and bustle I miss so terribly from my days at University in Ottawa. I find bigger cities operate at more of a pace I can tolerate when compared to the small city I reside in now. It also reminded me of my Art History studies and made me yearn for those days of constant engagement with art. Art brings me the ultimate joy whether I am studying it or producing it. It alleviates my depressions and gives my manias context. Art is my lover who never leaves. I am thankful for rediscovering it in my classes this semester and for my weekend reconnecting with it in the big city.

To sum up my life update – Life is Good. Life is beautiful once again. My spring has finally come after a very long winter.

Life Update

I have been doing really well lately but I still have my lows. I think it may have more to do with weather than me personally but I can’t help but be affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) I struggle with the common symptoms of depression, oversleeping and overeating. I was becoming really hard on myself and hating myself a bit for these things but finally have decided to give myself some grace. It is a season, a season in my life in which I may not be feeling a hundred percent, but everyday I become a little more like my self before I experienced psychosis.

It had been a long downward spiral following my psychosis, with the deepest depressions I had ever experienced, inability to do even basic functions like shower regularly and brush my teeth. It lasted a couple years but I am finally beginning to see the light again. I was spending each day binge watching whatever TV show I set my mind to that day but mostly having it as background noise to drown out the spiraling negativity growing louder in my mind. Thoughts like “You’re not normal and you’ll never be normal” tormented me all day and everyday. One thought stayed with me and repeated itself until it became a limiting belief “You can’t learn anything new anymore. Your brain has been damaged by psychosis.”  This thought and then belief tormented me the most because I was used to a life of academia and succeeding at it (being the top of my class in everything). I felt like I had lost myself.

Now, years later, I am starting to rebuild. I am challenging my limited belief by taking two course at the local college – Typography and Drawing Techniques. These are both courses offered in the Graphic Design Program which I hope to one day complete. However, I am giving myself even more grace by accepting that maybe I can learn but not necessarily at the pace and skill level I was at before. I  am allowing myself (without getting upset) to simply pass these courses. I used to have a NO BELOW 80 Rule in every course I took and would put immense pressure on myself to succeed at it.

I have to take into consideration that I have not been in a formal academic setting in over 7 years and have been out of high school just over ten years. The fact is if I just show up to these classes and give it an honest try I will be content with myself since for years I’ve been avoiding even putting myself in that situation. I still hold on to this limiting belief that my brain was damaged by psychosis and I am now unable to learn or pick up anything new but that being said it’s starting to become challenged. For example, I have completed five assignments in my two classes so far and got back my first grades. I have an 80 in Typography and a 90 in Drawing Techniques so far. I don’t believe my grades will stay that high for long but it’s nice to know I was able to grasp at least the beginning material at a sufficient rate.

I am also putting myself out in the community for the first time in years as a volunteer at a local food bank. I again, thought I would struggle to pick the task up and learn what was expected of me but have been doing very well as a volunteer so far and thoroughly enjoy what I am doing. Who doesn’t love giving back!? It is a gratifying experience to be able to contribute in some way to society. I may not be ready to work yet but these are the building blocks to getting myself the confidence to eventually do that. I feel tenfold better about myself and future compared to those days when I was lying on the couch binge watching TV. I feel like I finally have a purpose again. I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop though as I am a pessimistic optimist. I fully expect this to all blow up in my face but you know what I am okay with that cause even if it does, I’ll brush the debris away and start to rebuild again.

I also have a new journal to brag about I bought this weekend in which I plan to write ideas for my book in. It is my first real leather bound journal and it features a prominent Sugar Skull on the front. It is handcrafted and is literally in my opinion the most beautiful thing I have ever owned. I found it by absolute chance as if it was fate. The Wine Shop was closed for fifteen minutes, so me and my boyfriend looked for stores in the same plaza to kill time in. We found a witchy crystal store which had recently just opened according to the owner who greeted us and inside was this treasured journal. I bless the soul who needed a fifteen minute break from The Wine Shop for bringing this item into my life.

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I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my psychosis and recovery  which is to take each day as it comes and to take small steps each day to reach your goals. The main thing is to always be moving forwards. It doesn’t matter if you move a millimeter or a mile each day, long as you’re moving forwards. And remember you got this! whatever it is you want to set your mind to, I believe you can achieve it as long as you can believe it too.

Liebster Award.

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I was given the Liebster Award by Food.for.Thoughts. This blog is Kacha’s thoughts on life surrounding a range of topics from self-care, depression, burnout, to therapy. She discusses her own story with mental health and experiencing burnout and depression. She is very insightful when writing about experiences with her first psychiatrist and introduction to medication. And who can’t help but relate to her struggle with finding the right therapist! I enjoy her personal story equally as much as other elements of her blog such as the dedication to psychology. I love her “Bits of Psychology” where she delves into a concept in the realm of psychology and explains it as well as offers insightful observations. This is an all around great mental health blog and as a mental health blogger I find it positively captivating!

The Liebster Award is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. ‘Liebster’ in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. The award is a way to be discovered but also to connect and support the blogging community.

What to Do if Nominated for the Liebster Award

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, or you chose to start a blog post about the Liebster award; you should do the following:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you. They will thank you for it and those who you nominate will also help you out as well.
  1. Answer the 5 creative and unique questions given to you.
  1. Write a small post about what motivates you in life (not just in blogging)
  1. Nominate 2 – 6 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award the award.
  2. Create 5 creative and unique questions for your nominees. 
  1. List these rules in your post
  2. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award.

Kacha’s Questions:

  1.  If you had an intro music, what song would it be? Why? If I had intro music it would be the song “Soft Revolution” by the Montreal based band “Stars.” When I was at my deepest depression I painted the lyrics on my wall to remind myself that I wasn’t going to let my demons get the best of me and that’s what I hope my blog does for other readers – show them a light and that as the song suggests,  “We won’t let the sun go down, We’re gonna chase the demons out of town.”
  1. What is popular now but annoys you? Honestly, Twitter. I can’t stand Twitter but maybe because I don’t quite understand it. I got it for Journalism school to get headlines of different news but now that I’m past that point in my life, I really find no use for it. 140 Characters or less, P-L-E-A-S-E!!!
  2. If you opened a business, what kind of business would it be? If I were to open a  business it would be an art studio cafe. There would be studios behind a front space which would be for rent for various artistic groups and classes such as “Watercolours 101.” In the front would be a cafe where artists can enjoy a  cappuccino or whatever they fancy and it would also serve as a storefront for various art supplies.
  3. Who in your life brings you the most joy? My boyfriend brings me the most joy in my life because he is honestly the most supportive and loving person I have ever met. I count down the days, no the hours! before I see him next. I enjoy his company more than any other person in the world and am content even if we’re simply sitting in silence or watching a show. He makes me want to be a better person and who doesn’t need that in their life!?
  4. Where is the most beautiful place you have been? I have not traveled very far but in my opinion the most beautiful place I have been is Ottawa and more specifically the National Art Gallery. I find a certain tranquility in this space as I reflect on the paintings and their meanings, or lack of. I use to escape into my own little world in this space when I had the pleasure of living in Ottawa for four years. I would introduce friends to the world of art here and watch them light up as they discovered something they had not seen before. I would also sometimes bring a sketchbook and sit for hours among the paintings drawing whatever pleased me at the time.

What motivates me in life? (not just blogging)

The thing that most motivates me in life  is striving to be a better version of myself. I constantly look at my present self and how I could improve to be a better future self. For example, in my mind my future self has a career in the arts or writing. This motivates me currently to take classes at the local college in art and focus on writing a book I hope to be published. My dream is to be an author and that motivates me more than anything to practice my writing and sharing of ideas through this blog. I also hope to be a mental health advocate and am working on my own recovery from psychosis. My dedication to my recovery and healing of my mind and heart come from the hope that one day I will be able to discuss my experiences on a larger platform other than this blog. My future motivates me each day to take small steps towards a better one for myself. My ideal self and the vision of her motivates me to improve each day or work towards my goals. My vision for what I hope my life will be pushes me to get out of bed each day when I am struggling. Some days I don’t leave bed as early as I’d like but ultimately my future and the idea of it will catapult me out eventually. I motivate me, to be better, stronger, wiser, nicer, you name it! because I am worth it and my dreams are definitely worth it.

 

My Questions:

  1. If you were to get paid a salary for blogging on any topic but it had to be strictly one topic, what would it be? and why?
  2. What is the best book you have read? and why?
  3. If you could have any career in the world, what would it be and why?
  4. If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be and why?
  5. What is your fondest memory?

My Nominees:

  1. Once Upon a Time With Bipolar
  2. Sometimes I Write
  3. Bipolar Burble

 

 

 

You’ll Be Flying Again Soon…

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“You are not trapped, you just need to relearn a few things. We all have doubts that make us feel trapped at times. If you doubt your ability to make a life-altering decision, to take on a new chapter in your life, or to fend for yourself after years of being overly fostered, consider this: Surely if a bird with healthy wings is locked in a cage long enough she will doubt her own ability to fly. You still have your wings, but your muscles are weak. Train them and stretch them slowly. Give yourself time. You’ll be flying again soon.” (p.60 “1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently”).

I included this quote in the beginning of my blog post because it inspired me to write about how I feel like I have been a bird locked in a cage for years, half a decade or more. I did not recover swiftly from my first and then second manic psychosis. If I could fly before than I could not even walk after my psychotic breaks. My brain with all its chemical imbalances, shock and trauma, and inability to accept what had happened to me, firmly locked itself in a cage and refused to fly. I once was a bird who not only flew but soared in the open skies that was life. I had it all then I lost it all (same old story I know its a cliche for a reason).

After my first psychotic break I was unable to continue school which is where I truly learned to fly. I fell into a depression deeper than I could ever have imagined possible. Hours were spent laying curled in a ball clutching my head begging the tormenting thoughts to stop, “Your life is over now, you might as well end it too.” I cried all the tears I had and then some and when my tear ducts were dry, I shook uncontrollably. I was in misery. My brain had broken down and decided it had taken enough. I could not wrap my head around the idea that my dream of being a professor was over, that I had a mental illness and was not “normal” (whatever that means but I struggled with the definition of normal for awhile), that my brain devoid of all alcohol and drugs in its system hallucinated and deluded itself. It was too much to bear because deep down I realized my life would never be the same and that I was always going to be different (I had not yet learned that’s okay).

I would be hospitalized two more times after this for depression and another manic psychosis. I felt like an alien, like “less than.” My brain started to self-destruct and simple things like reading I could not do. I literally tried reading a paragraph in a book during this time period and could not remember even the first sentence after reading it, let alone processing it. I went from being an A student in a competitive program based on reading and analyzing texts to not even being able to read. Y’all I cannot even describe how heart wrenching this was. The thing I had been doing since I was a child and that came so easy to me became unfathomable. I began to panic and wonder if I could ever revert to myself, if I would ever be able to fly again.

Years went by on Welfare and then disability. I did not attend school and I could not hold on to employment and rarely sought it out for my mood was detrimentally low. My wings were not used for years and I definitely was and am still doubting my ability to fly. That being said, the past two years or so I have begun to flex my wings, trying to train them to move again. It has been a slow process and this blog has helped a lot. I can now read books (several at a time) and write coherently about them. I may be doing this on my own and not in a formal academic setting like before but it is still a major triumph in my books. This year, as of 2020, I have faced my fear of being unable to learn in a formal setting anymore following my psychoses and have registered for one course at the local college and am auditing one. It might not seem like much but it takes everything in me to do this because I have convinced myself from being in the cage so long that I can never get out. I have also just started (one shift down) volunteering at the local food bank and am exposing myself to the community which I have shied away from since becoming psychotic (I feel I am too different). I am also now deciding to set and attempt goals. Before I decided I could not possibly succeed at anything and so why try and why set myself up for failure by focusing my energy on a goal.

The point is I may have been locked in the cage for a long time doubting my ability to fly but I now see the possibility of it. I am still weary but I believe there is more potential within me. This WILL not be IT. I have more to give. I will fly again. But for now I will stretch my wings until  they are ready and you know what, that’s okay!

You Don’t Always Get What You Want But Perhaps What You Need

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“Not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of good luck, because it forces you to reevaluate things, opening new doors to opportunities and information you would have otherwise overlooked” (58) is a quote from the book I mentioned reading in an earlier blog post titled “1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently” by Marc and Angel Chernoff. This quote really got me thinking about my life and how it took a complete detour from my original route.

As mentioned before I was a star student at a prominent University and felt I had nowhere but up to go (“up” being an eventual Undergraduate degree, Masters, and then PhD).  I was defiant in my belief I was born to become a University Professor, specifically in the field of Art History, when all my ideas of who I was and who I was becoming came to a grinding holt with my first manic psychosis and diagnosis of Bipolar Type One. I had studied bipolar in brief as part of  my psychology minor (an element of my undergraduate degree) and as part of a neuroscience course – which I aced, despite the professor continuously warning us that this course was no “cake walk.” The point is I had a foundation of understanding when it came time to being diagnosed with this lifelong affliction but had no clue the ramifications it would have on my life journey and the deep feeling of loss I would feel as I mourned my pre-diagnosis self.

It’s one thing to study bipolar but it is an entirely other thing to live it. Prior to my mental break and diagnosis, I had completed three years of my Undergraduate as a double major in English and Art History with a minor in Psychology. People often joked how did I stay sane with a course load that thick and now having lost my mind. I find this question ironic. I remember reading about cycles of mania and depression in those with Bipolar Type 1 in my neuroscience textbook and thought how eerily familiar that concept seemed and wondered nervously whether I could possibly have it. I would ultimately push this idea to the back of my mind.

The summer upon entering my fourth and final year of University, I had a psychotic break with reality in late August. I experienced visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, as well as paranoia. I would be treated quickly and relatively effectively within a week to two weeks with anti psychotics and the mood stabilizer Lithium. I requested I be released in time for the first day of school and the hospital happily obliged with the promise I would return for a follow-up. The problem was when I left I was still struggling with some residual paranoia and found my brain couldn’t keep up at the pace it was at before while on Lithium. The best way I can describe it is my brain felt like it had melted. I understand they were slowing me down but they may have dosed me too high and I swung into slug brain mode. Also hindsight being 20-20, I now know years later I do not respond well to Lithium in general.

It was disheartening to find I could not remember facts or hold on to them in my brain for very long – being a history major who excelled at this normally I felt devastated. I was also entering the hardest year of my Undergraduate and worried I would not be able to maintain the grades needed to enter a Masters program of my choice at the rate my brain was working. My brain was regressing at a time when it needed to be at its peak. I panicked and ultimately decided to leave school in hopes of returning some day when I was ready. The problem with this decision which led to my deepest depression ever was that I highly identified with being not only a student but a successful, overachieving one.

I had to let that go. It took my years of being at my lowest and reading a lot of self-help books and quotes about failure to eventually do this – truly and utterly let go. As the quote in the beginning of this blog post suggests I was put into a position to reevaluate my life and my choices. A door firmly closed on my face but it opened another one – a deeper and better understanding of me as I am as a person. I was so busy with school and getting the best grades, and having the best leadership roles on my resume, that I never stopped to consider WHO I was becoming. And quite frankly I was becoming arrogant, selfish, naive, and closed off to the world around me. I lived in the universe of Academia but anything outside it I deemed as unimportant or irrelevant. I was working towards real and ambitious goals but I wasn’t doing the work on myself. For example, I lost many romantic relationships because I refused to make more time for the other person if it conflicted with my study schedule and p.s. my study schedule was overkill but hey it got me on the honor roll!

I was introduced to and became addicted to drugs as a way to escape the fact I never ever truly loved myself while at University. It is through recovery from psychosis that I am now sober and am attuned with myself. I may be more depressed than when I was in University, but I still love myself ten times more because I’ve had the time through recovering (which I still am and might always be) to reflect on my choices and how to make newer better ones but also to let go and stop holding on to the not so great ones I made in the past. The past is the past folks! Let it lie there, turn your back and don’t look back. Forwards is the only direction you need to be going. I also have grown to accept myself for the positive aspects and the negative ones. I take each day as a challenge to grow and  for self-discovery. I used to shy away from trying to get to know myself better now I buy and fill out workbooks dedicated to doing just that!

I may not have gotten what I wanted, a fancy degree and career I could be proud of, but I got so much more from my psychotic detour – I found myself. I realized I am an insightful person with an opinion that matters. I now give love when I get it. If you are one of my friends I don’t judge you regardless of your journey and choices. I stand by people when they are at their lowest and try to lift them up. I found out I am the LEAST judgmental person after having experienced several psychotic breaks and struggles with my mental health. I understand each person’s struggle is unique and though I may not understand it, I can relate. I value writing and sharing stories – stories of hardship are my favourite for we’ve all been there. I also am aware that I am less motivated on medication, less prone to “put myself out there” and that on my worse days I forget all my good traits and decide I’m not even worth getting out of bed for. But the most important thing I’ve learned is I have a voice and that voice will be heard. I have experiences now, with bipolar, that are worth talking about so others can feel less alone.

Though I may not have gotten that degree, I got something I needed – something to write about and since a child I have been looking for content that inspired me to write something worthwhile, something that meant something to me. I now have the confidence and self-esteem to say my story is worth telling and it’s worth telling because it might just mean something to someone else too.

Depression Takes All Shapes and Sizes

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There is no hard and fast rule for when I know I am depressed but generally speaking a lack of motivation, constant negative or anxious thinking, hypersomnia and a sense of worthlessness characterize my waves of depression. As someone with Bipolar Type One, I am prone to manic episodes but I have had more serious and more often depressive episodes. One depressive episode where I ultimately had to be hospitalized I did not leave my bed for literally three months and became Agoraphobic (scared to leave the house). I literally drove myself mental with obsessive negative thoughts that spiraled further and further out of control until I could not see any way out anymore. Luckily my family and then doctors intervened and were able to turn this episode around (I will write more about this experience one day).

However, I may not need to be hospitalized anymore (or at least for the past five years or so) but I struggle nearly everyday with depression and my depressive thoughts. It’s just not as severe as before now that I have been managing my symptoms with an anti-psychotic. I have been struggling more so the past few months probably due to Winter but have really been trying to push myself to some degree. I struggle with motivation when I am depressed for two reasons. Firstly, I constantly feel low so do not feel like doing anything but sleep and secondly, my negative thoughts convince my brain sometimes that nothing is worth trying cause I will just ultimately fail at it, like I fail at everything. I am not saying these are rational thoughts as I have definitely had some major successes but when my brain dips to that low point, all bets are off on what I’ll think and eventually come to believe about myself. This keeps me stagnant and lacking the motivation to make positive changes in my life that may even help the depression.

To help with my depression, on days where I was feeling more positive about life I made two key decisions which will now at least give my days some more structure. I registered for a course at the local college and signed up to be a volunteer at the local food bank. These are ongoing commitments and even on days when I feel like I don’t want to exit my bedroom, I have put myself in a position that forces me out and into the community. I have essentially tricked myself into having motivation for I am a stickler for follow-through. I find I dread going up until the moment I go and then once I get going, I feel so much better. For example, I laid in bed for as long as I could justify it prior to my first shift at the food bank (feeling slightly dejected and anxious like “what did I get myself into?”). That being said once I got there and started organizing things and even had my first client whom I helped get her and her husband groceries for the month, I began to feel better about not only my day but about myself in general. It is a humbling experience to volunteer with the neediest of the community because it really puts your issues into perspective. I may struggle with a mood disorder but currently am not struggling to find my next meal and that is something I think more than just me takes for granted.

Though I have set more structure to my days, there are still some days that are wide open and gaps in time on the days even when I am busy that I fall prone to hypersomnia – sleeping excessively. If I am not busy I tend to fall asleep around 6, right after dinner. I nap a lot also because I feel like sleep is an escape from my reality and helps me avoid the feelings of worthlessness I so often feel. I slept an excessive amount this weekend that I am even too embarrassed to figure out how much exactly. I am not proud of my coping mechanism for my depression but it brings me some comfort and that is how I rationalize it in my brain. But it has now become part of my depressive and anxious thinking as well and so it is a vicious cycle. What I mean is that I am depressed so I sleep copious amounts then get depressed about the excessive sleeping I am doing. I think to myself about how much time I waste sleeping and it gets me down. I know I could be doing more productive things with my time such as reading a book or going for a walk but I can’t seem to resist those damn sheets.

My depression changes each year and honestly I think it is slowly getting less painful each passing year as I learn better coping strategies and start to understand the way my brain works. This year’s depression is not even close to the year I was Agoraphobic where I never showered and never brushed my teeth. Back then I was also constantly researching ways to kill myself. I was never brave enough to try any but my brain became obsessed with the idea of shutting itself off to cope with the misery. I’ll take hypersomia over that any day but I do realize this is still something that needs some work too. I can’t sleep every time I feel down or I’ll never be awake  –  sad but true. I hope adding volunteering and school to my schedule will win half this battle but the other days when I am off I’ll just have to brainstorm some ideas to keep my mind productive and distracted from its self-consuming thoughts.

For those of you struggling with depression, I feel your pain and understand that your experience is unique from mine but often the feelings can be the same. We feel like nothing is worth doing and that we are not worth it. We feel like every day is a battle and one we’ve decided from the beginning that we are going to lose. The important thing though is that you get up and try, try, try. If you fall short of what you intended for the day or you’re struggling with thoughts of falling short in life in general, remember this – Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow you can try again.

Just Keep Running – A Fitness Update

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In a previous blog post I mentioned my weight gain as a result of Abilify, an anti psychotic, and how I was determined to making a lifestyle change. This included watching what I eat and making sure I am in the gym at least three times a week. A month later and I can say that I have fully committed to the gym aspect of my lifestyle change but am letting go of the restrictive diet I had put myself on in order to lose that ten pounds I discussed losing before. In the long run this diet would not hold up and I would end up bingeing in rebellion, I am sure of it! It’s much smarter to continually make smaller healthier choices then to cut out all sugar and junk food as a way to manage your weight. I even banned myself from having juice during this diet!

I now understand everything in moderation is the key. For example, I may not have juice everyday but the occasional glass during the week won’t kill me and will keep me from swinging the complete opposite “fuck it!” direction of watching what you eat. I am working on consuming more water  but find this a struggle as I find water bland and boring to my taste buds. Increasing your water intake from what I understand is a sure fire way to lose weight but I suppose I am not ready to commit to this idea yet. I also do not deprive myself of all junk food like I was for those three weeks following my wisdom teeth surgery when I lost those ten pounds. It’s important to “treat yo self!” as the cliche goes. If you do not indulge every once in awhile then you will go crazy and stress yourself out to the point of again, swinging in the “fuck it! You only live once!” mentality. That being said, I have not had Iced Caps from Tim Hortons or dark colored pop in two months now and am committing to eliminating these products from my life completely (the amount of sugar in them is unreal!).

The point is I may grab an apple instead of a cookie nine times out of ten but that tenth time when I really want the fucking cookie, I am not going to deprive myself of it. A lifestyle implies longevity and to be in it for the long haul means sometimes giving into that craving for a donut one day so you can stick to the yogurt for the rest of the week. Also life is meant to be enjoyed (for the most part, haha) and limiting your taste buds experience for the sake of a number on the scale seems just cruel.

Which brings me to my next topic – the scale. The scale can be your friend but it can also quickly become your enemy. In the beginning of my weight loss journey I was weighing myself nearly every other day except this quickly grew into frustration with the numbers rising and then dropping and then rising. It’s good to know where you are at to be aware whether your weight is getting out of hand but to obsessively check it becomes detrimental to the journey of getting fit. The number on the scale rising does not necessarily mean it’s fat you have put on but perhaps muscle. Also weight fluctuates to a certain degree. I find it much more healthier to weigh myself once a week if that. I recently did not weigh myself for three weeks terrified of all the pre-holiday and holiday snacking I did. I felt I was losing control when it came to my eating and I was sure it would reflect on the scale so I avoided it. I was dead positive I gained back the ten pounds I lost throughout the holidays.

I am happy to report that I DID step on the scale the other day and found I did not in fact gain back those ten pounds but am still at the weight I was three weeks ago. I could choose to be upset that my weight loss has plateaued or I could take it as a win that I survived the holidays unscathed. My counsellor gave me some good advice, she said the number on the scale is just that – a number. You are as fit as you feel you are. I may weigh the same but I definitely feel fitter. For one thing I can run farther and for longer bursts of time than when I first started this journey. I have noticed my legs have slimmed and gotten tighter. My arms are starting to slim but they are a little more stubborn and need some extra work. I still have strides to make in the gym but I am noticing improvements and that is what counts. Also getting to the gym is half the battle. I no longer plan lengthy strenuous work outs because I found I was losing gusto and overall motivation to continue going. Consistency is key. I now focus on going three times a week but doing what I feel I can do, not what I believe I SHOULD be doing.

The biggest part of the gym I love is the impact on my mental health. It has definitely improved these past weeks. I have more confidence in myself and the goals I set for this year because I showed up for myself with my gym commitment. Each time I leave the gym, I feel like I hit refresh on my brain since it truly rejuvenates your mind and body. I can think clearer and feel less stressed about making decisions.

My advice for those gaining weight on anti psychotics or any other medication is to really try and make the effort to incorporate the gym into your life. I am proof you can lose weight and I can speak to the mental health improvements, and hey let’s face it if you are on those medications you probably could use the positive mental health boost anyways. And my advice to those trying out a diet is moderation, moderation, moderation. Sure cut out some of the bad stuff, but leave enough of it to keep you sane. Also in any journey, whether it be weight loss, dieting, or anything new you’re trying just remember each day is a new day and you choose what to do with it. You can start my making small adjustments and smarter choices to reach those goals each day and those will snowball eventually to larger more meaningful results. And if you fall short, again don’t worry tomorrow is a new day (you can try, try again).

12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life

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“The only difference between an opportunity and an obstacle is attitude” is a quote I enjoy from the book  “1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently” by Marc and Angel Chernoff. In this book they break down “12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life” and I am going to go through some of them and how it inspired me to try again. I feel as though I am on my thousandth chance because I keep trying then giving up on my life, obviously not literally but figuratively. I set goals and decide to work on them then slowly lose gusto and give up somewhere along the journey. This year, however, as I mentioned in earlier blog posts I want to live my life with more intent and focus.

  1. Let go of the past – This one is a lot easier said than done for often times we feel our past defines us. We reflect on what we deem “failures” in our past and it leads to us shying away from trying new things in fear of this failure occurring again. The Chernoffs make a good point for why we should let our past go in that every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity. Even failure is an opportunity, an opportunity to try a new way or get up and try even harder. I have decided to let go of the past five years or so following my psychosis that I have remain idle with fear and not really working on what I want from life. I think I was afraid to admit what I wanted and truly work towards it in case it never came to fruition. This year I want to be more productive with my life and I am going to try and take steps each day to make this a reality – oh hey! look at me writing a blog post instead of watching tv or sulking in my bedroom.
  2. Identify the Lesson – Everything is a life lesson. Even and especially when you don’t get your way. For example, me not achieving my dream of finishing my degree and going psychotic off and on for a few years has taught me the importance of my mental health. It has also taught me to share my experiences with others such as on this blog because I know firsthand what it feels like to be lost and searching for answers or understanding. I think I needed to lose my dream to create a new one and that is to share my experiences with bipolar disorder through a published book. I am working on writing this book finally this year and am making it a serious life goal.
  3. Lose the negative attitude – This one is a great one because it led to me believing I could make my goal possible and kick started me into researching my past journals for my book I intend to write. The Chernoffs write the following and it really struck home with me: ”The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it.” Whatever goal you have cannot come into being unless you believe you can achieve it. You are not going to take a bunch of small steps to a bigger goal and continually take those steps if you feel discouraged and believe it will never actually happen. For example, if you want to lose weight but get discouraged every time the scale reads a larger number than you assumed, you’re more likely to give up on your goal of going to the gym often thinking it’s pointless. But with the right attitude those numbers can be interpreted another way such as gaining muscle that week led to the increase on the scale.
  4. Accept accountability for your current situation  – YOU and only YOU are in charge of your life and it is up to you to change it if you do not like it. Take responsibility for your actions and decide each day to work towards the changes you want to see in your life. For example, I noticed I never have any savings so I decided to track my money and see what I am wasting it on. I am now more aware of my situation and can make plans to change my spending habits that are superfluous. Will it be easy after most of my life blowing through money to now track it and manage it better? Hell No! But I am at least now making the effort to change it and I do not blame anyone else for this problem but myself because ultimately I know I got myself into this financial jam through poor life choices.
  5. Figure out what you really want – If you do not do this you will fall trap to never starting anything let alone finishing. I have done some self reflection recently on what I want to work on and have come up with some areas in my life I would like to start taking steps towards changing. One is obviously my book I want to write so I have decided to set an hour each day minimum aside to research, mind map, or even write out chapters. I also want to start volunteering again to feel as though I am contributing to my community in some sense and have a meeting Monday with the volunteer coordinator at the Food Bank. I also have decided to take my doctor’s recommendation of being physically active in the gym a minimum of three times a week which I now track on my calendar. Take some time and think about what you really want whether it be a new house, car, career, etc. And make a plan to work towards it.

I am writing this blog to let my readers know that Yes, You can start again. There’s no hard and fast rule of how to live your life or how many chances you get at one. Unhappy with how things are going? Hold yourself more accountable because ultimately it is you and only you that decides your happiness. If you are unhappy, take some time to reflect on why? and don’t blame others because it’s not their fault. If someone really is impacting your life negatively then it was your choice to invite them in and it can be your choice to let them back out. Once you have identified the problem areas in your life whether it be, career, finances, or your love life, ask yourself what is your ideal version of these? Then make a plan to take steps towards changing them. Seriously go old school, get a pen and paper out and start strategizing ways you can improve your life. Then work on it. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get exactly what you hoped for but hey, on your road there you may find an even better detour. The point is life is never over til it’s over. Right now if you choose, you can have a second chance.

New Year, New Me?

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New Years Resolutions…Nay or Yay? You decide. But honestly I am curious if people actually set new years resolutions and if so do you find yourself being successful? Leave a comment if you have an opinion or experience on new years resolutions. I think new year’s resolutions are a great idea…to a degree. I think it is a great idea to come up with some goals and share them with your loved ones so you are held more accountable but making up goals for the sake of making up goals is counterproductive. I personally am not setting New Year’s resolutions this year, however, I AM setting realistic and timely goals.

I want to lose weight, however, being fit is more important than the number on the scale so I have set a reasonable and doctor suggested goal of working out three times a week at the local gym I joined. I hold myself accountable by tracking the days I go on a calendar and ensuring I go three times the current week I am tracking. This motivates me because with each day I mark with a check mark for having gone to the gym  I feel as though I have accomplished something. Consistency is key so I try not to overwhelm myself with strenuous work outs each time I go and focus more on actually going in general. That being said, I do currently keep a fitness journal where I track each exercise and how many minutes or reps I do of each one. It challenges me to maintain that workout the next time or even strive to improve it. If I am having a hard week for motivation, I allow myself one freebie workout where I go free form and just explore the gym and try new machines without the added pressure of tracking it and just write in my journal that I went to the gym that day. The important thing is going and getting yourself in the space and I find the rest falls into place.

The second goal I have is to manage my money better and start growing savings. My entire life I have never been able to save or manage my money properly. I tend to blow it as soon as I get it and I wish I was exaggerating. My first step in this process –  I have already begun  – is to track my money and understand better what I am spending my money on. Of course tracking my money did not stop me blowing my entire budget for January in two weeks, again wish I was kidding but I am not. However, I am making strategies for February and the following months to make my money stretch and have decided as of March I will be attempting to put away $200 a month into savings. Why March? Because February I have a trip to Toronto planned and am being realistic as to what I can do with my money as someone who is new to this whole “watching her money” thing.

My third goal is to volunteer somewhere this year and somewhere different than my previous place I volunteered at which was the Cat Adoption Center. I have already reached out to the local Food Bank and have arranged a meeting with the coordinator Monday to discuss me spending my time there as a volunteer. I want to build my resume but more importantly I want to contribute to something bigger than me so I can feel like I am offering something to the community instead of being a waste of space. Sometimes being on disability can make you feel worthless when you have too much time on your hands and battle with depressing thoughts often. I need a distraction and a reason to get up in the morning and I hope this will provide that.

My fourth goal is to quit smoking for real this year. I say it every year and never do it. I am going to use NRT products and go to counseling until I break this habit for good. I fall trap to all or nothing thinking though which I know I need to work on. I often think “what’s the point of quitting if say 8 months down the road I smoke a cigarette and then this cycle of quitting starts all over and those 8 months were for naught.” I realize I am making excuses and the worse one is “YOLO!” I want to live a longer and healthier life and the fact is I need to start taking steps today to make that a reality, including and especially quitting smoking.

My final goal I am going to discuss here is one my readers have heard before. I am going to set time aside each day to mind map, write and research for the book I want to write on my life with bipolar disorder. I think I am finally motivated enough and inspired enough to set aside at minimum an hour a day to work on this project. My biggest set back was thinking I would never be able to. The mind cannot create what it believes it cannot. Your mind needs to believe something is possible in order for it to be achieved. I finally got out of this mind trap and now believe in my ability to do this – it may have taken a self help book and a TED Talk to do it, but regardless of how I changed this thought process around, it is changed.

New Year, New Me? I have good intentions but I understand that may not be enough so I wrote this blog post about my goals this year in order to hold myself more accountable and reflect on why I am setting them. The fact is I am in a deep rut and have been for a few years now. I am finally willing to pick up the pieces of me off the floor and try at life again. I have not truly been living to the best of my ability and I know that. I am just finally calling myself out on it.

New Years Resolutions – Nay or Yay? – Let me Know!

 

Fantastic Mistakes

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In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. Why does this matter to you or me? Well maybe it matters less to you and more to me because I found a hard copy of this speech also referred to as “The Make Good Art Speech” at the local library and it has inspired me to finally take on what I think I was meant to do in this world – write a book about my experiences with manic depression a.k.a. bipolar disorder.

The picture that I have included in the beginning of this blog post is a snapshot of a page out of the text as envisioned by Graphic designer Chip Kidd. It is a snapshot of the words that have sent me on this new quest and with a new vision for my life. They are as follows: “If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.” I have had a strong sense that I was blessed with the skill of writing and bipolar disorder so I may write about it and make people struggling with their mental health feel less alone. Since I was a child, I always envisioned writing a book and becoming a novelist so much so I wrote a letter of my intent to my favourite author at the time and she wrote back! encouraging me. Ideas for my novel have come and gone and have evolved into entirely different ideas over the years. However, ever since my psychosis I have held onto the idea of writing about my experiences with it. This is the one idea that has stayed in my mind the longest and is still prevalent.

Seeing these words, “then just go and do that.” It never occurred to me to just start writing and see where I and my idea end up. I feel as though it was by divine intervention that I came across this speech just as I have been faltering and procrastinating my idea. I struggle with the questions of how to write this book and in which way it will be organized but I believe these answers will come when the time is right and for now I just need to start working on content, no matter how disorganized it may come out. I have always wanted to help somebody with my writing and I do believe I was put on this earth with some intent. My life has some kind of bigger meaning than I think I realize and this may be it…not to get too carried away or spiritual here. But I do believe everyone has a purpose and I think it’s due time I began creating mine.

In the beginning of his speech writer Neil Gaiman says “I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along…” Even just reading those words at the very entry point to his speech, something dawned on me. I have been avoiding writing my story because I am afraid I will write it poorly or that it will be poorly received. However, I am missing the point of writing and its very nature which is that the only way to become a better writer is to write, write and then write some more. Nobody ever just wrote one draft of something and was content. You have to edit, edit, then edit some more. Revise, revise, revise. I need to simply put pen to paper and begin somewhere and stop dwelling on what it will end up being. The process is just as important as the end product. I just had to remind myself or rather be reminded by Gaiman that writing is my passion and that I DO enjoy the process, hell, I even enjoy revising.

As for what it will become? Nobody not even me can be sure. Maybe someone will publish it or maybe they won’t. Maybe I’ll self-publish or release it in a series of blog posts. Again, time will tell and I do not have to have all the answers right at this moment. But I do owe it to myself to try for fear of failure cannot have the last word…not anymore.

Gaiman also mentions in his speech that he tried never to do anything purely for the money but because he wanted to create something into existence and to be proud of his work and time spent: “The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality, have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.” The reality is I love writing and I love writing what I know and I definitely know my intimate experience and struggle with bipolar disorder. I think I am scared to start writing my memoirs because I am afraid nothing will come of it but after reading these words I realized the experience of writing in itself is worth it to me. So as of today I will be setting some time apart to write about my life and more specifically my cycles of bipolar – from mania, to depression, to psychosis, to mania, and back again because I know deep down that I am worth it. And I owe it to myself to try.

Stay Tuned for more posts and updates from BiPolarMania.