I have never been so called out in my life when reading this definition, sitting back analyzing my most recent failed relationship or rather “rebound” that lasted six months.
I never took the time to heal from a loving and very supportive relationship that lasted nearly three years. It came to a natural end when he confessed his struggle with gender dysphoria and the desire to transition into a woman.
Could you imagine unpacking all those feelings? First, resentment because I got attached and wasn’t told sooner, then despair because I genuinely loved him but couldn’t continue with “her” since I am not, contrary to my sexually fluid youth, a lesbian. This wasn’t something that could easily be overcome or fought for because if it was, we’d still be together.
Picture yourself dealing with a confusing orchestra of doubt in your head about love and whether you will ever find or deserve it again, when in walks a man who catches your eye. He seems to notice you when no one else does and though you’re in a crowded room his concentration is only on you. You begin to wonder, “maybe losing the last relationship was meant to happen to bring me to this person? Perhaps that loss was actually a part of a longer journey to this truer love instead?”
The problem when you’re a hopeless romantic, hurting in the throes of a break-up, is you tend to dawn rose-coloured glasses. What should have been a short-lived relationship equivalent to a summer fling or a one-night stand, painfully drags on. I wore glasses tainted with idealization because it was easier to perceive what I wanted to believe than confront the fact I was only looking for comfort to distract myself from painful feelings – mainly loneliness.
I ignored his lack of communication, attention and affection to keep distracted and at the end of the day that’s all it was – a band aid for a bullet wound. I didn’t know it yet but he would become my rebound, my “second best,” because honestly all he was ever good for was distracting me from my ex, the person I legitimately loved. He was a band-aid for the bullet-sized hole “she” had left on my soul. She left a mark, an impression on my heart that no one had before.
I did not want to face all those messy feelings that made me uncomfortable so I settled for mediocrity in a new relationship to keep the charade that I was “fine” alive. I am and was not okay when I lost who I thought was the love of my life. I ran into the arms of another person looking for comfort to distract myself from acknowledging this – accepting I had experienced a loss.
When the fog of distraction lifted, I found myself in the worst relationship I had ever been in. He was jealous, aloof, uncommunicative and unwilling to change. He was always this way. The rose coloured glasses came off when I decided to walk away and face the delayed inevitable need for healing.
My rebound was second best in that he distracted me from my previous relationship and a person I was struggling to let go of, but also because he distracted me from myself. The most important relationship I will ever have in this life is the one I have with myself. If I am being honest I have a lot more growing to do and exploring the dynamics of Me, Myself and I before I can begin to fathom letting someone back in to my heart. That’s okay because one day I will be in a better place to accept and recognize the next great love of my life.
The fact is, I’m newly single yet I feel like I’m exactly where I was six months ago before this rebound ended. I refused to let go of him sooner, hiding from facing the pain of my previous failed relationship. Now I must confront those feelings again, the ones I buried by throwing myself into a new relationship instead of healing and exploring myself first.
I’m sad, angry, confused, happy, and a whole other slew of emotions that seem to come and go. Though this may feel intense and overwhelming, it’s beautiful. I am no longer numb, mindlessly going through the paces of a relationship going nowhere fast. Allow yourself the time and grace to heal, to properly grieve before moving on or you’ll find yourself like me – holding onto somebody for the sake of holding on and delaying the inevitable need for healing.
This is a clapback post to all the bigots, judgers, sexists, misogynists and quite frankly asshole keyboard warriors with limited, prejudiced views. I recently been posting pictures on Instagram showcasing my body and a person who I recently reconnected with clearly did not agree with it and felt the need to express themselves in the most rude, obnoxious and bigoted way. I am writing this post to say firstly you can post whatever you want regardless of mental illness or mental health and secondly to those who don’t like it: unfollow, unsubscribe as you wish but please keep your opinions to your self! Below is an image of the email he sent me…
Let me address the more annoying part of this email I received first, “Women pose like this because they think it’s what men want to see and so becomes counterproductive and counter exploitative.” Last time I checked you were a man and therefore do not try to understand or underestimate why “women pose like this.” Contrary to this man’s opinion that I am being “attention seeking,” I am posing like this to demonstrate my strength and resolve. It has absolutely nothing to do with men and everything to do with women. I want women to see these images and be inspired to celebrate their bodies. If you got it, my god, fucking flaunt it! If you look through my Instagram you can see a plethora of “working out” and gym posts as I progressed from being overweight to being the fittest I have ever been in my life – Fuck You! Of Course I am going to celebrate and showcase that!
As for his comment, “#MeToo and equality gives you every right to pose as you wish” rattles me. First of all the #MeToo movement has nothing to do with sexy poses being posted on social media and everything to do with sexual harassment and violence. To equate the “MeToo” movement to me having the freedom to pose “as I wish” is ignorant and negates the genuine motives behind this movement.
In 2006, the “me too.” Movement was founded by survivor and activist Tarana Burke. Burke wanted a way to empower women who had endured sexual violence by letting them know that they were not alone—that other women had suffered the same experience they had. In 2017, the #metoo hashtag went viral and woke up the world to the magnitude of the problem of sexual violence. The ‘me too’ Movement believes in the radical possibilities of a movement against sexual violence led by survivors. In 2017, the phrase was reintroduced by actress Alyssa Milano as a way to encourage women and men to share their stories as part of an anti-sexual harassment movement.
I am not a victim of either sexual harassment or violence and never claimed to be nor do I hide behind a hashtag to “excuse” my posts. I do not have to excuse myself for celebrating my body and how far I have come in my fitness journey. I felt like this man emailing me was implying #MeToo opened the door for me as a woman to post anything and “get away with it.” This is a strong misunderstanding of the motives behind the movement which are to give power and a voice to sexual assault, abuse, and harassment victims. I do not need to hide behind any movement or organization as a scapegoat for my actions because they are just that, MY actions. I act with intention and consideration. I do not think, for example, my posting provocative pictures hurts my mental health community or perpetuates stigma.
Another frustrating part of this man’s emails and messages was him mentioning my mental illness as a reason not to post these types of pictures and that I am essentially giving people with Bipolar a bad name. First of all, what the fuck does mental illness have to do with this? Secondly, just because I advocate for mental health and fighting stigma does not mean I can’t be “sexy” while doing it. In fact, I’d argue it’s fighting the stigma more because I am showing that yes, a person with mental health issues can display their body with self-confidence too. There is no shame in putting it out there if you feel comfortable doing it. What separates me from every other woman on Instagram posting sexy pictures? – That I am Bipolar? I do not see this man attacking or sending them condescending messages.
He calls me “vulnerable” because why? I dare to post a picture in a bodysuit or my underwear? And can we address that for a second – women post full nudes with exposed nipples on Instagram and this man is attacking me for modelling lingerie? So I guess I am a “Tramp” then? (his words, not mine) I am not promiscuous and stand for a lot more than this man is giving me credit for. I stand for freedom of expression above anything and these pictures are just that – an expression of my body. If showing off my body – something I worked really hard for – makes me look “vulnerable and needing attention” then so be it. Except it does not, it demonstrates I am comfortable in my own skin, something in my opinion that is vital to good mental health.
“And if people know you are bi-polar it doesn’t really help you or people with your condition…” was probably the part of this man’s email that infuriated me. People with Bipolar are just like anyone else in that we too have different interests and personalities. I can be Bipolar AND interested in modelling lingerie and posting sexy pictures – that’s just me. My illness will never stop me from pursuing something I enjoy nor will the stigma towards “people with your condition” as he so eloquently put it. I never realized celebrating my own body would upset somebody so much to the point they had to send not one, but two nasty messages.
According to PsychCentral, mental health advocates “are the individuals who tirelessly share their stories in all sorts of ways. They remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles—and there is real, tangible hope and healing. They shatter stereotypes and myths about mental illness, helping the public see that people with mental illness are just people.” Let me hone in on the following part, “helping the public see that people with mental illness are just people.” I am a person first, above anything else, a person who likes to share my progress on social media. This has culminated in my most recent posts in lingerie demonstrating the epoch of my fitness journey. I worked hard to get to the point where I am comfortable putting it all out there. . I am also a sensual person who likes to get in touch with their sexy side when posing for the camera. People with mental illnesses can be sexy too and it doesn’t make us any less of a person or mental health advocate for wanting to display that.
I think if anything I am showing that people with mental illness do not fit in these neat little boxes. Being a mental health and illness advocate should not mean you do not get to express your “sexy” side if you have one and want to flaunt it. I should not be taken any less seriously because I am a young woman who likes to show off her body. However, I know it doesn’t work that way, people are judging me not only for posting those pictures but also judging me by my looks. Just because I am an attractive young woman who likes to post “liberal” images of herself does not imply I am lacking intelligence or do not have anything of value to say. Stop judging books by covers and stop trying to belittle women or imply they are a “slut” for celebrating their bodies on social media. I am confident in my own skin despite struggling with a mental illness and quite frankly it suggests confidence and self-esteem I can post these pictures but not only that, it demonstrates my integrity to this esteem in not taking them down the minute somebody did not like the idea of them being out there. I am going to post whatever the fuck I want or feel comfortable sharing on social media because that’s who I am – a person with integrity who will not let some man tell me what or what I should not be posting.
As for me regretting this “later in life,” I can’t help but laugh. I don’t believe in regrets and I strongly believe in living for the moment. This moment in time I felt compelled to share those pictures and not for whatever misguided reasons people assume when associated with sexy pictures. These pictures represent something for me – this moment – when I felt the most confident and secure in my body image. I’d honestly regret not posting them because then I’d be left wondering, “Did I not post them because I was afraid of the opinions of others?” I feel and look the best I have ever felt in years and damn straight I want to share that. I want to look back on these pictures and remember how confident, sexy and strong I was in THIS moment. No regrets, I won’t look back. You can call me a slut, tramp, mindless Instagram Babe or whatever suits your fancy but just know I ain’t here for it. Your name calling and condescending opinions will never censor the content I put out which is authentically me. I AM Bipolar AND sexy too but I won’t apologize for it. I also will not allow people to belittle me into thinking I am any less or that I am not a good person or a good mental health advocate because I display my body. You’re simply ignorant in my opinion if you think the two some how correlate. I am a woman above all else with the freedom to post or not post whatever the fuck I want. If you don’t like it, hit the unsubscribe button quietly then walk away and please keyboard warriors, just get out of my fucking face!
I have been neglecting what I hope will be my life’s work, writing my memoirs about living and struggling with bipolar disorder, specifically my experiences with multiple psychoses. I decided to get a rose gold cuff bracelet engraved with the acronym, “JFDI,” which stands for “Just Fucking Do It.” I want to remind myself daily by wearing this that I need to simply sit my ass down and write whether I feel like it or not. However, despite this new beautiful addition to my jewelry collection, wearing it has yet to spur much action on the writing front.
I decided to journal about how I was feeling regarding writing this book and the following words spewed onto the page and as usual my own writing process has exposed me and shed some light on my avoidance:
“I believe a big part of my procrastination is that this is a painful story to share. When I sit down and write it, I have to dig deep in the dark recesses of my mind and retrieve memories that quite frankly hurt to hold onto. No one wants to admit that they lost the one thing that most of us would never fathom losing – their sanity. Let me be very clear here, “losing your mind” and “losing your sanity” are two very different things. One you have more control over and can recover from quickly while the other is a complete loss of control, a complete break from reality.
When you lose your sanity, you dissociate and your mind fractures into something unrecognizable. I am not saying you cannot come back from that but it’s harder to reconcile – that your mind was not your own. You’re scared shitless then reality slips back through the cracks and you wonder, “will that happen again?” Unfortunately for me it happened not once, but twice. You start to feel like a visitor in your mind and wonder when the darkness will come again and consume you.”
Now reading that back to myself after writing it was an “Aha!” moment in that I did not even realize I was harboring a deep rooted fear and pain towards writing this story. It’s understandable. I just didn’t know that this was yet one more thing holding me back from writing. I have decided to start slowly to confront the pain and sit with these memories a little bit everyday until I am ready to unpack them and process them. I believe through writing this book I can come to heal even more than I already have – and don’t get me wrong I’ve come a long way from those days spent rocking back and forth crying slumped against my bedroom door coming to terms with the fact I had lost my mind to a mental illness I was now saddled with for life. I spent days, weeks, and years drowning in grieve that I would never be “sane” or considered “normal.” I had a very real identity crisis accepting my bipolar disorder and letting go of the vision of myself pre-diagnosis.
I am in active recovery and have been stable on medication for years now and think it is finally time I start putting off my goal to write my memoirs. Is it scary? For sure, as I have laid out my thoughts above on it. Am I capable? Absolutely. I know in my heart of hearts this is something I was meant to do – to share my journey in the throes of mental illness so that someone trying to navigate those same waters may have a guidepost of hope to look to and understand that it does get better. I am living proof it does get better. I am not saying I do not still struggle with the inevitable ups and downs of this disorder but I have come to realize you need to give yourself grace. You need to understand healing is a process, a journey unto itself. I simply want to show that you can go from falling apart on your bedroom floor to managing your symptoms and picking yourself back up.
I listen to a lot of music lately (who am I kidding, I always do) but one artist has really stood out for me as a new great addition to my music library – Kiana Ledé. Her r&b vibes, smooth yet sexy voice, honest and clever lyrics make her a powerhouse of a female singer. I am drawn to her naturally during a time (post-break up) where I want to emulate her – a strong, beautiful, independent woman. The song that captured my attention right away was “cancelled.” as I can relate to it way too much right now. The beginning lyrics had me sold right away and I usually tune in or out of a new song within the first verse and she killed it, “I am a single queen, you know the fuckin’ vibes. Fuck men these days, fuck them all. They will hurt everyone’s feelings and fuck them all.” I could immediately identify with being a “single queen” and being over men to the point I am ready to say “fuck them all” myself – at least for now.
This song repeats “you know the vibes, vibes vibes” as its chorus tying back to the original verse and being a single queen. The fact is being single IS A VIBE – I am starting to realize and own again. There is a certain peace of mind when you are single that you can do, say and act however the fuck you want. I am not constantly thinking how my partner will interpret me and just doing me. I do not stress over whether him not texting me all day means he was busy? or because he just simply doesn’t give a shit about me? I am not insecure more than anything which I love! You would think the opposite would be true – having a relationship end usually fucks with the self-esteem. However, for me, this particular relationship ending boosted my confidence. I feel I can be my playful, sarcastic, insightful self again and one day maybe, someone won’t make me want to hide away those parts of me.
The third verse of “Cancelled.” also struck home cause I know it’s true but I needed to be reminded of it: “And you gorgeous, Fuckin’ gorgeous. You got options. Made bad choices. Only cry so much ‘Cause he lied too much. You don’t need nobody.” I felt like the end of my relationship was the end at my chance of love forever but I know I was being dramatic. Firstly, cause I never felt anything resembling love for this boy. Secondly, like Kiana sings in “Cancelled.,” “You gorgeous, Fuckin’ gorgeous. You got options. Made bad choices.” I have options for sure such as the option to explore myself instead of jumping into relationship after relationship. I made a bad choice by dating this boy but it isn’t the be all, end all. There will be other opportunities to grow, to love.
I have decided to “Just Keep It Movin” like Kiana sings in “Movin” (another great song!). I could easily fall apart and let the disappointment overcome me but I choose to move forward and focus on myself and my goals. The ironic thing is I lost site of them in my previous relationship – my goals. I was completely distracted and lost my sense of purpose in this life. I am excited to rediscover that, my purpose, and start working towards what I deem meaningful.
I am not going to get caught up in those post-break-up traps such as questioning my inherent value and whether or not I will ever be loved authentically. These hang ups are not nearly as important as what I need to discover – my life’s work. I want to take some time to figure out what I can do to get myself to a point to truly empower people – specifically young women with mental health issues. For now…I write this blog, but it’s not enough. I am finally in a place to admit that and work on finding my way into this world.
“Just because it isn’t an “official” holiday doesn’t mean it’s not important (like *coughs* the most important). Truly, if you’re going to pick one “fake” holiday to get pumped about, it shouldn’t be National Pizza or whatever else…it should be Galentine’s Day.”
According to Urban Dictionary, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on February 13, the day before that other made-up holiday (ahem, Valentine’s Day). It’s a day for celebrating the love you have for your lady friends, whether they’re single or not. Basically, it’s a day dedicated to showering your closest friends with love and attention…more than you do every other day.
Excellent question! The best thing about Galentine’s Day is that it was created by a fictional character: Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. In 2010, the second season of Parks and Rec included an episode called “Galentine’s Day,” in which Leslie gathers a group of her closest gal pals for a brunch of waffles and love. “Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style,” Leslie says in the episode. “Ladies celebrating ladies.” And thus, Galentine’s Day was unofficially added to everyone’s calendar. No, seriously: According to TheAtlantic, it’s such a widely recognized fake holiday that some companies now run Galentine’s Day promotions. What could be more real than that? ((Where Did Galentine’s Day Come From – When Is Galentine’s Day (cosmopolitan.com))
I am celebrating my first Galentine’s Day with my best friend tomorrow on the heels of a break-up, ironically we decided to celebrate it before we broke up. I think in my heart of hearts I made these plans because I knew this relationship was never meant to last. I also shamelessly did not want to “not” acknowledge Valentine’s Day because last year I was in a very loving relationship and actually had a Ball! So I did not want to be disappointed this year or rather I did not want to feel that deep pit in my stomach (you all know the one). So I arranged some back up in the form of Galentine’s Day!
Yes I realize, we’re celebrating a day early but that’s due to schedules, the point is – the idea of showering your friend with love will be had! I wrote my best friend a love letter as part of a joke, but I do bear my soul and tell her how much I do genuinely care and appreciate her. I was mentioning to her how I wanted to write a love letter (to my now ex) and that I couldn’t think of anything nice to say and how the fuck was I supposed to write it at this rate!? And she said “fuck him! write me a love letter!” And then I explained to her Galentine’s Day and how we should celebrate it! She agreed!
So tomorrow I will be drinking wine and making crafts with my true love – my best friend! I will admit I’m a little broken hearted over the end of my relationship but I recognize it was not for me, like AT ALL. Who doesn’t love a day that celebrates loving your lady friends? I’ma love the shit out of this woman tomorrow. I like plan to shower this woman with affection! I even made her a cupcake!
But it shouldn’t just be the day, either Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day, that spurs you to action to give the one’s you love attention. Sprinkle Love everywhere…
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the idea of who I want to keep and who I want to cut out of my life. I am at a point in my life where if a relationship is not serving me in some way than I do not feel it’s necessary to hold on to. I don’t think this is selfish but rather a very healthy mindset to have. At the end of the day, you have YOU for life (as I always like to say) and if the people in your life are not helping you grow, realizing your worth and value, or bringing some positive aspect to it than what really is the point?
Sever the Tie. Let That Shit Go.
I am too old for meaningless encounters and toxic people who only hold me back or make me question my value. I think it’s important to take stalk of your relationships as they develop and whether these people are growing with you or whether you’ve outgrown them. It’s okay to feel sad that a friendship or any relationship for that matter has reached its inevitable end. It’s okay to say “I’ve had enough” of being treated a certain way or had enough of the negative energy any one person may bring to your universe.
Let That Shit Go. Release The Toxicity.
I think what is key to ask yourself when analyzing these relationships is, “What does this person bring to my life?” Are they a light? Or are they casting a shadow on your well-being? If keeping someone in your life is proving detrimental to your overall mental health, I hate to break it to you but it’s probably time to walk away.
At the end of the day, I want to be appreciated for well, being ME. I try to be as authentic as possible with how I present myself and tend to lay all the cards on the table. If that’s not enough or if someone does not appreciate where I am coming from in this life, then I am sorry but I choose ME and ultimately will walk away.
I guess what I am trying to say is you have one life, and the people you choose to include in it will affect your growth and potential exponentially. Keep your circle tight. Choose people who see your light and who root for you, who treat you with dignity and respect and above all accept you for YOU.
Recently I posed the question, “What does mentally ill look like?” on a picture of me on Instagram. I wrote the following in the description, “What does mental illness look like? People look at me and assume I’ve never been there. Why? Because I dress fashionably? Because I crack jokes and smile often? Reflect on your snap judgements of people based on their appearances and challenge them because in reality you’ll never truly know the demons they battle everyday and hide from the world. I struggle with bipolar disorder type one and have had multiple full blown episodes of mania where I completely lost touch with who I was or what reality is. I may not look the part but I’ve been in the throes of depression, I’ve cried more tears than I care to admit and THAT is why I smile and laugh often cause I choose to see and enjoy the light when I can and am capable. What does mental illness look like? It looks like your daughter, your nephew, your neighbour or the cashier at the local grocery store. Everyone has known struggle but some of us tuck it away better than others. Challenge your judgements, be kind to others cause you never truly know what they are or have gone through.”
My biggest pet peeve is when people first find out I am bipolar and turn to me and exclaim, “You? You don’t look like you’d be bipolar!” Like what does that even mean? Call me jaded but I feel it’s like them saying, “You don’t look crazy!?” There is still stigma around mental health and mental illness to this day despite many people like me trying to actively combat it. I write this blog so people may know a type-A overachiever like myself who seems like “she has it all put together” can also fall victim to having a mental illness and that it does not define you as a person, however for me personally, it’s a large part of what has made me quite frankly well – Me! There’s this idea perpetuated in the media and through film that mentally ill people are generally disheveled looking, talk to themselves or in most cases live on the streets.
The scariest generalization I personally think is that mentally ill people are violent. There are incidences when this is true but its way less common than believed to be. One of the very few times I’ve felt discriminated against was because of this erroneous belief. One of my old high school friends recently explained why we never chill at his place anymore and it’s because since he mentioned I was diagnosed with bipolar to his mom, she is scared for his safety when he is with me. She believes I will turn violent and have some kind of outburst towards him. I find this highly offensive and a little annoyed my friend did not feel the need to stick up for me and instead meets me secretly at the local coffee shop whenever he is in town. I am a very generous, understanding and forgiving person though so ultimately I let this go.
This is real life folks, not One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. For example, my mental illness is more prevalent in the population than you would think: More than 5.7 million American adults or 2.6 percent of the population age 18 or older in any given year have bipolar disorder. And you’re going to try and tell me that they are all bat-shit crazy or violent? Mental illness can be treated contrary to whatever bullshit has been spun about it. On the right medication, a person with bipolar, schizophrenia, etc., can live a relatively normal and productive life. I will admit I have experienced psychoses which are complete breaks with reality but I never had any violent tendencies just delusional thoughts about who I was and what I was experiencing. The first one led to my diagnosis and was obviously a result of being mentally ill without proper medication and the second time was induced by a poor choice in medication prescribed by a well meaning but quite frankly moronic psychiatrist. I have been stable for over five years now that I found the right medication and take it regularly. I don’t look quote on quote crazy for a “mentally ill” person cause quite honestly I am not.
Mentally ill should not be congruous with “crazy.” I find that offensive and way off base, rather an ignorant view. There are people who murder, steal, cheat and are just in general assholes with no mental illness, so what’s their excuse? The reason I do not look mentally ill at first glance is because I got my shit together and because at the core I don’t hide behind bipolar as an excuse for my actions or behavior. I’ll admit it has impacted my life both positively and negatively but at the end of the day I take full ownership of that as being on me, Brittany, not “Bipolar Brittany.” I am everything despite this disorder – I am loyal to a fault (seriously If I love you I will support you to no end and never pass judgement), I am honest also sometimes to a fault (don’t come to me if you want something sugar coated), I am open minded and try to relate to people and life in general on a higher ground, constantly looking for meaning. I am all these lovely things and also not so lovely ones like lazy, unmotivated and anxious. I can easily say oooh that’s just because of the bipolar but I don’t – that’s a cop out and a way to which I choose not to live my life.
My biggest pet peeve is the stigma around these mental disorders and the fear to be identified as having one. My mother is well meaning but freaks out every time I meet someone new and “came out” as bipolar. I am always super upfront about my illness maybe annoyingly so. I mention it on the first date with any new potential lover because they should be aware of it and so I know based off their reaction whether or not I want to pursue that relationship any further. I will not have bigoted people in my life, I won’t, I can’t for my own mental health. People are alike in that we all have gone through some heavy shit. Some of us hide it better than others and some people like me enjoy talking about that struggle openly so others may know its normal. You’re not an alien for being depressed, for grieving loss, or in my case having lost your mind. You’re human and that’s how I feel we should relate to one another – as humans who are muddling through this scary and intense experience that is life.
Just be mindful the next time you throw the word “crazy” out there to describe someone or watch how you judge someone based off the way they appear. You genuinely do not know or will ever truly understand where they are coming from unless you take the time to get to know their struggle.
Now, I realize “Death” is a loaded topic but I am going to glaze over the scary bits here. I am going to focus on the “idea” of death and how depending on your view of it, can affect the entire way you go about your life and more specifically affect your mental health. I have had both healthy and not healthy curiosity towards death and my ultimate demise. If you view your demise – as I do now – you can focus more on your life as a positive force. I see death as something happening in the future and which is inevitable. I do not pretend to know when, where, how or why? I will die and try not to fixate on that so much but I do accept death for what it is – the toll you must pay for having lived a life. I also see death as motivation to make each day count and try to love, respect, and impart knowledge to the ones I love whenever I can.
As I write about my current view on death, one of my favourite songs by Macklemore called “Glorious” comes to mind. He sings in it, “I heard you die twice, once they bury you in the grave/ And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name/ So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave?” I believe that you never die if you make a difference or an impact on the lives around you. I also think as a writer, you have a certain power to immoralize your voice, especially if you speak with conviction and on a topic that calls to the universal human spirit. I want to write about my struggle with mental health and how I regained control of my mind after losing it to negativity and ultimately insanity. I want to inspire others who feel as if they are about to give up, to keep on going cause Fuck, most of us have been there.
I currently view death as inspiration, as one giant biological clock ticking serving to remind me that time’s almost up – time to make and inspire change. One may think this is morbid that I think of death at all, that I should quietly push it to the back of mind like we ‘re encouraged to do in society in general. Now, I believe that is more unhealthy – to avoid thinking or reflecting on the end of our being. We will one day perish and the weight of what a life means to us is contingent on how you relate to that fact. If you’re an analytical thinker such as myself, you’ve thought about your demise in multiple perspectives and the reality is no matter how much or little you analyze it, death is inevitable. So why ponder it at all? I think to think about death is to be more alive. It reminds you that each moment could be taken for granted and spurs you to experience more than you would have before.
However, when the pendulum of “thinking” about death swings and leads to “obsessing” over death, you then enter the danger zone and your mental health starts to plummet. If you think about death constantly and negatively you may fall into an attitude towards life of “What’s the fucking point?” This is how I felt when I swung or rather crashed from mania to depression in my bipolar cycles. (prior to stabilization and recovery) I would not even leave bed for days on end picturing my ultimate death, and sometimes in graphic details, as a reason to not even bother. If I struggled just to make ends meet and get by (and in my opinion had nothing to show for my life so far) why should I exert even more effort to live when in the end it amounts to nothing…literally dust. The idea of death also mocked me as I experienced the more serious bouts of my mental illness. I thought to myself, “I am going to die one day, literally cease to exist and majority of my early 20’s – what should be the best years of my life – was lost to a tortured mind.”
I also had an extremist view on death prior to my diagnosis which led to an unhealthy view that I must have a “YOLO” attitude towards everything. I literally justified doing every hard drug I ever tried and experimented with in my early 20s on that catch phrase, “You Only Live Once!” I put myself in a lot of dangerous situations because of my morbid fascination and unhealthy view of death. I figured if I was going to die, I might as well die living life as an adventure. I would later learn that was probably the undiagnosed mania talking. I also had a strong belief I was meant to die at a young age.
I believe like most things in life, my view and relationship to death has evolved with time. I am not saying there is a right or wrong way to look at it but if your obsession with death is affecting your mental health to the point you do not want to engage fully with life, then there is a problem. But do not believe you’re “messed up” for thinking about or wanting to reflect on it from time to time. It’s a very real finite end to everything you built for yourself. But let me plant a seed in your mind – maybe it’s not just getting by that should consume your life but also building a legacy for yourself through something positive like helping others. Who says death gets the last word?
“I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave. And the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name.” (Macklemore)
So I’m going to write about something so stereotypical around this time of year…New Year’s Resolutions. Each year I set general ones which I inevitably forget about in a month’s time but this year I am going to do my best to set tangible, reachable, time sensitive goals – if you ever went to any career building workshop, you’ll also recognize these as S.M.A.R.T goals. So what is the difference between your run of the mill goal and a SMART goal? A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. They’re called SMART for a reason in that they hold you more accountable since you have to do a little bit of strategizing on how you’re going to complete this goal (Measure it? Time it?) and not just set it.
I tend to shy away from making these goals cause I feel I’ll be disappointed when I do not meet them after putting effort into thinking not only about the goal but how I can achieve it. If I am being completely honest this avoidance stems mostly from laziness and a fear that if I put effort into creating a SMART goal and it does not manifest, I will only prove myself right again in my negative generalized idea that I am destined to be a failure. But no more! New Year, New Me? Huh? I also think that expression “New Year, New Me” is a little ridiculous. I believe in life in general you should always be striving for greatness and growth but do not necessarily throw out all the good parts about yourself you may be neglecting. So without further ado…I have two major SMART goals I would like to set for 2021 and a few general ones that I will address.
My first SMART Goal? You’ve heard it before but this time I will be tracking my progress through a calendar and setting a time frame for it – To Quit Smoking! (once and for all) They say you never truly quit until you’re ready and I was just not in the right frame of mind to do the past five years of my life and the past two years that I tried on and off to quit. I want to be one year smoke free on this date in 2021. I quit last Monday and have not smoked since. What is different this time around? I am holding myself accountable. I intend to write down each day that I break down and have a cigarette and how many to be precise.
What is also different is my view and thoughts towards it. In just over a week smoke free, I have noticed I cringe when I smell smoke whereas before it would trigger me to light up or I would be so desensitized to the smell (having constantly being in it), I would not even notice. It now literally triggers a gag reflex and I do not enjoy it. I also am more sensitive to the idea of a set back this time around. I have decided that if I do give in and smoke I will smoke that one cigarette and re-set my quit date to that moment right after and acknowledge that I am human, and that in reality “that one smoke I just smoked today is better than the twenty I usually smoke in a day and to get back on the quitting train.” This is vastly different from any other thought processes I had in previous attempts at quitting where I would break down, have that cigarette than use it to justify smoking even more since what’s the point? I already smoked one.
It’s like my counsellor said (oh yeah, I go to a STOP smoking program as well currently) that it’s about decreasing that bond of my brain to nicotine. There’s a reason they call it the most addicting substance in the world. If I can just slowly remove myself from nicotine and my habit of “rewarding” myself with cigarettes I believe I can eventually remove it all together for good. I am currently using the patches which I was being supplied in other times I tried to quit but never ever actually used them consistently and properly. This time around I am sticking one on every day until I am ready to decrease it in size and then remove them all together. Another stereotypical thing you hear when quitting smoking is to DISTRACT. I am working on writing and reading and painting more as a way to ease the cravings and keep my mind off of them. But the most important difference I’ve noticed this time when quitting is my mindset. I have a new attitude towards it that is in my opinion very healthy and it can be summed up in a cliche, “Take it one day at a time.” I also believe if I can’t handle that then take it one hour, or even one moment at a time.” Trust me, the cravings do and will actually come to pass.
My other and final SMART Goal is to have the first draft of my nonfiction book (about my life and struggle with my mental health as a person with Bipolar Type One) written again, one year from today. I have set the goal of writing 100,000 words at a rate of 1,500 per day on average. I know what you’re thinking…this girl sucks at Math! But hear me out! This accounts for days dedicated to revising and researching. It also allows some slack days when I know, I just know I won’t want to push myself. I will be tracking this goal on NaNoWriMo which is a site for writers to literally set time sensitive writing goals and track them as they move towards these goals. I intend to post my goal on my wall to serve as a daily reminder of what I want to work towards and achieve this year. I may also post a little thermometer which is a thing us English majors did – to color in different milestones of word counts when writing big research papers. To visually see progress, encourages you to continue and helps you have an idea of how far away or how close you are to your set goal.
My run of the mill goals – ABS! Haha, I wish I was kidding but I am a little vain and used to have a very visible six pack in my youth and early twenties. I intend to work towards this goal by being mindful of working out consistently and being very aware of the trash I tend to feed myself. I also want to blog more! And will be working on some new content more often than ever before. This blog is now on its own Domain (if you hadn’t noticed) and therefore owned by me! It was the first step I made in becoming more serious as a blogger. The next will be to build more consistent content and build a followership (if you have any tips on that, please, please, please shoot me an email with advice! I eat that shit up!). I also now own and have rights to the logo pictured below. It was to be honest a spur of the moment purchase but I am looking forward to making business cards soon and sharing the word of this blog more!
I want you to know your goals are valuable and deserve to be shouted from the roof tops! And at the very least, if you’re not comfortable with that, write them down somewhere you can remind yourself and hold yourself accountable. We all deserve to test our potential and we should want to embrace change. For example, last year I set a really important goal for myself to lose enough weight to be 130 pounds (at the time I was 155 which is a little too much for a short bitty such as myself). I am happy to say as of today, I weigh 117 pounds. I crushed that goal! But I set time limits and tracked my progress (as nerdy as this sounds) on a graph. I wrote down each time I went to the gym in a week to be aware whether or not I was meeting my three gym sessions a week, I had and quite frankly the doctor had, prescribed. Your goals are achievable quite frankly if you believe they are (and obviously if reasonable). But I am going to share with you one secret – they don’t come easy. You have to strategize how to achieve them and sometimes why? The why is important to those of us who need to be reminded what our motivation is, for those days when we just feel like we don’t give a flying fuck about anything.
So Why? Why set Goals this year?
For me it’s simple – I want to be a forever changing better version of myself. I want to be standing somewhere completely different next year – somewhere better.
Gary John Bishop’s “Wise as Fu*k” delivers an impactful punch of insight in a straightforward no-bullshitting style that is admirable. Bishop breaks down his books into sections or rather “fundamentals of life:” Love, Loss, Fear and Success. I will admit I perused the “Love” section but the parts on loss, fear and success really spoke to me in a way that has motivated me to attempt to make a very real change in my life. I will address the three sections of loss, fear and success in three separate blog posts. This one will be dedicated to Fear.
“If you ask anyone why they feel as if they’re stuck or trapped, why they don’t reach for greatness or break out of a crumbling life and you question a little, they all initially cough up the same boring answer to that existence of predictability and beigeness – Fear” (Bishop 113).
Bishop really hits home with this statement for I too often chalk up why I fall short of my goals to fear, and more specifically the generic fear of failure. He points out in this book that most people have built a life around their fears rather than their potential. If I am being completely honest with myself and you, my readers, I have let fear dominate my life and hold me back from pursuing things I have wanted to but never did for fear of failing.
“You don’t start a business or write that book or apply to that college or even go the gym becaue…what’s the fucking point, right? I mean, you’ll only fail again, won’t you?” (Bishop 113). Bishop hits even closer to home with these examples for I myself have been delaying my writing process for a book I want to get published. Again, I chalk it up to fear. I fear I will spend months, even years writing a manuscript only to have it rejected by every publisher I submit it to. I fear even if it does get published that it will not be well received or no one will even like it or even read it. I fear at the heart of it all that I will expose myself raw and share my painful journey only to be criticized and or ostracized. These are the thoughts running through my mind every time I debate sitting down to write my manuscript.
Fear is described as a Band-Aid to cover up everything we don’t want to face in this book, “It is an explanation that allows us to put that task off indefinitely” (Bishop 115). And as I mentioned earlier, I am using my fear of failure as a Band-Aid to cover up facing writing my memoir because as Bishop notes, “Look your problem is not a fear of failure itself, but a fear of being seen to fail” (Bishop 116). I am at the very root of it afraid to be seen failing yet again. I tried to finish my degree at University and become a professor but was derailed by a mental breakdown brought on by the onset of bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to pick myself up mentally and at times even physically. I think my fear comes from a place of not wanting people to see me reaching for another dream – writing and publishing a book – and it slip from my grasp again. I feel as though I would be ashamed and could not handle if yet another dream of mine were to die, since in my past I did not handle that very well to keep it light.
“You can learn to live with fear without using it as an excuse. It’s not about being fearless but rather realizing that you’re okay with it…It’s not about avoiding being judged but instead realizing that all people will judge, and it is far better to be judged for who you are rather than something you’re pretending to be…” (Bishop 118). This quote from “Wise As Fu*k” really put things into perspective for me. I realize it is better to be your authentic self and put all your cards on the table than shy away from the truth because of some stupid fear that you will be judged. While writing my book (what I’ve written so far) I’ve debated leaving parts of my painful journey out for fear it will not be well received or understood. I do however believe these more intense parts of my story will help my reader understand better where I have been and where I am coming from. I also believe there is someone out there going through these same scary, intense experiences that may benefit from me sharing my own account/version of them. Do I shy away from sharing the more dark parts of myself for fear of being judged or misunderstood or do I grow a pair and put it out there for the world to make of it what they will? After all this is MY story and it deserves to be told as truthfully and as authentically as possible so that the person experiencing the same darkness can feel less alone. This book has encouraged me to at the very least consider leaving these elements of my book in and to be honest I am thinking, “Fuck it! I’m just going to do it anyways – fear be damned.”
“To fear is to be alive. Its your job to understand that and to push past it…We all feel fear. But it’s not an excuse not to take action” (Bishop 119). This is the crux – to take action despite our fear. You can feel it but do not let it overwhelm you to the point of inaction. I realize I have been letting my fear cripple me and inhibit my ability to pursue my goal of being a published author. I need to have faith in my story and that it was meant to be told which I genuinely do believe. I believe my experiences are bigger than me and need to be shared in order that someone experiencing the same pain can have a guide post to reference as a piece of hope. I got through it and so can you. I need to acknowledge my fears but do not let them overcome me. I have been trying to do this by challenging my thinking. For example, “This book may be published and maybe no one will read it.” I challenge that with “Maybe it won’t be a bestseller or even popular but if it gets in the hands of just one person who benefits from reading it then it will all be worth it.” I have decided to start actively sitting down with my manuscript so far and work on it each day for at least an hour. This could mean I write, or maybe revise, or even research but the point is to sit with it until the fear washes away and I am spurred to action.
I will end this post with one more quote from Bishop that really resonated with me, “You can either be driven by that fear or declare yourself big enough to bring it along for the ride. Fear can be the companion or the driver; that choice will be yours” (Bishop 127). This is what I like about Bishop’s writing in that the ownership is put on the individual. It is up to me to accept my fear and yet continue to move on. I am no longer going to let fear be the driver but I will accept it as my companion for though I fear writing my book, I also fear not writing it more. I worry for that person in the throes of psychosis not understanding why or how this is happening to them without a compassionate voice (mine) for which to access and lean on for inspiration – that your experience does not define you but rather how you react and process it does. I want to be a voice for those who are too scared to speak up and admit to others and the world that losing your actual fucking mind is literally terrifying and makes you feel alone and more than anything ashamed.
Don’t let fear have the last word but accept it for what it is a driving force that can be reigned into motivation. My fear motivates me to share my story and as authentically as possible because quite frankly it’s scarier not to.
Stay Tuned for the next blog post on Gary John Bishop’s thoughts on “Success” and my interpretation of it.
If you want to know more about bipolar disorder, other mental illnesses and/or mental health advocacy, you are in the right place. I aim to educate others about the various mental illnesses and give tips on how to deal with them. I aim inspire and encourage others using my 35 years experience as a person with bipolar disorder. In addition, I am the founder of Mental Health Advocates United and the FB group Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses. I hope that some day the mental health organizations worldwide work together so that we have a louder voice and can improve the mental health system.