Almost Two Years Sober and Counting…

https://unsplash.com/s/photos/fork-in-the-road?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText

On Roughly May 30, 2019, I made a life altering decision to embrace sobriety and battle my previous five year addiction to drugs. This means soon I will be going on two years sober. I am not proud to say I dabbled in a little of everything prior to getting sober but my main addiction was smoking pot. I could not seem to live without it and no matter how hard I wanted to stop smoking up (towards the end of my smoking days anyways), I could not kick the habit.

The initial days of smoking weed, or rather the first couple of years, it was like the honeymoon phase of a relationship – everything was coming up roses. I managed to be more productive while high and creative in that it opened my thought processes to channels never explored before. I became a more relaxed version of myself I fell in love with, as I have struggled my entire life with being a Type A personality – everything, including me, had to be perfect and when things were less than that I would panic and freak out.

But like every honeymoon, it eventually ends, or at least for me. I began experiencing unusually long bouts of depression where I lacked all motivation (strange for someone who has been Type A their whole life) and spent hours, sometimes days in bed. I began taking risks like trying other, more harder drugs – FYI “weed as a gateway drug” is an actual thing. Weed relaxes you and puts you in a more open state of mind and I started to contemplate, “well what’s the harm? I tried weed and it seems to be going quite well for me so far.” I can tell you, if you couldn’t already tell, I was completely and utterly naïve when it came to drugs and their effects. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and soon I was falling down the rabbit hole of addiction. You know they say, “curiosity killed the cat” for a fucking reason! Well I fucking ran over that Tabby with all four wheels.

I had never even smoked weed until I was 18 never seeing the allure until curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know why everyone was constantly stoned in my dormitory at University. I wondered “what the fuck is the big deal?” and I wanted to experience it for myself. I mainly tried it for the first time because I wanted to understand why my then serious boyfriend was consistently showing up baked off his face, to the point he’d be drooling almost. I’ve always had this insatiable need to know – to know why or how things worked.

The first time I smoked up, I was in a circle of about eight people from my dormitory who were passing multiple joints in both clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. I must have puffed over a hundred times and felt no different and grew frustrated when my closest friend at the time from my floor asked, “Are you high yet?” Because my answer was no. I more specifically said, “I don’t know if I’m high but I’m not really feeling anything to be honest,” to which my friend replied “then you are definitely not high. Here, let me explain how to inhale it properly and most effectively.” She then described to me the words I would live by for the next five years when trying to get high. I inhale, hold it in the back of my throat, inhale again before exhaling, hold that breath in as well until I feel the smoke ticking the bottom of my esophagus. I’ve always been a visual learner and to have the breathing technique explained in a more visual way sunk in better….and then I was fucking high off my face.

I can not explain that first high or the next ten, or thirty, but they all felt as if I was seeing the colour red for the first time in my life – my emotions were heightened tenfold and sensations felt well for lack of a better term – “sensational.” The thing that hooked me the most about smoking up was something so simple yet so beautiful to me. Music sounded like it was in surround sound regardless of how I listened to it, by that I mean the notes and melodies churned in my soul and surrounded me in a warm embrace I had never experienced before. Everything was better high, or seemed that way – Love, Sex, Studying, Partying, Writing, Drawing, you name it – everything seemed more epic while high.

As I mentioned earlier, it was all fun and games for the first few years but then, for me at least, it turned into things much darker. It turned into nights of blacking out, risk taking behavior like one night stands, a gradual progression into trying “new and more exciting drugs,” that led me to spiral faster and faster towards what would ultimately be my first serious mental breakdown, a psychosis.

It was a result of this psychosis that I would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the way I saw and related to myself would forever be changed. Many people with an addiction have a co-existing mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder in its basic nutshell –  causes mood swings between intense emotional highs and lows. Although it’s not fully understood why, bipolar disorder makes people more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol often make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. People with no history of mental health issues can also develop bipolar disorder that were previously dormant as a result of drug abuse.

My drug abuse and my development of bipolar disorder at the ripe age of twenty-two begs the classic question, “What came first? The chicken or the egg.?” Did my abuse of drugs lead to bipolar or did my bipolar cause my drug addiction? And this one conundrum plagues me to this day because it makes me sick to my stomach to think I unintentionally caused the most traumatic experiences of my life from the abuse of substances I could of and should of just simply avoided (almost killing myself due to crippling depression, experiencing two manic psychoses in which I had hallucinations and delusions of grandeur). My biggest fear is that I have substance-induced bipolar disorder rather than it being a result of my genetic make-up.

There is no real way however to really tell what caused my disorder. But as a person who is now sober and who can think more rationally (to an extent, I am still bipolar after all, haha!) that thought creeps in and bothers me from time to time, “Could all the heartache and trauma caused by my bipolar disorder have been avoided if I had simply never been so curious as to try drugs in the first place?” And I’ll be honest, after everything that I have been through this is a troubling idea.

So what made me get sober after years of abusing drugs (mainly pot)? The same thing that got me into that whole mess in the first place – curiosity. I was curious whether my depressions, which seemed to only be getting progressively worse, would be less extreme once off drugs for good. I was curious whether being sober would improve my mental health and rejuvenate my energy levels that always seemed to be lower than normal. I was curious whether a sober version of myself might be the better version of myself I had been searching for.

The thing that led to my eventual recovery and sobriety was a mixture of different actions I decided to finally take, instead of simply pondering how to quit I put into action a plan to end the co-dependence between me and drugs. I called an addictions counsellor through a non-profit organization and began seeing her for one hour sessions every two weeks to discuss why I was still holding onto drugs and what plan of action I should take in ridding them from my life. She suggested I slowly wean off and start by smoking less and less amounts of pot, however, each week I would come back with the same excuses as to why I smoked excessively that week and did not manage whatsoever to decrease my pot intake. My counsellor was patient however and kept strategizing with me regardless of whether I met my goals or not.

When I saw how invested my counsellor was in my case, demonstrating she genuinely cared, I shifted my motivation for quitting drugs onto her, in that I wanted to make her proud of my progress.  I decided randomly one week to quit cold turkey and test myself and see if I could come into my counselling session with the proclamation that I had done it, I had gone two weeks without dope! After months of what I felt was wasting her time (in hindsight though we were building the foundation for me to quit) I finally was able to come in  to my session with the boast that I had been sober for longer and longer bouts of time.

My main motivation at first was to make my counsellor proud but then it changed – to being able to maintain the positive changes I started to notice just four weeks clean of substances. In a blog post that I wrote at my four-week clean mark I write: “I am going on four weeks sober from quitting smoking marijuana and I’ve already noticed some changes. One of these changes is that I seem to be the Energizer Bunny with a shit ton of energy and inability to sleep. Prior to this endeavor I was napping constantly and having a hard time being awake and alert. I feel as though I am making up for lost time. I want to do the things I was unable to before and I want to do it all!’’

I also mention the following: “The most beneficial change and the one I’ve noticed the most is I have a much better accepting and positive attitude. I can accept where I am in life and have slowly made plans to make small changes in order to achieve the longer term goals I am now setting for myself. While smoking dope I was prone to commiserate on my current situation and smoked even more dope to deal with the commiseration. I want to be more active in my life both physically and figuratively.”

The farther I got away (time wise) from smoking dope and the closer I got to being the better version of myself I had envisioned, the easier it became to simply not smoke up anymore. I can honestly say almost two years later (of being sober) that I will never regret this decision nor will I ever make the mistake of lighting up again. I realize now I have an extremely addictive personality and there is no such thing as “Oh, I’ll just have one puff” because with my brain wiring I will always want it all, and will continue to cross the line in order to get it. I am now a much more clear- headed and rational person whose decisions are not based on where I’ll be getting my next fix. My life has so much more meaning and I am so glad that I am starting to figure it out once again – what that meaning is for me.

Russell Brand’s book “Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions” was instrumental in my journey towards sobriety. I mention, in a blog post exploring this book, while actively in the throes of addiction still the following: “Brand mentions in the first chapter of his book that most of us are divided: “…usually part of us wants to change a negative, punishing behavior, whereas another part wants to hold on to it” (Brand 21). I want to change my drinking and smoking habits yet part of me wants to hold on to them. I like the way they make me feel in the moment but I feel terrible after coming down from my high. I do not want to crash anymore but is my drive to rid alcohol and drugs from my life bigger or less than my enjoyment of them? I have decided to test myself and ultimately find out. I will never know if I can live a sober life if I never try to live one.”

I continue to reflect on the possibility of sobriety and mention just starting counselling, “I think, no I know, that I deserve more credit. I believe I am fully capable of sobriety so why do I fight it and struggle so much against it? Addiction is a difficult beast and I am aware that there is a chemical dependency to drugs I am also fighting as well as my willpower to stay sober. My brain is at war with itself and I think it’s finally time to draw up a peace treaty. I will be seeking various support groups until I find one that fits me so to speak and am beginning addiction counselling this week. I am taking an active role in what I hope will be my recovery and will not sit idle hoping that by some divine intervention I will find the answers. I am trying and I think that should count for something.”

I am proud reading this old blog post because I didn’t just try to quit drugs, I succeeded. I have been almost two years sober and the most common question I get from my friends who still smoke and seem to think this is a temporary part of my life (a phase so to speak) is, “don’t you miss getting high?” To that I reply, “Never.” I know without a doubt I am leaving weed behind me and I consider it a part of some former life I barely recognize now where I was WEAK. In a blog post two months into sobriety I wrote the following, “Being Sober is Scary cause you’re painfully aware of what is lacking and you don’t have a substance to fill up that space so you have no choice but to confront…confront your life and start conquering it.” I was weak before, using weed as a crutch for all the negative thoughts and feelings I was struggling with and trying to come to terms with. My brain was a constant war zone constantly trying to hit the self-destruct button and instead of grappling with why that was the case or how I could change my thoughts to be more positive – I self-medicated.

There reaches a point in your journey when a fork appears in the road, and you can continue on the same path you’ve been travelling in hopes it one day changes for the better or you can take the road you’ve yet to explore. You’re not quite sure if it will yield what you hope for but at the very least it will assuredly offer something new and different. After a long couple of years of misery, I decided I was either going to continue down the path of substance abuse mindlessly covering my internal wounds with essentially band-aids, or I could be brave and choose a new path – one where I struggled, got sober, and came to terms with myself honestly and authentically.

Consider the road that challenges you the most when these forks appear on your life’s journey. I can tell you from personal experience, they are more rewarding and you learn that you are truly capable of whatever you set your mind to. Set your mind to exploring, exploring self-growth and you will never regret it. Each day I come closer to understanding myself a little better and I know now I am extremely susceptible to becoming overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts that do not serve me. I keep this in line by keeping my wits about me since (as I can attest) drugs just add to the chaos. I want to fully appreciate and interpret my world without dulling it or numbing it on some whim. I want to feel…everything. I no longer wish to hide behind a substance as a way to cope with some shit reality. I intend to create my own, better reality.

“Don’t you miss getting high?”

To that I reply, “I am already high.”

ALL My Love,

Still Sober,

xoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

You’ll Be Flying Again Soon…

alex-wigan-55NtMvzOsFQ-unsplash

“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

ava-sol-1tP5QYkpKgE-unsplash

“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.

Anti psychotics and The Pesky Side Effect of Weight Gain

gymprogresspicone

Me at the Gym Progress Pic One in my Journey.

As far as side effects go I’ve had it pretty easy when it comes to my anti psychotic Abilify to mange my Bipolar Disorder. I have no nausea, tremors, or muscle rigidity.However, I do sleep more than usual since being on Abilify and I am experiencing some very serious weight gain though that could be attributed to the birth control I am on.

I did not realize how much weight I had truly gained until about three weeks ago when I was forced to step on a scale at my doctor’s office. I literally started balling as they left me alone waiting in her office for her to come in and consult with me on whether or not adding a mood stabilizer known to control appetite was a good idea. When she walked in she said I looked “voluptuous” but that she meant it in a good way. And I know she meant it this way because I carry extra weight well, so well that I had been deluding myself for months that it was not getting out of control. Most of my extra weight goes straight to my ass and boobs but as I slowly crept up in weight class, it started to gravitate to my arms and face which I was really starting to struggle with.

My psychiatrist asked me how many pounds I had gained since being on medication and I told him twenty pounds to which he was shocked but in actuality after stepping on the scale at my family doctor’s, I’ve actually gained thirty. This was a blow to my heart and my ego because I have always been in shape like annoyingly so. I even tend to have a six pack when I’m at my peak fitness. I have grown to become sensitive about my weight over the past year in particular since my mom has decided to voice her opinion on it but not in a constructive way, in a demeaning way. I’ll walk upstairs and she’ll comment “That skirt makes you look fat. You should really change,” or my favourite, “You sure you’re not pregnant or something? Cause you look totally fat!”

My mother is not one to talk she basically gave herself diabetes eating a full sized bag of chips and several cans of coke per night her entire life and I wish I was grossly exaggerating. She has heart problems and cannot be mobile for long periods of time because she can’t heft all her fat around. But have I ever once in my entire life made a comment about her weight? No, because I knew it was not my place and if I had I would have brought it up in a more sensitive manner. However, stepping on that scale put things into perspective. I WILL NOT BECOME MY MOTHER. I refuse to let my weight get carried away anymore from this point on, or rather since the moment I realized how bad it had gotten.

So what is my plan you may ask? My doctor and I discussed a lifestyle change and that is how I am choosing to view my new outlook on health so this becomes a permanent thing rather than a fad diet or fad workout. We decided to take a different approach to the mood stabilizer avenue because the mood stabilizer would block my birth control and I am not willing to have an IUD. I think this is a better plan because it motivates me to be healthier and do my research on what health is rather than taking a pill and hoping for the best. My doctor and I discussed what foods I should avoid, a.k.a. bread and carbs and what I should add more of such as fruits and veggies and of course protein. She has prescribed 3-4 times at the gym per week and I plan to stick to this as well as I can with my schedule.

I’m proud to say since about three weeks ago when I went to see my doctor I have lost ten pounds which I had made my Christmas goal. I did it safely too! I cut out coke and juice and added more water and tea to my diet. I cut out chips completely and unhealthy snack foods like chocolate and things chalked full of sugar. I actually now read the nutritional values of foods on the label which I have never in my life done before (sad but true). I also as of about two weeks ago started back in the gym and have managed three workouts this past week as planned. I just need to keep the momentum going and realize this isn’t some crash diet or get skinny quick trick but a lifestyle change, one I intend to make for the rest of my life.

Who doesn’t want to be healthy? When you take the time and sit to think of all the benefits such as feeling good and looking good on the superficial level. But also on the deeper level, things like lower risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and don’t get me started on how your mental health and even memory can improve. It just makes sense and it baffles me how people choose to stay unhealthy for so long and I was one of them who veered off the path for a few years but exercise disguised it. I am now taking a more holistic approach to health, trying to fuel my mind, body and spirit. Another thing to consider is my age as I am getting closer to my 30s I can’t get away with the constant sweets anymore and staying up all night partying. That was cute maybe when I was 22 but now I am more concerned with the longevity of my life. It’s time to change and I think I have already got a good kick start and possess the dedication and motivation to make this a part of my life on a daily basis.

You need to consider your choices everyday and how they will affect you long term. Perhaps meditation would be better than binging your Netflix show. You can still get an episode or more in but create a space of time that is wholly dedicated to you. Perhaps walking to the mall for a change would be better than driving? Maybe you should try the salad instead of the fries today? These are small decisions you can make that will help you in the long run and they don’t necessarily need to be inconvenient. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be sure to update you on my fitness and life journey soon.

Has anyone else who comes across this post have gained weight due to medication use? If so please comment and share your stories.

 

Bipolar Disorder – My Super Power

68909711_10157363947680540_4048697607868907520_o

Me as Wonder Woman. I’d argue its a constant mindset. 

When discussing bipolar disorder we tend to focus on the negative such as the crippling lows and delusional highs. However, this negates the beauty and positives one can find to living and struggling with bipolar disorder. I like to say that being bipolar is like having a super power in that it provides you with empathy, respect and love for others. It makes you appreciate life more and the small things that you once took for granted. Below you will find six things my disorder has taught/given me and how it has affected my life:

Super Power #1: Empathy

I find I identify with people more so than ever after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I particularly identify with the struggles of others. Before, the image of a man on the street talking to himself aggressively would have led me to conclude “wow, he’s insane!” But now I feel empathy for this man and realize he may have a mental illness such as schizophrenia and is battling with the voices or rather demons in his mind. I am less prone to say a person is crazy having gone completely psychotic myself and am more aware of words and how I use them to describe people.

I feel for others who struggle with depression, mania, poor life circumstances, etc, because I have a fuller understanding of how hard life can be. I spent over a year being Agoraphobic and unable to leave my house following a manic psychosis and now have a better understanding of this affliction and how debilitating it can be whereas before I thought it was some made up illness. I genuinely love and respect other people more now that I can appreciate that everyone struggles at some point in their life. I am less blind to this struggle having gone through years of various episodes ranging from extremely high to extremely low.

Super Power #2: Awareness/  Knowledge

They say that knowledge is power and it really is! I can’t believe how grossly educated I was about mental illness and it’s prevalence. According to Statistics Canada: over two million Canadians aged 15 and older have a mental-health related disability. This represents 7% of Canada’s adult and youth population. In 2017, 8.6% of Canadians aged 12 and older (roughly 2.6 million people) reported that they had a mood disorder.

I used to think mental illness was more of an outlier and that I would never experience it in my lifetime. Again, I was grossly misinformed. I have bipolar type 1 and have experienced multiple episodes of depression, hypomania, and mania and even manic psychosis. I was always a very thoughtful and anxious child who had bouts of depression followed by increased levels of activity which have finally been put into context through my diagnosis. 

Having this disorder has taught me to seek out more information about bipolar and attempt to educate my readers as well on the various aspects of it. I am less prone to judgement as a result of this knowledge and always provide a listening ear to anyone and I mean anyone who is struggling in their life and wants to talk (whether they have a mood disorder or not).

Super Power #3: Appreciation for Life and the little things 

Having lost my sanity not once, but twice, I tend to appreciate that shit! Having been bed ridden for months on end makes you appreciate when you are healthy so much more. I now have a new lease on life thanks to my bipolar. I appreciate my family more having been by my side during these tumultuous times. The small things like smelling a flower, writing this blog post or even sitting and simply breathing feel more alive to me now having gone through periods of debilitating illness. I find joy in the little things in a way I never did before. Before my illness, I was moving a mile a minute studying while working full time and never stopping to appreciate any of it and always in a despairing mood. When you get sick something shifts inside your mind space and you promise yourself that if you were to get better, you’d appreciate normal so much more and that is now what I do. I appreciate my sanity more than anything, to be medicated and not experience hallucinations or delusions is a godsend, anything on top of that is just gravy to me.

Super Power#4: Creativity and the Ability to Channel it

Bipolar tends to come with a sense of creativity (which I will discuss in my next blog the link between artistic temperament and manic-depressive illness). When you are hypomanic you get a burst of ideas such as creative projects to undertake and if you are lucky and medicated you can hone these ideas into something great. I have had a manic idea to write about my memoirs but now having been medicated for years I am finally in a position to write them being now sound in mind. However, the experience of insanity brought on by my bipolar disorder gave me the inspiration for this idea and the content to write it. Mental illness can be talked about in creative ways and if you are brave enough to share, you can always find a creative outlet such as writing, painting, etc.

Super Power#5: Judgement is not in my vocabulary (anymore) 

I used to be a snob. I am not kidding. I was the prissiest little priss there ever was. I judged everyone from what they wore to how they talked to where they were from…well, you get the idea. Judgement was my middle name. However, having now gone through a life changing affliction I am less prone to jump on the judgement train. How can someone who has gone psychotic twice get on any semblance of a high horse? I’ll tell you…they can’t. I got literally knocked off mine and catapulted into understanding and acceptance of others. I now try to see beyond first glance and if someone is rude to me, I don’t assume they’re a bitch but realize I have no clue what their day has been like or how their life has played out up until that moment in time. I don’t assume homeless people are lazy bums but rather people who have gone through some sort of hardship that has led them to said point. The point is judgement is not in my vocabulary…anymore!

Super Power#6: Patience

If anything bipolar has taught me how to be patient more than anything else. I spent years (almost five) trying to find the right medication to balance my moods. Some swung me into manic psychosis to the point where I was raving about being a celebrity millionaire going around in a onesie giving out designer perfume bottles like they were sticks of gum. In actuality I was a University drop out on welfare. Some medications on the other hand slumped me into depressions so deep I literally would not leave my bed for three months. I became Agoraphobic as mentioned before and had to have counselling just to be able to walk to the end of my street. I finally found the right medication after years of trial and error but it took patience and a willingness to try. It took me five years to become completely sane and not overwhelmed by the fluctuating cycles of bipolar. If that’s not patience tell me what is.

This lesson in patience has carried over into all aspects of my life. I am more patient with people and understand that they are not perfect nor will they always do what I expect or want them to do. I also have more patience for simple things like hospital waiting rooms and accept that everything will come when it is meant to come.

In summary Bipolar Disorder may have taken a lot of things away from me but it has given me so much more. It has given me a new attitude and perspective on life that allows me to cope better with the things life throws at you. It has given me superpowers!

INKTOBER – Empirical Evidence of An Improvement In My Mental Health

brooklynbridge

My Inktober sketch for Day Four’s Prompt “Build”

Inktober is a month long art challenge created by artist Jake Parker that is focused on improving skill and developing positive drawing habits. Every day for the month of October anyone participating in the Inktober challenge creates an ink drawing and posts it online. There is a new “prompt” list each year for the challenge which is a one word prompt such as in the above picture where “build” was the prompt. I decided to draw the Brooklyn Bridge because many lives were lost to build it and it still stands today.

Inktober this year when compared to last year’s efforts has already revealed an improvement in my mental health. For example, I lacked the motivation and esteem to follow through and complete a drawing for each of the thirty-one days of October last year. This year, however, I am six days in and have completed a drawing each day and within the allotted day instead of spilling over days’ drawings.

I have noticed this improvement in my mental health since I got sober roughly five months ago. I am starting to challenge myself to set goals and follow through with them with things as simple as Inktober to things such as quitting smoking cigarettes which I am in the process of doing (haven’t had a smoke the entire day! and until a month ago I was a five year straight smoking a pack a day kind of gal). These may seem like simple things but they are building blocks to setting the tone for my next goals. If I can accomplish getting sober, quitting a pack a day habit and well, hey, Inktober then I feel like I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. It’s about showing up for yourself and practicing self-care. I have also adopted a new habit of running each morning which until recently seemed like an impossible endeavor due to lack of motivation.

The change I’ve noticed the most in my mental health since last year compared to this year is my motivation. I have significantly higher energy levels since quitting dope and have decided to turn this energy into positive things like completing blog posts , finishing a book, running, exercising in general and the greatest thing I have put my energy behind is setting goals. Now last year I could not have even dreamed up a goal much less set one, I was too busy smoking up and wallowing in a pool of self-pity. I had zero self esteem and assumed I was not capable of accomplishing any goals I could think of setting – so I just didn’t set any. This year I have several goals, all kinds of goals, to starting writing those pesky memoirs on my experience with bipolar disorder to trying my hand at going to school again. I know I may not succeed but I know I am in a good enough place that I can handle failure and I think that’s what was stopping me before – a fear of failure.

Inktober has shown me that I am more than capable and yes some days my drawings suck but I still finish them and other days I make a freaking masterpiece and am so glad I put my mind to it. The important thing is to show up and the rest will fall into place.

Below is my latest creation and yes, I am quite proud of it. It’s for the prompt “husky.”

huskyinktober

 

 

Life Update

mermaidtings

I have been reading a lot of self-help books lately (you can catch the reviews on my blog) and have noticed a common theme – embracing the NOW. I have decided to try and be more present in my life and live each moment as if it will be my last cause ultimately who knows what’s next right? I want to do things in the moment that my future self can benefit from and will be proud to know I did. For example, starting now I am going to make a more conscious effort to go to the gym and exercise. I have also decided to try taking up my half marathon training again. Granted it will probably be a slow start but everyone needs to start somewhere.

I want to focus more on the things I enjoy like reading, bike riding, longboarding, etc. I need to stop making excuses like “Oh, I can get around to doing that later.” The time is now and I need to start acting like it. I also need to let go of my past and conclusions I have made about myself throughout these twenty six odd years of life. I refuse to be a victim to my past and am taking my power back.  So what if I had two psychotic breaks? It doesn’t mean I should avoid people and treat myself like a leper. I want to get to the point where I am applying for jobs and starting to build a life for myself again. I know this will take time and some much needed work on myself (that’s what all the self-help books are for!)

My main priority in this point in time, in this now, is my health. I mentioned earlier in “The Pitfalls of Bipolar Disorder” that it had been five years since I had been to a dentist and that I finally went to get an exam done on my teeth. The verdict is in – they’re fucked up! But anyways I have already started work on them and had two cleaning appointments with freezings – that means those needles I have been avoiding I finally confronted. I am sincerely proud of myself because I am irrationally afraid of the dentist thus the five year hiatus. I have to have a bazillion fillings , however, which means more needles for me, Yay! NOT. But rather than shrink away or avoid it like I used to do I have decided to face it head on.

I also need to have oral surgery to remove four of my wisdom teeth. Now the idea of surgery would scare the shit out of me but rather than let my anxiety spiral me into a deep depression like I used to, I have decided to use some logic thinking and coping skills to overcome it. I am distracting myself with positive things like going to the movies,  going for a jog, or reading a book until doom’s day. I am also thinking it through rationally, “Everyone gets their wisdom teeth out and they survived. You will feel discomfort for a week or so but you will be fine and ultimately survive this.”

Another aspect of my health I am working on is my smoking. As you have read in my previous blog posts I am now sober from marijuana going on four months! But I have become a horrible chain smoker to cope with this. I have decided it’s finally time to let go of yet another filthy habit. I will be going to my first appointment this Wednesday with a smoking cessation counsellor and will begin my journey to quit smoking officially next week. I have tried quitting before and only ended up smoking again but this time I am more motivated and have quitting pot under my belt already so I feel more confident I can handle this.

In general, I just want to be more mindful of what I am thinking and doing in my life. I want to look back on my life and know I lived every moment to its fullest potential. I will start engaging in more activities geared towards improving my physical and mental health this month and hope to make a habit of it. I know this won’t be easy but I think I am finally up to the challenge. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Well I sure as hell plan to fucking find out.

Stay Tuned for more updates! And a fun thing I have decided is that I am not too old for Halloween this year! I was struggling with my age and whether or not it is appropriate still to dress up and go out. I have decided “fuck it! you only live once!” I am being a mermaid ergo the picture at the top of this blog post of me in costume.

Live in the Now and Cut yourself a break every once in awhile. Your past does not define you. It is up to you to live in THIS moment and OWN it.

Stop Doing That Sh*T

stop doing that shit

”Someone once asked me, “What’s at the core of every human being?” “Bullshit I replied.”

Gary Bishop, though kind of insulting, leads his reader in with this opening line of his second self-help book to “Unfuck Yourself,” titled “Stop Doing That Sh*t  – End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back.” His straight between the eyes honesty , though highly humorous, effectively gets his point across and with a few choice expletives stops you in your tracks and forces you to think about and reflect upon your life. I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor “Unfuck Yourself” by a factor of ten.

Bishop descries his book and its intent in the first chapter, “…This book is a short , intense jolt to your way of thinking. I’m not out to give you all the answers here. Your answers will come from you…This is more a catalyst, providing questions and ways of looking at things that will spark something in you and cause you to take on your life in a new way.” (Bishop 9).

It is Bishop’s questions that he poses in this book that have you and had me examine my life more closely and understand what was at the root of the problem. He also proposes a new way of looking at things that are more future oriented and that abandon the past or rather accept it and move forward (which we will get into more later). Bishop states that this book began with him asking a simple question, “Why?”

“Why is my life the way it is?” (Bishop 31).

He then asks the reader to stop and consider these questions for themselves, “Why do you do what you do? Think. If you keep living this way, where is it all headed? Not some wispy concept of your future but rather a down-in-the-dirt look at where your
current actions are leading you ” (Bishop 32).

I reflected on these questions and concluded my future looked bleak if I were to continue with the actions I take on a regular day-to-day basis. If I am being honest with myself I do what I do to avoid pain or discomfort. I chain smoke because it feels good and alleviates my boredom but this action will inevitably lead to a future that I am not in, because I will ultimately have died from lung cancer like my father. I eat sugary snacks and sugary drinks knowing its harming my teeth in the long run and causing weight gain that I do not like because in the moment it feels good.

All my actions are about instant gratification and I am starting to realize as this book is causing me to reflect on what I do and why I do it, that I am no better than a child. I spend my money quicker then I get it, on trivial things like new brand name clothing or the latest self-help book (I actually lent this one out from the library, Go Me!). The point is  I spend literally all my money instead of putting even a small portion away because I like the instant gratification that comes with a new purchase. This is going to lead to a future where I am constantly living check to check struggling to make ends meet and never really properly managing my money. I  know if I continue to be a slave to instant pleasure, I will have a bleak future indeed. One where I am fat, broke, and my teeth are rotting out of my head.

Bishop writes, “There’s no end to the possibilities you’ve written off with nothing more than a series of auto-response triggers in the confines of your head.
“it’s too hard”
“It won’t work”
“I can’t do it”
“I don’t know enough”
“There’s no point. It won’t make any difference” (Bishop 43).

We all do it, don’t lie. Write ourselves off before even trying. I know currently I’ve been constantly writing myself off. Writing off applying to jobs or going to job interviews because I believe “I can’t do it or I don’t know enough.” I have also written off something very important to me with those same excuses before even starting and that is to write my memoirs about dealing with bipolar disorder and being hospitalized.

Bishop offers hope in “Stop Doing That Sh*t” though and boldly states, “You got yourself to this point in your life, and I’m going to show you how you subconsciously did it. How you fucked yourself. And how to dig yourself out” (Bishop 53).

So buckle in Fuckers, and read my next blog post for how to unfuck yourself and stop doing that shit – that self-sabotaging bullshit that holds you back.

Stay Tuned Folks.

The Pitfalls of Bipolar Disorder

tooth

Bipolar Disorder can be a debilitating disease but one unpleasant side effect I have discovered is the havoc it reaped on my teeth. Now I know you’re thinking well how and the hell are those related? A common occurrence with major depressive episodes found in bipolar disorder is a lack of hygiene. My episodes were so bad I could rarely even leave my bed let alone brush my teeth. I was also guzzling coca cola like it was going out of style and devouring large Iced Caps because I thought the sugar rush would make me feel better – if at least temporarily. Combine excessive amounts of sugar with not brushing your teeth and guess what you get – cavities!

I also have an irrational fear of dentists and avoided going to one for about five years until two days ago when I had my first appointment with a new dentist (because my previous dentist was extremely insensitive to my panic attacks). He did an extremely thorough exam which included x-rays. He confirmed what I had already feared that my teeth were in an absolute fucking horrible state. He told me that all four wisdom teeth need to come out and have started to decay already (please comment below your experiences with having your wisdom teeth out cause I am fucking petrified) He also told me I have like a bazillion cavities and that in order to simply clean my teeth he will have to freeze my mouth because my teeth are in such a bad way that it would be too painful to endure.

I hope you guys can learn from my mistake and A. fight your hardest to maintain good hygiene even when it feels impossible because there are some serious real consequences if you do not, my teeth being a prime example and B. to despite your fear of the dentist ensure that you are going often enough to avoid my problem of terrible teeth. I am extremely embarrassed by my teeth and feel as though my past self has let my present self down by not trying hard enough to get out of bed and face life sooner. I am also convinced that getting sober led to my decision to see a dentist despite my irrational fears because I am thinking more clearly now and more about the future and longevity of life.

Bipolar disorder can be extremely difficult at times but it’s important to push through. It’s important to get up each day and show up for yourself even if that that means simply brushing your teeth. Just know it does get better and behind every rainy cloud, there’s a sun waiting to poke through.

 

Side Effects of Quitting Dope – Insomnia and Positivity

I am going on four weeks sober from quitting smoking marijuana and I’ve already noticed some changes. One of these changes is that I seem to be the Energizer Bunny with a shit ton of energy and inability to sleep. Prior to this endeavor I was napping constantly and having a hard time being awake and alert. I feel as though I am making up for lost time. I want to do the things I was unable to before and I want to do it all!

The most beneficial change and the one I’ve noticed the most is I have a much better accepting and positive attitude. I can accept where I am in life and have slowly made plans to make small changes in order to achieve the longer term goals I am now setting myself. While smoking dope I was prone to commiserate on my current situation and smoked even more dope to deal with the commiseration. I want to be more active in my life both physically and figuratively.

I have set myself a really realistic goal of registering and attending driver’s school in the Fall. Before I was too negative and anxiety ridden to even consider this idea. Now that I am sober, however, anything and everything seems possible! I accept that there may be challenges. both mental and financial, but instead of shying away from the challenge I am ready to take it on.

I believe if I can get sober after five years of chronic misuse of cannabis than I can do anything I set my mind to! I am confident I will never smoke the reefer again and being around it does not even faze me (seeing as it is legal in my country). My willpower is astounding these past four weeks and I have pleasantly surprised myself – it’s good to know I still got it in me!

To all of you looking to get sober from either hard drugs or recreational ones like pot, just know there really is hope for you – especially if a crazy (literally certifiable a.k.a bipolar chick) stoner and recreational coke user like me could quit after five years of insanity. I got sober despite my very chronic and active use of drugs and so can you!

Feel Free to Comment about your adventures or challenges with sobriety for there is power in solidarity.

Keep Trying! You’ ll Get There!