Manic Creations Design

I recently decided to open an Etsy store to sell my paintings and I named it Manic Creations Design. I thought the name was appropriate since I tend to create in a hypomanic state and my paintings tend to have more of a design element to them as I have a tendency to abstract objective images. I am also working towards becoming a Graphic Designer which I am studying currently at Niagara College. This store title might very well be the beginning of something even bigger – perhaps the name of my business as a designer. I created a logo for the storefront using the skills learned in one of my design courses (pictured below).

My Logo for Manic Creations Design

I created the logo in illustrator using my favourite font “Bauhaus” which I think is a clever tribute to design in general in that it is named after a famous design school in Germany. I am more than enthused that I can apply the skills I am learning in my Graphic Design program to real life and projects that I am currently working on. The Etsy store is just opening and has one painting for sale so far which is titled “It’s All Coming Up Roses.” It is a watercolour painting featuring my design of a collage of abstracted roses. It is painted using all metallic watercolour paints so that depending on the way the light reflects it, it appears unique from different angles (pictured below).

“It’s All Coming Up Roses” – A Manic Creations Design original painting

I am also blessed to have friends who see the value in my art and take it upon themselves to purchase pieces from me. I recently sold a watercolour painting titled “Vintage Roses” to my best friend (pictured below). I do not know if this new Etsy endeavor of mine will prove successful but I believe in my talent as an artist and think it is about time I started putting myself out there.

“Vintage Roses” (SOLD)

So Please, Help A Young Artist Out! Buy some art from your girl….

You can find my original art work for sale at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/ManicCreationsDesign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fantastic Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Tuned for more posts and updates from BiPolarMania.

The Link Between Disorder and Genius

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“The subject of genius and mental illness has been discussed and debated on a scientific level for decades. Our cultural awareness of the link between mental disorder and genius is as old as philosophy. Plato wrote of what he called “divine madness,” and Aristotle recognized that creative people tended toward melancholia. It is no coincidence that such a high percentage of American Nobel and Pulitzer Prize – winning writers are also alcoholics” (Saltz, 9).

It was these lines in M.D. Gail Saltz’ book The Power of Different that led me to read this psychiatrist and bestselling author’s take on mental illness as a driving force for creativity. Saltz relies on scientific research, stories from historical geniuses and from everyday individuals who have not only made the most of their conditions but have also flourished because of them.

Being a blogger on mental health, specifically bipolar disorder, the idea of disorder being linked to genius extremely interested me. Saltz found in multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). Being both an artist and a person suffering with bipolar disorder this peaked my interest even more.

Clinical psychologist and writer Kay Redfield Jamison writes in her book Touched with Fire that Saltz references,  “Many of the changes in mood, thinking and perception that characterize the mildly manic states – restlessness, ebullience, expansiveness, irritability, grandiosity, quickened and more finely tuned senses, intensity of emotional experiences, diversity of thought, and rapidity of associational processes – are highly characteristic of creative thought as well” (Saltz 145). Bipolar is a disorder that has links to creativity which can be traced back to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Anne Saxton who unfortunately took their lives as a result of their cycling moods.

The most creative individuals however are not the “most well” or the “most ill” but rather are often “mildly ill.” Saltz references the research of Robert Bilder and Kendra Knudsen at the University of California, Los Angeles who observe this phenomena: “These are the individuals who can be diagnosed with all sorts of brain differences – like depression or bipolar disorder – who are simultaneously well treated and flexible enough to move back and forth between convergent and divergent thinking” (Saltz 206).

Examples of this kind of flexibility can be found in a forty-year longitudinal study conducted by Swedish researchers and published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research:” “These researchers found that being an author “was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Clearly the authors who suffered from these brain differences were functioning at a level high enough to enable them to produce publishable work. Moreover, these same researchers found much higher representation in scientific and artistic fields among those whose first-degree relatives had diagnosed mental illness” (Saltz 206).

In the words of Bilder and Knudsen, the creative brain needs to balance at “the edge of chaos: “the kind of creativity that produces novels, musical scores,entrepreneurial ideas, and scientific theories requires the ability to flip back and forth between organized and messy thinking” (Saltz 206).

Often times people with bipolar disorder who enjoy the creative frenzy that accompanies mania or hypomania neglect to take their medication in order to ride the high out a little longer, so to speak. The flurry of ideas that come during these manic episodes can seem intoxicating and I can speak from experience of a rush of ideas that came over me that all seemed pressing and yet I was too disorganized in thought to be able to hold any one idea down.

Nassir Ghaemi, Who treats many bright students in their teens and twenties, says, ” is that people with bipolar disorder can benefit from taking a broad view of their own creativity. When patients resist medication, the real issue they’re having is that they think about creativity is just one thing, as this kind of flash of inspiration that happens when you’re manic. And that is part of creativity, but there’s another kind of  creativity.”(Saltz 150). 

Ghaemi cites the work of psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, who wrote about what he called “sculpted creativity”. “This is not a flash of inspiration, but it’s insights that overtime you put together, like a Sculptor. And it’s not something that happens all of a sudden. This durable sort of creativity depends on maintaining equilibrium over the long haul –  that is, not burning out like a light bulb or losing time to severe manic and depressive episodes” (Saltz 150).

Ghaemi tells his patients the following: “instead of having a lot of creativity really briefly and then being depressed and fallow for a long time, you’re better off having less creativity more regularly, more consistently. it actually adds up more that way.”  (Saltz 150).  

In multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). I can speak from experience as a visual artist and writer with bipolar disorder that the shift between moods elevates my work in ways if I was quote on quote normal would not be as interesting. When I am hypomanic (not manic because that is too much of an extreme) I have creative ideas and am more able to execute them such as writing this blog on the link between creativity and bipolar disorder. When I swing into more of a depression, I am more prone to edit my work and create visual art because I ruminate more and am able to take on longer projects such as a big painting or technically precise artwork that takes several bouts of time.

However, I have been medicated for years and now notice a more sculpted creativity Nassir Ghaemi speaks of in that I have more creativity that is productive instead of bursts of disorganized manic ideas that I would have a harder time following through on. I am also prone to experience mania as psychosis and so my ideas turn psychotic in nature and no longer productive at all, like thinking I can buy eight mustangs with money I do not have.

I do notice an artistic temperament to bipolar disorder, in that us bipolar people tend to be more melancholic in nature and so reflect on the world in a more drawn out manner and have the gifts of mania/hypomania to illuminate ideas/ ways in which we can translate these thoughts to the general public, typically through writing and art. However, there is a pendulum effect to being productive with creativity in that you must ,as discussed above, be slightly insane but sane enough, or rather medicated enough, to be able to translate that insanity into something coherent. Me raving mad in the psych ward about the millions of dollars I have and trying to order things I cannot afford are not well executed ideas or a productive use of my illness. However, writing about it later while medicated provides others with bipolar disorder a sense of hope, that they can create normalcy out of insanity and even discuss it openly without shame or stigma. I couldn’t string more than two sentences coherently together while manic let alone write a full blog post. It is through medication that creativity can truly foster and grow. It is through balance that the bipolar mind can be as creative as it was meant to be.

The link between disorder and genius is evident through research and influential creators who are linked to this disorder. Virginia Woolf may have committed suicide but she is still arguably one of the best English writers of her time and for that matter even all time. Bipolar disorder has its pitfalls like in the case of Woolf a higher risk for suicide but it also creates a powerhouse of potential, the potential to create something meaningful from the chaos of the mind.

 

You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else)

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As you all know I am a self-help book junkie so when I happened to be in my local library picking up an autobiography, I could not help but be distracted by the self-help section. I was distracted by a small light pink book that might as well have been screaming its title at me: “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else)” by Elan Gale. I thought now that’s a book that understands me and in general life. Gale is anti-positivity and pro-owning your shit. He promptly states in the beginning of the book that positivity is bullshit and holds you back from being  a better version of yourself. He states that people are more concerned about feeling good about themselves (being positive) then owning their emotions, most negative,  that could catapult you into being a better you.

Gale speaks bluntly and tells it as it is, “Even now you’re probably feeling a little uncomfortable because you’re used to reading self-help books that tell you how wonderful and charming and great you already are and are so complimentary that they might as well just be licking your genitals as they take your money like a prostitute” (Gale 13). Gale has a point because the self-help book industry has a lot of bullshit books that just tell you to be positive and never get to the actual how to improve your life bit. The industry is saturated with feel good reads that beat around the bush when it comes to negative emotions like resentment, jealousy, pride, etc. Gale in his book instead says that these negative emotions can act as motivators to motivate you to become a better version of yourself.

An example of this is when Gale references Michael Jordan and his feelings of not being good enough when he did not make the high school basketball team.  “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan explained…instead of feeling good about himself, Jordan felt embarrassed and ashamed, and he USED those FEELINGS to push himself further” (Gale 133). If he had not pushed himself because of his feelings of worthlessness he may never have made it to the NBA.

I can attest to harnessing these negative feelings and using them to push me further. Most of my life I was told I was not good enough to be a journalist so I studied constantly throughout high school to get the grade point average needed to apply and ultimately get into one of Canada’s most competitive Journalism programs at Carleton University. I would eventually change my major however from Journalism to Art History and English with a minor in Psychology but I was still pushing forward to be a Arts Journalist. I became one for the school newspaper and reported frequently on events at art galleries and artist run centers. I was so good students quoted my articles in fourth year papers and I actually manged to get paid for some of my journalistic efforts as a student.

As my followers know I would be later forced to abandon my journalistic cap in order to focus on my mental health with the onset of bipolar disorder happening in my fourth and final year of school. The point is I succeeded at becoming a journalist in my own right and all those people, especially my family, were proved wrong. I’d be lying if I said it was positivity that led to this but rather a deep fire in me to prove every asshole that told me I couldn’t do it wrong.

Gale also states frequently in his book that you are not that great: “The key to getting bigger and growing up is to admit you are small. The less you know, the more you can wonder, and the more you can stop being a narcissistic shithead and start living an interesting life” (Gale 97). He claims that you can become the smartest person in the room by admitting that you don’t know anything. He says there is never a time
when you don’t have more to learn. There is always room for growth and people who think they are the greatest are arrogant assholes who do not truly want to better themselves and rather accept what they are as all they are. Acknowledging that you are not that great in the grand scheme of things is the first step to a better life. From this point on you can start to look for things to better yourself because you REALIZE you could BE and DO better.

My Second Manic Psychosis

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The third time I was hospitalized was for a manic episode, more specifically a manic psychosis. Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality.  I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of manic psychosis. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong.

I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. I was an extreme case of mania in which I generally believed I was a millionaire with tons of money at my disposal and a huge following on social media when in actuality I was on welfare and may have had about 300 followers on my Instagram account. Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, I would not let go of this delusion and even spent my entire welfare check – $800 – on makeup and perfumes at the local shoppers drugmart beauty counter just to give away all the products as part of a “marketing scheme” to boost my following and show appreciation for fans.

It was the receipt from this purchase that my mother found that indicated to her I may be manic and need to be hospitalized. People experiencing mania tend to blow their money without thinking and on unnecessary things. This is an indication that something is going wrong and that their mental state may not be as stable as it should be.

When my mother approached me to go to the hospital, I thought she was out of her mind but decided to go to prove her wrong. I in my deluded thinking thought she just could not accept that I had become successful. I went through a grueling intake in which first I was triaged and then brought to a little room for further questioning then promptly locked up in a padded cell. The bed did not even have sheets which I am guessing is a precaution to people strangling themselves with them.

I could see the camera aimed on me and thought “Big Brother is watching.” I began to scream at the camera saying “this is against my basic freedom and rights! When my lawyer catches on to this, you’re toast! I’m going to sue all your asses including this entire hospital!” (I in fact did not have a lawyer nor never have I had one). As an hour passed, of me screaming profanities at this security camera, and pacing nonstop back and forth in this padded cell, I boldly stated that “I am going to piss all over this bed unless someone comes in here and talks to me face to face!” Well that got their attention (god forbid I make a mess).

A nice lady came in telling me to calm down and that I would be admitted into the psychiatric unit at the hospital but they were waiting for a bed to open up. She explained that I was being placed on an involuntary hold and would be observed for three days minimum. I don’t remember much about my reaction but I bet I uttered more profanities and threatened to sue her personally. Oh, and I might have said some deluded thing like “I have a concert with thousands of fans waiting for me! Who is going to refund their tickets? You?” Needless to say I ended up in the psych ward under a three day observation which turned into a thirty day hold to eventually resulting in me staying at said hospital for three months before I finally “came down to reality.”

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

I never got any serious inquiries (thank god) but I did offer vice presidency of my supposed corporation to my best friend who knew I was deluded and played along. I unfortunately reached out to several people and offered contracts ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 dollars who actually believed me and were pretty pissed when the truth came out – that I was mentally ill and currently living in a psych ward. Some people guilted me when I was out that I had offered to upgrade their car and that I never followed through. I was like “excuse me did you not get the part about how I was in the nut ward?” But they ‘d go on to say I promised even though they finally knew the truth. They didn’t ask me “Are you okay,” instead they asked “Where’s my fucking sunroof?”

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came time to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book (I am writing a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder),  I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it.

It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, I rely on a 300 mg dose of abilify (an antipsychotic injection) every four weeks to keep me on the straight. This is a small inconvenience in my life when compared to the reality that I could lose my mind again if I do not keep up with these monthly injections. I do not wish my experience with manic psychosis on anyone because when the fog lifts and you’re left with just yourself, there is a deep sense of shame that overcomes you – that you could think, act and believe so bizarrely.

The important thing to recognize that this is an illness and it is not your fault but rather the brain chemistry you were born with and that it is treatable and possible to live a normal life. I think the shame comes from the stigma of being hospitalized for a mental disorder because it is not as accepted as it should be in society. I did go insane but that is not my baseline setting and is abnormal for me. Movies and Hollywood glamorize mental illness as people constantly living with insanity and being dangerous to others and themselves but this is not always the case. Medication can do wonders to balance out the brain and correct abnormal behavior in those living with mental illness. It is not a death sentence or a sentence to being in a psychiatric unit your entire life – in my case maybe for intervals but the majority of the time I am like everyone else just living my life to the best possible potential that I can.

INKTOBER – Empirical Evidence of An Improvement In My Mental Health

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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.”

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Overcoming My Anxiety – An Artist’s Struggle (Part 2)

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My Painting I will be entering in the Rose Festival Art Exhibition.

This is my follow up blog about my endeavors to paint a piece of art for the Rose Festival Art Exhibition. I mentioned before that I was facing a lot of anxiety towards painting and finishing this piece. I decided to overcome my anxiety by facing it head on and forcing myself to sit at different intervals of time and work on painting it, sort of like exposure therapy.

I decided to start with painting the water below and was surprised to find I rather liked the end result. I started with quick sketches of lines that imitate the movement of water then decided to wing it so to speak and paint as I imagined it in my mind’s  eye. With each brushstroke, I became less concerned with my anxiety and instead began to enjoy the process of painting something new. I entered a trance like state for about an hour in which I finished painting the bottom half of my painting.

I am happy that I exposed myself to my anxiety in that by facing the painting and working on it, I actually became less anxious because things were starting to get done. I mentioned in my previous blog post that the deadline for registration was coming soon for the exhibition and I had yet to enter. Forcing myself to face my anxiety of never finishing the piece in time and actually getting down to doing it led me to believe I can finish this work in time! I am officially registered now and have roughly ten days left to submit the work. The image above is my painting so far and I have eliminated my anxiety towards not finishing because I believe what is left to do (fill in the bridge) can be reasonably finished within ten days.

The anxiety and fear I felt towards not finishing this piece in time and questioning whether I would be able to register at all at the rate I was going, has subsided. It has only subsided because I faced that fear and anxiety head on and decided to simply DO IT! My advice if you’re feeling anxious or insecure about doing something try throwing yourself into the situation and doing it anyways! It’s much better to face your anxiety than wonder what could have been.

I will admit I have become anxious about the overall quality of my painting now that I have finished the sky portion because quite simply I do not really like how it turned out. I have repainted the sky since doing it, however, and it is looking much better. I have decided to accept whatever the end result of my painting may be. I  want to focus more on the process and the fact it’s finished than the actual end product.

I feel better about myself having registered for this art exhibition and for signing up to volunteer at it as well. I set a goal at the beginning of the month, when I bought all the painting supplies and canvas to paint on, to finish a piece for the art exhibition. I am proud to say I will  accomplish my goal. My depression seemed to recede while I was working towards this goal. Every time I sat down to paint or even draw my work, I felt like I was accomplishing something – working towards my goal of a finished piece. I would argue that painting is good for esteem. You feel good through the process of painting itself and the feeling of getting something done. But more than anything you feel a sense of accomplishment when the work comes together and is finished because then you will have created something out of nothing.

Stay Tuned for the final part of this blog series and the final art piece that will be submitted into the Rose Festival Art Exhibition.

The Anxiety Is Real…An Artist’s Struggle

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A photograph of my preliminary drawing for my painting for the local art competition in town.

I have found myself facing a new challenge thanks to a well meaning friend who told me about the local art competition going on in my town. The problem is the due date is a month within me getting supplies for the piece and it is going to be a larger piece than I am used to painting. The other challenge is my mental health which I have been struggling with as of late. I can’t seem to shake a phase of hypersomnia I am experiencing. I will sleep all evening and night then the following morning until afternoon. The majority of my time is spent sleeping which gives me anxiety about entering this art competition at such short notice. I want to participate in it but have yet to pay the entry fee and register due to a crippling fear that I cannot bang this painting out in time.

When I am actually awake which seems rarer and rarer, the procrastination also inevitably sets in. I think I am avoiding painting because I am scared of it. I know, I just said I was scared of an inanimate object – my painting.  It’s because of the anxiety attached to it – whether or not it will measure up to my expectations? I think the more I paint it, the more I’ll fall out of love with it. I am clearly insecure about my ability to create something that will stand out in this competition. I realize for a city art competition I have chosen the most obvious subject matter – the Welland Canal Bridge. A major center point for our city and a structure that identifies Welland. It could be seen as overdone or as very representative of the city.

I know I need to force myself to sit down and work on it at several intervals of time in the next two weeks – cause that’s approximately how long I have until the competition. But that’s a lot easier said than done. I have too much anxiety to paint it at a reasonable pace since I am afraid I am ruining it with each brushstroke that I take. And I have mad anxiety when I am not painting it thinking “I’ll never get this done in time for the due date.” I need to overcome my unrealistic expectations and just paint – just fucking create something and see what happens. It could very well be shit but who knows it could also very well be my next masterpiece.

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A Photograph of my painting as it stands so far for the art competition in town.