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

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.

Anti psychotics and The Pesky Side Effect of Weight Gain

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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

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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

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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.”

huskyinktober

 

 

The Power of “The Power Of Now”

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“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is the ultimate self-help book in which you are encouraged to bring your mind to consciousness, the present moment and to let go of the illusions of past and future. After all, you only really ever get this moment. I am glad I read this book and am already practicing honing in on the present but I will be completely honest the thought never crossed my mind to pick up this book until I had seen it on a list of the twenty-five best self-help books. I am glad I did though and can honestly say “The Power of Now” has the power to change your life and the way you view it.

Tolle explains that there are two levels to your pain that you are harboring: the pain you create now and the pain from the past. He believes you can eliminate this pain and suffering by accepting what is:

“The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgement. On the emotional level it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment…The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it…The more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering” (Tolle 33) Tolle outlines the cause of emotional pain and suffering as a resistance to the present moment.

People will continue to suffer this emotional burden of pain if they continue to cover up the present moment with the past. People tend to “ignore or deny that precious moment or reduce it to a means of getting to some future moment, which only exists in the mind, never in actuality” (Tolle 34). The main cause of emotional pain is the fixation on the past or future which do not exist. How many times have we wallowed about what has been instead of focusing on what  is? I know, I for one, have gotten caught up in my past and my failings such as the loss of a job or relationship and do not accept it for what it is and let go. I hold on to that pain because it’s what I know. It’s a comfortable pain since I can expect it and depend on it but rather I could be focusing on the Now, the potential of this moment. I could be doing something positive for my life circumstance in the present such as researching schools and reapplying to programs in the area, instead of getting caught up on my past of being forced to drop out from University years ago.

The past is an illusion, it’s already come to pass and so it no longer exists. The future is also an illusion that simply exists in the mind and never actually coming to fruition. I could become anxious about the future and how maybe I will fail again at school so easily, overcome by dark fantasies. The fact of the matter is that has not happened and save me the “yet” because it very well may never. The only thing that matters is the present because it is in the present that you can take action. There is no sense being anxious about a situation you have literally created in your head, now that’s just insanity.

The following statements from Tolle are a bit of a mind-fuck but it illustrates my point and he says it better than I could ever get it across myself: “Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now. What you think of the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind of a former Now. When you think about the future, you do it now” (Tolle 50).

Tolle also discusses doing things in the Now without looking for a future reward and simply enjoying the moment. He claims that when you do this your attention will be more focused on the task at hand and therefore you will carry it out more effectively: “As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve , and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action” (Tolle 68). When you do something for the sake of doing it, you no longer add the pretense or pressure of a future outcome from it. Simply doing becomes more enjoyable and brings an inner peace not found before. When you focus and hone in on the present moment, you are living your life to its fullest potential and doing so with grace.

Tolle states that: “When the compulsive striving away from the Now ceases, the joy of Being flows into everything you do. The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction. Therefore, you are not attached to the results. Neither failure nor success has the power to change your inner state of Being” (Tolle 68). By accessing the Now, you access peace, peace from emotional suffering. You become more in tune with yourself and less run by your incessant thoughts. Failure no longer has power over you because you accept what is and move past that. You become whole.

The book itself is posed in a question and answer format with questions from Tolle’s seminars, meditation classes, and private counseling sessions. The answers are provided obviously by Tolle. The question that struck me the most while reading this book was the following: “In that state of wholeness, would we still be able or willing to pursue external goals?” This question raises a good point because if we were truly content and “whole” why change the moment by striving for something more?

Tolle’s answer is profound: “Of course, but you will not have illusory expectations that anything or anybody in the future will save you or make you happy. As far as your life situation is concerned, there may be things to be attained or acquired. That’s
the world of form, of gain and loss. Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous, energy behind what you do. Being free of psychological time, you no longer pursue your goals with grim determination driven by fear, anger, discontent, or the need to become someone. Nor will you remain
inactive through fear of failure, which to the ego is loss of self. When your deeper sense of self is derived from Being , when you are free of “becoming” as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome ” (Tolle 69).

When you are ever present in the present moment you do not hold on to past resentments towards people and things that happened in your life that led you to this moment and current life situation. You will also not idealize the future as some place where you have what you want or think you need for you will be in the moment, accepting that moment for what it is. You are already complete (let that sink in), you are meant to be where you are, in this moment. When you realize this you will feel the joy Tolle is describing or “happiness” as it were.

Tolle also raises a good point that people seem to be in a perpetual state of waiting, waiting to start living their life: “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got , and you
want what you haven’t got. For example many people are waiting for prosperity. It cannot come in the future. When you honor, acknowledge and fully
accept your present reality – where you are, who you are, what you are doing right now – when you fully accept what you have got, you are grateful for what you have got, grateful for what is, grateful for being” (Tolle 86).

You are grateful for Being when you do not look to the future for things that can be attained to make your life seem better. Accept what you have already got and you will be infinitely happier. It’s not a new concept since people have been spouting this perspective for years, decades even – to be grateful for what you have and to not focus on what you do not. I find writing a Gratitude Journal each day helps with this and it doesn’t need to be lengthy. Write down three things you are grateful for today. I’ll start: I am grateful for my ears so I can hear the lovely Russell Brand narrating his book “Recovery” on the audiotape I have, I am grateful for the taste of coffee and appreciate it immensely, and finally  I am grateful for the relationships I have currently in my life that have showed me so much love. When you take the time to write three things out, you realize wow, there really are things in my life in which to be grateful  even if they are the simple things like the taste of coffee. Another thing is to remember that there is someone out there envying your life. And yes you heard me right! There is someone, somewhere, envying your life no  matter how much you think it’s mundane or problem-riddled. At least your love one is not going off to a war you’re unsure they will ever return from, At least you live in a country with basic freedoms and rights. Think about that when you’re busy regretting your past or looking to the future for some ideal life that is but an illusion.

So the question becomes, How do we ground ourselves in the present moment? How do we bring our consciousness to the Now? Tolle offers some advice and strategies for such a thing: “To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness of the mind…A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body” (Tolle 110). He further elaborates a way in which you can focus on your body as a gateway to the Now: “Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs and feet – in your abdomen, your chest?…Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it. The more attention you give it , the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will feel as if every cell is becoming
more alive” (Tolle 112).

If you connect to your body in this manner and reflect on it, you are brought into the Now. The stream of unconsciousness, or rather your incessant thinking will quiet. Your attention will be on the current moment and what your body is feeling such as the sharp intake of air and exhale of recycled air. This connection to your body is a channel to the present moment. Tolle says that while doing this: “thoughts and emotions, fears and desires, may still be there to some extent, but they won’t take you over” (Tolle 117).

The mind is conditioned by the past and can become stuck in it, denying the Now. The mind dislikes and ignores the present moment because it is caught in a trap of the familiar, the past. Even if the past was full of pain or it brings pain to think about, the mind will continue to focus and re-create it because it is familiar. The mind would rather deal with the known (the pain) than something unknown because that is scary due to the lack of control one has over something unknown. That unknown, however, and embrace of the present moment could be and no arguably is, the gateway to freedom from pain. It is insanity to keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So embrace Now, be grateful for Now and who you are in this present moment. Let go of the past and future for they do not truly exist in  this moment. They are but fathoms of your conditioned mind. Embrace the Now, because it is truly all you get. Tomorrow may never come and that is a reality some find hard to admit.

I am ending this blog post with the last few lines of “The Power of Now” and which sum up perfectly the point I am trying to get across: “When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. You do not need it anymore. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.” (Tolle 229).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

So I’m Off My Antidepressant…

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A Picture of my view. Yes, I drink red bull and flaming hot Doritos, What of it??

After about a year of being on Cipralex, a popular antidepressant, I decided with the help of my family doctor to wean off the medication. I was on a lower dose of about 10mg and it was causing weight gain and hypersomnia. Now that being said, it may be a drug that could work for someone else. My brain however was experiencing adverse side effects like lethargy and lack of ambition or goal seeking behavior. So I decided to wean off it with the help of my doctor because it wasn’t really helping me with my anxiety which was the entire point of being on it. I am also on a monthly injection of abilify, an anti-psychotic, which keeps my bipolar disorder in check and keeps me from becoming manic. This means my mood is already managed and I can afford to decrease my anti-depressant safely.

I have also had horrible experiences with anti-depressants making me psychotically manic and therefore welcome the opportunity to try and live with out them. I will never however stop taking my monthly dose of anti-psychotic. I have had the worse experience with antidepressants when my psychiatrist decided to treat my bipolar disorder with only two antidepressants: Wellbutrin and Cipralex, and no anti-psychotic. Let’s just say…I went fucking psychotic. I believed I was a celebrity with millions of dollars and tried buying just about everything and anything I could think of – from wine tours to mustang convertibles. I ended up of course in the psychward when I could not put my money where my mouth was. The point is anti-depressants without a mood stabilizer for a bipolar person equals disaster.

And you’re probably wondering well how are you feeling? Now that you’ve weaned off your anti-depressant? Well I feel great some days and horrible on the rest. But that has more so to do with my choices in life and I am not particularly proud of them lately. However, I have decided to be more positive and start to make small changes in my life to gradually bolster my mood. I believe, no I know, that if I can change my attitude and take more responsibility for my actions then I will have less anxiety and be less depressed. Some of these changes are to quit smoking pot and cigarettes, to do more physical exercise and yoga, to go to regular counseling and to create more art, whether that be blogging, photographing or painting, drawing, etc.

I am starting to regain some focus and drive now that I have weaned off Cipralex. I am volunteering more of my time to various organizations. One organization is art-focused which allows me to reconnect with my education and background in art history and the arts in general. I am creating more art and am just beginning to sell some of it. When I was asked why I wanted to volunteer there, I replied “I simply love being around art. If I could, I’d be around it all day.” I have decided to work on my artistic ambitions more so than ever before because any time invested in something I love is not a waste in my opinion. I love creativity and seek to be around it everywhere I go. For example, I bought this new tablet/laptop in hopes that I may be able to blog more which brings me to my last and final statement: I will be blogging much more!