New Year, New Me?

Why do I set new years resolutions? This is why. I lost all the weight my crippling depression and medication had caused me to gain by setting a goal , a SMART goal to be more specific. Read on for context!

So I’m going to write about something so stereotypical around this time of year…New Year’s Resolutions. Each year I set general ones which I inevitably forget about in a month’s time but this year I am going to do my best to set tangible, reachable, time sensitive goals – if you ever went to any career building workshop, you’ll also recognize these as S.M.A.R.T goals. So what is the difference between your run of the mill goal and a SMART goal? A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. They’re called SMART for a reason in that they hold you more accountable since you have to do a little bit of strategizing on how you’re going to complete this goal (Measure it? Time it?) and not just set it.

I tend to shy away from making these goals cause I feel I’ll be disappointed when I do not meet them after putting effort into thinking not only about the goal but how I can achieve it. If I am being completely honest this avoidance stems mostly from laziness and a fear that if I put effort into creating a SMART goal and it does not manifest, I will only prove myself right again in my negative generalized idea that I am destined to be a failure. But no more! New Year, New Me? Huh? I also think that expression “New Year, New Me” is a little ridiculous. I believe in life in general you should always be striving for greatness and growth but do not necessarily throw out all the good parts about yourself you may be neglecting. So without further ado…I have two major SMART goals I would like to set for 2021 and a few general ones that I will address.

My first SMART Goal? You’ve heard it before but this time I will be tracking my progress through a calendar and setting a time frame for it – To Quit Smoking! (once and for all) They say you never truly quit until you’re ready and I was just not in the right frame of mind to do the past five years of my life and the past two years that I tried on and off to quit. I want to be one year smoke free on this date in 2021. I quit last Monday and have not smoked since. What is different this time around? I am holding myself accountable. I intend to write down each day that I break down and have a cigarette and how many to be precise.

What is also different is my view and thoughts towards it. In just over a week smoke free, I have noticed I cringe when I smell smoke whereas before it would trigger me to light up or I would be so desensitized to the smell (having constantly being in it), I would not even notice. It now literally triggers a gag reflex and I do not enjoy it. I also am more sensitive to the idea of a set back this time around. I have decided that if I do give in and smoke I will smoke that one cigarette and re-set my quit date to that moment right after and acknowledge that I am human, and that in reality “that one smoke I just smoked today is better than the twenty I usually smoke in a day and to get back on the quitting train.” This is vastly different from any other thought processes I had in previous attempts at quitting where I would break down, have that cigarette than use it to justify smoking even more since what’s the point? I already smoked one.

It’s like my counsellor said (oh yeah, I go to a STOP smoking program as well currently) that it’s about decreasing that bond of my brain to nicotine. There’s a reason they call it the most addicting substance in the world. If I can just slowly remove myself from nicotine and my habit of “rewarding” myself with cigarettes I believe I can eventually remove it all together for good. I am currently using the patches which I was being supplied in other times I tried to quit but never ever actually used them consistently and properly. This time around I am sticking one on every day until I am ready to decrease it in size and then remove them all together. Another stereotypical thing you hear when quitting smoking is to DISTRACT. I am working on writing and reading and painting more as a way to ease the cravings and keep my mind off of them. But the most important difference I’ve noticed this time when quitting is my mindset. I have a new attitude towards it that is in my opinion very healthy and it can be summed up in a cliche, “Take it one day at a time.” I also believe if I can’t handle that then take it one hour, or even one moment at a time.” Trust me, the cravings do and will actually come to pass.

My other and final SMART Goal is to have the first draft of my nonfiction book (about my life and struggle with my mental health as a person with Bipolar Type One) written again, one year from today. I have set the goal of writing 100,000 words at a rate of 1,500 per day on average. I know what you’re thinking…this girl sucks at Math! But hear me out! This accounts for days dedicated to revising and researching. It also allows some slack days when I know, I just know I won’t want to push myself. I will be tracking this goal on NaNoWriMo which is a site for writers to literally set time sensitive writing goals and track them as they move towards these goals. I intend to post my goal on my wall to serve as a daily reminder of what I want to work towards and achieve this year. I may also post a little thermometer which is a thing us English majors did – to color in different milestones of word counts when writing big research papers. To visually see progress, encourages you to continue and helps you have an idea of how far away or how close you are to your set goal.

My run of the mill goals – ABS! Haha, I wish I was kidding but I am a little vain and used to have a very visible six pack in my youth and early twenties. I intend to work towards this goal by being mindful of working out consistently and being very aware of the trash I tend to feed myself. I also want to blog more! And will be working on some new content more often than ever before. This blog is now on its own Domain (if you hadn’t noticed) and therefore owned by me! It was the first step I made in becoming more serious as a blogger. The next will be to build more consistent content and build a followership (if you have any tips on that, please, please, please shoot me an email with advice! I eat that shit up!). I also now own and have rights to the logo pictured below. It was to be honest a spur of the moment purchase but I am looking forward to making business cards soon and sharing the word of this blog more!

My official logo!

I want you to know your goals are valuable and deserve to be shouted from the roof tops! And at the very least, if you’re not comfortable with that, write them down somewhere you can remind yourself and hold yourself accountable. We all deserve to test our potential and we should want to embrace change. For example, last year I set a really important goal for myself to lose enough weight to be 130 pounds (at the time I was 155 which is a little too much for a short bitty such as myself). I am happy to say as of today, I weigh 117 pounds. I crushed that goal! But I set time limits and tracked my progress (as nerdy as this sounds) on a graph. I wrote down each time I went to the gym in a week to be aware whether or not I was meeting my three gym sessions a week, I had and quite frankly the doctor had, prescribed. Your goals are achievable quite frankly if you believe they are (and obviously if reasonable). But I am going to share with you one secret – they don’t come easy. You have to strategize how to achieve them and sometimes why? The why is important to those of us who need to be reminded what our motivation is, for those days when we just feel like we don’t give a flying fuck about anything.

So Why? Why set Goals this year?

For me it’s simple – I want to be a forever changing better version of myself. I want to be standing somewhere completely different next year – somewhere better.

All my Love,

XOXOXOXO,

BiPolarMania

You’ll Be Flying Again Soon…

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life

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

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

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

New Year, New Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fantastic Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Tuned for more posts and updates from BiPolarMania.

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.

 

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

 

 

Reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment

possible

This reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment slapped me in the face this morning while I was reading Elan Gale’s “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else).” It is a truly ubiquitous reminder for it’s in the back of all of our minds but we simply choose not to acknowledge it. However,  maybe if we acknowledged it a bit more we’d be striving to be the best version of ourselves instead of settling for mediocrity. Why do we always say we are going to do something but put it off for “tomorrow?” I have decided I am officially done with that bullshit.

It’s easy to lie around and accept what is but it takes true awareness and motivation to want to actively change it. If you do not like who you are or where you are simply change it. And I know you’re thinking “well how do I do that, Brittany?” That’s not up to me to answer for you but for you to do the research. For example, I’ve decided I want to lose weight (keeping it simple here) but I keep saying I’ll exercise and then don’t. I have a monthly gym membership (my bank statement each month reminds me) and I barely use it. But I’ve decided enough is enough! I have set a really healthy and realistic goal of exercising 30 min a day whether that be walking, biking, running, etc, as of today. I have also decided to increase my water intake and reduce my consumption of calories (perhaps cutting out that midnight snack). It is up to me to follow through though and realize that today is all I have and hey, this is morbid, but I may not even have today (I could get annihilated by a city bus).

Another thing I want to work on is my finances cause guess what I am done settling with the mediocrity of walking everywhere. Fuck Yes, you betcha I want a fucking car! This means I need to research how to budget my money cause like every other millennial I was never taught these basic skills. But I am committed to change and I am willing to put in the work. You want something more out of life? Cool. Then start actively working towards that goal and stop allowing yourself to settle for less. You got big dreams? Fuck Yes, shoot for the stars! You may fail but you may just fail into something better. Maybe you won’t get that Audi you dreamed of but maybe through your hard work and determination you might just be able to finance a Chevy Cruise (another more reasonable car I enjoy driving). Stop saying that this is it and work for what could be. Put in the fucking work. Let me repeat myself, put in the fucking work.

And you are probably going to struggle but that’s the beauty of life figuring out the stuff you’re made of. You might just discover you’re stronger than you think. I have this reoccurring thought “I’m not smart enough to go to school” or “My brain has deteriorated since being hospitalized as a result of bipolar disorder” and you know what I ve decided rather than sit on my ass (like I’ve been doing the past three years), I am going to try and challenge this thought by actually going back to school part time. I might fail, who knows? But at least I will have tried and that’s worth something in my books. If you constantly sit on your ass instead of working towards your dreams/goals then you guessed it you’re gonna have to live with regret. And have you felt that shit before? Because let me tell you it isn’t pleasant.

So thank you Elan Gale for reminding me that I may die tomorrow because as of right now I am going to use the best of today. Because fuck it, I know I am worth it.

F**K it – Be At Peace With Life Just As It Is

fuck it

I was perusing the book store when I came across John C. Parkin’s “F**k it.” I will admit I was drawn to it more because of my affinity for swear words than anything else but regardless I decided to buy it and give it a read. The book overall was a little bit of a let down, however, there are nuggets of wisdom and surprisingly ideas congruent with that from “The Power of Now.” (see previous blog post) One thought that struck me the most was the following: “We take a big step forward in life when we recognize that working out what we’d like to feel is more important than working out what we’d like to do, or
whatever other aim we have in life” (Parkins 80).

Parkins raises a good point about how to gain peace in life and that is to stop waiting for things to make you feel content such as the next job promotion, the next relationship, etc. Looking to external things for contentment and peace of mind is severely misguided when it is internally that you need to do the work. Haven’t you ever heard you need to love yourself before you can truly love another person. It’s an overused statement for a reason cause its dead right. If you are looking outside yourself for peace such as through a new shiny toy or next big life milestone, you’re missing the point. Life happens now in this moment and waiting around for the next big thing or distraction only takes away from finding the peace of mind to enjoy the present moment for what is. You think you need this or that to be eventually happy but if you’re never happy that’s on you to work through – internally and not externally. You will eventually find you do not even need these things to feel at peace, you just will be. The greatest avenue to finding inner peace is through acceptance of what is and who you are in this moment.

The author himself mentions struggling with his expectations of how things are supposed to go but ultimately to be at peace he had to let that go: “Well, F**k It to how its supposed to go. I hereby (attempt to) embrace how it goes – in real-time-unfolding-reality – rather than how its supposed to go. It is after all, the gap between how I want it to go, and how it actually goes, that will cause me pain. And to close that gap, I must simply accept more what happens, as it happens” (Parkins 168). Parkins mentions a gap between what we expect and what occurs as causing pain. This pain is the emotional unhappiness we feel when things don’t quite go our way. If we can accept life for what is rather than what we think it should be then we will be much more at peace. It is our unrealistic expectations that are slowly killing us and causing deep rooted depressions. If we can be content with what we have then life would feel infinitely more happier which brings us to another helpful activity the author mentions in finding inner peace which is practicing gratitude.

Being grateful comes more easy to some people than others. Most of us focus on what is wrong and what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Parkins says, “being grateful, then, for who we are, what we do, what we have and our lives as they are, is a quick way to find peace in the now” (Parkins 97). Th author mentions that when he feels particularly like moaning he stops himself and writes a list of all things he is grateful for. I strongly encourage creating a gratitude journal in which you can practice this task. You can start light by writing each day three things you are grateful for today – a practice an inpatient group taught me at the hospital when I was hospitalized for major depression. This activity forces you to acknowledge the good things that you are overlooking in your life. They could be simple things like the ability to talk or specific to your life like that you are thankful for your cat who comforts you when you’re down. Being grateful forces you to re-think your life and not fixate on what is lacking but rather look at all the things you should be thankful that you do have in this present moment.

Parkins also references an interesting study in his book that gets you thinking. It illustrates how people most the time are wanting more even when they are wealthy. A survey asked extremely wealthy people, millionaires, and billionaires, if they felt content with their wealth and the majority said no. They were then asked, “How much more would make you feel content?” And they were invited to put a $ figure on it. The researchers turned that figure into the percentage of extra wealth that wealthy people wanted in order to feel content. The figure was, roughly, the same for all of them: 20% extra. Parkins concludes, “It seems then that everyone is 20% away from being content, regardless of their income. And that’s worth bearing in mind as you go about wanting more wealth, more things, and trying to get them. If you believe that you’ll be at peace when you’re wealthy, the research suggests you’ll remain forever 20% away from peace” (Parkins 47).

This reiterates the point I was making earlier about how external things such as money can never truly make you at peace with yourself. In order to be at peace you need to be grateful for what you have and accept it. Even the wealthiest individuals are not happy with what they have and want more so don’t be too upset that you’ve fallen for this trap. Real peace, real happiness, comes from within when you accept that you are right where you are supposed to be. Everything unfolds as it is supposed to and you just got to trust that or you’ll drive yourself insane trying to fill the void of what you supposedly lack. I was thinking a lot about my past and how I refused to accept where I was in life leading to a 6 month deep depression where I literally never left bed and ultimately had to be hospitalized. I am now at a better place because I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, right now. I can accept my past failures for what they were, a guide to where I am now. Now I am at peace more than ever before because I accept that I have what I have and am thankful for it. I am  happy for the first time in my life, genuinely happy because I am not fighting some idea of what I think I deserve but understand that my life is meant to unfold the way it has and is. The beautiful mystery of life is that you may never truly get what you think you want but you always get what you ultimately need.

So say F**K It! Fuck it to what you think you want and be at peace with life just as it is.

 

The Power of “The Power Of Now”

the power of now

“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).