Graphic Design: My Hidden Talent and Passion

My illustration created in Adobe illustrator I call “Trendy Girl with Headphones.”

After my first manic psychosis, I was left dejected and heartbroken. I had worked towards an undergraduate degree at Carleton University, double majoring in Art History and English with a minor in Psychology, for three years and mentally shit the bed so to speak as I was about to finish my fourth and final year. I put all, literally all my effort into accomplishing this goal my entire life (I wish I was exaggerating for it’d be less embarrassing and shameful) – the goal of earning a University degree. Every action, every thought I took especially while at Carleton was premeditated to lead to accomplishing this goal and to set up the course for a subsequent masters and ph.d. Academia has always been something I excelled at and where I felt the most comfortable. I never once questioned my ability to succeed in that environment until I was in the wake of my first very serious break with reality.

As the antipsychotics and mood stabilizers coursed through my system as I came down from the scariest experience in my life – a manic induced psychosis, during which I experienced grandiose delusions and visual, as well as auditory hallucinations – my mind progressively slowed to the point I thought it was stalling out. Memorizing facts and making meaningful connections between various academic content was suddenly unfathomable. The thing I excelled at my whole life was threatened as what I can only compare it to with the neurotransmitters in my brain struggling to connect and seemingly degenerating. I stared at my books trying to study and could not even process a sentence on the page as it distorted into fragments and mocked me. I was genuinely terrified and decided to return back home with the thought that if I couldn’t finish my fourth year strong and at the top of my class like usual, fuck it, I wasn’t going to finish at all. I felt brain dead and any form of concentration became a foreign concept. I believed and convinced myself for years after, my psychosis had caused brain damage and I could no longer in fact “learn.”

I slipped into a depressive coma for years where I accepted this as the new norm, that my brain was damaged and it would never function as highly as it did prior to my manic psychosis. I was also during this time abusing drugs which fed the depression even more. I became stuck on these thought loops, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “You invested all your life into something just to fall short at the very end,” “You have no potential or follow through,” “You’re worthless.” These thoughts were like the news cycle, pervading my brain on a twenty-four hour cycle. Eventually I had had enough. I decided to experiment with sobriety as a way to increase my mood thinking this would be the first step to changing my life around. And I had never been more right in my entire life for addictions counselling led to me not only quitting drugs but changing my life around to the point I’m making a comeback (still in the process but it’s been initiated).

I explained to my counsellor a very real goal of mine was to attempt school again but this time instead of University, I wanted to give college a shot more specifically the graphic design program at Niagara College. She asked what was stopping me and I explained how my brain seemed to unravel after my first manic psychosis. I went on to recall my issues with memory and concentration at the time and how my failed attempt at finishing my degree led me to believe I can no longer learn or grasp new ideas. I genuinely believed I was brain damaged. She was the first person to equate my psychosis to a trauma and explained how memory in the brain is affected by trauma. She assured me I had the potential to learn and when I was trying to finish my studies originally and failed it was a unique situation since my brain had just endured massive stress. She explained and it was quite comforting, “Your brain just needed time to heal. Your brain needed time to recover.”

And recover, is what I slowly began to do. I started to prove to myself I was capable of learning again. I had to trick myself into believing it once again and I respond the most to empirical evidence so I enrolled in two graphic design courses at the college part time to test the waters so to speak. I told myself If I managed to simply pass these courses I would consider re-evaluating all the negative views bombarding my brain, false beliefs about my potential or rather lack thereof to learn. I proved myself wrong in the best possible way. I did not merely pass but aced those courses and showed an affinity and skill for something I had never considered before – the field of graphic design. A flashback of a conversation with my high school guidance counsellor came to resonate. She shuffled her papers and looked at my applications for University and looked at me genuinely confused. “You’ve applied to three of the more difficult Journalism programs. I understand you are an excellent writer but based off your art I’ve seen, I just assumed you’d pursue that?” I replied, “I love art but you can’t make a career out of it,” shrugging her off and letting go of a conversation that in hindsight should have sunk in further.

The two courses I took were more hands on and I began to think “sure, I can handle this but when it comes time to design digitally I’ll be royally fucked and then this delusion of turning to graphic design as an alternate route for my life will officially blow up.” I had a deep anxiety when it came to pursuing graphic design because of the digital aspect of it. I have very limited experience with computers and zero experience using software designers use like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and INDesign. I decided it was now or never to learn these skills or fail at them and bail out of the program before I got too far ahead of myself. I enrolled in one of the harder graphic design courses, following my success with the two courses before, called digital art in which students are exposed to the three main Adobe programs I mention above for the first time (however, most students already come into the program with experience in this software). I was extremely nervous because I felt like this was the ultimate test whether I was meant to pursue this diploma seriously or not. I realize now that was a lot of pressure to put on a course, however, I am delighted to say (spoiler alert) I ended up acing this course too, even more so than the initial ones I took.

Taking Digital Art, or rather “Digital Technology,” opened my eyes to the possibilities of not only the strong likelihood of pursuing this field as a career but also opened my mind. It proved to me I could not only learn new skills, but challenging technical ones to boot, I never dreamed I could. I owe my newfound passion of graphic design to my digital technology teacher who taught in a very straightforward and accessible manner. He was always on standby for any questions (whether they seemed insignificant or silly) and encouraged discovery in the design process but more importantly the discovery of self. He was kind enough to take the time to do some one-on-one video conferences with me (as I’m pursuing this diploma online currently due to covid restrictions) and stressed to me, “put yourself into your work. Show who you are through your designs and the more you include of yourself the better, that will give you an edge. That will make you stand apart from other designers.” I commented, “I was scared I was putting too much of myself in my designs actually,” to that he replied, “You can never put enough of yourself and it will make what you create more authentic and meaningful.” I will always carry this conversation in my mind in my future design endeavours and try to remember the importance and value of inserting your beliefs and values into your design.

My favourite program to work with is Adobe illustrator in terms of graphic design, however, I discovered I am extremely proficient in Photoshop and InDesign as well. The assignment that my instructor had us do for Digital Technology 2 (I completed the first course and then completed the second part!) will always stand out to me as a life changing assignment (not only because of the technical skills learned but because of the opportunity to express my values through my design). Our teacher laid out a “cookbook assignment” in which we were to design a cookbook with ten recipes or rather layouts. We were to include a cover page, a back page, a inside cover page, a table of contents and ten spreads (with pictures and content) using the program InDesign which until that point I was starting to like the least out of all the programs we were learning. I thought the idea of a cookbook was boring and always hate the idea of doing the exact same thing as the other students in my class. So I emailed my teacher and pitched an idea that I created a book more in line with my values and interests. I asked to layout a book with ten unique spreads on ten different mental health topics taken from popular blogs or articles. He loved the idea and appreciated my passion. I took the go ahead and designed what would become my favourite project I have ever completed to date (including and counting the three years of University which had a lot of cool projects, don’t get me wrong). It resonated with me because I was able to apply design to a topic that interests me and where my true life’s passion stems from – mental health.

             I titled the book “10 Perspectives Through The Lens of Mental Health.” Inside you would find a brief bio about me the designer (picture included below), ten spreads on various mental health topics ranging from post-grad blues or depression, to letting go of negative people, (my own seamless self-promotion of my blog post “Sever The Tie, Let That Shit Go”) to signs warning of suicide. The book was a compilation of topics in the mental health world I find interesting or pertinent. I also wrote a poem summarizing the intent of the book’s creation to appear as the back cover. The poem is as follows:

This is a journey…

Through mind, soul, and body,

This is an exploration…

Through beliefs, misconceptions and facts,

This is a compilation…

Of stories, insights and advice

These are my favourite:

Roads to Loving,

Breaking,

and Healing.

-Brittany Gushue

            It was refreshing to not only have an assignment I was genuinely interested in but showed me the capacity of design to create beautiful and meaningful things. I gradually learned more and more skills and found nearly every assignment in this course to have value. I designed an “ad lyric” for a magazine editorial spread assignment in which I took the lyrics from my favourite band of all time, Canadian band “Stars” and visually portrayed some of my favourite lyrics from “Dead Hearts” with a heart design I created inspired by the song (Pictured below). I had the joy of printing this design onto a hoodie at a local print shop and seeing my design come to life! It’s now my favourite hoodie and quite comfy too! I designed a heart being gripped by a hand on top of a heart beat flatlining. I thought this flatline was clever as the lyrics are about “dead hearts.”

“I may have found my calling through a series of misfortunate events…but I rediscovered what I was born to do – share and make a living from my art.”

-Brittany Gushue

            Learning the technical aspects, the digital side of design gave me the confidence to start exploring ideas and new designs on my own accord without the guidance or pressure of class assignments. This is when I realized graphic design is more than a career choice but a passion because I genuinely love it and the process of bringing an idea into a completed concept/design. I also see graphic design everywhere I go. I notice the designs on beer cans, advertisements in grocery stores, billboards, etc. I reflect on whether these are effective designs, if there is anything that could have been improved on, but more times than not admire the creativity and effort it took to develop an idea into something tangible, sustainable. I am starting to figure out what does and what doesn’t work for me in my design process. For example, I have discovered I prefer to sketch out my ideas in black and white then scan them into the computer and illustrate digitally from said reference point. Every day, I am learning new techniques and ideas. I am excited to grow as an artist and designer in this industry. I finally found something I am interested and intrigued by to the extent when challenges arise either technical, conceptually, etc., I am not discouraged but genuinely want to figure it out. I may have found my calling through a series of misfortunate events. I may have not realized my dream of graduating with a degree from Carleton University but perhaps (don’t want to jinx it but…) I rediscovered what I was born to do – share and make a living from my art.

Lately I’ve been into illustration and zombies! She’ll eat your heart out then your braiiiiins!!!!

Almost Two Years Sober and Counting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t you miss getting high?”

To that I reply, “I am already high.”

ALL My Love,

Still Sober,

xoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

I’m Conscious Of Not Making Monsters Outta My Exes

There is a verse in a very popular song by Drake from his “Take Care” album (my favourite of all time) that comes to mind as I contemplate something one of my exes (and now really good friends) said to me today. It is verse three from the song “Marvin’s Room:”I think I’m addicted to naked pictures/ And sitting talking ’bout bitches that we almost had/ I don’t think I’m conscious of makin’ monsters / Outta the women I sponsor ’til it all goes bad.” He mentioned that he appreciates and values the way I talk about my exes, referring to not only him but every and any ex I ever bring up. I was severely confused as to what he was getting at and asked what he meant by that statement.

“You never put your exes down. You speak objectively and highly of everyone you have dated. You always mention honestly the traits or qualities that got in the way of the relationship fully developing any further but you also make a point to highlight the redeeming qualities they had or memories that touched you.”

I realized he has a point but it took me nearly a decade of self-discovery and throwing myself in and out of relationships to develop this emotional maturity. I will not negate the lesson that a person brings to my life and I genuinely believe everyone comes into your life for a reason. Each relationship is an opportunity for growth and the same idea relates to the end of one. I learn different aspects of myself every time I explore the mind, soul and body of another. Each ex has helped me explore my life in a different way and I will forever be grateful for that.

It’s easy to get caught up in or hurt by the idea of rejection but when you view it as I do – as a stepping stone to a better truth – it ceases to lose its power over you. Each failed relationship taught you something whether you want to admit It or can see it. Like Drake said, “I don’t think I’m conscious of making’ monsters/ Outta the women I sponsor ’til it all goes bad.” The truth is I let that person into my life for a reason, at some point they brought joy or value to it. I cannot negate all the positive experiences with the negative ones and fall trap to bitterness and “talking shit about exes.”

I can however, be honest and realistic about their shortcomings when discussing why my relationships failed with my friends but I am also brutally honest with my own and where I learned due to that experience, where I need and could grow. We are constantly evolving and sometimes certain people who come into our life romantically aren’t ready to grow at the pace we are, or we realize we do not share the same values, or often cases we outgrow them. That’s ok…Learn, Move on, and Become Better For It.

Talk shit if it makes you feel better, I don’t really care what you do to cope but I would like you to consider shifting perspectives. I want you to consider re-evaluating why people walk into your life. I believe everyone walks in and out of your life with a purpose and a meaning. Their presence was meant to show you something that you either really want or often exactly what you don’t want. Both are valuable to understand about oneself.

We’re constantly learning and changing what we value, think, belief, etc. Do not be afraid to let go of something or someone that no longer aligns with who you are. It’s ok to change up the game when something is not working. Do not ever regret the beginning or the end of an experience because it was meant to happen to you – to change and evolve you.

I talk objectively about the relationships I have had (highlighting both the negative and positive) because to genuinely learn and grow from it, I must be honest with myself. I am not going to make someone out to be a monster because they lacked the communication skills or emotional intelligence I have. I also won’t hold it against exes who treated me disrespectfully since they were the most valuable lesson of all – to stand up for myself and love myself enough to walk away. But most importantly I need to address that I don’t blame exes who left me because I did not measure up to their expectations of what they think they deserve.

Love isn’t a race. There’s no rush. Be open to the idea that someone may be a lesson, and not your “forever.” If you shift your perspective in this way I promise you’ll feel better about the failure of a relationship. You might even come to enjoy them more as opportunities to learn about yourself and less about the feeling of rejection. You don’t have to be that bitter ex talking shit about your ex if you don’t want to be. Let it go, see the bigger picture, especially and even if they don’t. This life is yours and you’re wasting energy holding onto things that no longer serve you. Remember, and don’t necessarily forget, but move on. Allow yourself and them the grace of being human.

It’s easy to make monsters out of the relationships that went bad but it shows strength to want to find the good in them and let it go.

All My Love,

Forever Letting Go,

xoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

JFDI – “Just Fucking Do It”

I have been neglecting what I hope will be my life’s work, writing my memoirs about living and struggling with bipolar disorder, specifically my experiences with multiple psychoses. I decided to get a rose gold cuff bracelet engraved with the acronym, “JFDI,” which stands for “Just Fucking Do It.” I want to remind myself daily by wearing this that I need to simply sit my ass down and write whether I feel like it or not. However, despite this new beautiful addition to my jewelry collection, wearing it has yet to spur much action on the writing front.

I decided to journal about how I was feeling regarding writing this book and the following words spewed onto the page and as usual my own writing process has exposed me and shed some light on my avoidance:

“I believe a big part of my procrastination is that this is a painful story to share. When I sit down and write it, I have to dig deep in the dark recesses of my mind and retrieve memories that quite frankly hurt to hold onto. No one wants to admit that they lost the one thing that most of us would never fathom losing – their sanity. Let me be very clear here, “losing your mind” and “losing your sanity” are two very different things. One you have more control over and can recover from quickly while the other is a complete loss of control, a complete break from reality.

When you lose your sanity, you dissociate and your mind fractures into something unrecognizable. I am not saying you cannot come back from that but it’s harder to reconcile – that your mind was not your own. You’re scared shitless then reality slips back through the cracks and you wonder, “will that happen again?” Unfortunately for me it happened not once, but twice. You start to feel like a visitor in your mind and wonder when the darkness will come again and consume you.”

“You need to understand healing is a process, a journey unto itself.”

-Brittany Gushue

Now reading that back to myself after writing it was an “Aha!” moment in that I did not even realize I was harboring a deep rooted fear and pain towards writing this story. It’s understandable. I just didn’t know that this was yet one more thing holding me back from writing. I have decided to start slowly to confront the pain and sit with these memories a little bit everyday until I am ready to unpack them and process them. I believe through writing this book I can come to heal even more than I already have – and don’t get me wrong I’ve come a long way from those days spent rocking back and forth crying slumped against my bedroom door coming to terms with the fact I had lost my mind to a mental illness I was now saddled with for life. I spent days, weeks, and years drowning in grieve that I would never be “sane” or considered “normal.” I had a very real identity crisis accepting my bipolar disorder and letting go of the vision of myself pre-diagnosis.

I am in active recovery and have been stable on medication for years now and think it is finally time I start putting off my goal to write my memoirs. Is it scary? For sure, as I have laid out my thoughts above on it. Am I capable? Absolutely. I know in my heart of hearts this is something I was meant to do – to share my journey in the throes of mental illness so that someone trying to navigate those same waters may have a guidepost of hope to look to and understand that it does get better. I am living proof it does get better. I am not saying I do not still struggle with the inevitable ups and downs of this disorder but I have come to realize you need to give yourself grace. You need to understand healing is a process, a journey unto itself. I simply want to show that you can go from falling apart on your bedroom floor to managing your symptoms and picking yourself back up.

Keep on Healing,

All My Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

Where Do I Begin and Where Do I End?

I tend to shy away about talking about my relationships on here because I tend to treat them as sacred. But I realize that would be negating a big part of my life that my readers may relate to and honestly, walk with me through this break up, and I will have you better on the other side for it – because I generally have a level head when it comes to relationships and the sometimes inevitable ends of them. I can experience the pain of rejection, loss, and missed opportunities wash over me but I will forever be rational in the way I choose to interpret these feelings.

The simple fact is and what I genuinely believe: what is meant for me will be meant for me. Basically, if he walked then I am actually one step closer to where I am supposed to be – clearly not with him. I gave this person so many opportunities to rise up and grow with me but unfortunately he was not interested – and that’s ok! That’s on him and not me. But what IS on me is the question I have been asking myself the past few days since breaking up and that is: “Where Do I Begin and Where Do I End?”

The fact is whether I want to admit it or not, I made myself smaller than life for him. Let me explain that… I kept quiet all the pieces that make me uniquely me and that I adore personally – that I am passionate about writing, mental health advocacy and most importantly and unfortunately I kept quiet my belief that everyone deserves a certain level of respect in a relationship (whether romantic or not but most especially romantic). I accepted less than I deserved from this person CONSISTENTLY, seriously I am debating whether I am a sadist at this point, hmmm…?

Things I let slide that I would never tolerate before, or let alone accept my friends to let slide in their own romantic endeavours. I became a less shiny, push over version of myself that quite frankly I feel as though I must have fell down the rabbit hole to some alternate universe that I ever became this version of myself – it’s my least impressive version yet. I’m starting to wonder am I “mousy?” as in a meek person in general or was I so blinded by this person’s potential love (key word potential because he was giving me nothing to go on from the start) that I made myself dull to be more accommodating or “easier to love?”

I am used to being called “Firecracker!” by strangers who meet me the first time, and told I have an energy that is delightful but I fell trap to this rebound that lasted six months too long. If I am being honest I made myself into a gray version of myself because not only did I want so desperately to be in a relationship (having ended a very serious three year one before this), I also on some deep internal level did not trust this person to see ALL of me. And again, that’s ok! But I should have trusted my instincts that consistently screamed “Get Out Now!” instead of continuing to make myself small for a person who honestly was worthless.

Never have I been consistently treated like garbage since my early 20s – when girls typically let all kinds of shady shit slide. I somehow convinced myself that’s what I deserved and that maybe that’s how a “normal” relationship is supposed to work, and I just didn’t get the memo. My gut told me “to walk” over and over again and with each ignorance of my instinct, I became even duller in my opinion.

At the dark core at it (sorry to bring it back to the dark place), I was simply afraid to be alone – to die alone. My clock is ticking and I can hear it mocking me, “You need to settle now to have someone in the bitter end.” But honestly fuck you! To people who drive this cookie cutter idea of what love is supposed to be down our throats. I want to stand alone in the end, loving myself, and if someone joins me, that’ll just be the icing on an already delicious cake!

So Where Do I Begin and Where Do I End? I’m still figuring it out but I am taking the time to do that. I do know I shine brighter when by myself and after each break up, I return to an even better version of who I am. I’m learning…and if my unnecessarily long rebound taught me anything – it taught me to take time to heal and sort through the mental baggage that comes from all those scary and real feelings when something that you thought would be special comes to be trashed.

I will not make myself smaller to fit into anyone’s misguided idea of a box for me,

Taking Time to Heal,

All my Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

My First Galentine’s Day

Me Embracing the Love.

“Just because it isn’t an “official” holiday doesn’t mean it’s not important (like *coughs* the most important). Truly, if you’re going to pick one “fake” holiday to get pumped about, it shouldn’t be National Pizza or whatever else…it should be Galentine’s Day.”

According to Urban Dictionary, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on February 13, the day before that other made-up holiday (ahem, Valentine’s Day). It’s a day for celebrating the love you have for your lady friends, whether they’re single or not. Basically, it’s a day dedicated to showering your closest friends with love and attention…more than you do every other day.

Excellent question! The best thing about Galentine’s Day is that it was created by a fictional character: Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. In 2010, the second season of Parks and Rec included an episode called “Galentine’s Day,” in which Leslie gathers a group of her closest gal pals for a brunch of waffles and love. “Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style,” Leslie says in the episode. “Ladies celebrating ladies.” And thus, Galentine’s Day was unofficially added to everyone’s calendar. No, seriously: According to The Atlantic, it’s such a widely recognized fake holiday that some companies now run Galentine’s Day promotions. What could be more real than that? ((Where Did Galentine’s Day Come From – When Is Galentine’s Day (cosmopolitan.com))

I am celebrating my first Galentine’s Day with my best friend tomorrow on the heels of a break-up, ironically we decided to celebrate it before we broke up. I think in my heart of hearts I made these plans because I knew this relationship was never meant to last. I also shamelessly did not want to “not” acknowledge Valentine’s Day because last year I was in a very loving relationship and actually had a Ball! So I did not want to be disappointed this year or rather I did not want to feel that deep pit in my stomach (you all know the one). So I arranged some back up in the form of Galentine’s Day!

Yes I realize, we’re celebrating a day early but that’s due to schedules, the point is – the idea of showering your friend with love will be had! I wrote my best friend a love letter as part of a joke, but I do bear my soul and tell her how much I do genuinely care and appreciate her. I was mentioning to her how I wanted to write a love letter (to my now ex) and that I couldn’t think of anything nice to say and how the fuck was I supposed to write it at this rate!? And she said “fuck him! write me a love letter!” And then I explained to her Galentine’s Day and how we should celebrate it! She agreed!

So tomorrow I will be drinking wine and making crafts with my true love – my best friend! I will admit I’m a little broken hearted over the end of my relationship but I recognize it was not for me, like AT ALL. Who doesn’t love a day that celebrates loving your lady friends? I’ma love the shit out of this woman tomorrow. I like plan to shower this woman with affection! I even made her a cupcake!

But it shouldn’t just be the day, either Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day, that spurs you to action to give the one’s you love attention. Sprinkle Love everywhere…

All My Love,

xoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

Sever the Tie. Let That Shit Go.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the idea of who I want to keep and who I want to cut out of my life. I am at a point in my life where if a relationship is not serving me in some way than I do not feel it’s necessary to hold on to. I don’t think this is selfish but rather a very healthy mindset to have. At the end of the day, you have YOU for life (as I always like to say) and if the people in your life are not helping you grow, realizing your worth and value, or bringing some positive aspect to it than what really is the point?

Sever the Tie. Let That Shit Go.

I am too old for meaningless encounters and toxic people who only hold me back or make me question my value. I think it’s important to take stalk of your relationships as they develop and whether these people are growing with you or whether you’ve outgrown them. It’s okay to feel sad that a friendship or any relationship for that matter has reached its inevitable end. It’s okay to say “I’ve had enough” of being treated a certain way or had enough of the negative energy any one person may bring to your universe.

Let That Shit Go. Release The Toxicity.

I think what is key to ask yourself when analyzing these relationships is, “What does this person bring to my life?”  Are they a light? Or are they casting a shadow on your well-being? If keeping someone in your life is proving detrimental to your overall mental health, I hate to break it to you but it’s probably time to walk away.

At the end of the day, I want to be appreciated for well, being ME. I try to be as authentic as possible with how I present myself and tend to lay all the cards on the table. If that’s not enough or if someone does not appreciate where I am coming from in this life, then I am sorry but I choose ME and ultimately will walk away.

I guess what I am trying to say is you have one life, and the people you choose to include in it will affect your growth and potential exponentially. Keep your circle tight. Choose people who see your light and who root for you, who treat you with dignity and respect and above all accept you for YOU.

All My Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

My Dream Box – Do You Dare To Dream?

I have a little trinket, I found and was drawn to at Hallmark two years ago, that has been quite frankly collecting dust on my bookshelf. I was drawn to it tonight and I think there is a certain magic in that. What is it, you might ask? It’s called a dreambox and I will explain…

On the inside is the following inscription, “Write down your dreams on a small piece of paper. Place the paper inside and hold your Dream Box every night…believe with all your heart that it is so. Legend has it, if done faithfully…your dream will come true.” I think it is honestly the cutest thing I own and I am all for anything that reminds you and keeps you focused on your dreams. I am a huge dreamer, annoyingly so, but I try to make small goals to work towards my dream I’ve conceived in my mind. I was drawn to this box because firstly, I am curious what my dreams were two years ago and secondly, I think it’s about time I made some new ones.

So without further ado, I am going to list the dreams I wrote down and put in this box two years ago. The first was “to straighten out taxes/finances” and I actually accomplished this one in that my taxes are all straight now but my finances could still use a little work. The second one was “to lose 20 pounds” and if you have followed my blog you know I have accomplished this one in strides and actually lost a little more than 30 pounds. The third one was “to volunteer more” and again, I did do this since when I wrote this dream or rather goal on a little piece of paper. I volunteered at the local food bank until COVID restricted this and intend on going back soon as I am able. The fourth one, “Find a Job” sadly I have not been able to find one yet that makes me feel comfortable and supports my mental health but that’s ok! Something to work on and be reminded of. The fifth one “Get License” I have done and yet not completely. I got my G1 last year but have yet to work on progressing to get my full license – again another dream to be reminded of and work towards. The last one is “Go to Cuba, somewhere warm, or hell anywhere new!” and due to lack of income, this dream has definitely been put on the backburner but I will keep it in mind when setting new dreams in the box.

Now this time around, I am going to write big lofty dreams (the bigger, the better)! I am not going to share all of them here cause I don’t know if that’s bad luck or taints the dream box in some way but one of them is to finish a degree in Graphic design which just last year I started working towards. I am going to include dreams about who I want to be, where I want to be or hope to end up in life. I am going to use this dream box as an exercise to put in my mind’s eye what I want to start working towards improving in my life.

I believe the act of writing down and reflecting on your goals or dreams is very important. It forces you to IMAGINE, imagine a life better for yourself and stir you into action if that dream is something you really need or want for yourself. It puts you in a better position to manifest your dreams and people laugh about positive thinking or thinking to manifest things in your life but sometimes it works! If you’re constantly reminding yourself of something you want to work towards, you’re more likely to take small steps everyday towards that goal or “dream.”

Don’t sell yourself short, dare to dream! …And dream big! Capture in your mind what that dream may look like – envision it, feel it, taste it then go chase it.

Always dreaming, All my Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

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!