Almost Two Years Sober and Counting…

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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

Why Can’t I Be Bipolar AND Sexy Too, On Social Media?

One of my posts from Instagram.

This is a clapback post to all the bigots, judgers, sexists, misogynists and quite frankly asshole keyboard warriors with limited, prejudiced views. I recently been posting pictures on Instagram showcasing my body and a person who I recently reconnected with clearly did not agree with it and felt the need to express themselves in the most rude, obnoxious and bigoted way. I am writing this post to say firstly you can post whatever you want regardless of mental illness or mental health and secondly to those who don’t like it: unfollow, unsubscribe as you wish but please keep your opinions to your self! Below is an image of the email he sent me…

Let me address the more annoying part of this email I received first, “Women pose like this because they think it’s what men want to see and so becomes counterproductive and counter exploitative.” Last time I checked you were a man and therefore do not try to understand or underestimate why “women pose like this.” Contrary to this man’s opinion that I am being “attention seeking,” I am posing like this to demonstrate my strength and resolve. It has absolutely nothing to do with men and everything to do with women. I want women to see these images and be inspired to celebrate their bodies. If you got it, my god, fucking flaunt it! If you look through my Instagram you can see a plethora of “working out” and gym posts as I progressed from being overweight to being the fittest I have ever been in my life – Fuck You! Of Course I am going to celebrate and showcase that!

As for his comment, “#MeToo and equality gives you every right to pose as you wish” rattles me. First of all the #MeToo movement has nothing to do with sexy poses being posted on social media and everything to do with sexual harassment and violence. To equate the “MeToo” movement to me having the freedom to pose “as I wish” is ignorant and negates the genuine motives behind this movement.

In 2006, the “me too.” Movement was founded by survivor and activist Tarana Burke. Burke wanted a way to empower women who had endured sexual violence by letting them know that they were not alone—that other women had suffered the same experience they had. In 2017, the #metoo hashtag went viral and woke up the world to the magnitude of the problem of sexual violence. The ‘me too’ Movement believes in the radical possibilities of a movement against sexual violence led by survivors. In 2017, the phrase was reintroduced by actress Alyssa Milano as a way to encourage women and men to share their stories as part of an anti-sexual harassment movement.

On the afternoon of Oct. 15, 2017, the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a request to her followers: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within 24 hours, her post generated thousands of replies, comments and retweets and inspired thousands more original posts on social media, with women and men from around the world sharing personal stories. Among the celebrities who responded were Lady Gaga, Viola Davis, Javier Muñoz and Evan Rachel Wood. But many women who were not household names also spoke out: nurses, teachers, engineers, florists, waitresses and students — mothers and daughters, sisters and wives. Some opened up for the first time about being raped. Others told of fending off aggressive co-workers and losing jobs.

I am not a victim of either sexual harassment or violence and never claimed to be nor do I hide behind a hashtag to “excuse” my posts. I do not have to excuse myself for celebrating my body and how far I have come in my fitness journey. I felt like this man emailing me was implying #MeToo opened the door for me as a woman to post anything and “get away with it.” This is a strong misunderstanding of the motives behind the movement which are to give power and a voice to sexual assault, abuse, and harassment victims. I do not need to hide behind any movement or organization as a scapegoat for my actions because they are just that, MY actions. I act with intention and consideration. I do not think, for example, my posting provocative pictures hurts my mental health community or perpetuates stigma.

Another frustrating part of this man’s emails and messages was him mentioning my mental illness as a reason not to post these types of pictures and that I am essentially giving people with Bipolar a bad name. First of all, what the fuck does mental illness have to do with this? Secondly, just because I advocate for mental health and fighting stigma does not mean I can’t be “sexy” while doing it. In fact, I’d argue it’s fighting the stigma more because I am showing that yes, a person with mental health issues can display their body with self-confidence too. There is no shame in putting it out there if you feel comfortable doing it. What separates me from every other woman on Instagram posting sexy pictures? – That I am Bipolar? I do not see this man attacking or sending them condescending messages.

He calls me “vulnerable” because why? I dare to post a picture in a bodysuit or my underwear? And can we address that for a second – women post full nudes with exposed nipples on Instagram and this man is attacking me for modelling lingerie? So I guess I am a “Tramp” then? (his words, not mine) I am not promiscuous and stand for a lot more than this man is giving me credit for. I stand for freedom of expression above anything and these pictures are just that – an expression of my body. If showing off my body – something I worked really hard for – makes me look “vulnerable and needing attention” then so be it. Except it does not, it demonstrates I am comfortable in my own skin, something in my opinion that is vital to good mental health.

When I did not respond to his rude email, he felt the need to direct message me on Instagram days later

“And if people know you are bi-polar it doesn’t really help you or people with your condition…” was probably the part of this man’s email that infuriated me. People with Bipolar are just like anyone else in that we too have different interests and personalities. I can be Bipolar AND interested in modelling lingerie and posting sexy pictures – that’s just me. My illness will never stop me from pursuing something I enjoy nor will the stigma towards “people with your condition” as he so eloquently put it. I never realized celebrating my own body would upset somebody so much to the point they had to send not one, but two nasty messages.

According to PsychCentral, mental health advocates “are the individuals who tirelessly share their stories in all sorts of ways. They remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles—and there is real, tangible hope and healing. They shatter stereotypes and myths about mental illness, helping the public see that people with mental illness are just people.” Let me hone in on the following part, “helping the public see that people with mental illness are just people.” I am a person first, above anything else, a person who likes to share my progress on social media. This has culminated in my most recent posts in lingerie demonstrating the epoch of my fitness journey. I worked hard to get to the point where I am comfortable putting it all out there. . I am also a sensual person who likes to get in touch with their sexy side when posing for the camera. People with mental illnesses can be sexy too and it doesn’t make us any less of a person or mental health advocate for wanting to display that.

I have an extremely positive body image and I demonstrate it through my lack of reluctance to post these pictures on the Gram. “Most people have a negative body image, with up to 72% of women and 61% of men report being unsatisfied with their bodies (Fiske et al., 2014). Having a negative body image can impact our mental health. For instance, body dissatisfaction is related to lower self-esteem (Tiggeman, 2005), depression (Keel et al., 2001), and disordered eating (Goldfield et al., 2010).” Showing you can feature your body publicly encourages others to explore theirs and sometimes inspire them to own the body they do have. I want to celebrate what I worked consistently towards and acknowledge I fucking done good! It was not always like this which is why I am posting these pictures – to prove a point that hard work and dedication pay off. My Instagram is also full of pictures leading up to this moment, ones where I am red and sweaty from having exercised and ones where I am heavier preaching the same body positivity. The fact is I love my body no matter what size it takes but I will admit I enjoy this extra fit version of myself currently because I am mother fucking STRONG.

I am literally the strongest I have ever been and yes, I am proud, and yes, I want to showcase that.

I think if anything I am showing that people with mental illness do not fit in these neat little boxes. Being a mental health and illness advocate should not mean you do not get to express your “sexy” side if you have one and want to flaunt it. I should not be taken any less seriously because I am a young woman who likes to show off her body. However, I know it doesn’t work that way, people are judging me not only for posting those pictures but also judging me by my looks. Just because I am an attractive young woman who likes to post “liberal” images of herself does not imply I am lacking intelligence or do not have anything of value to say. Stop judging books by covers and stop trying to belittle women or imply they are a “slut” for celebrating their bodies on social media. I am confident in my own skin despite struggling with a mental illness and quite frankly it suggests confidence and self-esteem I can post these pictures but not only that, it demonstrates my integrity to this esteem in not taking them down the minute somebody did not like the idea of them being out there. I am going to post whatever the fuck I want or feel comfortable sharing on social media because that’s who I am – a person with integrity who will not let some man tell me what or what I should not be posting.

As for me regretting this “later in life,” I can’t help but laugh. I don’t believe in regrets and I strongly believe in living for the moment. This moment in time I felt compelled to share those pictures and not for whatever misguided reasons people assume when associated with sexy pictures. These pictures represent something for me – this moment – when I felt the most confident and secure in my body image. I’d honestly regret not posting them because then I’d be left wondering, “Did I not post them because I was afraid of the opinions of others?” I feel and look the best I have ever felt in years and damn straight I want to share that. I want to look back on these pictures and remember how confident, sexy and strong I was in THIS moment. No regrets, I won’t look back. You can call me a slut, tramp, mindless Instagram Babe or whatever suits your fancy but just know I ain’t here for it. Your name calling and condescending opinions will never censor the content I put out which is authentically me. I AM Bipolar AND sexy too but I won’t apologize for it. I also will not allow people to belittle me into thinking I am any less or that I am not a good person or a good mental health advocate because I display my body. You’re simply ignorant in my opinion if you think the two some how correlate. I am a woman above all else with the freedom to post or not post whatever the fuck I want. If you don’t like it, hit the unsubscribe button quietly then walk away and please keyboard warriors, just get out of my fucking face!

Stay Sexy,

All My Love,

xoxoxoxoxxoxo,

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

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise As Fu*k” – Fear

My new companion “Wise As Fu*k” and my manuscript so far.

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise as Fu*k” delivers an impactful punch of insight in a straightforward no-bullshitting style that is admirable. Bishop breaks down his books into sections or rather “fundamentals of life:” Love, Loss, Fear and Success. I will admit I perused the “Love” section but the parts on loss, fear and success really spoke to me in a way that has motivated me to attempt to make a very real change in my life. I will address the three sections of loss, fear and success in three separate blog posts. This one will be dedicated to Fear.

“If you ask anyone why they feel as if they’re stuck or trapped, why they don’t reach for greatness or break out of a crumbling life and you question a little, they all initially cough up the same boring answer to that existence of predictability and beigeness – Fear” (Bishop 113).

Bishop really hits home with this statement for I too often chalk up why I fall short of my goals to fear, and more specifically the generic fear of failure. He points out in this book that most people have built a life around their fears rather than their potential. If I am being completely honest with myself and you, my readers, I have let fear dominate my life and hold me back from pursuing things I have wanted to but never did for fear of failing.

“You don’t start a business or write that book or apply to that college or even go the gym becaue…what’s the fucking point, right? I mean, you’ll only fail again, won’t you?” (Bishop 113). Bishop hits even closer to home with these examples for I myself have been delaying my writing process for a book I want to get published. Again, I chalk it up to fear. I fear I will spend months, even years writing a manuscript only to have it rejected by every publisher I submit it to. I fear even if it does get published that it will not be well received or no one will even like it or even read it. I fear at the heart of it all that I will expose myself raw and share my painful journey only to be criticized and or ostracized. These are the thoughts running through my mind every time I debate sitting down to write my manuscript.

Fear is described as a Band-Aid to cover up everything we don’t want to face in this book, “It is an explanation that allows us to put that task off indefinitely” (Bishop 115). And as I mentioned earlier, I am using my fear of failure as a Band-Aid to cover up facing writing my memoir because as Bishop notes, “Look your problem is not a fear of failure itself, but a fear of being seen to fail” (Bishop 116). I am at the very root of it afraid to be seen failing yet again. I tried to finish my degree at University and become a professor but was derailed by a mental breakdown brought on by the onset of bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to pick myself up  mentally and at times even physically. I think my fear comes from a place of not wanting people to see me reaching for another dream – writing and publishing a book – and it slip from my grasp again. I feel as though I would be ashamed and could not handle if yet another dream of mine were to die, since in my past I did not handle that very well to keep it light.

“You can learn to live with fear without using it as an excuse. It’s not about being fearless but rather realizing that you’re okay with it…It’s not about avoiding being judged but instead realizing that all people will judge, and it is far better to be judged for who you are rather than something you’re pretending to be…” (Bishop 118). This quote from “Wise As Fu*k” really put things into perspective for me. I realize it is better to be your authentic self and put all your cards on the table than shy away from the truth because of some stupid fear that you will be judged. While writing my book (what I’ve written so far) I’ve debated leaving parts of my painful journey out for fear it will not be well received or understood. I do however believe these more intense parts of my story will help my reader understand better where I have been and where I am coming from. I also believe there is someone out there going through these same scary, intense experiences that may benefit from me sharing my own account/version of them. Do I shy away from sharing the more dark parts of myself for fear of being judged or misunderstood or do I grow a pair and put it out there for the world to make of it what they will? After all this is MY story and it deserves to be told as truthfully and as authentically as possible so that the person experiencing the same darkness can feel less alone. This book has encouraged me to at the very least consider leaving these elements of my book in and to be honest I am thinking, “Fuck it! I’m just going to do it anyways – fear be damned.”

“To fear is to be alive. Its your job to understand that and to push past it…We all feel fear. But it’s not an excuse not to take action” (Bishop 119). This is the crux – to take action despite our fear. You can feel it but do not let it overwhelm you to the point of inaction. I realize I have been letting my fear cripple me and inhibit my ability to pursue my goal of being a published author. I need to have faith in my story and that it was meant to be told which I genuinely do believe. I believe my experiences are bigger than me and need to be shared in order that someone experiencing the same pain can have a guide post to reference as a piece of hope. I got through it and so can you. I need to acknowledge my fears but do not let them overcome me. I have been trying to do this by challenging my thinking. For example, “This book may be published and maybe no one will read it.” I challenge that with “Maybe it won’t be a bestseller or even popular but if it gets in the hands of just one person who benefits from reading it then it will all be worth it.” I have decided to start actively sitting down with my manuscript so far and work on it each day for at least an hour. This could mean I write, or maybe revise, or even research but the point is to sit with it until the fear washes away and I am spurred to action.

I will end this post with one more quote from Bishop that really resonated with me, “You can either be driven by that fear or declare yourself big enough to bring it along for the ride. Fear can be the companion or the driver; that choice will be yours” (Bishop 127). This is what I like about Bishop’s writing in that the ownership is put on the individual. It is up to me to accept my fear and yet continue to move on. I am no longer going to let fear be the driver but I will accept it as my companion for though I fear writing my book, I also fear not writing it more. I worry for that person in the throes of psychosis not understanding why or how this is happening to them without a compassionate voice (mine) for which to access and lean on for inspiration – that your experience does not define you but rather how you react and process it does. I want to be a voice for those who are too scared to speak up and admit to others and the world that losing your actual fucking mind is literally terrifying and makes you feel alone  and more than anything ashamed.

Don’t let fear have the last word but accept it for what it is a driving force that can be reigned into motivation. My fear motivates me to share my story and as authentically as possible because quite frankly it’s scarier not to.

Stay Tuned for the next blog post on Gary John Bishop’s thoughts on “Success” and my interpretation of it.

All My Love,

BiPolarMania,

XOXOXOXOXOXO

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise As Fu*K” – Loss

My new and already very worn edition of “Wise As Fu*k”

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise as Fu*k” delivers an impactful punch of insight in a straightforward no-bullshitting style that is admirable. Bishop breaks down his books into sections or rather “fundamentals of life:” Love, Loss, Fear and Success. I will admit I perused the “Love” section but the parts on loss, fear and success really spoke to me in a way that has motivated me to attempt to make a very real change in my life. I will address the three sections of loss, fear and success in three separate blog posts. This one will be dedicated to Loss.

Bishop offers several nuggets of wisdom throughout this book and writes in a way that connects with you on a universal level. You cannot help but be entranced and pushed to ponder further the ideas he expresses through his writing. Before he even begins to address the topics explored in this book he drops a bomb of wisdom in the opening pages, “you have the life you’re willing to put up with” (Bishop 7). He asks you to then let those words sink in and compare your own life to the statement and how you’re currently living.

It is because of statements like this that Bishop is one of my favourite writers in that he puts the responsibility back on you. He reminds us that it is up to us to create the life we want or think we deserve. No bullshit, no excuses, what you make of your life is up to you. This phrase made me a little uncomfortable because if I am being completely honest I have been accepting a level of mediocrity currently in my life. I know I could do better and that I could be taking real action to turn some of my goals into reality. That’s ok though because now that I am reminded of the ownership I have on my life, I can make a plan to change it to reflect more of the life I want for myself.

It is Bishop’s reflections on “Loss,” however, that really opened my eyes to some of the shit I have been carrying around and letting impact my life. He points out that loss can mean more than the death of a loved one but can also be the death of a dream. He writes, “the loss of a dream or situation, the death of an answer to your current predicament or situation – we actually grieve about things that were supposed to happen but didn’t” (Bishop 85). I grieved the loss of my dream to finish my degree and become a professor for years. I literally drove myself to suicidal ideation obsessing over this loss. I may not have lost anyone but I felt the same sorrow if not more. I lost the idea of what I believed my future held for me – I lost the version of myself I had placed all my faith in. When my dream died, it felt like a piece of me died and as a result I legitimately wanted to die.

 “Wise as Fu*k” reminds us that grief is a natural part of being human but it is up to us to interpret that experience and collectively move on from it. Bishop writes the following, “…you do have to be responsible (aware) about how this experience plays out in your life in the longer term. Most people have zero awareness of the lingering clouds of loss in their life and how they have changed themselves in its aftermath. The changes, sometimes subtle; the results, completely life-altering.”

Upon reflection of these words, I realize now that when I lost my dream there was definitely a lingering cloud of loss that tainted me moving forward. I convinced myself that I was uncapable of receiving a degree or working towards one and put off schooling for about five years. I did not grieve in a healthy manner and became obsessed with my loss to the point it affected my future. I eventually worked through my shit and am now working towards a graphic design degree at the local college but I wasted a large amount of time getting lost in my well, loss, that could have been used towards moving forward. There is a certain amount of time which is appropriate to grieve things but once it becomes detrimental to your future – its time to move the fuck on.

Bishop says that you can identify the expiration date of your loss by the number of times you’re now using to explain or excuse yourself. If it starts to become your go-to to justify things occurring in your life or why you do the things you do then the expiration date is definitely past due. He writes, “But when that time of “enough” comes, you have to be ready to do the work to center yourself, to relocate that grief to a place where it strengthens rather than weakens you” (Bishop 95). It is up to you to heal yourself from whatever you are grieving. I realized too late (but better than never) that I needed to grow and work on myself in order to move past my grief. I sought counselling, read every self-help book I could get my hands on, and forced myself into school despite my doubts that I could never learn again due to my past experience of falling short of my goals. I repositioned myself into a better head space in order to move forward. I worked on my limiting beliefs and insecure doubts until they were no longer relevant but the key thing here is  “I” did that, no one else. It was up to me to work through my shit and I finally did. I am stronger for my grief but “Wise As Fu*k” has shown me that I could have chosen a lot sooner to work through it and from now on I will never delay my healing process – I’ll own that shit!

A picture of me In My Element -Reading

Stay Tuned for the following two blog posts on Fear and Success according to Gary John Bishop.

All my Love,

BiPolarMania,

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Mental Health Awareness Month – What Does Being Bipolar Mean To Me?

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In honour of this month being mental health awareness month, I have decided to blog about what being Bipolar means to me. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is hosting their annual mental health week this May 6-12 2019. This year marks the 68th annual CMHA Mental Health Week which is dedicated to reducing the stigma around mental illness and promoting good mental health. This year’s core message is “Get loud about what mental health really is.” Many Canadians confuse the terms mental health and mental illness and use them interchangeably. This confusion contributes to the stigma of mental illness by dividing people into those who experience mental illness and those who do not.

One in five Canadians live with mental health problems, mental illnesses or addiction. I am one of these Canadians. I struggle with and am diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I also struggle with an addiction to marijuana and prior to this year, an addiction to various illegal narcotics. What does being bipolar mean to me? It means a variety of things. It means I will forever be on a steady dose of anti-psychotic to keep my manic psychosis at bay, I cycle through moods more than I change my clothes, and I struggle to get out of bed most days. But being bipolar means more than anything that I struggle daily with my mental health.

According to CMHA, diverse evidence from across Canada and around the world indicates there are six common features of good mental health: a sense of self, a sense of purpose, of belonging, of contribution, enjoyment and resilience. I struggle with my mental health not only because of my mental illness but also because I feel a sense of lack in these common features of mental health. I find since having to leave University due to my mental illness, I’ve lost my sense of purpose. I used to wake up each day with one very real goal in my mind – to finish my Bachelor of Arts Honors. Every thing I did revolved around this goal and led to a sub set of goals such as starting my own arts organization on campus – which I did! I miss being a student because of one reason more than anything – I had a purpose in life.

These days it feels like my purpose in life is to simply get through the day. I realize how depressing that sounds but a big part of being bipolar means battling depression everyday. I am working on it though and going to counselling to try and maintain healthy mental health. My counsellor helps me realize that I belong and that I am contributing by reminding me of things I already know but when depressed seem to forget. She reminds me that I have several very real and positive relationships in my life. And when I inevitably and always commiserate about how I have nothing going for me, she has me focus on these relationships as well as the many things I do, such as volunteering at the Cat Adoption Center and the Art store. My depression tells me this is not enough and that I will never be as successful as when I was a student. I am working on understanding that I am doing the best that I can do at this current moment in time.

A very important aspect of mental health is having a sense of self. I feel as though in the past few years I have lost myself. I identified strongly with being a student and I was extremely successful at it. I got straight A-‘s, created and directed a visual arts group on campus, wrote for the student newspaper in the Arts section, and volunteered often at a local art gallery in the community. I felt on top of the world and in charge of my destiny working towards my goal to have a career in the Arts. Unfortunately in my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Art History and English combined, I experienced the onset of Bipolar disorder and my first manic psychosis (I would have another a few years later). This derailed my education and changed the way I identified myself. I started to see myself as only a young mentally ill woman.

I became so depressed that I did not leave my bed for months (literally months!). I was then hospitalized for depression. I lost the one thing I could depend on to be successful at which was my education. Suddenly, I had a new version of myself to reconcile with and I did not like this new self at all. It caused mental turmoil that I still struggle with today. I had to deal with the fact that I was Bipolar. I felt the stigma that comes with being Bipolar not only from others, but from myself. I genuinely believed once diagnosed that I was “less than.” I was mentally unstable and that is frowned upon in society. I felt like an outcast, like someone who belonged on the fringes. I now realize being Bipolar is only one part of me and that I am actually many things like an animal lover, daughter, art enthusiast, etc.

I am now working on finding myself and that is a key component of good mental health. It is important to continually challenge yourself to explore the many facets of you. It will lead to a better understanding of what it takes for you to maintain mental equilibrium. I am discovering, for example, in order to feel productive that I need to blog, read, write, or create a piece of art. I am starting to explore these things more in order that I may understand myself and what it takes to make me feel good.

I am also starting to reconnect with my previous love of fitness. I used to be an avid runner and gym-goer. After years of being too depressed to even want to work out, I am beginning to go to the gym about three times a week. I am working towards running long distances again and thinking of entering myself into a few community races. I will be working towards my goal to lose the twenty pounds I gained from being depressed for the next couple of months. When I work out I feel ten times better about myself and I love the endorphin high!

Being Bipolar means to me that every day I fight to be mentally healthy. This can mean  going to my doctors appointments or simply doing the things I enjoy. I need to ensure that I am taking my medication regularly and that I am doing things that make me feel productive in order to have good mental health. I am a person who values being productive both as a person and in society. This is why when I am not working towards any goals, I am at my most depressed. I have become self-aware and realize this about myself now and so can take steps to avoid it. Being Bipolar means I have obstacles to overcome but the disorder does not define me. I am not Bipolar disorder rather Bipolar disorder is a part of me.

The most important thing to remember is you are not alone and that everyone struggles with mental health at some point in their lives. I want to share my story so others know that they are not the only ones. This week is important to shine a light on a common issue but one that seems less talked about – our mental health. It is arguably one of the most important aspects of our lives and yet we are made to feel ostracized when bringing it to the discussion table. We all want to believe everyone else is perfect and that we struggle alone. This mentality needs to stop and more people need to stand up and say “hey, I understand, I struggle with that as well.” But for now a week dedicated to mental health awareness is a good start and I think it is an awesome thing for CMHA to host.

Remember you are not alone and  a mental illness does not define you.