Depression Takes All Shapes and Sizes

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There is no hard and fast rule for when I know I am depressed but generally speaking a lack of motivation, constant negative or anxious thinking, hypersomnia and a sense of worthlessness characterize my waves of depression. As someone with Bipolar Type One, I am prone to manic episodes but I have had more serious and more often depressive episodes. One depressive episode where I ultimately had to be hospitalized I did not leave my bed for literally three months and became Agoraphobic (scared to leave the house). I literally drove myself mental with obsessive negative thoughts that spiraled further and further out of control until I could not see any way out anymore. Luckily my family and then doctors intervened and were able to turn this episode around (I will write more about this experience one day).

However, I may not need to be hospitalized anymore (or at least for the past five years or so) but I struggle nearly everyday with depression and my depressive thoughts. It’s just not as severe as before now that I have been managing my symptoms with an anti-psychotic. I have been struggling more so the past few months probably due to Winter but have really been trying to push myself to some degree. I struggle with motivation when I am depressed for two reasons. Firstly, I constantly feel low so do not feel like doing anything but sleep and secondly, my negative thoughts convince my brain sometimes that nothing is worth trying cause I will just ultimately fail at it, like I fail at everything. I am not saying these are rational thoughts as I have definitely had some major successes but when my brain dips to that low point, all bets are off on what I’ll think and eventually come to believe about myself. This keeps me stagnant and lacking the motivation to make positive changes in my life that may even help the depression.

To help with my depression, on days where I was feeling more positive about life I made two key decisions which will now at least give my days some more structure. I registered for a course at the local college and signed up to be a volunteer at the local food bank. These are ongoing commitments and even on days when I feel like I don’t want to exit my bedroom, I have put myself in a position that forces me out and into the community. I have essentially tricked myself into having motivation for I am a stickler for follow-through. I find I dread going up until the moment I go and then once I get going, I feel so much better. For example, I laid in bed for as long as I could justify it prior to my first shift at the food bank (feeling slightly dejected and anxious like “what did I get myself into?”). That being said once I got there and started organizing things and even had my first client whom I helped get her and her husband groceries for the month, I began to feel better about not only my day but about myself in general. It is a humbling experience to volunteer with the neediest of the community because it really puts your issues into perspective. I may struggle with a mood disorder but currently am not struggling to find my next meal and that is something I think more than just me takes for granted.

Though I have set more structure to my days, there are still some days that are wide open and gaps in time on the days even when I am busy that I fall prone to hypersomnia – sleeping excessively. If I am not busy I tend to fall asleep around 6, right after dinner. I nap a lot also because I feel like sleep is an escape from my reality and helps me avoid the feelings of worthlessness I so often feel. I slept an excessive amount this weekend that I am even too embarrassed to figure out how much exactly. I am not proud of my coping mechanism for my depression but it brings me some comfort and that is how I rationalize it in my brain. But it has now become part of my depressive and anxious thinking as well and so it is a vicious cycle. What I mean is that I am depressed so I sleep copious amounts then get depressed about the excessive sleeping I am doing. I think to myself about how much time I waste sleeping and it gets me down. I know I could be doing more productive things with my time such as reading a book or going for a walk but I can’t seem to resist those damn sheets.

My depression changes each year and honestly I think it is slowly getting less painful each passing year as I learn better coping strategies and start to understand the way my brain works. This year’s depression is not even close to the year I was Agoraphobic where I never showered and never brushed my teeth. Back then I was also constantly researching ways to kill myself. I was never brave enough to try any but my brain became obsessed with the idea of shutting itself off to cope with the misery. I’ll take hypersomia over that any day but I do realize this is still something that needs some work too. I can’t sleep every time I feel down or I’ll never be awake  –  sad but true. I hope adding volunteering and school to my schedule will win half this battle but the other days when I am off I’ll just have to brainstorm some ideas to keep my mind productive and distracted from its self-consuming thoughts.

For those of you struggling with depression, I feel your pain and understand that your experience is unique from mine but often the feelings can be the same. We feel like nothing is worth doing and that we are not worth it. We feel like every day is a battle and one we’ve decided from the beginning that we are going to lose. The important thing though is that you get up and try, try, try. If you fall short of what you intended for the day or you’re struggling with thoughts of falling short in life in general, remember this – Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow you can try again.

12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life

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

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

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

New Year, New Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fantastic Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Tuned for more posts and updates from BiPolarMania.

The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl Ch. 1 – Manic Psychosis

When I was entering into my fourth and final year of University I experienced a manic induced psychosis. It was possibly the strangest and most frightening experience of my life. I experienced paranoia, delusional thinking and auditory as well as visual hallucinations. It was triggered by a LaSenza scout who contacted me to ask that I send in my portfolio to be considered for a Fall Photo shoot.

At this period in my life I had been pursuing modeling as a means to supplement my meager income. The majority of the shoots I did were in the nude so when it came time to send in my portfolio I was afraid of my nudes being leaked – the paranoia already beginning of what would ultimately result in a full blown psychosis. I emailed the scout asking for a waiver to ensure my nudes would be delivered safely over the big wide web. She did not understand what I was asking for and thought I was already asking for a contract to which she gave me attitude and stated that if hired I would receive upwards to $10, 000 but that I would receive no compensation for sending in my portfolio. She clearly did not understand what I was asking for.

This inspired me to don my journalistic cap and write a piece on the exploitation of models by major companies such as LaSenza. My editor loved the idea but did not understand the delusional reasoning behind my wanting to pursue this article which was to take down LaSenza and expose them for the unethical way they approached aspiring models. When my editor overheard a conversation between me and another writer of my ultimate idea and plan to take down LaSenza she decided to kill the article because she was afraid of being accused of slander and with good reason. However, during the process of researching and writing this article my paranoia grew indicating the onset of my psychosis.

My paranoia got so bad that I believed LaSenza was possibly following my every move trying to stop my attempt to expose them as a power hungry and immoral company. My paranoia became so severe that in a state of delusional thinking I actually believed they were watching me through my laptop. I had left my photo booth app open and saw the green light that indicated my webcam was on and thought it was them tuned into my laptop watching my every move. I did not stop to think rationally and realize I had photo booth open but minimized on my laptop. I even tried to stiff the pizza delivery guy when he accidentally forgot to bring his debit machine, thinking he was a spy of LaSenza who had tracked my whereabouts down. The scary thing is that in the moment all these delusional and paranoid thoughts seemed valid and rational but looking back I can’t help but laugh at how insane I had acted.

Unfortunately this was only the beginning of what was to result in my most delusional thinking. I began reflecting on my experiences as a model for the article I intended to write about how photographers and companies take advantage of amateur models and came to the conclusion that I had been taken advantage of. I even went to a photographer I had previously worked with under the guise of writing a piece on specifically waivers and their necessity for models without proper representation. It was ironic because I was trying to expose him for taking advantage of me when really I was taking advantage and misleading him on my true intentions for my article. I no longer have the recording of the interview but something tells me that I may have heard what I wanted to hear from him or that I even hallucinated his answers as proving me right – that he did in fact take advantage of me. What I do remember of the interview (again this could have been exaggerated in my mind or even hallucinated) was him confirming that photographers take advantage of amateur models without representation by paying them an extremely small fee than reproducing their image and selling it for more than ten times what they were paid.

I left that interview feeling smug but also dejected because I thought I had proved myself right – that I had been exploited as a model without representation. Again, this was only the beginning of what was to become my biggest and grossest delusion, that I had been raped as a result of my exposure to the underground modeling industry.

The deeper I got into the writing process for this proposed article and reflecting on my modeling experience, the more I reflected on relationships I had had with other models, photographers and other people I had encountered while working. One of these reflections was on the time I did a fashion show for Melia Concepts at Lobby Nightclub which is attached to Mansion Nightclub. During a run through for the show I had the entire club to myself to practice my dance number because I had the lead role in the show in which I was supposed to lip synch Kristen Bell’s famous “Doctor Long John” scene from the movie “Burlesque.” I noticed the DJ who put on the track so I could practice was someone I had slept with previously on one occasion, a.k.a. a one night stand, and that the minute he realized it was me who would be performing in the show immediately bolted and took off down the corridor to the adjoining club.

This resonated with me and in my paranoid thinking I thought he was guilty of something, something that I did not quite recollect. I began remembering the events of our one night stand and the details of that night did not seem to add up. I blacked out half of the sex because I was ten shots deep since it was St. Patrick’s day and I had ended the night in Mansion nightclub which is where he worked as the assistant manager. I remember not going home with him that night but having forgot my leather jacket in his office with my bus pass in it. As a student in the city of Ottawa, my bus pass might as well have been a bar of gold, it had that much value. I remember him texting me asking if he could come by and drop it off and possibly come up to hang out for a bit. I was also really sick and hacking like a disgusting 80 year old smoker when he came up and passed me my jacket. He sat on the bed and immediately began kissing me then one thing led to another and we were having sex. The next morning I woke up and instinctiually had the gut feeling I needed to run to the pharmacy and pick up Plan B because I remembered enough to remember he didn’t use a condom. In my paranoid and delusional thinking I thought this was the first indication of foul play since I had never, not even with partners of years let a man have sex with me without a condom. The memory of him bolting when I went to rehearse my part for the fashion show only seemed to confirm my delusional thoughts and I thought he bolted cause he knew he was caught and that his victim had come to face him.

I went to the hospital demanding a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago, which in hindsight was simply insane.. I showed up at the hospital around one in the morning with this bizarre request and the nurse on call asked me if I had been drinking, assuming I was drunk. I demanded to see a female doctor and only a female doctor is who I would agree to see but they were short staffed that night and the only doctor on call was a male. The nurse then asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which at the time I found strange and thought nothing of it until two days later when I would officially be diagnosed with this lifelong affliction.

I left the hospital that night not feeling satisfied and still extremely delusional. I felt that I needed a physical to prove that I had been raped and give me grounds to hopefully go after and catch my rapist. I woke up with the same determination and showed up at the women’s sexual health clinic the next day with the same bizarre request. The lady who did my intake interviewed me and asked why I believed I had been raped two years ago and how I thought it happened. As I explained I began to ramble and talk excessively about my past, a classic symptom of mania in bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder who are experiencing mania tend to “talk a mile a minute.” I began to reflect on the nurse from the emergency room the previous night and her question of whether I had been previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began to ramble about how my father must have had it because he was a raging alcoholic with anger issues who could never seem to express himself or behave properly. Then I started to hyperventilate and exclaim, “I must have bipolar disorder!” The nurse at the sexual health clinic looked extremely concerned by my speech and behavior and suggested she call me a cab to go to the hospital to be properly checked out.

I arrived at the hospital and immediately went to emergency explaining once again that I needed a physical to prove I had been raped two years ago and that I feared I may have bipolar disorder. They told me to wait in the waiting room and this was when I experienced my first visual hallucination, however, my delusional brain thought it was a memory. I saw the club assistant manager “in my memory” forcing my head down to give him oral sex. I felt drugged and like I could not refuse and ultimately performed the act. I snapped back to reality and immediately fell to the hospital floor rocking back and forth saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok, you’ll be ok.” The emergency staff noticed my strange behavior and immediately admitted me for a psych consult. When the doctor realized I was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as I insisted it had been over two months since drugs were in my system (which was true), she admitted me into the psychiatric unit for a three day observation.

Stay tuned for chapter 2 of The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl