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

My Journal – A Look Inside the Chaos

A picture I took of my actual Journal.

Every so often (usually once a year) I buy a new journal when I feel a shift in attitude towards life coming on, to mark the beginning of a new phase in my life or simply because I find the journal too cute to not buy. All three reasons mentioned above motivated me when buying my “I Gotta Have Hope” journal by a company called “Knock Knock.” You can check out their site knockknockstuff.com to see a plethora of witty products they create. They state their mission is to “to bring humor, creativity, and smarts to everyday life.” They have definitely succeeded in their mission by bringing such a unique and clever journal to life. This journal prompts me to reflect and grapple with the topic of hope. There have been points in my life where I have lost all of that – hope – which is why I picked up this journal because I am ready to dream again.

This journal by Knock Knock is referred to as an “Inner-Truth Journal” which is explained on the back of the book: “Journals provide us with a trusted place to be entirely honest, but Inner-Truth Journals are themselves honest. With validating prompts and hopeful (but not hokey) quotes, you’ll journal until you believe in the beautiful dream again, more or less.”

The journal follows the same template for each pair of pages. On the left is a inspirational quote on hope meant to prompt your journal entry or at the very least provide a wise reflection. On the right is a ruled page for the journal writer to fill in his or her thoughts of the day. There’s a really cute element added at the end of each entry which is pictures of glasses ranging from spilled, to half full, to full and, even full with an umbrella. Above these four different choices of glass, are the words “Today’s Hopeful Outlook.” It serves as a check in for yourself to see where you are at that day, whether you see that day’s glass as half empty or half full. The design of the journal is very simple and the quote appears in a white font against a different coloured solid background. This lack of “visual noise” like too many graphic elements, or images, etc., strips the quote being referenced down to its bones. It stands alone and comes across as even more meaningful for its ability to do so. That is one thing I need to mention about this journal, these quotes are phenomenal and not just randomly picked but rather curated. They were chosen for their unique ability to make you ponder your life on another, higher level.

Now everyone can use this journal differently but the way I do it is I open to a new page and read the quote or rather prompt then write how I’m feeling from the context of that quote. Today’s quote really resonated with me on a personal level because I had one of the deepest depressions of my life where I had to be hospitalized and put on suicide watch as a result of not understanding this: that I am ultimately the editor of this story – of my life. The quote, “It is never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise” by Nancy Thayer comforts me and also incites me into action. On one level, I can reconcile my past and let it go because ultimately I can change my future yet on another it pushes me to do something, to revise something.

A picture of the prompts featured.

I had a dream of becoming a professor of Art History and getting my Masters and PhD before the age of 30. I had it all planned out and was on track to achieve it (honor roll, super involved in extracurricular activities) when it all blew up in my face with the onset of bipolar disorder, more specifically a manic psychosis. I had a complete break from reality and the anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers that were meant to bring me back to sanity made it impossible to focus and study the way I had been used to, prior to this episode. I eventually had to withdraw from my fourth year at Carleton University and accept that I could not achieve my dream. This led to a further spiral into depression and another hospitalization all because I still had yet to learn that “It is never too late in life to revise.” I genuinely believed because my dream was over that my life was over. It did not occur to me until much later after several years and several self-help books and oh hey! – journaling, that I had a revelation: I can have more than one dream and I have the last say on what I ultimately do with my life.

I lost a lot of ground stuck in this mind loop of self-loathing and pity. When all I needed to do was reframe the way I viewed life. I realize now we have the right and power to flip the script, to revise our life. And all you need to start this revision/change is to open your mind to the possibility of it. This is what this journal in general does for me. It opens my mind to the possibility of hope and of a new dream. It allows me to imagine better for myself and try to actively work out what that may look like. My dream of being a professor died but maybe it made room for a better, more fulfilling dream – like my new found dream to be published and share my journey from sanity to insanity, and back again.

An image of my journal entry from Nov. 16, 2020.

I write on Nov. 16, 2020, about my struggles to write my book I am working on. I write, “I dream of finishing my book to give myself hope of a more meaningful and impactful life. I want to share my story in hopes that just one person will find comfort in hearing it.” This was prompted again by the quote provided on the left hand side of the page. I love this journal because it causes you to reflect not only on what you hope and dream for but also the reason why. I strongly believe that if you have a powerful enough understanding of why you want something, you are more likely to work harder for it. I understand now that at the root of everything, in the grand scheme of life, I am hoping to just find some meaning.

In short, if you’re looking for journals that will prompt you to change your life then look no further past Knock Knock’s “Inner-Truth” Journals.

All my love,

Forever Journaling,

BipolarMania,

xoxoxoxoxoxo.

Life Update

One of those bomb photos I’ve been taking and oh hey! A Self-Portrait – yeah that’s me.

I’ve decided to write one of my “Life Update” posts since I have not done that in awhile now and in case anyone was curious on how’s it going, ahaha. I find myself recently in a funk of procrastination but have decided to finally get moving on some projects (fingers crossed I actually start). One of these projects is to write more frequently for my blog and give it a facelift so to speak. I intend to change the layout and buy an official domain soon and hopefully start to learn how to monetize my blog (if you have any tips leave a comment or send me an email). So far all I have done is fall down the rabbit hole of debating whether or not to switch to WIX for my blog, but after some research have decided WordPress exceeds my needs. I am hoping to learn how to do some coding soon and really tweak with this blog in a way that will help bring my vision to life. But first, let’s start with some content!

Last year around this time I was really insecure and fixated on my weight since it had been getting out of control as a result of my medications. I am happy to say I lost twenty five pounds since then and have managed to keep them off. I had a super active summer which I was proud of from playing tennis, to longboarding, to swimming, to running almost every day. However, life update alert – I have not exercised in three months now. I went from being super active to sitting at a computer all the time or lounging. I have been procrastinating getting back into a workout routine but have decided that THIS WEEK I shall start again! I have come up with a feasible plan of doing one short workout video a day, every day! (Well, we’ll see about that, haha) I found a great fitness youtuber last year when I started my fitness journey called MADFit and her videos range from minimal equipment to no equipment at all. She has a whole range of videos depending on what you’re looking for whether it be a full body or simply an ab workout – 10/10 I recommend her!

I have also been putting off what I think it my life’s project/purpose which is to write a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder from mania to psychosis, to depression, to mania and psychosis again and eventual recovery. I admit I get a little discouraged by the enormity of writing a book firstly and secondly one that exposes me in such a raw, inhibited way. I am a little worried that certain people will read this and think differently of me and judge me from where I’ve come from but honestly I believe it’s a story that needs to be told, and shared. I want that one person coming down from a full blown manic break from reality, to have a piece of literature like the one I intend to write so they know, “hey, someone else experienced this and came out better for it, maybe I can do the same.” Basically I want to offer hope to not just those with bipolar but to those who struggle with being “different.” Being different is a super power that needs to be harnessed and not stuffed down or hidden from the world. Our uniqueness should be celebrated and poor mental health should be acknowledge not just as a weakness but rather a strength – a place from which you can grow.

I digress… another thing I have been working on is chipping away part time at a degree in Graphic Design at the local college. I took what I imagined and convinced myself was going to be the hardest course by far called Applied Digital Technology which is basically digital art. We used three main programs: Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. I have never used these programs before and have very limited computer knowledge (for example, I had to google how to properly “zip” a folder to submit my assignments). This is why I had been avoiding taking this course for I thought it would be the nail in the coffin that would indicate to me that maybe Graphic Design wasn’t actually the right choice. I decided to take it on though and online so virtual nonetheless! And drum roll….I aced it! I finished the course with a 92 which to me was beyond my expectations. I was so sure I was going to fail, like tank it!

Another new thing in my life is my renewed interest in photography brought on by school. I have been practicing taking portraits of my friends and can honestly say some of the stuff I’ve shot looks pretty legit, like profesh! I really enjoy the process of finding that perfect shot, from behind the scenes (staging make up and coming up with outfits), to the more technical and artistic aspects of it (finding the right light and camera setting). I recently sold my Canon Rebel T5i and upgraded to a Canon Rebel T7i and even got an additional telephoto lens (I have yet to play with, omg!). Below is the first picture I have so far taken with it of my dog Riley. I saw him on the deck shoving his nose in a pile of snow and immediately ran for my camera and chased him around the yard taking shots until I got this one!

My dog Riley, shot with my new Canon Rebel T7i

So the general consensus is life is good but it could be better, however isn’t that always how it goes? We’re never truly content with what we have or enjoy the present moment for what it is. The point is I need to get off my ASS and start working on these projects, both my fitness, personal, and academic ones. The only way is to take it one day at a time and hopefully build up some momentum in setting and achieving goals. But one very key Life Update: I am in a very different space mentally and physically from last year, and the year before that, etc. I think I am slowly recovering to who I was before all this bipolar shit got in the way. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate my past of mental illness for it makes me a more open minded and accepting individual (some might say too accepting sometimes, but oh well) but I’d be remiss to say it didn’t completely fucking derail and blow up my whole life.

But hey, I got a story now to tell! And if you couldn’t already tell – I am a pretty bomb writer 😉

Stay Healthy Folks! And stay tuned for some new stuff from me,

BipolarMania.

XOXOXOXOXOXO

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

scott-broome-4KlDZK1xWqw-unsplash

I had the great pleasure of reading Mark Lukach’s memoir “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” recently. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a loved one and their experiences dealing with the mental health of their significant other. It’s easy in the struggle to maintain sanity to forget that it is not just you struggling but rather your family is right there with you. Lukach details the account of his wife Guilia’s several stints in the psych ward in a relatively short span of time. Mark speaks about his feelings of abandonment from the  professionals at the Emergency Room who sent his wife Guilia home with medication instead of admitting her when she was having delusions of the Devil.

Mark and his in-laws would ultimately have to bring her back to the ER when she had more ramblings about the Devil and how he is still here and that she protected them from him. They gave her Ativan to calm down and through the fog of it she said “Mark, I am the Devil.” The on-call psychiatrist stated that she would need to be admitted and treated. Mark remembers this moment, “I knew that this was coming, that this was the inevitable next step in the process, but it still felt surreal.”

I realized while reading this book, I never truly thought about my parents and what they had to go through when I was admitted to the psych ward. Did it feel surreal to them? Were they upset? Did they feel as though they had failed me? Dealing with the pain of being forced to be hospitalized left me with no room to consider these questions until now. I feel so incredibly selfish that it took until now to reflect upon them. I hope they know they did everything they could to take care of me but that psychosis is inevitable when untreated for bipolar disorder. I wonder if it was a shock to them that I was being diagnosed with bipolar and sometimes I wonder if they think less of me for it. I know my mother never likes the word being uttered around family or in public as if I was saying God’s name in vain.

Mark’s wife was admitted on a form 5150 which means she was involuntarily checked in and needs to spend 72 hours there as required by law. He describes his first visit with her at the psych ward and it is heart wrenching. She screams at them to leave and that the Devil is there and wants them. She was hysterical with fear and screamed “Don’t you dare come near me!” At one point she rolled onto her back and started to chant “I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.” Mark recalls this moment, “I’m not sure which scared me more: listening to my wife whisper her death wish or scream it.” Throughout all this Mark continued to support his wife and assured her that the Devil would not get her or him and that their love was stronger than any of it, they would get through this.

I similarly had a moment in the psych ward where I wanted to die. They had me on a heavy dose of lithium which we have now learned does not work for me and actually makes me more depressed and suicidal. I laid in the hospital bed crying that I wanted to be with my father and that I thought I was ready to be with him (my father died years ago). My mother just held me crying and I eventually drifted off to sleep and waking to a new day in which they decided to take me off lithium  and instead put me on a nice healthy dose of anti psychotics. Anti psychotics have worked for me then and ever since – keeping me stable.

Once Lukach’s wife was discharged from the hospital she slumped into a eight month depression following her psychosis where she fixated on suicide and was extremely lethargic from the medications she was put on. She was discharged with no firm diagnosis but the doctors had ruled out schizophrenia. Lukach writes, “We had no clear explanation for what had gone wrong. It was probably related to a combination of lack of sleep, stress, hormones, and chemicals in her brain, but not even her clinicians knew what it was.” This meant they did not know if it would come back, however, ninety percent of the time psychosis recurs. They went on with their lives hoping that Guilia  was of the ten percent but as time would tell she was in fact part of the ninety percent.

The reason this book stands out for me not only because it is a memoir about a husband’s experiences with his bipolar wife’s psychosis, but also because it highlights the other side – the caretaker’s struggle with mental health. Lukach mentions he also started seeing a therapist while Guilia was unwell. The therapist wanted to know why Mark wanted so badly to be Guilia’s hero. Mark writes: “I wasn’t too interested in understanding why I devoted to much of my caregiving to Guilia. To me, the answer was simple and cliched: love.”

Mark mentions feeling like shit all the time and wanting to know why. He had never felt so disinterested and lethargic before in his life and was used to having an excessive amount of energy. His therapist said of course he feels like shit because he has been through a lot the past nine months with one month of his wife’s psychosis and following eight months of depression. She also points out that “the worst is over but everything you once knew is gone. The love you had with Guilia, the way you once knew it, is gone.”

Mark reflects on this realization: “Nothing could ever be the same. Our bliss, our puppy love from college, our charmed lives, it was all gone. Guilia’s psychosis and depression would color the rest of our relationship. Maybe even my own happiness wouldn’t come as easily as it always had. I would have to work for it and have the courage to do the work.”

Guilia would eventually end up back in the psych ward following the birth of their son Jonas, after tapering off lithium mostly because she would not be able to breast-feed on it. Instead of a psychosis fixated on hell though this psychosis would fixate on the notion of heaven. After days of not sleeping and rambling about heaven being earth she was admitted to the psych ward for her second time in three years. The doctor believed Guilia was suffering from postpartum psychosis. The doctor would eventually officially diagnose Guilia with bipolar disorder I, characterized by soaring highs and crippling lows. Guilia somehow experienced both as negatives with her mania fast-tracking into psychosis, with paranoia and delusions. The doctor made it clear she will have to be on lithium for the rest of her life.

Guilia would be released from her second stay at the psych ward after thirty two days. Mark would end up feeling uneasy with the two hospitalizations and begin to research bipolar more thoroughly. He spoke with Sasha Altman DuBrul, one of the founders of the Icarus Project, an alternative medical health organization that calls mental illness “the space between brilliance and madness.” Sasha introduced to Mark the concept of a mad map. Mad maps allow psychiatric patients to outline what they’d like their care to look like in future mental health crises. They are designed to encourage patients to plan ahead in order to give them more control and avoid, or at least minimize future mistakes.

They came up with a plan for if Guilia starts to relapse again. If she can’t sleep again, she will take one milligram of Risperdal (an antipsychotic) by midnight. If she still can’t sleep by two a.m., she will take two more milligrams for a total of three. Guilia would relapse again and even though she followed the mad map she would end up in the hospital a third time. However, this time, she was discharged after thirteen days – the shortest of all her stays. This may be because they had the safety net of the mad map which lessened the blow of her episode with medication ahead of time instead of only after the fact.

This book was a beautiful account of a husband’s struggle and triumph being his mentally ill wife’s caregiver. It addresses resentments felt and issues with the mental health system. Mark stands by his wife through three psychotic breaks and proves what true love looks like – it is kind, understanding and supportive. He even struggles with his own depression as a result of his wife’s mental health but finds solutions such as exercising regularly and seeing a therapist. The one thing Mark never does is give up on his wife. He genuinely stands by the vow “in sickness and in health” which some not as strong as him may have taken Guilia’s illness as a way to cop out.

If you are looking for a book that shows the other side of mental health – the side with loved ones who struggle to grapple with and understand their significant other’s mental illness – then look no further. This book has shown me what a true caregiver looks like and how they struggle with a variety of feelings. This book is called “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” and it is written by one of the loveliest husbands who in my opinion is a hero, a hero to Guilia.

My Second Manic Psychosis

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The third time I was hospitalized was for a manic episode, more specifically a manic psychosis. Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality.  I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of manic psychosis. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong.

I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. I was an extreme case of mania in which I generally believed I was a millionaire with tons of money at my disposal and a huge following on social media when in actuality I was on welfare and may have had about 300 followers on my Instagram account. Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, I would not let go of this delusion and even spent my entire welfare check – $800 – on makeup and perfumes at the local shoppers drugmart beauty counter just to give away all the products as part of a “marketing scheme” to boost my following and show appreciation for fans.

It was the receipt from this purchase that my mother found that indicated to her I may be manic and need to be hospitalized. People experiencing mania tend to blow their money without thinking and on unnecessary things. This is an indication that something is going wrong and that their mental state may not be as stable as it should be.

When my mother approached me to go to the hospital, I thought she was out of her mind but decided to go to prove her wrong. I in my deluded thinking thought she just could not accept that I had become successful. I went through a grueling intake in which first I was triaged and then brought to a little room for further questioning then promptly locked up in a padded cell. The bed did not even have sheets which I am guessing is a precaution to people strangling themselves with them.

I could see the camera aimed on me and thought “Big Brother is watching.” I began to scream at the camera saying “this is against my basic freedom and rights! When my lawyer catches on to this, you’re toast! I’m going to sue all your asses including this entire hospital!” (I in fact did not have a lawyer nor never have I had one). As an hour passed, of me screaming profanities at this security camera, and pacing nonstop back and forth in this padded cell, I boldly stated that “I am going to piss all over this bed unless someone comes in here and talks to me face to face!” Well that got their attention (god forbid I make a mess).

A nice lady came in telling me to calm down and that I would be admitted into the psychiatric unit at the hospital but they were waiting for a bed to open up. She explained that I was being placed on an involuntary hold and would be observed for three days minimum. I don’t remember much about my reaction but I bet I uttered more profanities and threatened to sue her personally. Oh, and I might have said some deluded thing like “I have a concert with thousands of fans waiting for me! Who is going to refund their tickets? You?” Needless to say I ended up in the psych ward under a three day observation which turned into a thirty day hold to eventually resulting in me staying at said hospital for three months before I finally “came down to reality.”

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

I never got any serious inquiries (thank god) but I did offer vice presidency of my supposed corporation to my best friend who knew I was deluded and played along. I unfortunately reached out to several people and offered contracts ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 dollars who actually believed me and were pretty pissed when the truth came out – that I was mentally ill and currently living in a psych ward. Some people guilted me when I was out that I had offered to upgrade their car and that I never followed through. I was like “excuse me did you not get the part about how I was in the nut ward?” But they ‘d go on to say I promised even though they finally knew the truth. They didn’t ask me “Are you okay,” instead they asked “Where’s my fucking sunroof?”

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came time to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book (I am writing a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder),  I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it.

It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, I rely on a 300 mg dose of abilify (an antipsychotic injection) every four weeks to keep me on the straight. This is a small inconvenience in my life when compared to the reality that I could lose my mind again if I do not keep up with these monthly injections. I do not wish my experience with manic psychosis on anyone because when the fog lifts and you’re left with just yourself, there is a deep sense of shame that overcomes you – that you could think, act and believe so bizarrely.

The important thing to recognize that this is an illness and it is not your fault but rather the brain chemistry you were born with and that it is treatable and possible to live a normal life. I think the shame comes from the stigma of being hospitalized for a mental disorder because it is not as accepted as it should be in society. I did go insane but that is not my baseline setting and is abnormal for me. Movies and Hollywood glamorize mental illness as people constantly living with insanity and being dangerous to others and themselves but this is not always the case. Medication can do wonders to balance out the brain and correct abnormal behavior in those living with mental illness. It is not a death sentence or a sentence to being in a psychiatric unit your entire life – in my case maybe for intervals but the majority of the time I am like everyone else just living my life to the best possible potential that I can.

Delusions of Grandeur and Just Plain Delusions

The third time I was hospitalized it was for a manic episode. I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of mania. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong. I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book, I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it. It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, my third stint in the psychiatric unit of the hospital was not my first experience with delusions nor was it my scariest. The scariest delusion I have ever had was that I had been raped and it was during my very first manic episode that I was led to believe this.

This book is called The Secret Diaries of a Manic Depressive Girl because I will be including images of diary entries from my actual diary during times discussed in the book. Below are images of when I was first admitted to the hospital for a manic episode, one symptom being my delusion that I was raped two years ago by a club assistant at a prominent Ottawa nightclub. You can see in these entries that I actually believed I had been rape and am trying to cope with that belief which I thought was reality.

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Diary Entry #1: Sept 4 2014. (the year is dated wrong in the original)

In my first diary entry of my journal at the time of my delusions I allude to a terrible memory I am attempting to suppress. This would be the memory or rather delusion of my rape. I mention I was purposefully not taking my anxiety medication so I could keep that memory docile. How anxiety medications and a memory of rape correlate I’ll never know but remember I was really sick and held on to strange beliefs – one being that I was raped.

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Diary Entry #2: September 17, 2014.

When reflecting on my diary, pages like the one above stand out as interesting. I am and have always been struggling with bipolar disorder and how my identity fits into this disorder. The very first question I write at the top of the page is: “Why am I letting this disorder define me?” I also state “I am ME. I am a person with dreams, with hopes, with desires.” And then I go on to reference a famous Mary Lambert song “Secrets” in which she begins the song “I’ve got bipolar disorder, my shit’s not in order.” However in my journal entry I play on that and write “I have Bipolar Disorder but that doesn’t mean my shit’s not in order.” It’s interesting to see I am still asking the same questions I was struggling with back then.

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Diary Entry #3: September 21, 2014.

Here I hold onto my delusional memory of a rape and state “I know I was raped and I know exactly who did it and I know which nightclub is responsible.” Again, I believed I was raped by a nightclub assistant manager who worked at Ottawa’s Mansion nightclub. I realize in hindsight, my delusional brain took my only one night stand at the time and corrupted it into a dark image of violation. I am a person who does not believe in casual sex and this encounter left me feeling dead inside. I also blacked out parts of the event due to copious amounts of consumed alcohol. It’s easy for a sick brain and a delusional one to take a fractured memory like this and create a new one, one that reflected the emotions felt towards the event.

I remember rolling around on the hospital’s emergency room floor bellowing “Stop! I do not want to see!” referring to the memory of a rape. I was having “flashes” of the rape that occurred in my mind two years ago but they were just a type of hallucination. I believe my brain was trying to find a new memory to reconcile the old one of being used for sex. In my warped mind, it was easier to cope with a rape and someone forcing themselves on me then to admit I had had sex with a shitty guy who just didn’t give a fuck about me. This rolling around and bellowing got me promptly admitted to the psychiatric unit where I would start treatment for my first ever manic episode. I started taking lithium and gradually the hallucinations, paranoia and ultimately delusions began to waiver.

It was not until months later that I was able to let go of the notion that I had been raped. I believed it with all my heart so intensely that I could not imagine just letting it go. In a much later diary entry I reflect on this (pictured below).

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Diary Entry # Unknown.

In this entry I write: ” Reading my journal, is like looking at a stranger, I don’t recognize myself. That’s fucked up – that my brain could create it’s own alternate space without the use of substances. My physical came back in the clear.” This entry reflects my ultimate acceptance that I had not indeed been raped and that this was a trick my bipolar brain had played on me. In the moment, I thought it was the realest thing imaginable and even seeked counseling for it. Imagine that! Someone seeking therapy for an event that never actually occurred but that their delusional brain had created. Now that’s messed up!

I have learned through this experience to not take my sanity for granted. I literally lost my mind to delusions of grandeur and just plain delusions. I understand now that bipolar disorder is an illness, but a treatable one and that with the right drug cocktail I can in fact keep that sanity in check. I am thankful I never tried to harm myself or kill myself due to this fabricated memory/delusion. Rape is in my opinion one of the hardest things to come back from and heal from. My mind was tormented by it and in my reality it was not even real. I could not imagine the pain one experiences from such an event. I am thankful my brain snapped back to its sane state and I could reflect on what was real and what was not. I will never take for granted a clear mind again. Delusions of grandeur are fun for only so long until you realize you are the only one having them.

A special thanks to all the doctors and nurses who helped me on my journey to recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thank u, next

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Ariana Grande and Mac Miller (one of Ari’s exes mentioned in “thank u, next”).

Ariana Grande released a new single called “thank u, next” recently in which she name drops exes and claims a new beau, Ari, a.k.a herself. Two things stand out for me the most when I listen to this song, firstly the sweet tribute to recently deceased Mac Miller, “Wish I could say “thank you” to Malcolm ’cause he was an Angel,” and secondly the power behind her lyrics.

“thank u, next” is a great break up song because of what Ariana Grande preaches and that is to love yourself. She hooks the listener in with the lyric “Plus, I met someone else. We havin’ better discussions.” The listener is left wondering who has Ari moved on to now? She answers this question in the following lines, “But this one ‘gon last. ‘Cause her name is Ari and I’m so good with that.” Grande chooses herself in the end and there is a certain power in that.

“I’ve learned from the pain. I turned out amazing” are the lyrics that resonate with me the most, however. Throughout my struggle with bipolar disorder, I can honestly say I learned from the pain. I grew as a person and came to have more gratitude for the things around me. I appreciate a good day so much more now that I have experienced so many bad ones.

I appreciate the little things like going shopping at the mall or going for a walk because there was once a time my mental health was so poor I could not do that. I had agoraphobia which meant I was terrified to leave the house and as a result ended up in a vegetative-like state on my couch for months on end. After experiencing a depression so deep, I now have a better understanding of what’s important.

Ariana Grande understands pain. She owns pain. Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester was attacked by a suicide bomber and rather than let it steal her voice she decided to put on a benefit concert for the victims. She truly has “learned from the pain and tuned out amazing” as the song goes.

I believe I too have learned from my pain and am better for it. I lost everything that ever meant anything to me when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had to quit the thing I love – school, to focus on my mental health and stabilization. This may have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth but in the end I gained something – a better understanding of life’s ups and downs.

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Sometimes You Just Want To cry… The Story Of My Bipolar Disorder And My Education

I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. I literally lost my mind in my early 20’s due to the onset of bipolar disorder. I was delusional and completely at a loss with reality. The onset occurred the year I was going to be attending my fourth and final year of University. This was a big deal to me for so many reasons, one of them being I had worked my ass off to come as far as I had come. I created and directed the Visual Arts Carleton club and had a voice in the art community as a regular volunteer/bartender at Gallery 101. I had even come to take a place on the board of directors at Gallery 101 but had to quickly retire the role due to my mental health, and that was devastating. The whole experience of losing one’s mind is made even the worse when said person has to pick up the pieces after the carnage is over. And the end result of my declining mental health was a hospitalization stay against my will in a psychiatric unit. The ultimate betrayal of my mental health was that I could not attend my fourth year of University and finish my degree which was my biggest dream. It was like what I had said before…devastating.

I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. My life would come to be defined by these episodes of mania and depression that I would experience as a bipolar person. Both landed me in the hospital at some point or another. My depression is not like your depression, its crippling and mind consuming. My brain looped on this one thought “You are a failure, you couldn’t even finish your degree after completing three years of University.” I would lay in bed twenty four hours of the day and sleep sixteen of those. I was trying to put my brain in a coma if I’m being completely honest with myself. It needed to heal and recover from its loss. I had come so close, cheek to cheek, to my dream of finishing university. It was heart breaking to come that close to achieving my ultimate life’s goal and not being able to have it. There was a lot riding on my education, mainly my parent’s hopes and dreams but also a giant student loan. I had to come out of those four years of studying obsessively with something, even if it was just a piece of paper. That piece of paper, that degree, defines you. It says “hey I made it!” and “I am capable.”

It has taken me years to come to terms with not only my disorder but the reality that I may not ever finish my degree and now that I’ve accepted that, I can honestly say it will be okay. As of late I’ve been thinking it would be nice to finish my degree even if its closer at home at Brock University and in a slightly different program than the one I started at Carleton University. However, while consistently being hospitalized the past few years my finances have been depleted. It may not be feasible to attend University anytime soon with my current financial situation. That being said, who says I need to finish this now? Who said I even need to get my degree in my 20s? Why not my 30s? I think my mentality that I should have achieved the goal of getting my degree by the time I was 22 was limiting me. It was only setting me up to fail. If you open and expand your mind to the possibility that everyone’s timeline in life is different than you leave more room for success. It’s all relative in the end. I have to make allowances for my mental health and accept that my condition has deferred my educational timeline for now. I may not get my degree in my 20s but I am feeling optimistic I will have my finances and health sorted out by the time I am 30 and can then try again to get my degree. I am not going to give up but I must admit bipolar disorder has been and caused the greatest set backs in my life. This will not deter me from setting goals and trying to smash them though, not anymore. I will not lie in bed like I used to wondering “why me?” I was given this illness for a reason because God or the powers that be thought I had the strength to handle it and frankly, I NOW accept the challenge.Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 9.01.06 AM

An Image from my First Year at Carleton University, I am the eighth person from the left.