Graphic Design: My Hidden Talent and Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a journey…

Through mind, soul, and body,

This is an exploration…

Through beliefs, misconceptions and facts,

This is a compilation…

Of stories, insights and advice

These are my favourite:

Roads to Loving,

Breaking,

and Healing.

-Brittany Gushue

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

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

-Brittany Gushue

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

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

Almost Two Years Sober and Counting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t you miss getting high?”

To that I reply, “I am already high.”

ALL My Love,

Still Sober,

xoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

A Love Letter To My Sneakers,

I run to fly.

A Love Letter To My Sneakers,

You gave me the freedom to fly when I felt trapped in the cage that was my mind. Running turned to gliding with the support of your stability. I ran faster and harder, leaving behind demons who tormented me. I never knew such power until I met you, my inner strength constantly unleashed by the strides you allowed me to take. 

I want to thank you for showing me consistently I am capable of more than I give myself credit. You set the pace for my tortured mind to find grace. There is a stillness and peace found in your presence I have yet to find anywhere else. 

Regardless of the distance travelled, I never regret the journey with you. I find myself a little more with every adventure we take together. When life becomes unbearable there is perspective in your steps, pushing me forwards – towards the light. 

You lift me up when I need to soar, reminding me of the bigger picture once more. You never judge me for the thoughts I express but rather offer to help me work through them. The pace is always mine to set and there is never resentment whether it be faster, or slower. 

I want to thank you for teaching me resilience, that recovery is a process. No two strides are ever the same as you continually teach me I am capable and worthy of change. You fight for my right to become the best possible version of myself – I love that about you. 

“More than anything I run to fly, to take my mended broken wings and force them into the sky.”

– Brittany Gushue (Me)

The more time I spend in your shoes, the more I realize life is not always about the destination rather the adventure one experiences on the way there. There are times I want to stop, hit pause, and give up, but you inspire me to keeping moving forward despite this.  

I want to thank you for demonstrating the only competition I have in this life is with myself. I know I can always rely on your steadfast commitment to my growth. You allow me the space to explore my potential without judgment. 

I run most days to think through my thoughts and emotions and somedays, to avoid them. Regardless of the intent, my mind is always clearer and less cluttered, no longer bogged down by the negativity I am ashamed to admit can crowd my brain. 

More than anything I run to fly, to take my mended broken wings and force them into the sky.

Sever the Tie. Let That Shit Go.

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

Sever the Tie. Let That Shit Go.

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

Let That Shit Go. Release The Toxicity.

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

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

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

All My Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

My Dream Box – Do You Dare To Dream?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always dreaming, All my Love,

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

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

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

Do You Think You Might Be Going Insane Again?

I recently had a major shift in my life in that a very serious relationship of mine came to its end. I have been coping very well compared to times in my past where I would just lose it in sorrow. I recognize now that I am older that sometimes things just don’t work out or go according to plan. I also know I gave my whole heart to this relationship and have no regrets. Is it a let down? Absolutely. But I am already getting over it and for some reason my family thinks that is a sign I might be mentally unstable again. I resent that.

My mother approached me recently and said “Do you think you might be going insane again?” She claims she is worried because I party too much, am constantly meeting new people, and am modelling again. She said it’s okay to be upset right now that something major has changed in your life. But honestly what if I am not upset? I am just doing me, is that such a crime?

I am a little offended that she would compare what I am doing right now to when I was in the throes of mental illness. I was acting super bizarre and had delusions of grandeur back then and now I am honestly just chilling enjoying myself and life. Everyone is looking at me like I am breakable and about to break but I am the strongest I have ever been because I know in my heart of  hearts that I am capable of more – more love and more potential.

When someone tells you they think you might be going insane you start to question yourself and think “well shit, am I going insane?” I mean I have no racing thoughts, no desire to partake in risky behavior and am still rocking the sober life (from drugs). I never realized moving on with your life and doing you would mean you come off as crazy to others. Don’t get me wrong I did some grieving. I put on every sad song I could think of and balled my eyes out reflecting on what and who I had lost. The next day though I picked myself off the floor and carried on. If that makes me seem crazy then so be it.

Everyone copes and moves on differently from things. This time around I chose to do it in a healthy manner and celebrate me. I realized things are fleeting and I want to enjoy my life right now and for what it is and should be – a good time. I also recognize for once that it was not my fault it ended, far from it. Some things are just not meant to be and this was a situation that was definitely not meant for me. I am done feeling like shit, doubting myself, and putting myself down for every little thing that does not quite go the way I expected.

At the end of the day just remember to be true to yourself and if people don’t like that then honestly they can go fuck themselves. I am doing me now more than ever and plan to keep it that way. However, with my history of poor mental health, I will be sure to reach out to loved ones the instant I feel something may be bothering me or wrong. I have learned from my mistakes and that’s all you can really do.

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A Picture of me (Modelling) moving the fuck forwards.

I will always carry a torch for “Torches” (Foster the People)

Music has always been a form of therapy for me and I find myself relying on it now more than ever during this madness. I have mostly been rediscovering older music that I used to lean on in times of crisis. One band in particular I have “rediscovered” is “Foster the People” and more specifically their album “Torches.” Two songs on that album have always resonated with me depending on what was going on in my life at the time – “Waste” and “Warrant.”

I have been struggling recently with these unsure times and falling trap to a negative downward spiral of emotions and more poignantly – thoughts. I came across the song “Waste” today and remembered why I fell in love with it and how it constantly resonates regardless of what you are experiencing. In this song the band sings the following lyrics that get me thinking every freaking time:

“How long, I say how long, will you re-live the things that are gone?
Oh yeah the devil’s on your back but I know you can shake him off
And every day that you want to waste, that you want to waste, you can
And every day that you want to wake up, that you want to wake, you can
And every day that you want to change, that you want to change, yeah
I’ll help you see it through ’cause I just really want to be with you…” 

The song is so true on so many levels. Everyone has a devil or sorts on their back that they are trying to shake loose. I am trying to shake off my insecurities with how I have lived my life and where it is headed. Like the song says you can waste the day or choose to wake and conquer it and even decide to change. It has been easy to waste the days away lately without much purpose other than to survive it. I have goals but I keep putting them off and saying “tomorrow will be the day I do this.” But ultimately each day I have the choice of what to do with it.

I realized after journalling one morning why I put things off and it is because I am a perfectionist at heart and believe I can never see results like the ones I imagine in my head so why bother? This is a horrible way to approach life and one I intend on working on changing around. I have what most people struggle with, a fear of failure, so I default into avoidance mode rather than try anything because if I don’t try then I will have not failed. Let me just say this is the most backwards fucked up logic I’ve ever heard and it plays on repeat in my mind each day.

One of my main goals (which if you follow my blog you are already aware of) is to write my memoirs living and struggling with bipolar disorder. I always thought I would write it when I had more time but now that we have been in quarantine I can honestly say I’ve barely worked on it. That excuse was just that – an excuse. I now have all the time in the world and am wasting it more or less staring at my four walls (while of course at the very least listening to good throwback music). I am a procrastinator and work better with strict and short deadlines but the lack of writing has gotten out of control. I realized there must be a deeper issue which I now understand goes hand in hand  with my fear of failure. Simply put I am terrified to invest all my time and energy into something that may very well result in nothing.

I have decided today to change that around after having listened to “Waste” and understanding that it is ultimately up to me to make a change. I am going to try to start slow of course to ease my way into it and dedicate one to two hours each day to confronting my project, whether that be editing pages I’ve already written, organizing and planning an outline or hell, even writing itself. I can no longer avoid these issues or my project because in my heart of hearts I know it will be a successful endeavor if I just have a little faith.

Whatever demons or “devil” that is riding your back, I want you to know that with some true effort you can shake em loose. torches_by_katribou_d56ipnu-fullview

 

 

You’ll Be Flying Again Soon…

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

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

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

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

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

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