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!

12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life

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

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

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

New Year, New Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anti psychotics and The Pesky Side Effect of Weight Gain

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Me at the Gym Progress Pic One in my Journey.

As far as side effects go I’ve had it pretty easy when it comes to my anti psychotic Abilify to mange my Bipolar Disorder. I have no nausea, tremors, or muscle rigidity.However, I do sleep more than usual since being on Abilify and I am experiencing some very serious weight gain though that could be attributed to the birth control I am on.

I did not realize how much weight I had truly gained until about three weeks ago when I was forced to step on a scale at my doctor’s office. I literally started balling as they left me alone waiting in her office for her to come in and consult with me on whether or not adding a mood stabilizer known to control appetite was a good idea. When she walked in she said I looked “voluptuous” but that she meant it in a good way. And I know she meant it this way because I carry extra weight well, so well that I had been deluding myself for months that it was not getting out of control. Most of my extra weight goes straight to my ass and boobs but as I slowly crept up in weight class, it started to gravitate to my arms and face which I was really starting to struggle with.

My psychiatrist asked me how many pounds I had gained since being on medication and I told him twenty pounds to which he was shocked but in actuality after stepping on the scale at my family doctor’s, I’ve actually gained thirty. This was a blow to my heart and my ego because I have always been in shape like annoyingly so. I even tend to have a six pack when I’m at my peak fitness. I have grown to become sensitive about my weight over the past year in particular since my mom has decided to voice her opinion on it but not in a constructive way, in a demeaning way. I’ll walk upstairs and she’ll comment “That skirt makes you look fat. You should really change,” or my favourite, “You sure you’re not pregnant or something? Cause you look totally fat!”

My mother is not one to talk she basically gave herself diabetes eating a full sized bag of chips and several cans of coke per night her entire life and I wish I was grossly exaggerating. She has heart problems and cannot be mobile for long periods of time because she can’t heft all her fat around. But have I ever once in my entire life made a comment about her weight? No, because I knew it was not my place and if I had I would have brought it up in a more sensitive manner. However, stepping on that scale put things into perspective. I WILL NOT BECOME MY MOTHER. I refuse to let my weight get carried away anymore from this point on, or rather since the moment I realized how bad it had gotten.

So what is my plan you may ask? My doctor and I discussed a lifestyle change and that is how I am choosing to view my new outlook on health so this becomes a permanent thing rather than a fad diet or fad workout. We decided to take a different approach to the mood stabilizer avenue because the mood stabilizer would block my birth control and I am not willing to have an IUD. I think this is a better plan because it motivates me to be healthier and do my research on what health is rather than taking a pill and hoping for the best. My doctor and I discussed what foods I should avoid, a.k.a. bread and carbs and what I should add more of such as fruits and veggies and of course protein. She has prescribed 3-4 times at the gym per week and I plan to stick to this as well as I can with my schedule.

I’m proud to say since about three weeks ago when I went to see my doctor I have lost ten pounds which I had made my Christmas goal. I did it safely too! I cut out coke and juice and added more water and tea to my diet. I cut out chips completely and unhealthy snack foods like chocolate and things chalked full of sugar. I actually now read the nutritional values of foods on the label which I have never in my life done before (sad but true). I also as of about two weeks ago started back in the gym and have managed three workouts this past week as planned. I just need to keep the momentum going and realize this isn’t some crash diet or get skinny quick trick but a lifestyle change, one I intend to make for the rest of my life.

Who doesn’t want to be healthy? When you take the time and sit to think of all the benefits such as feeling good and looking good on the superficial level. But also on the deeper level, things like lower risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and don’t get me started on how your mental health and even memory can improve. It just makes sense and it baffles me how people choose to stay unhealthy for so long and I was one of them who veered off the path for a few years but exercise disguised it. I am now taking a more holistic approach to health, trying to fuel my mind, body and spirit. Another thing to consider is my age as I am getting closer to my 30s I can’t get away with the constant sweets anymore and staying up all night partying. That was cute maybe when I was 22 but now I am more concerned with the longevity of my life. It’s time to change and I think I have already got a good kick start and possess the dedication and motivation to make this a part of my life on a daily basis.

You need to consider your choices everyday and how they will affect you long term. Perhaps meditation would be better than binging your Netflix show. You can still get an episode or more in but create a space of time that is wholly dedicated to you. Perhaps walking to the mall for a change would be better than driving? Maybe you should try the salad instead of the fries today? These are small decisions you can make that will help you in the long run and they don’t necessarily need to be inconvenient. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be sure to update you on my fitness and life journey soon.

Has anyone else who comes across this post have gained weight due to medication use? If so please comment and share your stories.

 

The Link Between Disorder and Genius

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“The subject of genius and mental illness has been discussed and debated on a scientific level for decades. Our cultural awareness of the link between mental disorder and genius is as old as philosophy. Plato wrote of what he called “divine madness,” and Aristotle recognized that creative people tended toward melancholia. It is no coincidence that such a high percentage of American Nobel and Pulitzer Prize – winning writers are also alcoholics” (Saltz, 9).

It was these lines in M.D. Gail Saltz’ book The Power of Different that led me to read this psychiatrist and bestselling author’s take on mental illness as a driving force for creativity. Saltz relies on scientific research, stories from historical geniuses and from everyday individuals who have not only made the most of their conditions but have also flourished because of them.

Being a blogger on mental health, specifically bipolar disorder, the idea of disorder being linked to genius extremely interested me. Saltz found in multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). Being both an artist and a person suffering with bipolar disorder this peaked my interest even more.

Clinical psychologist and writer Kay Redfield Jamison writes in her book Touched with Fire that Saltz references,  “Many of the changes in mood, thinking and perception that characterize the mildly manic states – restlessness, ebullience, expansiveness, irritability, grandiosity, quickened and more finely tuned senses, intensity of emotional experiences, diversity of thought, and rapidity of associational processes – are highly characteristic of creative thought as well” (Saltz 145). Bipolar is a disorder that has links to creativity which can be traced back to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Anne Saxton who unfortunately took their lives as a result of their cycling moods.

The most creative individuals however are not the “most well” or the “most ill” but rather are often “mildly ill.” Saltz references the research of Robert Bilder and Kendra Knudsen at the University of California, Los Angeles who observe this phenomena: “These are the individuals who can be diagnosed with all sorts of brain differences – like depression or bipolar disorder – who are simultaneously well treated and flexible enough to move back and forth between convergent and divergent thinking” (Saltz 206).

Examples of this kind of flexibility can be found in a forty-year longitudinal study conducted by Swedish researchers and published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research:” “These researchers found that being an author “was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Clearly the authors who suffered from these brain differences were functioning at a level high enough to enable them to produce publishable work. Moreover, these same researchers found much higher representation in scientific and artistic fields among those whose first-degree relatives had diagnosed mental illness” (Saltz 206).

In the words of Bilder and Knudsen, the creative brain needs to balance at “the edge of chaos: “the kind of creativity that produces novels, musical scores,entrepreneurial ideas, and scientific theories requires the ability to flip back and forth between organized and messy thinking” (Saltz 206).

Often times people with bipolar disorder who enjoy the creative frenzy that accompanies mania or hypomania neglect to take their medication in order to ride the high out a little longer, so to speak. The flurry of ideas that come during these manic episodes can seem intoxicating and I can speak from experience of a rush of ideas that came over me that all seemed pressing and yet I was too disorganized in thought to be able to hold any one idea down.

Nassir Ghaemi, Who treats many bright students in their teens and twenties, says, ” is that people with bipolar disorder can benefit from taking a broad view of their own creativity. When patients resist medication, the real issue they’re having is that they think about creativity is just one thing, as this kind of flash of inspiration that happens when you’re manic. And that is part of creativity, but there’s another kind of  creativity.”(Saltz 150). 

Ghaemi cites the work of psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, who wrote about what he called “sculpted creativity”. “This is not a flash of inspiration, but it’s insights that overtime you put together, like a Sculptor. And it’s not something that happens all of a sudden. This durable sort of creativity depends on maintaining equilibrium over the long haul –  that is, not burning out like a light bulb or losing time to severe manic and depressive episodes” (Saltz 150).

Ghaemi tells his patients the following: “instead of having a lot of creativity really briefly and then being depressed and fallow for a long time, you’re better off having less creativity more regularly, more consistently. it actually adds up more that way.”  (Saltz 150).  

In multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). I can speak from experience as a visual artist and writer with bipolar disorder that the shift between moods elevates my work in ways if I was quote on quote normal would not be as interesting. When I am hypomanic (not manic because that is too much of an extreme) I have creative ideas and am more able to execute them such as writing this blog on the link between creativity and bipolar disorder. When I swing into more of a depression, I am more prone to edit my work and create visual art because I ruminate more and am able to take on longer projects such as a big painting or technically precise artwork that takes several bouts of time.

However, I have been medicated for years and now notice a more sculpted creativity Nassir Ghaemi speaks of in that I have more creativity that is productive instead of bursts of disorganized manic ideas that I would have a harder time following through on. I am also prone to experience mania as psychosis and so my ideas turn psychotic in nature and no longer productive at all, like thinking I can buy eight mustangs with money I do not have.

I do notice an artistic temperament to bipolar disorder, in that us bipolar people tend to be more melancholic in nature and so reflect on the world in a more drawn out manner and have the gifts of mania/hypomania to illuminate ideas/ ways in which we can translate these thoughts to the general public, typically through writing and art. However, there is a pendulum effect to being productive with creativity in that you must ,as discussed above, be slightly insane but sane enough, or rather medicated enough, to be able to translate that insanity into something coherent. Me raving mad in the psych ward about the millions of dollars I have and trying to order things I cannot afford are not well executed ideas or a productive use of my illness. However, writing about it later while medicated provides others with bipolar disorder a sense of hope, that they can create normalcy out of insanity and even discuss it openly without shame or stigma. I couldn’t string more than two sentences coherently together while manic let alone write a full blog post. It is through medication that creativity can truly foster and grow. It is through balance that the bipolar mind can be as creative as it was meant to be.

The link between disorder and genius is evident through research and influential creators who are linked to this disorder. Virginia Woolf may have committed suicide but she is still arguably one of the best English writers of her time and for that matter even all time. Bipolar disorder has its pitfalls like in the case of Woolf a higher risk for suicide but it also creates a powerhouse of potential, the potential to create something meaningful from the chaos of the mind.

 

INKTOBER – Empirical Evidence of An Improvement In My Mental Health

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My Inktober sketch for Day Four’s Prompt “Build”

Inktober is a month long art challenge created by artist Jake Parker that is focused on improving skill and developing positive drawing habits. Every day for the month of October anyone participating in the Inktober challenge creates an ink drawing and posts it online. There is a new “prompt” list each year for the challenge which is a one word prompt such as in the above picture where “build” was the prompt. I decided to draw the Brooklyn Bridge because many lives were lost to build it and it still stands today.

Inktober this year when compared to last year’s efforts has already revealed an improvement in my mental health. For example, I lacked the motivation and esteem to follow through and complete a drawing for each of the thirty-one days of October last year. This year, however, I am six days in and have completed a drawing each day and within the allotted day instead of spilling over days’ drawings.

I have noticed this improvement in my mental health since I got sober roughly five months ago. I am starting to challenge myself to set goals and follow through with them with things as simple as Inktober to things such as quitting smoking cigarettes which I am in the process of doing (haven’t had a smoke the entire day! and until a month ago I was a five year straight smoking a pack a day kind of gal). These may seem like simple things but they are building blocks to setting the tone for my next goals. If I can accomplish getting sober, quitting a pack a day habit and well, hey, Inktober then I feel like I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. It’s about showing up for yourself and practicing self-care. I have also adopted a new habit of running each morning which until recently seemed like an impossible endeavor due to lack of motivation.

The change I’ve noticed the most in my mental health since last year compared to this year is my motivation. I have significantly higher energy levels since quitting dope and have decided to turn this energy into positive things like completing blog posts , finishing a book, running, exercising in general and the greatest thing I have put my energy behind is setting goals. Now last year I could not have even dreamed up a goal much less set one, I was too busy smoking up and wallowing in a pool of self-pity. I had zero self esteem and assumed I was not capable of accomplishing any goals I could think of setting – so I just didn’t set any. This year I have several goals, all kinds of goals, to starting writing those pesky memoirs on my experience with bipolar disorder to trying my hand at going to school again. I know I may not succeed but I know I am in a good enough place that I can handle failure and I think that’s what was stopping me before – a fear of failure.

Inktober has shown me that I am more than capable and yes some days my drawings suck but I still finish them and other days I make a freaking masterpiece and am so glad I put my mind to it. The important thing is to show up and the rest will fall into place.

Below is my latest creation and yes, I am quite proud of it. It’s for the prompt “husky.”

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Reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment

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This reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment slapped me in the face this morning while I was reading Elan Gale’s “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else).” It is a truly ubiquitous reminder for it’s in the back of all of our minds but we simply choose not to acknowledge it. However,  maybe if we acknowledged it a bit more we’d be striving to be the best version of ourselves instead of settling for mediocrity. Why do we always say we are going to do something but put it off for “tomorrow?” I have decided I am officially done with that bullshit.

It’s easy to lie around and accept what is but it takes true awareness and motivation to want to actively change it. If you do not like who you are or where you are simply change it. And I know you’re thinking “well how do I do that, Brittany?” That’s not up to me to answer for you but for you to do the research. For example, I’ve decided I want to lose weight (keeping it simple here) but I keep saying I’ll exercise and then don’t. I have a monthly gym membership (my bank statement each month reminds me) and I barely use it. But I’ve decided enough is enough! I have set a really healthy and realistic goal of exercising 30 min a day whether that be walking, biking, running, etc, as of today. I have also decided to increase my water intake and reduce my consumption of calories (perhaps cutting out that midnight snack). It is up to me to follow through though and realize that today is all I have and hey, this is morbid, but I may not even have today (I could get annihilated by a city bus).

Another thing I want to work on is my finances cause guess what I am done settling with the mediocrity of walking everywhere. Fuck Yes, you betcha I want a fucking car! This means I need to research how to budget my money cause like every other millennial I was never taught these basic skills. But I am committed to change and I am willing to put in the work. You want something more out of life? Cool. Then start actively working towards that goal and stop allowing yourself to settle for less. You got big dreams? Fuck Yes, shoot for the stars! You may fail but you may just fail into something better. Maybe you won’t get that Audi you dreamed of but maybe through your hard work and determination you might just be able to finance a Chevy Cruise (another more reasonable car I enjoy driving). Stop saying that this is it and work for what could be. Put in the fucking work. Let me repeat myself, put in the fucking work.

And you are probably going to struggle but that’s the beauty of life figuring out the stuff you’re made of. You might just discover you’re stronger than you think. I have this reoccurring thought “I’m not smart enough to go to school” or “My brain has deteriorated since being hospitalized as a result of bipolar disorder” and you know what I ve decided rather than sit on my ass (like I’ve been doing the past three years), I am going to try and challenge this thought by actually going back to school part time. I might fail, who knows? But at least I will have tried and that’s worth something in my books. If you constantly sit on your ass instead of working towards your dreams/goals then you guessed it you’re gonna have to live with regret. And have you felt that shit before? Because let me tell you it isn’t pleasant.

So thank you Elan Gale for reminding me that I may die tomorrow because as of right now I am going to use the best of today. Because fuck it, I know I am worth it.

F**K it – Be At Peace With Life Just As It Is

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I was perusing the book store when I came across John C. Parkin’s “F**k it.” I will admit I was drawn to it more because of my affinity for swear words than anything else but regardless I decided to buy it and give it a read. The book overall was a little bit of a let down, however, there are nuggets of wisdom and surprisingly ideas congruent with that from “The Power of Now.” (see previous blog post) One thought that struck me the most was the following: “We take a big step forward in life when we recognize that working out what we’d like to feel is more important than working out what we’d like to do, or
whatever other aim we have in life” (Parkins 80).

Parkins raises a good point about how to gain peace in life and that is to stop waiting for things to make you feel content such as the next job promotion, the next relationship, etc. Looking to external things for contentment and peace of mind is severely misguided when it is internally that you need to do the work. Haven’t you ever heard you need to love yourself before you can truly love another person. It’s an overused statement for a reason cause its dead right. If you are looking outside yourself for peace such as through a new shiny toy or next big life milestone, you’re missing the point. Life happens now in this moment and waiting around for the next big thing or distraction only takes away from finding the peace of mind to enjoy the present moment for what is. You think you need this or that to be eventually happy but if you’re never happy that’s on you to work through – internally and not externally. You will eventually find you do not even need these things to feel at peace, you just will be. The greatest avenue to finding inner peace is through acceptance of what is and who you are in this moment.

The author himself mentions struggling with his expectations of how things are supposed to go but ultimately to be at peace he had to let that go: “Well, F**k It to how its supposed to go. I hereby (attempt to) embrace how it goes – in real-time-unfolding-reality – rather than how its supposed to go. It is after all, the gap between how I want it to go, and how it actually goes, that will cause me pain. And to close that gap, I must simply accept more what happens, as it happens” (Parkins 168). Parkins mentions a gap between what we expect and what occurs as causing pain. This pain is the emotional unhappiness we feel when things don’t quite go our way. If we can accept life for what is rather than what we think it should be then we will be much more at peace. It is our unrealistic expectations that are slowly killing us and causing deep rooted depressions. If we can be content with what we have then life would feel infinitely more happier which brings us to another helpful activity the author mentions in finding inner peace which is practicing gratitude.

Being grateful comes more easy to some people than others. Most of us focus on what is wrong and what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Parkins says, “being grateful, then, for who we are, what we do, what we have and our lives as they are, is a quick way to find peace in the now” (Parkins 97). Th author mentions that when he feels particularly like moaning he stops himself and writes a list of all things he is grateful for. I strongly encourage creating a gratitude journal in which you can practice this task. You can start light by writing each day three things you are grateful for today – a practice an inpatient group taught me at the hospital when I was hospitalized for major depression. This activity forces you to acknowledge the good things that you are overlooking in your life. They could be simple things like the ability to talk or specific to your life like that you are thankful for your cat who comforts you when you’re down. Being grateful forces you to re-think your life and not fixate on what is lacking but rather look at all the things you should be thankful that you do have in this present moment.

Parkins also references an interesting study in his book that gets you thinking. It illustrates how people most the time are wanting more even when they are wealthy. A survey asked extremely wealthy people, millionaires, and billionaires, if they felt content with their wealth and the majority said no. They were then asked, “How much more would make you feel content?” And they were invited to put a $ figure on it. The researchers turned that figure into the percentage of extra wealth that wealthy people wanted in order to feel content. The figure was, roughly, the same for all of them: 20% extra. Parkins concludes, “It seems then that everyone is 20% away from being content, regardless of their income. And that’s worth bearing in mind as you go about wanting more wealth, more things, and trying to get them. If you believe that you’ll be at peace when you’re wealthy, the research suggests you’ll remain forever 20% away from peace” (Parkins 47).

This reiterates the point I was making earlier about how external things such as money can never truly make you at peace with yourself. In order to be at peace you need to be grateful for what you have and accept it. Even the wealthiest individuals are not happy with what they have and want more so don’t be too upset that you’ve fallen for this trap. Real peace, real happiness, comes from within when you accept that you are right where you are supposed to be. Everything unfolds as it is supposed to and you just got to trust that or you’ll drive yourself insane trying to fill the void of what you supposedly lack. I was thinking a lot about my past and how I refused to accept where I was in life leading to a 6 month deep depression where I literally never left bed and ultimately had to be hospitalized. I am now at a better place because I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, right now. I can accept my past failures for what they were, a guide to where I am now. Now I am at peace more than ever before because I accept that I have what I have and am thankful for it. I am  happy for the first time in my life, genuinely happy because I am not fighting some idea of what I think I deserve but understand that my life is meant to unfold the way it has and is. The beautiful mystery of life is that you may never truly get what you think you want but you always get what you ultimately need.

So say F**K It! Fuck it to what you think you want and be at peace with life just as it is.

 

Stop Doing That Sh*t – A second look at Gary John Bishop’s Self-help Book

stop doing that shit 2

“You got yourself to this point in your life, and I’m going to show you how you subconsciously did it. How you fucked yourself. And how to dig yourself out” (Bishop 53).

Gary John Bishop boldly states that he can show you how to unfuck yourself in his self-help book titled “Stop Doing That Sh*t.” He does so by making you more conscious of the “three saboteurs” he claims are the conclusions you’ve made in life about three things: Yourself, Others and Life. Bishop states, “They skew everything. Contort everything. And ultimately burden you with the life you currently have. The one you’re trying to change” (Bishop 114).

We’ll start by discussing the first saboteur – conclusions you have made about yourself. Your conclusion about yourself always begins with an “I” and is stuff like the following:

“I’m not smart enough”
“I’m a loser”
“I’m different”
“I don’t matter”
“I’m incapable”
“I’m not loved” or even all the way down the hole to “I’m worthless.”

Bishop asks the important question, “So what have you concluded about yourself?” and I’ll be honest when I was forced to answer this question I felt extremely uncomfortable and shocked at the answers that so readily flew out of my brain. Things I did not even realize I was holding on to about myself. The conclusions I had made about myself were all negative and I started to realize why my life seems as unhappy as it does. If I was holding on to these things in my subconscious, it was no wonder I was sabotaging myself because clearly I did not think very highly of myself or thought I deserved better. Below is my conclusions about myself:

I have concluded that I am worthless. My personal conclusion is that I am not smart enough to cut it in life and I am not capable of having a job let alone a career. Also I struggle socially with the conclusion that I am different from others because I have bipolar disorder and have experienced a few psychosis. I feel I am not smart enough to hold down a job because I have been fired a few times in my life. I feel I am not capable or smart enough to continue my schooling because in my final year of University I struggled with my mental capacities and things that seemed so easy before like memorization came extremely difficult to me, I know this is backwards logic because I was experiencing my first episode of psychosis ever and previous to this episode had more than excelled at University. I can’t seem to help these conclusions about
myself though, despite trying to look at them objectively and prove them wrong with examples where I did in fact the opposite of what I am concluding.

How could I ever really change my life if I’m rooted in the belief that I am worthless and incapable? Bishop claims in his book that you can have the life you want to live if you willingly choose it: “The good news is if you accept that you made the mess, you are also accepting that you can unmake it. I often have to remind people of their power. It takes as much effort to live a crappy life as it does a great one. And you’re the only one who can choose which you want to live” (Bishop 138). This brings us to one of Bishop’s main arguments for change which is acceptance. He states that we did not ask to be born but rather were thrown into humanity whether we liked it or not and says it is up to us to deal with that fact:

“You had no say in any of this, yet it doesn’t matter if you think its fair. Youre here and you’ll have to deal with it like everyone else before you and everyone after you. This is where the road to peace of mind begins. Acceptance. Acceptance is the gateway to real change” (Bishop 73). Bishop then goes on to say releasing blame is fundamental for real change: “the single most important thing you can do for your life is to release anyone (including yourself!) from blame for how your life has turned out. Even if you were thrown into the worst circumstances, it’s your choice now to turn your life around, make it better, learn and grow and break free of where you came from.”(Bishop 87).

I realized a lot of the pain I was feeling in life was due to not accepting things for what they were. I laid on a couch for six months in the deepest depression I had ever experienced because I could not let go of the notion that I had not completed my Bachelor’s degree. I would not accept it and instead wallowed into a self-inflicted state of despair over never finishing my degree. I wasted six months of my life pitying myself when I could have said “Yes, that happened but now what?” I could have started to make moves to get back to my education or even to find something new to strive for and change my life for the better instead of getting stuck in it, in my mind of “I’m worthless.”

But I digress, to the second saboteur which is the conclusions you make about others. This second saboteur, your conclusion about others could be anything: People are stupid, untrustworthy, a threat, unreliable, uncaring, selfish, cruel, manipulative, untrustworthy, etc.

I have determined that the conclusions I have made about others are that they are selfish, a threat, and untrustworthy, and that people will always leave. Because of my experiences as a child with selfish parents who cared more about the bottle or their gambling addiction than making sure I was properly brushing my teeth or looked after. I also concluded people were untrustworthy at a young age when I told a friend a secret in confidence that she then disclosed to a teacher and the police got involved. Losing my father during adolescence and the trail of exes I have has led me to conclude people always leave as well.

This brings us to the third and final saboteur, arguably one of the most important which is the conclusions you make about life. Bishop asks “How do you feel about life?” (Bishop 157). He claims that “deep down in your subconscious, there resides a life conclusion:

“life is hard”
“life is complicated”
“life is a struggle”
“Life is too much” (Bishop 158).

I conclude that life is unfair and a constant struggle. I concluded this after working my ass off all through elementary and high school to prepare for University. I got to University and struggled to make ends meet while supporting myself at school. I excelled at school for three years of my undergraduate then had a mental breakdown leading to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I concluded life was unfair when I had this breakdown
because I realized then I would always struggle with a mental disorder for the rest of my life because of what, roll of the genetic dice.

I looked around me and everyone seemed to be thriving mentally whereas I was a disaster. I had to drop out of school, the only thing I was ever good at when I found the things like studying and memorizing facts became too difficult shortly after my first psychotic break with reality. I concluded life was unfair because some stupid mental illness took everything away from me, my sanity and then the only thing I could depend on in life or felt like I could- my education.

Bishop states: “Its what you have concluded about life that has you stuck in a certain place” (Bishop 160) then continues to elaborate: “You don’t have problems! You have your problems! The perfect issues , specific to you, that allow you to continue with this daily absurdity. And that’s what it is. Absurd. Your whole fucking life is absurd now. All because you’ve told yourself that life can’t be any different from what you have come to believe” (Bishop 162).

So what can we do to get unstuck?

Bishop claims acceptance is the key: “Stop the striving and struggling, for starters, and just accept where you are. Be “here” for the moment. This moment” (Bishop 186). He also argues for a future-oriented lifestyle in which the actions you take each day lead to the future you want. He talks about the “limitless potential” one has when they let go of their past and look to the future. He says to accept that your conclusions are a part of who you are but in essence not to become them: “Remember this is not about stopping self-sabotaging behaviors on their own but instead designing a future that compels you to fill your life with new actions, new outcomes – in short, a new life” (Bishop 217).

Bishop asks his readers to ponder the following questions and imagine a future worth living, “Imagine the kind of work you’ll do a year from now, the relationships you’ll have, the lifestyle you’ll live?  What actions are you taking today to reveal that future? Now look at this present moment of time. What actions are you taking right now to reveal that future?” (Bishop 223)

I realized through my conclusions that I have been holding on to the past and that it’s time to focus more on the future through the present moment. I can start today to make small steps towards building the future that I dream of. In the future I am back at school but this time instead of studying Art History and English, I am specializing in Curating. I have already done the research and found a University close to home which offers such a program. Now I need to work towards financially getting myself there which means I really aught to start looking for a job. The steps I can take today to slowly get myself to where I need to be is to apply to jobs. I also imagine myself as a driver in the future and so need to seriously buckle down and save for and attend driver’s Ed. In the future I also imagine myself back at my ideal weight and today I can take the small step of a bike ride and incorporate exercise into my daily life from here on out. I will no longer be a slave to my doubts rooted in the past and focus on the here, this moment, and what I can achieve to gradually get to where I want to be.

In “Stop Doing That Sh*t,”  Bishop hits you right between the eyes with the truth: “Do you know what life really is? It’s an opportunity for you to play with the skinbag you were given. To try it out, to take it for a ride, to work that thing to its very limit, to live this life before you fucking die. The certainty you’ve been craving? That’s it right there. You’ll die” (Bishop 226).

The fact of the matter is we are all going to die one day and if you waste your moments worrying or get caught up in something that was or never will be, you re bound to get stuck in your life. You might as well work towards something and if it takes you longer than anticipated to get there, so be it. You’re working on it, and that’s what’s key.

Bishop ends his book with probably one of the best questions you could ask and I am going to end my blog on this note: “Fuck the past, reveal a bold future, step out there and get into action. Deal with yourself. The future has arrived. Now what the hell are you going to do about it?” (Bishop 227).

 

 

Life Update

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I have been reading a lot of self-help books lately (you can catch the reviews on my blog) and have noticed a common theme – embracing the NOW. I have decided to try and be more present in my life and live each moment as if it will be my last cause ultimately who knows what’s next right? I want to do things in the moment that my future self can benefit from and will be proud to know I did. For example, starting now I am going to make a more conscious effort to go to the gym and exercise. I have also decided to try taking up my half marathon training again. Granted it will probably be a slow start but everyone needs to start somewhere.

I want to focus more on the things I enjoy like reading, bike riding, longboarding, etc. I need to stop making excuses like “Oh, I can get around to doing that later.” The time is now and I need to start acting like it. I also need to let go of my past and conclusions I have made about myself throughout these twenty six odd years of life. I refuse to be a victim to my past and am taking my power back.  So what if I had two psychotic breaks? It doesn’t mean I should avoid people and treat myself like a leper. I want to get to the point where I am applying for jobs and starting to build a life for myself again. I know this will take time and some much needed work on myself (that’s what all the self-help books are for!)

My main priority in this point in time, in this now, is my health. I mentioned earlier in “The Pitfalls of Bipolar Disorder” that it had been five years since I had been to a dentist and that I finally went to get an exam done on my teeth. The verdict is in – they’re fucked up! But anyways I have already started work on them and had two cleaning appointments with freezings – that means those needles I have been avoiding I finally confronted. I am sincerely proud of myself because I am irrationally afraid of the dentist thus the five year hiatus. I have to have a bazillion fillings , however, which means more needles for me, Yay! NOT. But rather than shrink away or avoid it like I used to do I have decided to face it head on.

I also need to have oral surgery to remove four of my wisdom teeth. Now the idea of surgery would scare the shit out of me but rather than let my anxiety spiral me into a deep depression like I used to, I have decided to use some logic thinking and coping skills to overcome it. I am distracting myself with positive things like going to the movies,  going for a jog, or reading a book until doom’s day. I am also thinking it through rationally, “Everyone gets their wisdom teeth out and they survived. You will feel discomfort for a week or so but you will be fine and ultimately survive this.”

Another aspect of my health I am working on is my smoking. As you have read in my previous blog posts I am now sober from marijuana going on four months! But I have become a horrible chain smoker to cope with this. I have decided it’s finally time to let go of yet another filthy habit. I will be going to my first appointment this Wednesday with a smoking cessation counsellor and will begin my journey to quit smoking officially next week. I have tried quitting before and only ended up smoking again but this time I am more motivated and have quitting pot under my belt already so I feel more confident I can handle this.

In general, I just want to be more mindful of what I am thinking and doing in my life. I want to look back on my life and know I lived every moment to its fullest potential. I will start engaging in more activities geared towards improving my physical and mental health this month and hope to make a habit of it. I know this won’t be easy but I think I am finally up to the challenge. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Well I sure as hell plan to fucking find out.

Stay Tuned for more updates! And a fun thing I have decided is that I am not too old for Halloween this year! I was struggling with my age and whether or not it is appropriate still to dress up and go out. I have decided “fuck it! you only live once!” I am being a mermaid ergo the picture at the top of this blog post of me in costume.

Live in the Now and Cut yourself a break every once in awhile. Your past does not define you. It is up to you to live in THIS moment and OWN it.