Writers block, the black dog & an MRI.

‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’

– Oscar Wilde


I’m back! It’s been quite some time since I last posted and I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve thrown myself in to giving the whole book writing thing a go and so far so good. It’s been a nice little escape, crafting characters and their worlds, weaving plot arcs and twists in to their lives. Yet whenever I’ve turned my attention to this blog over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself unable to concentrate long enough to create a vaguely engaging, structured piece, despite having plenty to write about. Usually I find that my writing will ebb and flow with my moods – on low days I tend to write a few non-coherent sentences in my personal diary, if at all. Then, on better days, I find myself writing this blog. Yet the short hiatus by no means signifies I’ve been low since my last post. So regardless of the pretentious connotation, I will simply call it writers block.

So, meandering on, a few things have changed in the past 2 months. Being medication-free, unfortunately, didn’t last too long. I knew the black dog would creep back up on me, and I knew exactly when it would happen. Not because I’m that highly in-tune with my inner being, honestly I’m wading on through with no idea of what the hell’s going on, but because it was the time that I not only came back from holiday, but rejoined full-time work. It was a trigger. I knew it would be, but I had no idea quite how hard it would hit me. Depression terrifies me and I didn’t want to go back there. I’d been doing so well, fighting so hard to feel alive. And yet the knot, that grip, started to slowly consume me once again. So we tried something new; Fluoextine, aka Prozac. A low dose, just to keep my head above water. I’ve been taking it for a solid few weeks now with no ill-effect. But of course, Bipolar, so the mood stabilizers are on standby, but so far have been completely unrequired. Rad!

I also had my brain MRI a couple of weeks ago. It was an experience to say the least. The night before I desperately scrabbled to get the tongue-web piercing out that had been stuck in my mouth for the last 10 years. I had horrific visions of being whipped in to the magnet by my tongue and so eventually, frantically, removed it with a pliers. You know that feeling when you finally manage to get a stuck bit of food out of your teeth that’s been lodged in there all day? Imagine getting it out after 10 YEARS. Oh the relief. So, off to the hospital I went. As I was sat in the waiting room with my newly metal-free mouth, the noises coming for the MRI room where somewhat daunting to say the least. A dear old lady finally got wheeled out from the room and whispered ‘Good luck’ as she passed me on her trolley. Oh thank you, that’s not anxiety-inducing whatsoever dear old lady.. My turn! Now I’m not claustrophobic in any which way, but by christ it was a small space to lay in. I had some weird box type thing on my head and they put earplugs in, which fell out. It was loud. It’s okay though, I thought, I’ll just shut my eyes and enjoy being able to lie down for half an hour without a 6 year old pestering me to play Poopy Head or something. But of course, my face itched. Why does everything itch when you’re not allowed to move? What kind of sick psychological game is that? Why did I need to cough all of a sudden? Nonetheless, I held it together and they successfully took photos of my brain. Now it’s just a waiting game for the results.

There’s finally been some progress on the therapy front. After a meeting with a few different therapists they’ve decided to go ahead with the CBT followed by a round of helping deal with my self-esteem issues. I’m still a little skeptical yet open to at least giving it a try. Generally, I’m pretty good, I’m feeling balanced. I’m still awful at running, but I’m still running. I’m still practising yoga, and I’m feeling results. I’ve found that 5.30am on the beach with the dogs is my favourite place to be. It’s still, the sun is rising and the sounds of the waves are amplified by the morning calm. The drive down there is full of wildlife – foxes, badgers, rabbits. My daughters sea glass and pebble collection is growing tenfold as the summer progresses. She’s found a love for body boarding and being in the sea. We’ve found a perfect quiet spot for evening walks with the dogs in a beautiful woodland. We’re eating way too much pizza, laughing at the little things and making up ridiculous games to play. I no longer dread the mornings and the long day which follows, I embrace them. I think, I’m no longer existing. I’m living.

Life.

As I sat on one of the topmost dunes at my favourite beach last night, camera clutched in my hands, watching the sun fade lazily before me, I felt alive. The breeze was warm, gently swaying the grass around me and I could hear children shrieking with laughter as they played on the beach below, their silhouettes the epitome of real childhood memories. The sunset cast its beautiful colours across the sky, restoring peace as it drew an end to another day, another chapter in people’s lives. For some, the pages of today would be cherished memories re-read time and time again, for others the book would be hastily snapped shut with no desire to revisit its story. For me, it had been a good day. It was my 8th day medication free, and although a little tired (which in itself these days is welcomed feeling) I felt a sense of contentment, my mind was clear and balanced. No mania, no depression. And the best part was that I knew these feelings were my own, not in any way persuaded by pharmaceutical chemicals. I wish I could bottle that moment as if it were a tiny, perfectly scaled ship. It would take pride of place in my home, a glowing reminder of hope for the bad days.

Following another chilled, sun-shiny day on the coast, tonight I ran myself a bath with a ‘galaxy’ bath bomb thrown in for good measure, turning the water a deep blue with shining purple accents. I’ve always been spellbound by the universe and its intricate beauty. Yet it’s been a volatile relationship, for many a time I have stared up at the stars and questioned the point of me, in the grand scheme of things. The earth is so great, humankind so small. The universe bigger still, uncaring of what you’re doing with your life, of whether you’re having a bad day. At these times the feelings of insignificance would grip me fiercely, spiralling me in to a black hole of worthlessness. Nevertheless tonight, as I watched the bomb satisfyingly effervesce in the water, I instead saw the beauty in its existence. As complex as the galaxies may be, man has a greater inner labyrinthine of unique emotions, of passions and ambitions. We have the capacity to appreciate the pulchritude in which the universe offers us if only we endeavour to seek it. Man is judged only by man, the world is a silent, unprejudiced bystander. I’m starting to find comfort in the vastness; as long as I do no harm by others, a bad day holds no significance in that grand old scheme of things, tomorrow can still be a good one. Whereas I myself, although perhaps not going to change the world, am not insignificant. Not to my daughter, not to my family. This clarity is such a huge step in carrying me forward in my recovery, in regaining my place within the world and truly appreciating its beauty.

Non-medicated.

Last week I had a bad day. A few actually, the worst few I’ve ever yet experienced. An entire 3 days of heart-racing, mind-sibilating extreme restlessness, finally reaching breaking point on the third day. I was lost, sinking in to the deepest murky waters, suffocating whilst gripped in a fierce vice of anxiety. The agitation overcame me and turned to full-blown anger. I could not sit, lie down, read, listen or think. All of my senses were in overdrive. Piercing ringing filled my ears, my mouth tasted of rusted metal. My mind could not process its own thoughts, there were too many. My skin became so tight I felt it would burst, releasing all the tension and deflating me back in to a calm state. But that release didn’t materialise. I was panicky and short of breath, feeling physically sick as time moved impossibly slow with no signs of improvement. The situation become that deleterious, I had to visit an out of hours doctor at the hospital. Whilst waiting to see the GP, I manically paced the grey corridors of the hospital, unable to make any form of eye contact with passers by. I felt like the true epitome of mental illness, of the one image many have in their minds eye of a mental patient. As I could not sit, I rocked. Back and forth, back and forth. I needed to do to it to alleviate the sense that I could feel every single bone in my body, to stop the pulsing heartbeat thudding in feet. I couldn’t even sit in the chair to speak with the doctor. I continuously, repetitively moved my hands to stop them from settling uncomfortably. I was prescribed Diazepam, with orders to see the psychiatrist the following Monday. The entire experience was a truly frightening one, I felt more out of control than I ever have. It is one I am struggling to even put in to words. It lasted for 4 hours, until I took the wonder that is Diazepam. Once it kicked in I ached profusely due to the tension and pacing, I felt embarrassed and upset by the whole horrendous ordeal.

Monday came and I saw a new psychiatrist. Basically, my three options were to carry on and see if the symptoms would lessen naturally, to change the antipsychotic medication or to stop the drugs entirely. After much discussion I decided I needed a clean slate, to start afresh. I had taken so many different tablets in such a short space of time. Tablets that were pushing me up and tablets that were pulling me down and tablets that were making me sleep, I didn’t know which feelings were my own anymore or which were simply side effects. I lost track of what I’d taken and when, yet I knew I couldn’t continue on the Aripiprazole, it was not stabilising me as it should. I also knew starting a new medication would add to my confusion at the present time. I needed to be grounded in my own mind again, I needed to know how I felt naturally without chemical persuasion. The thought of being without medication was a daunting one, yet it was time to be brave. As I was still on the never-ending waiting list for that ever elusive CBT therapy, the psychiatrist personally got in touch with the agencies to rush my case through to aid in my recovery without the medication.

I’m currently on day 4 medication-free, I’ve even ceased use of the sleeping tablets, yet I do have Diazepam on hand to use if and when necessary. The first 3 days were dire, bordering intolerable as the medication seeped out from my system. Sleep evaded me more than ever, I had the shakes and slight psychosis once again from the stress. Then, last night, I slept. I slept! From 11.30 to 5.30, only briefly waking once. It is of course still to early to tell whether being non-medicated is something that is achievable for me personally, I may still need some form of chemical assistance moving forward in to the future. But today, I feel okay. I’ve slept, I’ve sat down for 10 minutes to drink a cup of tea and I’ve written what has been a difficult blog. I feel my mind clearing, the chemical-induced fog lifting. The balance of my mind, whatever that may be unaffectedly, is slowly being restored. From here on out, I will know what are my own behaviours and gain a better understanding of my own condition, without the interference of tenacious tablets. I’m lucky in the sense that I have the option to do this, as I know my Bipolar is relatively mild in comparison to other poor souls that are suffering. I may go high again, I may go low. But I can then be treated accordingly, rather than using a preventative for something that may never materialise whilst suffering the side effects.

Today I’m okay. Tomorrow I may not be. All I can do is be brave, be positive and take one day at a time.

Something a little more personal.

Without meaning to present as too narcissistic, I’ve decided to dedicate a post to giving a little insight of myself, as a person, aside from the Bipolar. The reasoning being that although I began this blog with the aim of raising awareness of mental illness, we mustn’t forget the real person that can often become masked behind the diagnosis. Mental illness must not define you, it is not all that you are, it is just something a little extra. I am a woman that happens to have bipolar, not simply a bipolar woman. Although I must admit, knowing where to begin is an honest struggle. I can write about my bipolar so fluidly, yet expressing who I am as a person is proving more difficult. I have significant self-esteem issues, yet I will endeavour to keep it relatively positive without becoming too pragmatic as if I am writing a dating profile.

From a young age, I have always had a love for literature. Enid Blyton, Terry Pratchett, Roald Dhal. I would spend hours lost in their worlds, soaking in each and every word, fueling my imagination. I vividly remember the excitement and particularly the smell of the new books from the school book club, how their covers and spines where so pristine and untouched. I yearned to open them yet didn’t want to disturb their unsullied perfection. I still to this day cannot help but smell a new book and admire its exquisiteness before delving in. For this reason I have never owned a Kindle, I truly love the sound of a page turning, the physical weight of holding a book within my hands. As I became older I began reading Stephen King and James Herbert and at age 11 I discovered JK Rowling, who eclipsed my life for the next 7 years; Harry Potter to this day is still one of my favourite ever book series. When it came to my GCSE’s I absolutely loved reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Holes’, perhaps the only child in the class that did. English was my utter favourite subject from primary school right through to college, where I took Literature & Language A-levels alongside Psychology. I did pretty well with my exams, yet undeniably could have done better if I had applied myself more or perhaps spent little less time out at music gigs or generally being a cantankerous* teenager.

*Isn’t that just one of the most pleasant, roll-off-the-tongue words in the world? I just needed to note, it’s one of my favourites, despite its less than favourable meaning. Moving on…

Another passion of mine is ‘retro’ gaming. I have extremely fond memories of spending a few hours of an evening at the weekend, after a day out walking through the woods or visiting the beach, with my family sat together playing on the Sega Megadrive. Back then it wasn’t the case of a child locking themselves away in their room for entire weekends at a time, interacting only with online players. This was a sense of togetherness in all its 16-bit glory. It was only console in the house, and it was played concertedly in the living room on the only TV. Sure, my sister and I would squabble over whose turn it was, or how better to defeat Dr. Robotnik, but it was a sense of fun and closeness I will always hold dear. I still own that exact Megadrive over 20 years later, and play it often with my own daughter. I have throughout the years accumulated a PS1 and Gamecube, original Gameboy and I have also managed to commandeer my partners original SNES. We do have a few newer generation consoles; a DS, a 3DS an Xbox 360 and the newest addition being a Wii U, but we irrefutably spend the most time on the older consoles.

As undoubtedly apparent to those who have read but a few blog posts of mine, I have a genuine love for the beach. I was raised on the coast and have many a happy childhood memory of rockpooling, sandy picnics and body boarding in the gentle turquoise waves. The smell is so unique and nostalgic; sand and suncream mixed with the fresh saltiness of the ocean spray. I feel instantly transported back to feeling young and free again each time I visit, which is usually at least once weekly. Even during the winter, my daughter and I will brave the elements with the dogs, icy wind biting our faces, our boots sinking great footprints in to the dirty wet sand. My house is filled with treasures from our favourite spots, from sparkly gems, unusual shells and heart-shaped pebbles, to bottles of perfectly smooth sand. Even my living space is filled with teal fabrics, driftwood and nautical accents. I find it so homely, whilst being so bright and fresh. I have every beach themed Yankee Candle drifting beautiful scents through the house continuously, the electric fire is always set on visual as it reminds me of campfires under the night sky. Speaking of which, my bedroom ceiling is covered with stars, each and every night I look up at them glowing softly and try to remind myself of all of the things I love, and of how beautiful the earth can be if only I let it.

Aside from my general likes and hobbies, I would struggle to tell you of my own personality, as I’m sure many would. I do know I am a humble, appreciative person. I have a dry, sometimes misunderstood sense of humour, one trait I have definitely, and somewhat proudly, passed on to my daughter. I care about everyone and everything, sometimes too much. I want to be a loving, chilled out free spirit, but I am in fact a sarcastic, realistic worrier. Yet one thing I can say for certain, is that I am a woman that happens to have, amongst many other traits and qualities, bipolar II, and it will not define me or my life in any way, shape or form.

Dreams, sedatives & qutting university.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

– Edgar Allen Poe


 

Over the course of the last few days something has been stirring inside of me. Little flickers of ideas, quickly rising up through my bloodstream like tiny bubbles before gently bursting upon reaching my mind. Snippets of who I am, and what I want from life. At first I could barely even catch a glance of their reflections, now they are arising in quadruple the size, lingering long enough for me to really feel them. They are my dreams. I want to save up for a quaint little camper van and holiday all over Europe. I want to become a published author and write a book that gets the world talking. In these dream-bubbles there is no big house nor am I a teacher solely to fund it. I don’t worry about university assignments, instead I write for pleasure on topics I’m passionate about. Everything I’ve robotically seen for my future through my long depressive state, following the mediocre, structured path I thought would make me happy, now seems entirely irrelevant. Of course, that’s not to say that the impressive house, well paid job dream isn’t a fulfilling or important one to have by any means, but it simply isn’t for me. It’s scary, but it’s exciting. It’s as though I’ve awoken from a long, dark sleep and I am finally emerging from my cave, blinking tentatively in to the morning sun. I’d always put so much pressure on myself to ‘prove’ myself, yet to this day I’m still not sure of to whom. Perhaps due to being a young, single parent I felt the need to show the world I was still an ambitious, driven young woman. Which I am, but now I’m driven toward adventure, in a more eccentric way I guess you could say. I’ve begun small projects around the house. I’ve created a DIY polaroid wall which I’ve always longed for, in pride of place in my living room. I’ve purchased solar lights and artificial trees and painted garden furniture to create a nice outdoor space for the long summer evenings ahead. I’ve continued to run, along never-ending sand dunes and coastal paths and around great grandiose castles, making the most of and appreciating the beautiful place in which I’m fortunate enough to live in. These may seem like minuet achievements to those without a mental illness, yet to me they’re substantial victories, each one a positive stride further away from the demon.

I’ve also decided to officially end my time at university, almost 3 years in to my degree. Why? The honest answer; I don’t enjoy it. I never have. I don’t enjoy academic writing, researching policies, or creating my own learning aids. I don’t particularly want to write through the night after a full day of work and settling my daughter to bed. I dread deadlines, I dread having to write an essay full stop. So why put myself through it for so many years to start with? The answer to that refers back to the whole proving myself thesis. I wanted to be a teacher. Not because I wanted to teach, but because I thought I would show people that I didn’t throw my life away after having a child at 19. I also thought that the salary would make me content and buy me a big happy home. During my depression, I genuinely believed that money would help to alleviate my problems and troubled mindset somewhat, but now I know better. I could have all the money in the world, yet if I was depressed due to being in the complete wrong job for me it would be worthless. For now I am quite happy to be a ‘mere’ teaching assistant, and just wait and see what the future holds.

But what of sedatives? Well, the lack of sleep finally began to affect me. I began bursting in to tears randomly during the day, and got highly agitated with anyone who dared to glance at me in an impolitic way. To me this was mortifying as a) Despite being open about my illness, I’m somewhat of a closest crier, public crying has always been a no-no for me, and b) I have always tried to be balanced with people and colleagues in both public and work (which is ironic I guess, baring in mind the premise behind this blog). So my doctor prescribed a 2 week course of sleeping tablets, and I must admit they are a godsend. I’m asleep within minutes of my weary head hitting the pillow and I don’t wake until morning. I’m not groggy in the mornings, yet I am perhaps a little over relaxed in getting up and ready to leave the house. Always one for being annoyingly early, this past week, despite waking st 5.30am I’ve only just made it to work on time at 8.45, give or take a few minutes. But the bigger picture is that I am actually going to work full stop. I’m doing it, I’m working and dreaming and doing what I can to pursue happiness. I still have bad moments, but when I look back at where I was a few weeks ago, so weak, so desperate and exhausted, I feel I’m certainly on the road to recovery, and for me that’s the best I can ask for.

The hypomanic paragon.

April 2016;

I am free of him, his cadaverous being has wasted away, incinerated to little more than a blackened dust. Not an iota of his pungent existence remains. I can only hope his demise was excruciating. No long can the twisted, misshapen claws grasp at my mind, no longer can he feed on my bound soul. He cannot entice me with his self-doubting persuasions, he cannot gleefully drag me down to his all-consuming pit of burning hell. I am emancipated. I see colour, such saturated beautiful colour, it’s almost blinding. It entwines with my being, awaking the colours within me. Painted by passion, ambition and adventure, by the hands of a true artist. I can feel music, I can feel the earth whirring gently despite its fierce velocity. The only thing I must beg for is more time. I need time to write everything down. To make a note of the sweet touch of an April shower, of the new life being quietly welcomed in to the world with each blissful moment passing. Blue skies and enchanting trees, and the creatures that live amongst them. I need to see every corner of the world. I need to understand all of its secrets, its mysteries hidden in folk law and ruins. I want to be galvanized by inspirational teachings of cultures whom are at one with life, I want to better myself with their knowledge, their understanding of the earth. I could sit and count each and every grain of sand on a beach, if only I was able  to repress the distraction of the beauty surrounding me. This is life, and I am finally here to throw myself in.

Generally, I’ve written more on my battle with depression alongside the demon the of night thus far, yet some may ask of the lesser understood element of Bipolar II; What does hypomania actually feel like? Of course, as is the nature of mental illness, symptoms and feelings can vary a great deal from person to person, yet predominantly there are a few set characteristics of a hypomanic episode. For me, the better ‘symptom’ for want of a better word, was the euphoric happiness that instilled itself within me. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I was the centre of the universe, that the world needed me. For what, I did not know nor care, I simply revelled in the exaggerated sense of self-importance that coursed through my veins, pushing me higher with each quickened heartbeat. As my (unbeknown at the time) episode was a result of an antidepressant trigger, I simply believed that the Sertraline had worked. I believed that I was in fact better and that this is who I was, after being masked by layer upon layer of depression for so long. I felt, as quoted in the above extract written during my episode, that my demon had been eradicated indefinitely. Some days I secretly hope for a release in to that state again, purely for the intense ecstasy it creates. It is a high that so many people chase, through adrenaline junkies to those scoring illicit drugs. Yet here was my mind, providing it for free. One may ask, if the high is so extraordinary, why endeavour to stop it happening? To that I say alas, you do not get a free ticket to happiness through a hypomanic episode. In dealing with you devil you must give up your sleep, your sanity, and your grasp on reality. And eventually, as the cliché saying goes; what goes up must come down. And hell does that fall hurt.

I have always been careful with money, always saving what little I could each month, always finding a cheaper deal no matter what the necessary purchase. Then, when hypomania danced in to my life in all its blazing glory, money burned holes in my pocket. It did not manifest in a materialistic way, I just needed to spend it, I got a buzz from it. I was overbearingly generous, although I doubt the waiter who got tipped £20 for a £15 meal minded all too much. I simply could not see consequence of my actions. Everything became so fast paced in my mind I felt often as though I could not keep up. This in turn made me become extremely agitated with myself and others. I felt as though no one supported my incredible ideas, that even my family did not want me to be happy. I was restless, uncomfortable in my own skin. My legs shook and my speech became fast, words tumbled out of my mouth desperately seeking a listening ear before my mind moved on once again to something new. Everything was exciting, I could have been a likened to a new puppy traversing the outdoors for the very first time, unable to focus on one sensational thing due to the distraction of a million others. It’s an overwhelimg experience. Then, for me, the psychosis set in. Psychosis, what a word. A word that can strike fear into the hearts of many, myself previously included. Luckily for me it was mild, presenting itself in hearing my front door being opened, or hearing my daughter crying at night, even if she wasn’t there. I also heard what sounded like my mother shouting my name, sometimes so sudden and loud it would make me physically jump. Each time I would investigate the sound, each time there would be nothing there. When you live as the only adult in the house, it can cause slight disquietude to say the least. Yet psychosis is more common than many people may think, something as everyday as stress or alcohol can trigger such reactions in the brain. It’s unusual to experience it with Bipolar II alone, therefore my psychiatrist believed stress and medication played a part in my encounter with it.

Then it disperses. Gone, just like that. After almost 3 weeks of feeling on top of the world, I was left feeling exhausted, embarrassed by my actions, and worried about my financial situation. I felt confused about what was happening to me, although I had been happy, in the harsh light of day I knew what had happened wasn’t quite right. I hadn’t been myself after all. So, following this, I received my diagnosis of Bipolar II, and it feels as though the ride is only just beginning.

Healing.

Yesterday I went for my first ever run. It was the hottest day of year so far, but I’d had a covenant with myself that the day my new shoes arrived would be the day I started. So I did. It was a Friday night, I was child free, so I took my whippet, Django, and we headed off around the quiet back lanes in the hope of not crossing paths with anyone. My first oversight was thinking I’d be able to run up the monumental hill surrounding my house straight off the bat, the second was forgetting my ventolin pump. Despite this, I pushed on with Django trotting joyfully alongside me, looking at me inquisitively every time I slowed to a walk to catch my breath. Needless to say, I didn’t make it far and eventually slumped down in a field and let the whippet charge around at full tilt without me to hold him back. A successful run? Probably not. Yet a step in the right direction in healing body and mind? Absolutely. Weeks ago I would never even have contemplated running, but here I sit this morning, legs aching profusely, feeling accomplished and even slightly proud.

I’m currently in a strange place. 90% of the time I’m feeling, dare I say it.. Good? Well, almost good. Better than okay, but maybe not quite good. My mind is nonplussed, unsure of what how to define my current state. Yet I can confidently say I am not depressed, and that is huge. I’m not numb, not merely existing. I’m also not naive to the fact this won’t last forever, anyone with Bipolar knows not to become too complacent in thinking a current mood will linger for too long. Hence the ‘two opposite poles’ term I guess. Which I do find peculiar, as although there is two transient states; mania and depression, there is also the mixed state, the one in which I am currently floating. I know it is a combination of the two poles together, yet it feels like a new pole entirely. Perhaps it should be renamed Tripolar Disorder? Or perhaps I’m just being garrulous, which is perhaps in itself superior to any description I can give of my current mindset.

I am still experiencing the ever-pleasant side effects of the antipsychotics. The strangest one is the jolt of dizziness that hits me if I move too suddenly, or even sometimes just randomly while I walk. The only way to describe it is like a glitch in a game; a Solider of Fortune-like lag. One moment I’ll be in one place, then next millisecond I’m a few feet in front. It really is quite bizarre. Insomnia is still my night demon, moderately bright lights are still blinding and by the evening time the restlessness begins to seep in. But all this pales in comparison to being depressed, I can easily accept these few trade offs in the pursuit of happiness. I have even returned to work, which was a big step – this week I have worked afternoons, on Monday I return full-time.

I’m almost good. And it’s awesome.

Escapism.

She perched on the edge of a smooth crystalline rock, her toes burying in the ripples of sand, still warm from the rapidly fading sun. Her blonde curls swayed elegantly as the humid breeze gently played around her. The cool of the water reinvigorated her; she could almost smell the sweet coral in the depths below. She considered the vast horizon before her, unable to ascertain where the sky came to and end and the sea began. Streaks of golds and pinks illuminated the fair clouds, their reflections dancing across the glistening surface of the ocean. Soon bright galaxies would straddle an inky black sky, millions of stars would silently shine down upon her, without judgement nor castigation. Despite its warmth, the world felt pure, the air fresh and enticing. Her soul was free, her weakened mind finally at peace, connected to the nirvana stretched out before her. It’s beauty diminished the darkness, there was no exigency to be strong. She could feel her gentle pulse, not impelling darkness, but absorbing the light that the earth was bestowing her. She was safe. Here, the demon could not touch her. Yet she could not stay, not forever. The demon was a reality, this cove was her escapism. He would be waiting, lurking in the shadows of self-doubt, ready to welcome her like an old friend.

Being a bipolar mother.

Parenting is a charming, hard, uproarious, absurd and hugely rewarding experience. Some days sparkle, others leave you feeling both physically and emotionally drained and in need of a crate of cheap wine. Some days my daughter and I go exploring all that the coast has to offer, picking flowers and looking for wildlife. We do craft that always turns out hilariously wrong, we paint sea shells and make our own picture books. On other days we stay in our pyjamas and I put on a movie for an hours peace, we play on the Wii U or do a jigsaw; the less I can get away with doing on those days the better. Some nights I’ll cook an extravagant, healthy dinner and we’ll dine alfresco, other nights we’ll order in a pizza and sit in front of the TV scoffing our faces with delicious calories. I don’t believe this pattern of parenting is strictly unique to bipolar parents by any stretch of the imagination, this is generally just what nurturing a child is all about. Of course, you get the super parents whose children only ever eat kale and never watch TV, and certainly never pretend to be tigers and eat mud whilst only answering you in roars. And that’s great for them, really, I’m at all not envious.. But on the whole I do think parenthood is basically swings and roundabouts, and choosing your battles wisely.

So where does mental health fit in to this? Well first of all, my daughter believes I currently have what must be the worlds longest chest infection and that’s why I’ve not been at work. So fundamentally, I’m lying to my daughter, going against the one thing I try to instill in her above all else; honesty. Of course, I’m doing it to protect her, she is only 6 years old. Although undoubtedly wise well beyond her years, with this comes great empathy on her part; she has the kindest soul and knowing that her mothers mind is unwell without having the maturity or capacity to truly understand it at 6 years old would crush her. I have no idea when I will eventually tell her, if at all. In years to come, this whole journey may be irrelevant to our relationship and pass on only anxiety, or it may not. Which in itself leads on to the element.

Perturbation, on my part. Bipolar is hereditary. As she grows, I would be devastated for depression to dampen her maverick personality, her free spirit that so desperately seeks adventure. She is the light of my life, her thirst for knowledge and her vivacity and love for the every day is not only enchanting but inspiring. She speaks with such animation and thought, I could get lost in listening to her chatter for hours on end. Despite this, through my own journey I now know that treatment is not only possible, but successful. The chance that she has for developing Bipolar is small, around 10%. Yet this is what originally sparked my interest in writing this blog, about being open. If she were to have any mental illness, I would at least hope for it to exist a more accepting and understanding world. Speaking openly is difficult. Yet I would shout my illness from the rooftops to anyone who would listen if it were to teach my daughter mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.

Lastly, the day to day of being a single mother with bipolar. I can’t say it varies greatly from my original description above. Perhaps the highs are higher, which to my daughter is nothing short of fantastic; I’m more energetic, fluid with money and full of unfunny jokes. The depression, which lasts so much longer, can be inauspicious. It’s hard going. Yet I’d lived with it for so long, as if it were an old, unwanted friend, I’d learned to simply disregard it and carry on. Of course, there has been times where the mask has slipped and I’ve unnecessarily lost my shit over something unimportant, but what parent hasn’t. My biggest regret is allowing my numbness to go on for so long. I feel as though I should have got help sooner, so I could appreciate life with my daughter without simply going through the motions from an earlier age. I have obviously always loved her unconditionally, but depression is the demon that purloins your feelings and stows them away in to a seemingly ineradicable box under lock and key. I’ve been exceptionally lucky with the support from my family with my daughter and just about every other aspect of my life, without them any hope of recovery would have been near-impossible. I know there are people out there struggling without a support system, with no one to tell them to go and seek help, but you must. Even if medication isn’t for you, there are so many therapies and lifestyle changes that can be made to increase your chance at happiness. Everyone deserves that shot. And you can be a fantastic parent and a great role model, with or without a mental illness.