2013: What will the new year bring?

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So another year comes to a close. Goodbye and good riddance I say. I think it’s only natural to be reflective at this time of year. Reflective of the things that have caused pain, brought pleasure, achievements, losses, tragedies and new arrivals.

But just because the clock turns midnight and signals the beginning of a new year, it doesn’t mean that some magic spell has been cast and everything we wish for and desire will miraculously come to fruition. At least not straight away. Having said that, there is no harm in hoping and there is no harm in feeling a sense of optimism that despite what may have occurred during the previous year, things can and will improve throughout the new year.

My 2012 In Review:

2012 is ending in similar fashion to the way it began. Despite the fact that I am still alone, this year I am feeling slightly better about that compared to this time last year. Maybe it’s because I have found somewhat of a happy-medium when it comes to my medications. In early January I was absolutely fed up with feeling anxious and depressed most of the time. I was sick of functioning poorly and I desperately wanted things to change before they got out of control again. If you you would’ve told me that it would take most of the year to find the right combination, the likely reply you would’ve got from me, would be “Fuck that!”. I know full well that in reality it can take people much longer to get their med combo right, but seriously – one year? Mostly dedicated to trying to handle unwanted side effects, becoming depressed to the point where suicidal ideation intrudes my thinking. No thank you! But you know what, I have survived and I’m grateful that I did. I have come out of the darkness and into the light once again and believe me when I say that I am in no hurry to go back there anytime soon.

A small point on Suicide. In previous posts I have stated that I do not believe in Suicide, but that’s not to say that I haven’t thought about it. There have been times where these type of thoughts have gotten so intense, to the point where I think there is no other option and it ends up absolutely scaring the crap out of me. It is NOT how I want my life to end and no matter how dark things may get, there are always avenues to get past these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. I am yet to call a crisis line or check into an emergency department, however I have made use of online resources such as mental health forums to seek out support and understanding. Taking anti-anxiety medication or simply sleeping it off has also been enough to lift that sort of intensity. But enough about that.

Despite having a lonely and isolated year, I have persevered and would like to think I have come out on top despite the ugly circumstances of having my Bipolar run rampant and making life almost unbearable at times. I think a small turning point came when I started this blog. Having an outlet to express myself and talk about how Bipolar affects me has been a positive experience. Receiving likes, comments and knowing that your voice actually reaches somebody has been very rewarding. Equally, reading and commenting on other blogs has also been a rewarding experience. There are some amazing people and stories out there and the blogosphere is a wonderful opportunity for people to be heard and connect. It doesn’t matter if your post is 200 or 1200 words in length, everything is valid and has a place.

The other positive which came later in the year was returning back to university study. Having a sense of purpose once again has done wonders for my mental health. Naturally there is some stress with studying and there is also some self doubt as to whether I can actually complete my Bachelors, but I am taking it one semester at a time. The end goal is firmly in mind, but I cannot afford to look too far ahead. I think I am on the right path and I believe in being an advocate for those who suffer from a mental illness. I believe that is my purpose in life. There was a brief time when I was a psych nurse where despite the stress of being in such a role, I had a sense of purpose and fulfillment I had never felt before. I was devastated when I became unwell again and had to give this up, but the issues that surrounded this time make sense with the benefit of hindsight. I only wish that I had handled things a lot better and didn’t find myself in a situation where I had to start from zero once again. They say that everything happens for a reason and I am now at the stage where I have made peace with the past and happy to look forward to the future.

And that’s where this time of year provides something unique, unlike any other time of the year. There is a chance to start over with a clean sleight. A chance to bury what’s happened in the past. A chance to feel positive about the future once again.

I am grateful to have a roof over my head and I am grateful for the people I have in my life. I don’t have many friends, but I know that the people in my life care about me. I care about them too. This includes the people I have come to know online through this blog and via forums.

The voids in my life are something that I need not rush or try to force any change. It will all happen in good time. This is my path in life and whilst it’s far from how I would like things to be, that’s not to say it is too late for things like falling in love again and starting a family. If there is one thing I do know, nothing matters unless there are people to share things with. It has taken extended periods of loneliness and isolation to realize this. You can have the best job in the world and yet feel completely empty when there is nobody to come home to. You can have all the peace and quiet you want, yet the silence becomes deafening and you wish someone was there. It’s no fun going through life alone and everybody needs someone. As much as they may not like to admit it.

So what will 2013 bring?

Oh who the bloody hell knows? And don’t even get me started on new years resolutions. Stop smoking, eat less crap, go to the gym. Blah Blah Blah!

This time if year is stressful enough, without the added pressure of trying to completely change into something I am not and subsequently spending January and February feeling like shit because I haven’t been able to live up to these expectations. Not for me sorry!

What I do vow is to keep things simple and try to find a balance between normal stress (which is part of anybody’s life) and toxic stress that could cause a relapse. I am intent on not going through another winter depression where I hide from the world, am highly anxious and hate myself for it.

I will continue to focus on my studies without being daunted by the big picture. I will invest time into building friendships without feeling the need to have a hundred friends. I will try and give more to the ones that I care about.

I am also keen to return to work in some capacity. Ideally in the field of mental health. I may go back to nursing, but there are a few hurdles I need to jump through to get my registration back. I hope this exercise isn’t too stressful in itself.

When it comes to finding a partner and falling in love again, I am not putting any pressure on myself there either. Establishing a foundation based on friendship, mutual respect and trust is more important than diving in dumb and blind. It is a process that needs to happen naturally and cannot be forced.

Again, it’s nice to be reflective at this time of year and sort through the things that you do and do not want for the new year. The reality is that we will wake up on the first day of the year, exactly the same person we were on the last day of the year. Change should be gradual and realistic but there is nothing wrong with following your heart in order to find what you most desire.

As you reflect on another year passed, whether it was good, bad or indifferent, stay true to yourself in your desires and expectations for 2013. Make sure you’re not someone who is burnt out within the first three months of the year. It is of course a marathon – not a sprint!

Most importantly: Have yourself a good one and I wish everyone a Happy and Safe New Year!

*Thank you for supporting this blog over the past few months and I look forward to more sharing and connecting with fellow bloggers during 2013*

The cricket world today lost a much loved Character. RIP Tony Grieg. Australian summers of cricket will never be the same again.

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English cricketing legend and inaugural member of Channel Nine’s cricket coverage Tony Greig has passed away today aged 66.

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By bipolarbeach Posted in Sport

Christmas: The Aftermath

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OMG! What a head fuck! Christmas has come and gone and unfortunately it wasn’t pretty. Anxiety surrounds the prospect of New Years Eve still to come, but compared to this time last week, I think I’m doing a little better – if only just.

In the week leading up to Christmas, I was busy with writing assignments for University. I had made the conscious decision a few weeks earlier that I would not let the occasion get the better of me – as per my last post before Christmas. I thought I was prepared but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As a reward for getting my assignments out of the way, I took myself out to see a game of 20/20 Cricket. (Being summer in Australia and thus being Cricket season, its one thing to do if you like sport – especially Cricket) – Anyway…

From the moment I got into town (which is about a 90 minute drive from where I live), I felt like rubbish. I felt so out of place which is a bit unusual as I love going to watch live sport. The game itself was enjoyable but by the time I got home I was exhausted.

I’ve seen a pattern developing recently whereby whenever I go out and do something, I am completely wiped out the following day.

With Christmas only three days away, I found myself sinking again and everything went completely off track. Plans I had for Christmas night went out the window and I decided to just stay away for the sake of myself and everybody else. I didn’t want to subject anybody to any negativity, plain and simple.

On Christmas Eve I decided to cook so I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking on Christmas Day. There was no roast, no turkey, no ham. Just a Greek lasagne dish called Pastitsio. Along with some prawns and plum pudding with custard, that was Christmas lunch/dinner. I was actually doing well on Christmas Eve after falling in a heap over the previous two days. I had coffee with my next door neighbor. She gave me a card and a movie voucher which was really thoughtful and nice. I have since invited her to see Les Miserables with me over the next couple of weeks.

That night, in a highly emotional state, I watched a Christmas movie called ‘Noel‘ and I was in tears most of the way through. I was desperate not to completely breakdown so I let the tears run down my face, but I avoided any full blown crying. On Christmas morning, I had a modest sleep in and felt okay.

For about an hour and then it all went to shit.

My friend who I was supposed to go and see on Christmas night, send me a text message wishing me a Merry Christmas and informed me that his in-laws were not going to be there as originally planned. He said if that changed anything for me, then I should reconsider going there. Initially I completely ruled it out and sent though a reply saying so. Then guilt hit me like a tonne of bricks and I changed my mind. I sent through a text asking him what time he would be home, but unfortunately (and therefore typically if you ask me), I never got a reply. By 8pm that night, having felt like shit for much of the day, I sent a text to him saying “Thanks for making a difficult day even more difficult”. By the next day he sent me reply saying he was sorry for not replying sooner, but that he also didn’t appreciate ‘the dig’. He knew full well I was struggling with the whole occasion, but in typical fashion, his ego was far more important than any pain I was going through. An attempt to clear the air on my part two days ago had all but ended our friendship. He said he was too busy to call me and I called him an Asshole in reply. His response:

“Wow you have really lost the plot. I don’t know why I bother. Enjoy your self absorbed life”

BAM!

Didn’t I feel like a worthless piece of shit after getting that. Add that to the list of things NOT to say to somebody with a mental illness – regardless of whether it’s Christmas or any other time of year. One thing I do know about myself is that I am not self absorbed. People with any form of narcissism really get up my nose, however…

Bipolar IS selfish by nature, but that doesn’t make us selfish people, self involved, self absorbed  or whatever. I know full well what my flaws/personality deficiencies are, whether they are linked to Bipolar or just naturally make up the person that I am. We are all the same in that regard. This is where tolerance, understanding and empathy come into play. Especially at this time of year where there are triggers for some at almost every turn.

To say that I am hurt over a sense of abandonment at this time of year, (particularly when you tell somebody you are struggling, only to fall on deaf ears) is a quiet understatement. Simple words which promote empathy would be a nice start. My friend is obviously far too busy to even make a small amount of time to come and visit me. To see him, I basically have to go to his place 9.5 times out of 10. One way traffic in a friendship/relationship is also one of my pet hates. Okay, I live one hour away, but is a one hour drive really that hard?

The other frustration when it comes to my illness is that he has no real understanding of it. He cares, but he doesn’t get it. The reason why there is a high emphasis on this person is because he is my only support. I have recently met somebody who does understand my illness and isn’t judgmental about it. I really hope that a friendship can blossom as a result, but it’s too early to tell. I’m not one to try and force anything. You simply cannot control other people and that’s reality. A fair one too I might add.

Which brings me back to my friend of 20 plus years.

Yes he doesn’t get my illness. He knows that I have Bipolar amongst other issues, but I don’t think he can really handle these facts. When I’m good, things are fine. We get along great. When I get depressed, I normally shield him from it to protect both parties. I am able to suffer in silence (most of the time), without having to deal with the guilt or humiliation of having symptoms and episodes (mostly depressive ones), exposed to others. Then there are his friends and this is the reason why I cant even go over there on New Years Eve – as much as I would like to under normal circumstances. Similar to Christmas night, it would be nice to not have to subject myself to self imposed isolation. His friends know that I have a mental illness. Unfortunately, they do treat me differently because of this. Therefore I am not comfortable being in that social circle and besides, they are his friends, not mine. I have tried to accept his friends as my own, but the bottom line is that they are just as ignorant as he is and all of it makes me very uncomfortable.

So my plan for new years eve is to simply make it through the day. Hopefully my symptoms won’t be a major factor. Like Christmas night, I will most likely double up on my medications and get an early night. I’ll also have to negotiate new years day, but hopefully by the 2nd of January (which I now have plans with my new found friend), I will be back to normal, having survived the stress of the holiday period, and can then focus on the challenges that await for 2013.

As per my pre-Christmas post, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I sincerely hope you have a good one. If you are struggling, do reach out to someone that you trust. Hopefully you won’t get burnt in a similar way to what I did this Christmas. Above all, remember that you are not alone, even if you feel that you are. Despite our best intentions and efforts, this is a difficult time of year for so many of us and therefore it is not to be underestimated.

Do what you have to do to get through and survive, but please be sensible and safe in the process.

Sending lots of love, warmth and empathy to everybody – especially to those who understand and appreciate the meaning of this post.

Tis the Season to be Bipolar

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And here we go again. The silly season has arrived. Oh what Joy. I’m not really a fan of this time of year. In fact, if I could go to sleep and wake up on the 15th of January, I would!

With the limited time I do watch Television, everything is so bright and cheery. Commercials flogging anything from hams to turkeys, there is even a wine advertisement that really gets up my nose. The illusion that the festive season is a time of joy, giving and receiving and everybody having such a wonderful time – well – it actually makes me gag a little.

Why is December so hard for so many people? Is it because there are those of us who cannot possibly live up to the expectations, commercialism places on us? Is it because we are lonely and and just plain miserable.

I hate Christmas, because of both of these things. And to not make it any bigger than it has to be, I vow to keep it simple.

I will cook something on Christmas Eve to take the pressure off cooking anything on Christmas Day itself. I have an invite to go and see a friend on Christmas evening, but that will come down to how I am feeling on the day. Plan B is to watch a few movies, including one of my favourites, Love Actually.

I really don’t think there is any need to feel additional pressure at this time of year. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, whether you are alone or with loved ones, don’t let something as commercial as Christmas get the better of you. It is only one day of the year and in reality isn’t that much different to the other 364 days.

Call someone, connect with an online forum for support, but don’t be defeated by Christmas.

Having said all of that, I do hope that anybody struggling at this time of year is able to find some peace. Please don’t give yourself a hard time. It’s seriously not worth it!

Happy Silly Season to all.