I am taking charge of me

do be free

I’ve had so much talk counselling/therapy in the past 22 years that I am completely sick of it. The advice I’ve survived, the lectures I’ve tolerated, the scoldings I’ve gritted my teeth through, the sympathy, the empathy, the tears, I’m sick of it all. There is no cure, not mainstream or alternative, for the mental illnesses that have plagued my life. I’m sick and tired of people in positions of learning telling me I just need to try this or that or the other. Step back, experts! I’m taking charge of me!

You know what I need? I need to stay in my house and not be harassed to go to appointments that only add stress. I need to stay in my house and cook good food. Stay in my house and write my book. Stay in my house and write my blog. Stay in my house and love my friends and family from right here in my studio, where I can breathe easy, feel safe, feel happy. That’s what I need right now. Anyone who says different just ain’t living in my skin and hey, you don’t know how it is.

Thanks for listening to this.

be you xx Rachel

How Do You Know If You Need Help?

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1. Suicidal Thoughts

If you’re having suicidal thoughts of any kind, get help. Suicide is permanent in the extreme, and if you’re feeling like it’s the only solution, you need to go and tell someone immediately. I recommend having a safe person, like your best friend, partner, shrink, anyone who is available to you no matter what and can be trusted to believe you when you tell them “Right now I am thinking about killing myself.” or “Lately, all I can think about is killing myself.”

2. Self Harm

If you’re thinking about harming yourself, or if you’ve already harmed yourself, get help. In a healthy state of mind, no person would harm themselves, so you must assume that you’re not in a healthy mind set if you’re in a self harming space. Contact your safe person, right away. See a doctor, and get a referral to a shrink. Keep on seeing shrinks until you find one who listens to you and respects you.

3. Hallucinations

If you’re experiencing hallucinations, whether auditory or visual or other, get help. Healthy people don’t generally have hallucinations. Never follow the instructions given to you by an hallucination, always seek help. Contact your safe person immediately if you can see or hear anything that’s just not there. Tell your doctor, so they can help you find a path to a healthy mind.

4. Extreme High, Fast, Elated Moods

If you’re having super-moods that make you feel as high as a kite, unstoppable and smarter than the average bear, get help. Go to a doctor, explain your moods and let the doctor be the one to decide if you’re having manic episodes. Mania is often described as feeling euphoric, but it can also make you feel really angry, really agreeable, really willing to spend money or sexually unbeatable. Contact your doctor, definitely. Listen to your doctor, and if it makes you more comfortable, take your partner or a good friend to the doctor with you. I know that sometimes it feels safer that way.

5. Deep, Dark, Depression

If you’re depressed, go to your doctor and get help. Never ignore depression, it’s a nasty little bitch and it can try to make you its slave. I just want to say it again; if you’re depressed, go to your doctor and get help. They have a huge range of treatments for depression now, from meds and therapy to meditation, happiness training and a load of other non-traditional methods. Go get help. Truly, go do it. xx

These are my top 5, but there are other things in your life that can be definite indicators that you need to get some help from a safe friend or a doctor. Feel free to add anything I’ve missed, in the comments, so I can include it in another post.

take care,

be you xx Rachel

Losing Weight, Bipolar Style

I’ve just realised something about my many attempts to lose weight in the past six years; every time I decide to lose weight, I’m in a manic state. This means I’m pumped, excited, ready to exercise and eat right and conquer the world. As soon as the depression or mixed state kick in, I immediately lose the momentum and completely give up. This is a huge aha moment for me.

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I’ve joined a gym a few times and in my normal or manic state I can really enjoy the gym. Of course as soon as my mood shifts to depression or mixed state, the Social Phobia accompanies it and I have no ability to leave the house, and I want to eat all day long.

It all seems so obvious now, but I had no way of understanding this before. So, and I’m just thinking out loud here, I have the usual amount of human inertia about eating healthily and exercising, with the added difficulty of unpredictable, uncontrolled mood shifts. Give me a break.

I’m wondering if I can create a plan that shifts with the moods? Sounds revolutionary, but that could be my current manic state speaking. One plan for each of my four states, and I act accordingly each day. The speed at which I cycle between moods could be an issue; at times I can experience four states in one day.

I’m going to work on this and get back to you. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’s a book in the making. Maybe I’m all hyped up on manic endorphins?

be you xx Rachel

Where I Talk About Bipolar and Writing About Real Life

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m Bipolar. I know a lot of people hate labels. I’ve heard a few people say things like ‘I’m not Bipolar, I have Bipolar’. Fair enough for them, and I do get their point, but I have to say that right now I always find myself saying I AM Bipolar.

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When I say this I don’t mean that Bipolar is the only thing I am, of course. Bipolar is what I have found myself to be, to suffer from, to struggle with, every fracking day of the year. I can breathe so much more easily now, knowing I am Bipolar. I have over a hundred online friends who are also Bipolar, who I relate to in a way that I’ve never related to anyone before in my whole life. I really get their struggles, I totally understand their pain. I know how it is to be so depressed you can’t see any lights in any tunnels, there’s just hot, deep, black. I know how it is to be a million miles up, high as a kite, without any drugs, just high on manic life, making bad choices, saying stupid stuff, promising things you will never be able to follow through on.

Spending 47 years trying to find out what the hell is wrong inside my own head, made me yearn for the right label. Not telling any of the shrinks that I was depressed and suicidal for over 20 years turned out to be a barrier to that. Who knew? I thought suicidal depression was normal, or irrelevant or so similar to one of my close family members that it could pretty much be expected.

Becoming aware of my Bipolar has not boxed me, it has somehow released me. I know that must sound weird, but I’ve always tried to find out how to act ‘normal’ while my mind did the rollercoaster thing. Now, I find myself not trying to ‘be normal’ at all. I’m being me, and part of me is that I am Bipolar. Wow, feels so great to say it, own it, know it, and be able to find ways to cope with it.

I’ve started writing in a completely different way than ever before. I’m a copywriter by trade, and I have 5 unpublished book manuscripts of my own in my bookcase, but this time I’m writing the stuff that matters most to me. I’m thinking this will make it either much more tempting to want it published or the complete opposite and even more likely to be shoved into the back of a drawer.

Whatever happens to my raw, core-self writing, it feels very liberating to pour that stuff out on the page. I’m closely connected to these words in a way I’ve never been connected to my writing before. I always wanted to write about normal things, normal people, normal heads.

Now I’m going to write about how normal it is to be Bipolar.

be you xx Rachel

Home Is Where I Hide

I think I’ll be staying inside my house for the rest of my life. I like my house. It’s very old, usually messy and definitely needs renovating to bring it from well-loved/old to quaint/cute. I like it just the way it is, though, which is why I’ve lived here for about six years with no improvements except insulation and air con.

I need fences, though. Nice, high fences. So I can go out in my garden when I’m depressed/social phobic. It would be so nice to be able to tend my veggie garden any day of the week, and not just the ones where my mind isn’t as black and low and paranoid as it can get.

Mixed State With A Serving of Grief

My darling, sweet, fat, snuggly cat Magic was killed by a car two days ago.

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He was there for me whether I was high or low, manic or depressed, excitable or angry or whatever. He was a quiet, loving cat and sometimes boisterous and unlike any other cat I’ve ever owned. I love him so much and my heart is breaking.

I’m in a mixed state, with this grief on top of it. My head feels even more scrambled than usual. Thank god my hubby is here watching out for me. I feel that dark need to take my life. Last night I was so off my face I did something that I’ve never owned up to on my blog before: I cut myself. My arms. I hate sharing that. I find that it’s incredibly difficult for people to understand the self harm thing. Friends who can cope with my ups and downs and moody crapola still don’t know how to cope with the self harming thing. It’s a lonely nastiness that seems to help in the moment, but brings on disgust and shame.

I want my Magic back. I want to stop feeling like this. I want my head to miraculously clear, my mood to level out. I also want a house on 100 acres in the bush, a houseboat and a giant camper to travel Australia with my hubby, my dog and my parrot. All of these things are equally impossibly out of reach. I’ll take one hour at a time and breathe in and out. I’ll choose to live. I’ll check my Facebook messages, do the dishes if I can drag myself to the kitchen, watch DVDs, write in my journal, cook dinner, water my veggie garden, and wish for the billionth time that I could trade my mind in for a more peaceful, quiet one.

be you xx Rachel

I’m Dreaming of a Light Christmas

Yep, I’m dreaming of a nice, light Christmas. If you know me, you’ll know I definitely don’t mean light on food; Christmas is the season for special yummy treats and home cooked delights.

merry christmas

My Christmas wish is for a depression-light, manic-light wonderland of family fun and laughs. If you have a mental illness, I wish you a nice light Christmas, too. Here are my tips for a light Christmas;

  • be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else with the same issues you struggle with
  • it’s okay to tell friends and relatives that you’ll decide on the day of a festive event whether or not you are able to attend
  • yes, you ARE allowed to do that ^
  • take time out from all the plans and events and shopping; do something you know will calm you
  • eat plenty of fruit and veg
  • take your meds
  • if you need to say no to friends and family, I hereby give you permission to say no

If you know someone with a mental illness, I want to encourage you to gift them with the following kindnesses this season;

  • offer them unconditional love
  • don’t give them advice about how to handle their issues
  • support them in the healthy choices they are making, like not self-medicating with alcohol and illegal drugs
  • if they’re depressed, sit with them without expecting anything from them
  • if they’re manic, be kind
  • if they need alone time, give it to them
  • invite them to events and be nice about it if they need to decide on the day

I hope you’re having a lovely December!

be you xx Rachel

Hello Mania! Welcome Euphoria! Where’s my Credit Card?!

Woohoo, everything’s fine. Manic today and ready to change the world, fix everything that’s wrong, start new projects, begin again and all that jazz!

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Awake at 4.30am, hardly slept at all, mind tick tick ticking; Sell the house, plant pumpkin seeds, jump on a train and just go wherever it takes me, apply for another credit card, plan a new career, write another book. Mania how I love thee right now.

Euphoria, thou art so much frikkin better than depression.

Come on, decide, choose, know what to do with this energy. Hurry up. Don’t waste precious up-time. Ignore the banal, forget what needs doing and go for what feels good. Shopping! I could go Christmas shopping.

My hubby wants to chat about paying the bills. Pfft. He has no idea how to have fun with money. VISA, electricity, rates, water. Pfft. Maybe we need a festive dinner set for Christmas day? A really pretty one. They have those in Myers!

…The beautiful/horrible thing about knowing you are Bipolar is that you can kill the euphoria with the understanding that this is a temporary up, high, rush, impulsive state. Sometimes that doesn’t occur to you, and you get completely carried away on the wave of the fantasy life where you can do anything your passions want. That’s when very big money gets spent on rediculous things, very big projects get half-done and discarded. Expensive projects, ones you fought for, yelled about, defended to the last breath while manic.

Today I know everything, I am everything. It’s so easy to think that now, in mania, the meds are working perfectly because surely no bad thing could feel this bloody good. Just one thing; please take my credit card off me now! Oh, wait, it’s already maxed out. Pfft.

be you xx Rachel

I Met A New Friend Today

I met a new friend today. That’s how it happens when you use Facebook – you connect with people and get to know them, and then you meet them in real life. I love that.

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It was one of those easy meetings where we sat down with a cuppa at her home and chatterboxed for hours. I loved getting to know her, we have lots in common and that is always fun. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with her.

Friendship is a tricky thing in my life. I often either give way too much, or keep a wall up. It’s the Bipolar, but it’s also childhood stuff about staying separate from everyone else. I was raised by extreme fundamentalist Christian parents who had their own way of interpreting the bible. They believed that people who went to church were misguided, hoodwinked and in error, thus to be avoided at all cost. They also believed that people who did not go to church were the Unbelievers; corrupt, sinful, evil and to be avoided at all cost. This meant that I was taught to trust and respect nobody outside my own family.

You can imagine what this did to my child heart. I developed an internal binary switch for strangers that allowed for only two states of trust: complete and zero. Not many people scored my complete trust. Almost everyone fell in the zero trust category. I was very good at putting a polite and friendly face on my utter lack of trust, learned by watching my parents and the way they acted towards customers, school teachers and shop assistants.

The people I felt compelled to trust completely inevitable hurt me. I would pull back from them and reassign them to zero trust, then beat myself up for failing so badly at correctly divining their trustworthiness. What an idiot! What was wrong with me? When I was a child it had been so simple, with my parents doing all the judging and me completely trusting their choices.

Of course, as I grew up I became aware that I needed to see people in a much less black and white way. I watched people do good and bad to one another and I learned that most people are well intentioned – which was pretty hard to take on board and live with at times.

I met a new friend today and, by nurture, I am tempted to trust her completely, believe everything she says, do whatever she wants me to do, be whatever she thinks I should be. But another thing I’ve learned over the decades is that real, true friends seem to understand my urge to be the best best friend that has ever lived, and instead of taking advantage of this, they choose to give and take. I am trusting myself to live one day at a time, choosing to give and choosing also to take. These are the ingredients for a happy, healthy connection. I know it.

be you xx Rachel

Taking Charge of My Own World

Life truly is awesome when you do what you feel you’re meant to be doing. For me, this has involved rejecting a whole truckload of shoulds and oughts. In the last twenty four hours, I have been having big realisations about how much I’ve put on myself in regard to who I should be, what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.

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I read a lot. Reading is one of my favourite things in the world, but thanks to my MI, sometimes reading can mess with my head. When I’m manic, I sometimes read quotes by famous people about how life is great if you make it so, and I start to pile all kinds of shoulds and oughts on myself. I should be happy, because, after all, all of the books say that happiness is a choice. Crap! If I’m depressed or manic/depressed, I’m here to tell you that telling me to choose to be happy is about as intelligent as telling a diabetic to spontaneously produce enough insulin. No can do, sunshine.

Something I’ve learned to do is to hit the blogs and Facebook pages of other people with BD, and read how they make their way through the dark times. Humour plays a big part in this, especially the ability to laugh at your own moods, reactions and choices.

be you xx Rachel