Chapters…

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So here I am yet again, unable to sleep due to my royally fucked-up sleep pattern of late.  I know, I know being on the Macbook isn’t gonna help but I may as well be productive with my time.  I have a sneaky feeling that I may have accidentally grabbed the regular teabags, instead of the decaf, yet again (oh the perils of being so very British!)

A chance encounter with MTV this evening has got me thinking (shock horror)  Apart from the blatantly obvious, standard responses, I was thinking earlier how if you were to ask me about my happiest memories or times in my life, I would draw a blank.  Or so I thought.

Enter music.

I don’t know if it’s the same for ‘normies’ also but music has the most profound impact on me imaginable.  I have to be so freaking careful about the music I listen to, as a melancholy track that holds a memory can send me spiralling downwards before you say, “Change the fucking channel!”  Thankfully, it works both ways however and my mood can be lifted also, generally by country music.

But the thing with music is that I hold the associated memories so close to my heart that something which triggers a happy memory then causes me to feel sorrow for that which is no more.  Does that make sense?

As I was flicking through cable trying to find something to capture my fleeting attention span, I stumbled across MTV’s Ultimate Rock Top 20.  I was born and raised a rock chick.  It forms so much of who I am, which sounds ridiculously cliche, but I discovered myself and the fact that I am not one to conform through the bands that inspired and excited me as I hit adolescence.

As I perched on the sofa to see whether I agreed with the bands that had made the countdown, a smile spread across my face.  Pearl Jam.  Enter the incredible Eddie Vedder.  Within moments I was transported back to my bedroom – my safe haven against all the emotional shit that wreaked havoc with my childhood.  I was back in my lilac painted room, laying on my black futon, glancing up at my giant Pearl Jam poster which had its own corner whilst the rest of the room was a virtual shrine to Hollywood legend, Marilyn Monroe.

All of a sudden, I felt sad.  I realised that this great, uplifting video full of long-haired 90’s musicians in checked shirts and ripped blue jeans, rocking the fuck out before stage diving into an adoring crowd was approximately 20 years old.  20 fucking years!!! How the actual fuck did that happen?!?  I sat contemplating in amazement and sorrow at the thought that 2 decades have passed since I was that ‘Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!’ (you see what I did there? RATM ruled also!) kid who was ready to take on the world.  20 fucking years.  Jeez.

So no, if you asked me to name my happiest memories, I would probably struggle with anything other than the obvious, but play me the soundtrack to my life and I’m there smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

I think of my life in chapters, each defined by the style of music that I was listening to at the time.  I hear Silverchair and I’m taken back to the day I met my best friend in Design Technology – he thought it was cool that I had graffitied my folder with the Frogstomp artwork and being from Australia I thought that he was just about the coolest thing ever – he might as well have practically known them for all I knew.

I hear Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic by RHCP and I am transported to the coach trip I took around New England with my mum just a few short years after my dad had died.  I also remember Mum’s incessant “Will you turn it down!” as my foam walkman headphones did little to ensure that it was only me that got to enjoy Anthony Kiedis’ vocals.

If I hear Motley Crue’s “Don’t go away Mad’ I am sat at my very-very removed relatives dining room table in Toronto enjoying a real family Christmas.  This was less that 10 years ago and was the closest thing I have ever had to the sorts of family Christmases that you see in films.  After we’d had our fill of turkey, marshmallow yams and all sorts of deliciously decadent things that the British just don’t do, my Uncle and Cousin got their acoustic guitars out and played some Crue.  It was wonderful.

And ‘Fat Lip’ but Sum41.  It was to that song that I met ‘The One who got Away.’  He said he fell in love with me the moment he looked into my eyes (after I over-enthusatically danced and moshed around, landing my incredible heavy and cumbersome boots on his toe).  That song breaks my heart now for ‘What could have been…’

‘Undercover’ by Pete Yorn is the soundtrack to my diagnosis.  That song encapsulates the feeling of freedom that I gained when the puzzle pieces finally fell into place and it all made sense to me why my whole life I never fit in and how just living life always seemed so damned easy for everyone around me.  How was it that my friends were able to get up without fail every single day and just do it?  How was it that they didn’t need to spend their break times hidden behind locked bathroom doors just sobbing and trying to ‘pull it together’ in time for the next lesson.  Whereas most people may have felt despair at their diagnosis, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders – this was who I am.   For the first time in my life I accepted myself.

This also reminds me of a highly amusing (with hindsight) anecdote about how music once tried to kill me.  But that’s a different story…

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Waiting…

I hate using the telephone. Absolutely hate it. How typical that when I actually want it to ring it doesn’t. Waiting for ‘The Call’ is killing me! If they want to use me in the Christmas marketing campaign time is tick-tock-ticking come on already!!!!

Tradition

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I love traditions.  And I mean love traditions.   If I were to really analyse myself, I would guess my childhood had so little structure that as I became a young adult, I began to create traditions in an attempt to create something solid and dependable.

In all honesty, I don’t remember any real traditions from my childhood.  I don’t think there were any.  Being an only child with a father who wasn’t much interested in Christmas there was very little in terms of Christmas spirit.  Sure we had trees and lights but that was about the extent of it.

From the age of about 14 I have created countless traditions of my own and now that ‘The Kiddo’ understands Christmas and is as excitable as a kid in a candy store, I intend to create many more for her.

Over a decade ago I had the fortune to visit New York City in December.  I have visited the city several times and spent one of my worst, yet most memorable Christmases ever there, but that’s another story!

In order to escape the cold, I found warmth and shelter within a Barnes & Noble.  As a self-professed bibliophile, I could have spent the entire day in that shop, wandering it’s aisles and browsing all that it had to offer.  I have always, always loved Christmas so was thrilled to find that a display had been made of a range of festive reads.  I found this novel and exciting – this was not something that book shops in England did.  I could quite easily have bought every Christmas book B&N had to offer but sadly my budget was non-compliant.

Knowing that sacrifices would have to be made, I selected 3 books:

Christmas in Harmony

The Christmas Shoes

The Christmas Tree

All 3 were small, neat books approximately 100 pages or so long.  In no time at all I had devoured them and was filled with a festive warmth that made my soul smile.  I have never read Chicken Soup for the Soul but I’m sure the desired affect was what these books accomplished for me.

Ever since that Christmas, I have read those 3 books every December.  I know ‘Christmas in Harmony’ almost inside out – I could practically recite it, so familiar am I with its content; however, I still snort with laughter at Gulley’s subtle wit and dry humour and will continue to do so for many years to come, I’m sure.

However, the pile has grown.  After a couple of years my mum and husband noticed that each December I could be found reading those 3 treasured books and so the pile grew with Christmas books being given to me as gifts.  Each year I have to start my Christmas reading earlier and earlier in order to get through the now significant stack of festive treats.  It is currently late November and I fear that I may have missed the start line required to read them all.  This year I have added ‘Christmas with Tucker’ to the mix, although this is a library find that I will no doubt need to track down on Amazon.

Every year I vow to write to Philip Gulley and tell him how much ‘Christmas in Harmony’ has become such an integral part to my annual festivities.  These days, Christmas without that book would be like Christmas without a tree or Jimmy Stewart, all kinds of wrong, that’s what!

I love to hear others’ traditions, feel free to share yours in the comment box 🙂

I miss me…

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I am no stranger to the wonders of this illness during the times of hypomania – everything more vibrant, exciting, feeling so fucking alive as the blood pulses through my veins.

But right now, I am pissed at this disorder. I look in the mirror and barely recognise myself.  My hair perpetually scraped up into a fresh-from-the-shower messy bun and my eyes void of my staple ‘cat’s eyes eyeliner.’  As I look down at my slipper-socked feet and cosy North Carolina hoodie, I have to ask myself, “Where did I go?”

The countdown has begun to my return to work.  My GP suggests that Friday would be an ideal day to return to work, as only having one day to get through before the weekend will help me to gain confidence in social situations.  That gives me approximately 3 days to ‘find myself’ again.

I am not suicidal, I have not fallen that far.  I have been far worse than this in the past but I am blank with the exception of the overwhelming anxiety that crashes over me every time I attempt to leave my house.  I feel like such a pussy.  What am I so afraid of?  What is the worst that can happen? Why is the thought of leaving these 4 walls so terrifying?

On the rare few occasions that I have managed to leave, I felt so awkward and uncomfortable within my own skin that I wanted to run and hide.  Making eye-contact is almost painful and I feel that as well-meaning people look into my eyes, they can spy my deceit as I ‘smile’ with the standard, “I’m fine!” response.

The only place I find peace and solace is within a drug-induced sleep, or within the pages of a book.  Within those pages I experience none of my own emotions; I merely escape into the lives of the fictions characters who whisk me away from the depths of my mind.

Despite feeling so alone, I have zero desire to socialise.  On days weeks like these, just the thought of looking at my phone makes me feel sick to the stomach.  What the fuck am I so afraid of?  I guess it’s because finding a stack of messages from people assumes that a response is required.  However, I am not the sort of person to ask for help, I am not the sort of person who spills negativity in the direction of others.  I am not their problem, whether they want me to be or not.

And so I come here, spilling the thoughts of my mind on this pristine white page.

 

Intensity.

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I have this friend.  I’m almost certain that she’s in love with me.  Now, I’m bisexual so the fact that she flirts with me and finds any excuse to touch me, is not the issue here; it’s the fact that she’s my friend.  Is there anything more awkward than a friendship where one friend obviously has romantic feelings towards the other?  I think not.

The thing is, I’m not the sort of person that can have these sorts of conversations – I would rather the ground swallow me up than to actually address the elephant in the room.

I am no stranger to this situation, it has happened numerous times during my life. As a girl who is into girls but doesn’t actually tend to like socialising with them, I spend much of my time in the company of guys.  It was where I felt the most comfortable being myself and I never felt that I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t.  I could never seem to get my head around that fact that so many women seem to bond with each other by bitching about others.  What the actual fuck?!? Bitching has never been, nor ever will be, my style so if that’s a social component to being friends with a group of women? No thanks.

So over the years, I have had numerous close friendships with guys that have been so.fucking.perfect, until the, “Listen, there’s something I need to tell you…” opener.

FFS are you kidding me?  

There is nothing quite as uncomfortable as knowing that someone you have told your deepest, darkest secrets to, has secretly been harvesting feelings of a sexual nature towards you. Yeuch!!!  And it’s not that my guy friends were unattractive, some were pretty hot but it’s just icky knowing that they feel that way about you.

Now by no way do I think that I am God’s gift.  I’m not.  Please do not think that I am vain or full of myself, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’m merely recounting experiences.

So yeah, my friend.  She’s always been, shall we say… intense.  Not in a scary way, per say, but she has the most incredible memory and can recall pretty much everything I’ve ever told her and every time that I had ever cancelled on her. Warning bells anyone?

However, she is kind and supportive and would never knowingly hurt someone.  She was incredibly supportive about my condition and was keen to learn as much as she could about it.  I found this sweet; to a point. Until…

I used to use a range of private Bipolar groups on Facebook that I found to be an incredible source of support.  It was a private place where I could vent my feelings and talk about the struggles that I was going through that I didn’t feel that I could talk about in face-to-face situations.  It was an invaluable resource that I found solace in.  Until she joined the groups.  Yep, you heard me, she (who is not bipolar) joined the private support groups that I was using.  What the actual fuck?

I felt like she had completely violated my privacy.  It was as if she had read my diaries.  Although she never approached me about what I had written, I knew that she had seen my posts.  I know that in all honesty she probably joined the groups in order to gain further insight into my condition but  it was a step too far.  I’m not gonna lie, it freaked me out and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.  As a result, I backed off.  I couldn’t bring myself to discuss it with her, it would be too uncomfortable but I was beyond pissed for some time.

More recently we have become closer again but the uncomfortable feelings are returning.  She knows that I am having a tough time at the moment and she likes to ‘check in’ with me.  It’s sweet, to a point.  However, she inundates me with texts, regardless of whether I reply or not.  When I see her and she can tell that I am not in a good place, she wants me to open up and tell her everything.  That is not something I am comfortable doing.  It is not something that I do in real-life, it’s what I do here in my blog, with complete anonymity.  It might sound fucked up but it’s how I am and how I feel most comfortable dealing with this illness.

I appreciate her friendship, I really do, but there is always going to be an emotional barrier on my part because I know that her feelings towards me are not purely platonic.  How can a friendship ever be completely genuine when one party wants something more? I don’t want her out of my life but she surely must realise that nothing is ever going to happen between us.

Ugh.

 

5 Minutes of Fame…

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There are 2 parts to my professional life, my day job and my night job.  Up until recently, only my daytime colleagues knew about my condition – it is an aspect of my life that I have never felt the need to conceal, despite numerous rejections and significant stigma that I have faced over the years.

My evening job is my business, it is so far removed from my day job that people are often surprised by the duality of the ways I make my income.  In the evening I am a fitness instructor for a very well known fitness brand, however, I kept my illness and diagnosis completely separate from my participants for a long time.  I think the reason being that I was so reliant upon them to accept me, in order to make my living, the thought of being rejected by them would have a significant impact on my income.  It was a risk I couldn’t afford to take.

I knew that this fitness regime was part of the reason that I was more stable than I had been in years and decided that it was finally time for me to come clean. However, ‘coming out’ to your entire clientele was not something that I was sure how to approach and wasn’t sure when was the right time.  In the late summer the fitness company that I represent ran an online article about my condition and how I used fitness to manage many of my symptoms.  The article received thousands of likes via Facebook and the fitness company’s social networking page – I received messages of support from all over the world.

And so I came clean on my business Facebook page.  I posted the link and told my participants to read the article in order to learn the truth about their instructor.  I received mostly overwhelming support.  However, certain participants contacted me asking me to remove them from the class register as they would not be attending again.  What did I expect? There’s still significant stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder when you think of all the bad attention it gets in the media.

As a result of the article, I was also asked to become a media volunteer for a British organisation that is aimed at changing attitudes and stigma regarding mental illness.  The idea being that the organisers have a file about me stating that I am a 30-something woman who suffers from bipolar disorder.  As a media volunteer, my role is to advise people on the reality of what my experiences are like of living with this condition.  It may be for the purpose of articles, script writers, television interviews, whatever is needed.  Obviously wanting to do all that I could, I accepted.

This all occurred in August.  There were a few crazy weeks where I was inundated with a buzz of support and then inevitably the excitement died down and life returned to normal.

Until Thursday evening…

I noticed I had a missed call from a number that was not a contact registered in my phone.  Being absolutely terrified of having actual phone conversations, I took the wimp’s way out and sent them a text message telling them that I was sorry that I had missed their call.

I did not expect the response I got.

“Hey ******** is ***** ********** from ***** fitness Home Office.  I would really like to speak to you please.  When is good to talk?”

I glanced at the clock and replied that I would be able to talk at 5pm and gave him my home number, still not quite believing that anyone would ever actually call me.

Being the paranoid cynic that I am, I automatically assumed that it was a hoax and that someone was fucking with me.  So what did I do?  I took to Google obviously.  The name and location checked out.  I still didn’t believe it.  I did the next best thing to Google.  I messaged my buddy who is significantly higher up the ***** fitness hierarchy and asked if he was aware of this person.  Again, everything checked out.

At 5pm precisely my phone rang and I was greeted with a warm American accent.  He got straight to the point.  The company are doing a huge  marketing campaign over the holidays to promote the latest ***** fitness DVD release that is being made in conjunction with Universal.  ‘Hot American’ informed me that angle the marketing campaign were taking was how this fitness brand had changed people’s lives.

Enter me.

Apparently, they were so touched by my story that they had published that they wanted my permission to use my story and get involved with the marketing campaign.

Say whaaaaaaat?!?!?!?!

When I managed to pick my jaw up from the floor, I quickly agreed and was promptly told that my number would be passed on to the person from the marketing company that would be handling the promotional campaign.

Again, Say whaaaaaaat?!?!?!

I am simultaneously about to spontaneously combust with excitement whilst also being all-out terrified.  The thought of my face and my story being well and truly out-there is somewhat overwhelming.  The article that was written was niche in the fact that you could find it on the company’s Facebook page and website but otherwise you could quite easily have no idea of its’ existence.

I’ve been told this will be a significant campaign between now and the New Year.

Fuck.

 

What lies beneath…

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I gingerly take another step forward casting a wistful glance over my shoulder.  In the far-flung distance I see vivid hues of my former life vibrant against the setting sun.

I turn my head and sigh, my breath fogging in front of me and hanging densely in the frigid air.  With reluctance I take another step, lightly placing my feet with care and trepidation.

A deafening crack fills the crevice of my mind, as I plunge into the icy blackness below.  I gasp for breath and kick, kick with my legs but they are heavy and uncoordinated.  Again I am dragged below the surface, the blinding light of my former life rushes away from me in a rapid backwards motion.

My point of entry is gone.  I am overcome with panic as terror claws at my throat, crushing my chest and enveloping my senses. As I flail helplessly, my leaden limbs propel me to an icy ceiling.  This crystal partition, so beautiful upon first sight, prevents my escape.

I squint and in the distance through the ice I can see the life that I once knew.  My loved ones wave in recognition as they glance me in their periphary – their distance prevents them from seeing the panic and terror within my eyes.  “Just relax!” I tell myself, “this isn’t real.” Those I love carry on with the lives in blissful ignorance.  I watch in silence with resignation, as my limbs cease their fight with the current that is persistent with my inevitable descent.

Do they even know that I have slipped away?