It's usually hard for me to get up in the mornings. But today I had something to do. Yesterday I decided to purchase a domain name and I started setting up this website. Today I wanted to continue to get it up and running.
Having some sense of meaningful purpose helps keep me going even though things are very challenging for me (unable yet to work full-time and live independently after two decades of being away from home). I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, PTSD and social anxiety in my forties. Previously I was diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression and anxiety in my early twenties.
I spend most of my time in my room. I face the world a few hours per week working part-time as a merchandiser, then I isolate myself again. I might also venture out to go for a walk in some of my favourite places in nature. Then I isolate myself. I only have 'real-life' contact with a few trusted people. Rarely see friends. My room is my safe space.
Looking back, I first had signs of bipolar disorder since my teenage years. I had my first breakdown when I was twenty and at university. Burnt out several times after taking on something extremely challenging like high school teaching (where did I get that idea?) Only managed to teach for a year before I quit having anxiety attacks. Still don't know how I did it. Oh yes I do now. My mood was elevated and with it I felt super-confident to face my fears. Until I crashed again. It's super frustrating and it can be very discouraging.
But my determination keeps me going. Setting a meaningful goal bigger than myself helps keep me going. I felt a bit anxious starting this blog. I didn't want for myself to be 'defined' by bipolar. Yet bipolar and trauma have impacted on every part of my life. I don't want for others to suffer as much as I have.
Bipolar disorder was suggested when I was in my late twenties but because I had a bad reaction to the medication, I rejected the diagnosis. So the psychiatrist prescribed more antidepressants which on their own can trigger mania episodes. I rejected the diagnosis again when I was diagnosed in my forties after a two month hospitalisation after an extremely stressful marriage break up. I felt terrible on meds so I told my psychiatrist I didn't want to take them. I went manic again - worse than ever before. I'm now back on meds and my psychiatrist has prescribed the minimal effective doses being aware of my sensitivities to side effects.
I still have ups and downs but they are not as extreme as off bipolar medication or when on antidepressants. I am still processing trauma. I've been tearful the past few days after being triggered. My psychologist says I've had PTSD since I was five years old but it became worse for me combined with my bipolar disorder becoming more severe. I have had full mania episodes as well as deep episodes of depresson.
I am getting closer to completing a book called Pet Purpose, which has been a meaningful project for me. The main character has bipolar disorder and PTSD like myself. I felt like I needed to start another project so I have something else to focus on when that project comes to an end. I've found the process of writing a semi-autobiographical novel to be therapeutic, yet I have some anxiety about releasing it. I'm still editing it until I feel comfortable to publish it, as it has very intimate themes.
When I went back on medication, I started painting abstracts. It has also been a therapeutic process, allowing me to process and express emotion and process trauma in a less painful way. Painting could express so much when my mind was too scrambled to find words. Many of my initial drawings and paintings were quite childlike in style. More recently I've been painting landscapes - some more 'grown-up' paintings.
I had a solo art exhibition last year for mental health awareness. It takes courage for an adult to paint and to show their paintings. It was an anxiety-inducing exercise but when I was manic, I decided to set myself a 'ridiculous' goal of an exhibition. I try to see that there was some benefit in the mania, despite all the pain. One of them for me is facing fears - which can have a positive and a negative.
The key point I'd like to leave with you is that it helps to have some kind of meaningful project. Another thing I do is go for walks and take photos of birds. I hope to paint some soon.
I've currently set the website up with a banner from a painting I did when I was feeling depressed. The painting is of a figure, Sensitive Soul wearing a cloak of courage. The cloak was transparent but then became 'stained' in magenta, representing suffering and bloodshed. Sensitive Soul is pressing on into the storm. Abstract figures in the background are people either jeering at her or cheering her on. Or both. Unfortunately, there are people in this world that rejoice in your suffering. But then there are those that care too.
I prefer to write and paint as I feel express myself better these ways. I did make a video diary a few years back, but I dissociate quite a bit when I speak plus I went into a manic episode which I put online. Oops.
I hope this blog will inspire you and your loved ones to keep pressing on, even after failing again and again. Courage is facing overwhelming pain and challenges despite experiencing fear.
Xanthe finds writing and painting to be therapeutic. She has lived with mental illness for over 25 years. She has been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder after originally being diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression with general anxiety.