In just over an hour, it will be 2022 in New Zealand. I have been jotting down some notes and preparing some photos over the past 4 hours with the aim to write a final blog post for the year (all improvised really).
I will upload a few pics I took today and write some text around them. It is very challenging for me to organise words into sentences, paragraphs etc. I have impairments with bipolar 1 disorder and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD), which affect my cognition and communication.
I am a visual person, so find it easier to work around a visual framework. Below is a photo of my journals from this past year (I use scrapbooks without lines). I usually journal in my own way with coloured felt pen plus biro, in messy writing (as I write very fast), with pretty much mind maps and loose associations. This is how my mind works.
Also an art journal which has the colours and notes from my paintings. A folder with photos and names of my paintings (I tend to forget what I've painted and what I've named them). A folder with loose pages working on some books. Music of my choice to process intense emotion without distress. My laptop which I use to type when I am up to typing rather than scribbling in my journals or painting. Plus my camera, which took the photos. I also use my phone for a visual diary which I can look back on later if I want to recall a time period.
I have done a lot of intense processing these past few weeks, this past year, these past six or so years. I am nearly at the end of my therapy with a clinical psychologist, treating PTSD (weekly sessions, over two years). My psychologist acknowledged that I did most of the processing of grief and trauma my own ways, creatively. Creative expression is therapeutic, not matter how messy. I have become aware of the symbolism, which I capture somehow and use later in a different way for my storytelling.
I have short-term memory impairments which makes working on projects like books very, very challenging for me. I am hyperaware of symbolism and metaphor. I wove this into my first novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice, which was inspired by my experiences with bipolar and PTSD.
Starting Bipolar Courage was actually going off on a tangent when I had setbacks completing my book. A tangent that has resulted in over 600 raw, unedited videos about mental health and my creative process. Over 100 videos this past year. I didn't edit the videos because it showed more, I felt less pressure to try get things 'right', and because editing takes so much time. Recently, I have started adding captions to selected videos (after finally figuring out how to do it).
Nearly everything I have created has been destroyed - art, words etc. This past week, I cut up my painting, Devine Fire Goddess. I still have the pieces. It's part of my process - pull things apart, keep parts, repurpose parts, discard parts. Inspiring new ideas along the way.
This egg from broken paua shell, painted with nail polish is symbolic to me. I took a photo with one of the pieces from the goddess. It's all metaphor and symbolism, which I may explain further in my book.
These are the only other remaining pieces that I have kept from cut up art. I had two community art exhibitions - Spinning Orbit in 2018, Speak in 2020. Sold some art, gave some away, cut some up and repurposed.
I have only painted around half a dozen paintings this year. I feel the need to paint less after processing the most intense themes. Instead, redirecting my energy to writing and editing. I tend to paint when can't find the words to express or I don't know what I'm feeling. Movement to music usually does the expression for me, which happens to translate into paintings.
My latest painting was the tui (top photo), inspired by a photo I took during a walk. Called Ataahua, which means 'beautiful' in te reo Maori.
There is symbolism in the cut pieces below. It says 'Love Hurts' which are the themes I write about. This year, I self-published Pet Purpose plus a memoir I wrote in 2015. I recovered a copy (I thought I had deleted every file), retyped it with minimal editing and published it as Bipolar Cringe.
My next big goal is to write the sequel to Pet Purpose, called Soar Purpose. I painted the proposed cover this year, Phoenix Kereru. I have written some scenes and ideas but I have gone off on yet another tangent. For the last few months, I have been working on another memoir, Bipolar Courage.
This year has been a rollercoaster (as bipolar with PTSD typically is), made somewhat more manageable with medications, self-care (exercise, rest etc), therapy, my creative endeavours. I had a massive mood crash after publishing each of my books. I won't detail here everything as it's too long but it was very rough.
I also had two impairment assessments for PTSD by psychiatrists - also very stressful. Also moved into a hostel during a massive mood crash so stressful that I had to give up one of my part-time jobs, as otherwise, I was headed for another breakdown. I've been living in a hostel for more than half this year.
I was the target of mob cyberbullying over identity politics. I decided to delete my Twitter account as it had a negative impact on my mental health, as it was too open to mobbing. My YouTube videos for Bipolar Courage are still up and I will gradually caption them. The videos also act as a diary of what I was processing when. I won't be watching back hundreds of videos but refer to some of interest for my writing projects.
I shift between one creative project to another, all working towards the very challenging goals of my books. I can't work on the books everyday as it's too exhausting, so I do something else like take photos of birds while going for a walk. I have started another YouTube channel called Soar Purpose. At some stage, I will make a website with some of my bird photos, but that's going off on another tangent.
Writing the memoir, Bipolar Courage has been to process some things that happened during the advocacy journey. I am not actively making more YouTube videos for Bipolar Courage. Apart from the odd blog post etc, I am not really doing much more, other than updating how I am going. I prefer to write with privacy.
The memoir, Bipolar Courage is about some of of the online connections that came about because of the advocacy journey. In particular, why I felt for a complicated man online, whom I would never have met otherwise. The rollercoaster of emotions and the bigger picture of the related drama. Some things, I will keep to myself but I felt like I need to write this story, before I can continue with the novel, Soar Purpose.
When my mind wasn't able to think, I made a sculpture from repurposed materials, called Caught: One that Got Away (video below). It's related to the story I am currently writing. It will take me a while, as I am typing up dialogue and making notes of things to include. I have the chapter framework now. Generally, I do the writing parts in hypomania episodes, note down themes in when dip into mania. I am not editing at this stage until I have all the material to work with. Most of what I have written so far won't even be included.
So my vision is four linked books - two memoirs, two novels, communicating what relationships are like with bipolar and PTSD. Another phase of my journey is my desire to reconnect with creating music. I bought a small digital piano this year. I've already had lots of tears playing it as piano became a trauma trigger for me, so that I was unable to play.
So what's my goals for 2022? I anticipate completing my second memoir, Bipolar Courage. Hopefully, a much more sophisticated effort than Bipolar Cringe. I am being very careful about what I reveal this time around. I want to continue with reconnecting with piano as I am able. Paint when I feel like it (less often). Make my Soar Purpose website. Continue to maintain a moderate level of fitness (mostly walks with music and often with photos). Caption some videos here and there. But the main goal is my memoir and then my novel. The other side tangents are all related projects to the bigger projects.
Only 20 minutes left of 2021 and I have managed to write a blog post that I have been working on in some capacity for hours (it takes me a long time to do things these days). Just need to go back through and add some links and formatting. I started with pictures first and wrote the words next. Just like with Pet Purpose. Paintings first, then the words. Then I threw over 30,000 words away while rewriting and editing.
I expect to be keeping my passionate intensity. That's part of who I am.
With 2 minutes before midnight, will be hitting publish on this post. I have done the best I can with it and there may still be some typos, repetition etc.
Happy New year 2022
Just as I was about to publish this post the fireworks went off at midnight. So, took a few pics form my bedroom window (one of the advantages of living at the hostel is that I get great views of sunset and the mountains.
2022. Which reminds me, I will be 50 this year. Lots to do to get the books written. Meaningful creative projects keep me going. Make my own purpose.
Xanthe finds creative expression including writing and painting to be therapeutic and helps her to manage her diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).