Swim

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim”Tyler Knott Gregson

My big little brother sent me this quote via Pinterest and as always, it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, as if in answer to the questions I’ve been yelling at the Universe lately. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy many things because I have been solely focused on trying to cope using ways that (obviously) have lost a degree of effectiveness. I have been so focused on just “keeping it together” that I have turned blind to simple things that I had once remembered to seek out; tiny moments of everyday miracles happening all around me. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly, a baby is born far too early and fights to draw each breath, yet he fights, and he lives. People die, yet their spirit and the essence of who they were live on; the deaf can hear, the wounded heal and rise to fight another day. A mother does the impossible everyday, bringing food to the table, keeping her children safe yet aware of the dangers in this world. A father works himself into an early grave so that his children can have a better life than he did. So many miracles, unnoticed when I’m so deep into myself, my “troubles” and my rollercoaster of emotions that are as much a part of me as my curly hair and my tattoos. Living with mental illness, addiction and temptation are my trifecta of Troubles. But there is so much more to the world, to me, to what I want to accomplish and who I wish to become. As with anything, I must adjust, adapt and/or accept what is happens to me, around me and within me, but that doesn’t mean that I should disregard the beautiful insanity that is my world. A world where people are still my friends, even after I have proven myself to be less than perfect and wholly human, a world where a man knows me, good and bad, happy and sad, sane and mad and still loves me. Where I have a son who has every reason to begrudge me happiness, yet wishes it for me abundantly and repeatedly; where a friend sees the crisis and helps in the the best way possible, giving me sanctuary from stress, mental exhaustion and emotional bankruptcy….next stop Complete Shutdown. I was able to avoid that next stop and it’s due solely to my friend’s generosity, which I will try to repay, but can’t imagine how I will be able to.

These last few days have been an effort to get back into the River that is Life and swim, just for the sheer joy of it. Spending time being creative, whether it’s writing, coloring with crayons or just seeking out beauty and capturing it in a photo, stealing a moment in time and keeping it forever, unchanged and unspoiled. Just walking through a park, on a trail, really looking at the trees, majestic and tall, decorated in Autumn’s colors and waving to me with the crisp morning wind shaking their leaves. This brings me back; this slowly cleanses away the grime and dust of depression, that black dog who creeps in and lies on your chest until you know you will never rise again. Nature fights that, gives you light and beauty and life, but we need to be aware, to reach out to it and let its goodness in.

Oh – and swim. Just for the love and the sheer joy of it.

 

Moving On and Stepping Up

Let him that would move the world first move himself.
Socrates

I started this blog with the intention of documenting my recovery, my issues with mental health and with the hope that my experiences might be of some benefit to others. I think I have accomplished what I set out to do, even though the scope of this blog has gone into more areas than just the two mentioned. I have been neglecting it as of late and certainly haven’t been a faithful blogger, posting regularly and keeping my promise to myself that the content would be positive, but I have enjoyed hearing from others about how my posts resonated with them and have felt incredibly humbled by the number of people who have followed and encouraged me from the very beginning. I feel this is a good time to say good-bye to this blog and instead reach out to people in person, in the physical world. It’s very easy for me to write about my daily struggles and successes most of the time but I feel as though the direction of my writing is moving away from its original intent and perhaps as a natural progression of things, I no longer feel driven to pour my thoughts and feelings out to the world via the internet. I have a great deal more to learn, many more challenges to overcome and my education to continue and ultimately finish. So it is with great love and appreciation to all who have visited my page and encouraged me that I write this final post. Ultimately, I would love to write a book, but for now, writing in my journal so that my Future Self can celebrate how far we’ve come sounds appealing. I will continue to educate people who truly want to understand mental illness and/or addiction in loved ones, co-workers and people that cross their paths every day. There may not be a cure for mental illness or addiction, but knowledge is power and the more knowledge we share, the more empowered we are as a society.
Thank you all for your support. I will think of you often and with great fondness.
Sincerely,
Michelle

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Creativity, Mania and Meds

“Saying I don’t take my meds because they make me feel funny is like cannibals saying they don’t eat clowns because they taste funny” 
― Stanley Victor Paskavich

For the longest time, I fought against taking any kind of psych meds for a myriad of reasons; it would most certainly interfere with my alcohol and substance use, it could make me “normal” (God forbid!) and more importantly, I was deathly afraid that I would become someone else. As someone who could handle anything, it seemed as though it was somehow cheating to take them. Of course, drinking and self-medicating were perfectly acceptable and didn’t constitute a crutch at all, in my mind.

There is a great deal of fear around medications, especially psych meds for those who have the bipolar diagnosis. I can only speak for myself, but when I look back at all the wonderfully dark poetry I wrote while in the midst of a manic episode, I wonder if it was the mania or me that created them. I know now that my talents are not solely dependent upon my state of mind, but rather the end result is colored by my mental state. I don’t need to be hopelessly depressed to write about sadness or riding the tsunami of mania in order to write of bliss. I now know that my creativity exists within myself, my heart and soul. My moods may change, but the core of who I am remains. I will admit that a good manic episode, much like a good acid trip, may open doors within my mind to places that I would normally not be granted access to, but that does not diminish my potential for creativity. I am able to open doors to creativity through meditation, deep thought and following my intuition to wherever it leads me.

I love the quote above because it reminds me so much of myself in years past. I have argued with my psychiatrist for many years about getting clean and sober, taking my prescribed medication and finding sustainable sanity. It was as though I feared sanity more than I feared a lifetime of wild mood swings, severed friendships and day trips to insanity. I am thankful that I was able to finally face my fears and give myself the chance to live without extraordinary pain and suffering. Of course, this is not the end of my story, but rather the beginning. I hope that as I continue to write, I will be able to open those doors in my mind that will allow me to better understand my illness, my talents and my future as a creative woman who happens to have bipolar disorder.

I hope you will follow me on this journey.