I've made a lot of poor choices in my life, choices that brought with them devastating consequences. It would be terribly easy to blame my destruction on bipolar disorder, and I did for a time, but I don't believe that mental illness is an excuse, a reason perhaps, but never an excuse. When the dust settled and I knew that it was time to change my life I was faced with the disconcerting realization that my behavior had hurt the people in my life who I loved more than anything, and I had done such a fine job of it that not all of them were able to forgive me.
The journey through mental illness is never an easy one. Everyone has a story and everyone has a path. Some of those paths are rockier than others, some have few bumps along the way, but all of them will eventually have a fork in the road, a time to choose whether or not we want to do what we can to live the healthiest lives possible. But what if there is someone holding us back from doing just that? What if someone we care about wants us to stay sick?
My little sister is getting married next weekend and I am absolutely bursting with excitement. She is going to be the most stunning bride and the wedding itself is going to be beyond lovely. This evening I will be preparing one of the most delectable dishes to bring with me to her bachelorette party kick-off. But first, I'm leaving the children with their Nana while I spend the day getting pampered because for the next one hundred sixty eight hours, I'm pretty much booked solid. Even though this week consists of some of the happiest events of my families lives, this kind of busy excitement can send someone with anxiety or mood disorders right into, "pass me that ativan, I'm going home," territory. I've got a plan put into place that will hopefully prevent any anxiety from creeping in, panic attacks from taking over and let me enjoy all of the festivities.
"Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere"
— Albert Einstein
I came across this blog, Is It Possible To Change Perceptions, and it's absolutely brilliant. It inspired me to take a look at perception, not anyone else's, but our own, and it got me wondering; how much does our perception define our reality, and can changing the former then also change the latter? Let's cut to the chase here and quote the author, Is it possible to change perceptions? Absolutely. Is it possible to change your reality once you've changed your perception? It certainly is.
Fifteen years ago two different psychiatrists diagnosed me with bipolar disorder - twice. Both times I had decided to reject anything the doctors said before I even walked through the door. The only reasons I went to see the doctors in the first place were because two of my closest friends were concerned about me. My cheeky and eccentric disposition that had always been part of my nature had turned into reckless and downright audacious behaviours. I was riding waves of remarkable highs, coupled with delusions of grandeur, and then plummeting into crippling lows where I couldn't get out of bed for days. At the time I had no idea what mania was, all I knew was that when I was on I was unstoppable, and when my friends, family and doctors told me that they were concerned about this, all I heard was, "we're going to shut you off," and I felt betrayed.
I have a very dear friend who is going through a rough time right now. She has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as well as PTSD and anxiety. She is an amazing mother; there is no question about that. One of her children has a diagnosis of ADHD and he's also going through a rough time right now. She's finding that the two of them are clashing a bit, and each one is a trigger for the other at the moment. This is obviously a very difficult situation for them both and has brought up a number of issues for my friend. Parenting is tough and I think that we all question whether or not we are screwing up our kids, but parenting when you have a mental illness can be overwhelming to say the least. Author and Psych Central Blogger, Rebecca Moore has a great blog with some really good strategies.
My children are enrolled in a martial arts class that keeps us very busy. From 4pm until 7pm twice during the week and from 10 am until noon one day on the weekend, we schedule our plans around my children's class. I have a confession to make. Last week I just didn't want to go to their class. Instead of being honest with my children, I told them that classes were cancelled. It was unseasonably...
I am fond of the expression, "sometimes you have to laugh or you'll cry," and I use it a lot, often laughing at circumstances and myself. It seems though that over the past week or so, I had used up my allotment of laughter and it was more like, "sometimes you just have to cry it out." There was nothing catastrophic or out of the ordinary that happened to bring on this fit of emotion, sometimes it just happens to me and I've learned to go with it. I've always been a highly sensitive person, often being affected not only by my own emotions, but also by the emotions of the people around me. Maybe it has something to do with bipolar disorder, or rejection sensitivity, or anxiety. But, here's the kicker, when these specific moments hit, I'm not sad, my moods are good, and there is no underlying reason for why I'm floored with this flood of emotion. So I honestly cannot tell you what it is. All I know is that from time to time, I need an epic cry and after I have that, I feel rejuvenated.
The first memory that I can recall is of my mother. She is at the kitchen sink washing dishes, swaying back and forth while singing along with the song that is playing in the living room, and I am happy. Music has always been a very big part of my life, a constant. Growing up there was always music playing in my home. I knew every word to "Bat Out Of Hell", "Tiny Dancer", and "Ain't Even Done With The Night", before I knew the Alphabet song. I may not have understood the lyrics back then, probably a good thing, but that's not the point. The point is that I was introduced to a lifelong appreciation and passion, and at a very early age. I truly believe that music can do things for a person that medication alone can't.
Hold on now, I didn't say music was a cure, or to jump off of your meds and hit the festival circuit. We're going to take a look at what music can do for your moods and you mental health, as well as the positive effects it has on your physical health. Music is a powerful thing; it has saved lives. More therapists are using music therapy to help cancer patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, and people living with depression. There really is something to it.
Have you ever been late from shopping or an appointment and rushed back to your car expecting to find that dreaded parking ticket plastered against your windshield, but pleasantly surprised, you see that there is instead extra time on the meter? Someone had secretly slipped some extra change in there, hoping you would avoid the frustration, and the financial headache of having to deal with a ticket. That, my friends was a random act of kindness. Someone did something for you, excepting absolutely nothing in return. What about that time you went through the drive-thru to grab that much need coffee, only to find out that the person in the car ahead of you had already paid for it, how awesome did that feel, another random act of kindness.