The Fault In My Stars: Living with Bipolar Disorder

To those that know me, honestly… don’t act surprised… Or maybe act surprised, it’s all the same. But don’t be sad for me, this isn’t a “feel sorry for me post”… it’s more like a ..”Laying it all out on the table” kind of post; because that’s the kind of person that I am.

So let me explain the title… I used a play on words of the title of a book by Josh Boone about youth suffering with cancer. To be clear, in no way am I comparing my condition to cancer, never the less I liked the name of the book for many reasons other than the factthat I want to underline the fact that mental health IS (ABSOLUTELY) a REAL medical condition as well. Moreover, “Fault in Our Stars” means to me being born, not with a clean slate, but with a predisposition to many things, among them, my condition. Through no fault of my own… it was written in the stars.

I always thought it was funny that I was born a Gemini.

But first; before I continue…just to catch new readers up, in previous posts, I’ve both opened up about having survived child sexual abuse, and more recently I lightly touched upon my experience with the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that followed the public disclosure of my past situation.

I believe that alluded to the fact that there was more to the story, and so if you didn’t know, now you know. I am Bipolar. And no…not in like a “We’re all a little bipolar”… way… or in a … “She changes her mind so much… geeez she must be bipolar.”… No.

Like actually Bipolar, and I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

Being Bipolar can have it’s gifts if managed well (I don’t want to paint a completely somber picture of the condition). But it comes with it’s high costs… very high costs, especially if triggered or if mismanaged.

No one bipolar person is the same (as much as the DSM V will lead you to believe); however some of us or most of us share similar traits (also depending on which type of bipolar you are)… among them, I’ve noticed from speaking with others that have lived experience such as me:

  • Biological Predisposition (One parent carried the gene)
  • Environmental Trigger (upbringing/mismanaged/unidentified/trauma caused condition to manifest in a seemingly ‘maladjusted’ way)
  • High Degree of Co dependence when condition is not under control
  • Bipolars (most) have a very strong window of “lucidity” even when suffering a severe episode- at times this may make them seem like they’re functioning OK, and don’t require as much help as they are asking for
  • Artistically inclined and Humanitarian (VanGogue, possibly Marilyn Monroe, possibly Frida Khalo Catherine Zeta Jones, Ben Stiller, Lady Diana Spencer)

Again, I want to make it very clear that I write with lived-experience, but not with any kind of expert medical knowledge.

My aim with this post is selfish

I am tired of hiding, I want to be open, I want people to know about me, and adjust… not only that, but understand me when I seem to be going through something.

I want people to care but not to worry.

I want there to be more open discussion regarding mental health and less stigma.

If I can achieve that with this post, I’ll be happy and satified, and it won’t even bother me at all to be “exposed” regarding my bipolar, because honestly… why should I be ashamed? Like the trauma that was imposed onto me as a child, being bipolar is not my fault, it’s not something I can control (as far as having it), and it’ not something I should be ashamed of, in fact….

And this goes out to all those sufferers out there…

I should be proud.

Because I am still here. And unless you walked in my shoes… you have no idea how strong that made/makes me. ūüėČ

Peace and love my friends.

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Sorry for the silence… but I needed a break

*Trigger warning. The following post contains subject matter that be disturbing to some readers. It deals mildly with subject of child abuse and violence. If you suffer from PTSD or mental health anxiety, read the following post with discretion, and a safety plan. Thank you.*

 

Hi Blog-Followers….

I know it’s been a year since I last wrote… But I am finally coming back to writing.

Because I value honesty and transparency; I want to be honest to those who have been following my story, both on a personal level and on a “virtual” level.

If anyone recalls, last year I posted a piece that talked about a very sad and traumatic event in my childhood. For those who didn’t catch that post, I spoke about sexual abuse. This was very difficult for me to do, but I did so because I truthfully believe that writing this blog has helped me get through my darkest moments, including when I first broke up with the first and only serious boyfriend I’ve ever had. After I grieved that, I felt empowered, and felt ready to share my experience of trauma.

This was a decision that I thought carefully about, and I did it because I knew that so many people unfortunately have suffered from an event such as this, and especially if it happened to you as a child, the healing process is very complicated. That is not to take away from adult victims, it is only to say that child victims sometimes go through life with undetected PTSD, which later can develops into a host of worse mental health problems.

Back a year ago, I wrote my piece/peace… and when I hit “publish” I felt so relieved. I had been wanting to tell my story for years as a form of healing, and also as a form of advocacy for the silent victims. I wanted to be that person who said…” What happened to you was awful, and it should not have happened, but you can¬†and¬†will survive this.”

Basically: It gets better.

That being said, sharing publicly did in fact put me into a deeper crisis. Not because I regretted it, as I am impervious to the stigma and shame… but rather because I felt like others had a nervous energy around me. They forgot who I was… and they questioned my reasoning for going public with this issue that so many people expect you to keep private.

But I’m not a private person.

At least not in my writing style.

I write well, because I write about what I know. I write with lived experience.

Needless to say, the anxiety of that, topped with the continuing grief of not being completely over my ex-partner at the time (another story for another time)… I had a rough year.

A very rough year.

And things happened that I will eventually talk about when I’m ready, that caused me to retreat from where my center was. I stopped living authentically true to myself, and I fell into a very deep sadness… the kind of sadness that robs you of the ability to see your own worth and merit… the kind that blocks you from living to your true potential. ¬†The dark sadness that falls upon a person that was never really done grieving the tragedies that she or he lived.

I hid it well.

I hid it, because I was afraid. Sadly, I escaped one prison of stigma, only to enter a new one. From one tyrant to the next.

2016 was a hard year. I needed a break, and as such I stopped writing. Which is sad because writing has always promoted in me a sense of mindfulness.

I stopped writing though because it was becoming too difficult to do it. For me, the style of writing I mostly use is very tough because it requires me not only to speak my truth, but also to be mindful of how your words can affect other people…

I couldn’t handle the pressure, and needed to focus on other priorities, such as my mental health and trauma-healing.

All that being said, I’m back. ¬†(Happy Face).

And I think for good?

I can’t make any promises, but if you have been following me up to now, I think you’ll find the new articles I will compose will be even more enlightened and insightful than ever before.

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts if you are interested

xo,

Ayi

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Ask For Help and Be grateful

Never underestimate the power of gratitude.

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Not only does it make you a better person when you practice it, but it is a way of being mindful of your blessings when life seems unfair.

Recently, I went through a life experience that felt like “one of those days” every single day for months on end. I wasn’t happy, even though I was trying to be. It wasn’t something I could just shake off, it was a deep disruption to my emotional health, and by trying to deal with it without any help or support, I was doing myself more damage than good. It was like trying to get rid of an infection, without any antibiotics: Sure, it’s possible, but difficult considering the cut ran deeper than I realized.

I hit my bottom,  and I finally cried out for help. This was difficult for me to do, but it was the best thing I ever did. I began to unload some of the weight off my shoulders, and so many good people stepped up to help me. With less on my plate (metaphor overload, I know), I finally was able to do the work I needed to do to heal that emotional cut that refused to close.

Having said that, the work of healing never ends for the wounded, and part of the process demands gratitude. A small way of restoring balance, a simple act, gesture or word of gratitude goes a long way.

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And gratitude does not end with people, whatever you believe in, or don’t believe in, we all have positives in our lives to be grateful¬†for even when the negatives seem to eclipse them. A way of pulling oneself out of that negative mind frame is to be thankful, because it reminds us of our strengths. Yes, the world is not perfect, but in it’s imperfections lies the beauty of living and taking risks for the sake of learning.

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For that reason, today I am going to be grateful for my family, my friends, and basically all the people in my circle who have shown me what true love and compassion feels like. Seriously. Thank you ūüôā That includes all you readers and followers who have encouraged me to not only continue on a healing path but have made me feel good about sharing parts of my story online. Thank you for encouraging me to continue writing… as writing has been my saving grace since I began to journal as a child.

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Honestly… I encourage everyone to try it and just observe the reactions you get. Because most of life and the relationships we create are about cause and effect. To every action, there is a reaction. If your actions towards others are positive…the self sustaining positive revolution amplifies. Think and thank.

#ThankfulThursdays. It should be a thing.

Happy Thursday friends.

 

 

Preview: Military Pin-Up 2016

Hello Bloggies!!

This is just a preview of a photo shoot Miranda (model) and I worked on yesterday with the help of my stylist friend, Esmeralda, who worked on Miranda’s hair.

Miranda and I actually met over 15 years ago, more or less,  in Air Cadets. We both attended 44 Sarnia Imperial Air Cadet Squadron, and bonded in spite of minor age and rank differences.

Recently we both reconnected, and decided to go against your typical reunion date at a cafe, and actually reunite with a themed that both reflects our multifaceted personalities, and also our past.

Please stay tuned for more photos coming in June. These are just a preview of what is to come…

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Blog posts before I even had a blog…

Becaussssseeeeee revisiting Old Reflections is fun…

Originally published on Facebook on Wednesday, 7 September 2011 at 16:54

Titled: Lost & Found: Betrayal/Forgiveness/Strength of Character

Today, as I was dangerously sunken in my own thoughts; I reviewed my life.

The process involuntarily led me to think of the people who have been an important part of my life at some point, but no longer are now.  I also thought of the people I have recently met, and the people who have remained as characters in my life, despite drastic changes in the artistic direction on the stage of my life.

More importantly, my mind was fixated on memories of those who I was once acquainted to, and sadly am no longer even in contact with… sometimes it was because they moved away, and we lost touch, but other times admittedly it was a case of growing apart as people. These are the ones that remain more deeply entrenched in my thoughts.

Momentarily, I get flash-backs of the happy times I spent alongside this person, and then the happy memory is suddenly disturbed by a strike of ironic flashes of the post-happy era. ¬†The hurt, the disappointment, the betrayal… they all come swarming out, angry, and toxic, like the wasps of a hornet’s nest that has been kicked so senselessly.

And after the rush of bitterness subsides, I wonder: ¬†“what happened?” ¬†… “What happened to¬†us?”

It seems, that what is left of the bitterness ¬†holds on to to dear life, sustained only by one of my most vicious flaws: my pride. ¬†Moreover, it shakes my self-perception when I realize how wrong I was in my character-asessment of another person, ¬†whether negatively or positively.¬†In the case where I have over-estimated the character of a person, I feel most deeply hurt and betrayed. Though I do find comfort in reminding myself that whatever worth I affixed to that person, was my doing, and not theirs, therefore those of them who have been placed on a pedestal, well… can I blame them if they couldn’t live up to those high expectations?

I also find peace, when I remind myself of what I said at the beginning of this note: Sometimes you just GROW apart. Sometimes you OUT GROW people, sometimes they OUTGROW you… whichever it is, two people in conflict with each other‚Äôs CURRENT position in life rarely make good friends/partners… Nevertheless, because we are creatures of memory and tradition, we cling to what we find familiar, and our memories of times when we were once aligned distort the reality of a growing chiasm between two people.

 

I also like to think that… People may surprise you, though sometimes you feel like it’s necessary to cut them out 100% out of your life, it does not hurt to keep them at arm’s length, because you never know what you can salvage from the ashes. Even if your relationship will never be the same… but honestly… why would you want that? It fell apart at some point for a reason… there’s a book called: It’s called a break-up because it’s broken… That doesn‚Äôt mean it can never be rebuilt, only that it will have to be rebuilt with a new purpose, a new identity, and a new form…. perhaps very different than it was before, maybe better, maybe worse… but different.

 

It’s important to remember that Good people can go bad, and bad people can be good… We all have our light and dark sides….and with that I will finish this thought with three conclusions by which I can guide myself:

 

1. Do not judge a person by their past. Mistakes will often be made, but sometimes the retribution is harsher than the crime. Live your life according to your own gains, never mind the losses of others because it will not affect your own. Karma is NOT zero-sum.

 

2. If you cannot forgive for the sake of the person who has done you wrong, then you must forgive for your own sake… Living with even a mustard seed of hatred can tumourously grown into a flesh eating bitterness that will not even disturb those who have wronged you, but only your own mental state.

 

3. I have met some of the nicest people who have easily become some of the ugliest people I know… I also know some of the meanest people to become surprisingly the nicest people you’ll meet.

 

If you belong to the former (good->bad): At some point, you must have felt that you’ve done enough for humanity, and decided to rest on your laurels, perhaps you thought it was okay to be selfish once in a while… (And you are right) but let me paraphrase the wise words of Mother Theresa when I say… If we have no peace, it is because we forgot we belong to each other…. YOU forgot that your belong to the other you hurt… and you easily let this happen because your “Good” character was weaker than you realized… time to re-evaluate, because we should never end our quest to be good people.

And FINALLY: If you belong to the latter (Bad->good): ¬†good for you. I hope others realize how far you’ve come, but more importantly, I hope you’ve learnt to forgive yourself.

Wishing you all inner-peace, and a happy Wednesday ūüôā

 

What I need from you…

I need you to trust me…

Help me when I ask for it.¬† I won’t often ask for it because¬†I am fiercely independent. Often, because of this, my loneliness often flies under the radar. But trust me when you hear me cry for help that whatever I asked for is because I am overwhelmed and exhausted from carrying around the heavy barrel filled with the apples and lemons that¬†life has passed on to me.

Sometimes I need to be called out respectfully, because I make decisions that even I quadruple guess, but if I say trust me… I need you to trust. Me.

Even if I’m wrong… I need to be allowed the freedom to make mistakes.¬†Mistakes happen, and I’m humble enough to acknowledge I’ve made many¬†already.¬†It’s from these past mistakes that I’ve learnt everything I know about life. From my mistakes, and from my wins.

I love deeply and truly, and I need to know you love me too. In whatever way you love me, I need to feel it.¬†The only way I’ll know is if you tell me honestly…Trust me when I say ¬†I trust you… and with that you’ll lift a great deal of anxiety¬†off my shoulders. With that you give me space to be who I am… with that you give me the strength to continue.

I just need to be trusted.

Yes. I’m a bit broken, who isn’t? But the labels I wear do not define me. I’ve always been who I am, I’ve always carried these issues in my heart, the only difference is that now you know.

Don’t leave me standing in a world that is so cold.. simply because you don’t know how to show me that you trust me. Love me for who I am, because I am every piece of the puzzle you’ve put together so far.

Trust me.

 

Xo,

Ayi

In a field of bright yellow flowering weeds…

It was a bright sunny day…

Circa. 1993. Our¬†small¬†two¬†level¬†apartment in a¬†low-income¬†housing zone somewhere in ¬†Missisauga was a haven. Many things could be said about my upbringing. Sometimes good things, other time bad things; regardless… One thing that could be said as a factual statement was: My parents had style. Always an eye for quality items on my father’s side, and always an eye for a great deal (whether by bartering or upcycling), my mother has always had a talent for securing the resources my father needed to allow him to be creative (while classy). Yes. That much can be said… To each their own, but my parents have style.

I have many fond memories from that short-lived period in that Missisauga apartment, of them, I fondly recall the picnics we shared with our neighbours. There was a young girl of my brother’s age, Simone, and our *vecinos, Eric, Marjorie, and Leslie. Together we would organize picnics, or build winter forts with the snow. In the Summer, we’d swim in puddles, in the Fall, we’d play with leaves.¬† In the early Spring, however, we’d collect flowers, and try to make crowns to wear, and in our own little kingdoms, pretend we were princesses from foreign lands, gathering together in this new country our other friends knew as Canada.

We did what we had to shelter ourselves from either the overbearing empathy that good-willing **Canadienses had towards us, or the distancing xenophobia we sensed from others. If we’re going to be completely honest…sometimes even those who projected xenophobic behaviour were people of our own ***raza. Sadly, this is a phenomenon that still happens today (think about the tension that exists in London between Latin-Americans that hail from different nations). These tensions are easily picked up by children, and sometimes make-belief is the only way to shelter ones own spirit, to avoid falling into despair. Despair from losing one’s identity and destiny that could have been, had we stayed in our countries where our ***ombligos were buried.

One sunny Missisauga day in 1993, my mother took me to a field of dandylions that grew in a public space annexed to our ****vecindario.

“Ew mami!” I remember saying, disgusted at the smell of the weeds that tainted my beautiful dress. “Why here?”

Packed with nothing other than a disposable camera, my beautiful and strong mother looked at me and chuckled the kind of knowing chuckle a mother usually lets out when they know better…

“trust me *****hijita. These weeds are beautiful. They are strong, and they are resilient. Just like us.”

“Ok.” I said. I was young, but old enough to know when to trust my mother.

Together we spent hours in that field. We collected dandylions, and my mother braided them into crowns. This is where I finally perfected the art of flower crowns.

Dirty with the milky residue on my finger tips, and probably covered in dandy-pollen, my mother placed the crown on my little 6 year old head and photographed me as if I was her little child model.

This may be where my love for photography was born. Once upon a time… In a field of strong flowering yellow weeds.

***** TO BE CONTINUED*****

 

*vecinos: neighbours

**Canadienses: Canadians

***Raza: Race

**** Ombligos were buried: Latin American expression to mean where we were born / our roots.

***** Vecindario: Neighbourhood

******Hijita: Little daughter