Crying At Yoga

Frame – 10147

Today I was crying at yoga….it sounds bad but I think in the long run it is good. A catharsis if you will. A TRUTH BOMB. One I desperately needed.

I haven’t the energy for all the work I’m doing and all the dieting I’m doing and all the exercise I’m doing and all the writing I’m doing AND finding time to update this blog, SO, from now on I will be providing updates in vlog form more often than not.

I look like crap.

I don’t care.

Things are changing and I want to share my journey on the off chance it might help others in a similar predicament…

The Bipolar Diet: Week 2 Check In, 1 Stone Down

Frame – 12578

I’ve been quite quiet here on the blog of late, focusing on rebranding my business, and trying to sort out my diet and health permanently. There hasn’t been much to share, other than my usual summer downer throughout June and July. I was hoping it wouldn’t happen this year but it would seem that no matter how much progress I make, there is no avoiding it.

I’m now two weeks into a new healthy eating plan with Juice Plus protein smoothies and the Transform 30 plan. It’s a great plan that I’m loving but it has effectively turned me vegan, something I never thought I’d be able to do.

I’m still eating cheese occasionally but other than that, it’s veggies all the way. I’ve started recording vlogs again, for those of you interested this is my most recent, recorded just after my first trip to the gym in 5 years.

I’ve currently succeeded in losing 15lbs in two weeks, just over a stone, so I’m pleased about that.

Fantasy Photography Props: How To Make The Oil Lantern For Bella Morte

Fantasy Photography Props: Bella Morte's Oil Lantern

There were a couple of fantasy photography props that needed making for Bella Morte, my recent Fine Art Fantasy Photo Shoot. If you want a behind the scenes look you can check that out here. The final images are still being edited but will follow soon.

Bella Morte marks the first in a series of self-portraits I’m working on, using fantasy elements to depict aspects of Bipolar Disorder.

fantasy photography props - oil lantern for Bella MorteThe oil lantern is actually the simplest fantasy photography prop I’ve made so far, there was very little to it other than painting an existing lantern. I bought a cheap Hurricane Paraffin Lantern on Amazon. I wanted a larger one, but in the end got a 12″ which was still a good size. After a bit of research I determined that the majority of cheap lanterns for sale arrived in a nasty looking cheap silver, even when the product photos indicated nicer colours. Given the prices this isn’t surprising. There are lanterns out there that are genuine antiques, or styled to look like antiques, but these vastly exceeded the shoe string budget I had for this shoot.

fantasy photography props - oil lantern for Bella MorteArmed with my new nasty silver lantern and two cans of spray paint I set about making this a real fantasy photography prop rather than something that looked remarkably like I bought it in Ikea. I had already painted the horns for this shoot in black with gold accents. Rather than weathering the lantern to make it look old, which was my original plan, I decided to match it to the horns. I gave it a strong base coat of black before dusting it (if you can call aerosolised paint dust) with gold. I didn’t want a lot of gold on it, just a light coating on a few choice areas and a very slight sheen elsewhere.

The finished lantern wasn’t quite what I had in mind originally, but considering I had a budget of £10 for the whole shoot, I’d say it turned out pretty darn perfect!

I’ll be posting a look at how I made the horns later in the week, and the final images should be up soon too. For daily memes and updates on all my projects as the happen, follow me on Insagram @bipolarbearwrites!

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‘Bipolar Wonderland’ – One Of My Bipolar Bears Shares A Beautiful Poem

Bipolar Wonderland - A Poem By A Bipolar Bear

I’m delighted to share ‘Bipolar Wonderland’, another poem with you this week, submitted by Pammie Grant, one of my Bipolar Bears. This one has an Alice in Wonderland theme, one of my favourite stories, and I absolutely LOVE IT because I have often thought Alice’s trips through wonderland perfectly exemplify a lot about the bipolar life. I have strongly related to the story since I was a child, long before I knew I was bipolar, or had even heard the word.

It’s great to read your poems, keep them coming!! For now have a read of Pammie’s Bipolar Wonderland:

Bipolar Wonderland

Alice in your wonderland

Come on and help me understand

What’s in those capsules in your hand

To shrink your thoughts or make you grand

Hey Alice in your looking glass

Please say why you talk so fast

And obsess for hours on your past

Be the first to rise and go to bed last

Hey Alice shall we toast your drink

And see what colours and smells we think

Or if the day passes us in a blink

Perhaps it’s time our ideas shrink

Hey Alice have you seen that Hare?

I say we chase him over there

It seems that he is unprepared

That his lateness has him scared

Hey Alice there’s a man that chatters

Beneath a sign that says Mad Hatter

I really don’t think that it matters

But his clothes are all in taters

Oh Alice look I see a cat

He’s big and purple pink and fat

Upon the moon it seems he’s sat

A massive grin and then no cat!

Oh Alice see the queen all angry red

As she decrees ‘Off with their head’

Out of the wrong side of her bed

As we her roses shall behead

Alice run! It’s Tweedledee And Tweedledumb they follow see?

A freakshow day a this seems to be

An alternate and weird reality

Hey Alice lets just think it over

Feel lucky on this giant clover

Watch the tide as it sweeps us over

In our wonderland Bipolar

Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a week or two of rapid cycling recently. As often happens while I’m rapid cycling, after a week or so was hit by a killer migraine and an insane craving for carbs.

When I am rapid cycling (bouncing back and forth between low and high moods very quickly, often several times a day) I get extreme cravings for carbs. I go through huge bags of crisps and devour bread, potatoes, and chips like there’s no tomorrow. This tends to be at its worst after about a week of rapid cycling, and always coincides with a severe migraine. The result is that I eat a lot of carbs, my headache vanishes, and my mood seems to stabalise – for a day or so, if not indefinitely. The obvious downside to this ‘treatment’ of both my headaches and my moods is the fact that I’m eating massive portions, far larger than is healthy. This is a major contributor to my (extreme) weight gain.

I wanted to know why I (and many like me) crave carbs specifically. I know the medication I’m on is renowned for making cravings worse, but it doesn’t CAUSE the cravings, only exaggerates them. I’m also wondering why it is that I get them at this specific time.

My swings are caused by a change in brain chemistry. When rapid cycling brain chemistry switches back and forth very quickly. This is what causes the headaches – the brain isn’t used to such radical changes happening in such quick, repeated succession.

I find it curious that the body’s response to this is to crave carbs and, more so, that eating large quantities at this time genuinely helps – both with the headaches and the mood swings. I’ve been trying to fathom the reasons behind it for a while. This time, rather than Googling some more and struggling to make sense of it on my own, I called on three nutritional experts to see what they had to say on the subject.

Meet the Experts

Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Rachel Collins is a health and lifestyle coach, and was the first to come back to me with an answer on this one. While she was careful to note that it’s a topic that demands a longer conversation (which we did have, thank you, Rachel!), she was kind enough to give me a simplified overview of what might be going on here for me to share with my Bears.

Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Carbs break down as sugar in the body. Sugar is addictive. When you feed your body what it is addicted to it feels better temporarily, before demanding more.

It also sounds like cycling is exhausting – bouncing from one mood to another, from up to down, your body needs lots of energy to handle that. Carbs are going to be the fastest source of energy.

There could be so many different reasons for these patterns – it could be linked with your childhood diet and what you crave as a comfort food. It could be almost like a placebo effect, what you believe you need you crave. It could be linked with salt balance. It definitely sounds like hormones are playing up too…I can’t think of any nutritional reason why your body would actually need this type of food.

Nutrition expert Kate Knowler, The London Nutritionist had a few things to add regarding serotonin production. Serotonin is the main chemical in the brain linked to depression – too little causes depression. When I asked Kate about my carb cravings she had an interesting response:
Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder
Carbs are turned into serotonin in the brain, but it’s an addictive cycle and not as good as exercise for serotonin production… It [the Paleo diet] cuts out sugar and processed carbs, leaving you with unlimited veg, plus some meat and fish… A sure-fire way to balance blood sugars if you like a challenge… It’s less of a “diet”, more of a lifestyle…there are quite a few blogs of people who follow Paleo diet/lifestyle and have managed to stop medicating as it’s been so successful. Obviously any stopping of meds has to be done with GP support, but I’d say it’s worth a try for a month. Meal prep when you feel well enough will help. Otherwise, carry on eating carbs but make sure you eat protein (meat, fish, nuts, seeds, or egg) at every meal and snack. So if you grab a bag of crisps, have a small bit of chicken at the same time etc. That will go a long way towards balancing blood sugars
Great tip from Kate there regarding eating protein with every meal and snack, and one that Rachel later reiterated.
I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Boulton back to the blog as part of this discussion. You can check out her guest post on nutrition and bipolar disorder here, and read on for her thoughts on bipolar and carbs!
Carb Cravings and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

There are a few reasons why sugar and carb cravings are worse with bipolar disorder.

1) Blood sugar balance is important to reduce food cravings and often people can forget to eat or grab the wrong things when they are busy or not in a good head space.

2) Serotonin levels are usually low in people with this disorder which leads to more severe cravings.

3) You’re more sensitive to dopamine, which is our pleasure neurotransmitter and therefore need more sugar and carbs to satisfy those cravings (this is a similar reaction to those that have addictions and why people say you can get addicted to sugar).

Stress also plays a part as when cortisol levels are high, you crave sweet foods and carbs, so when you say they are worse when you’re rapid cycling, that’s probably why. Obviously these are all just generalisations and its something that differs from person to person but I hope that provides some insight.

I would also look at your gut health as serotonin is produced there and when you have poor gut health, less is produced. When you have low gut flora or an issue with candida it can mean you crave certain foods.

This whole conversation certainly gave me a lot to think about and look into. Hopefully it will provide you all with some insights into your own carb cravings and eating habits. Be sure to comment below and share your own experiences, and any advice or information you may have on the subject. And if you have more questions about nutrition and health, check out these lovely ladies, all of whom are more than happy to help!

Huge thanks to Rachel, Kate, and Rebecca for taking the time to comment on this one!

Bipolar Love: A Poem From A Man Who Loves A Bipolar Bear

Bipolar Love

Yesterday I posted on Bipolar Disorder and Relationships. Today I want to share with you a very special poem I received on The Bipolar Bear’s Facebook page.

I often get messages on the page, usually from bears in need of advice or support, or just wanting to say Hi and thank me for sharing my ramblings.

This message was a little different. It was from a man in a relationship with a bipolar bear, and he’d written a poem about his partner and what it was like to love someone with this difficult condition.

I will not talk about the poem and what it means, I will allow it to speak for itself, but I felt that this week was an excellent time to post it.

Bipolar Love

Feeling guilty for wanting the love and affection,

Feeling like there is no hope for that loving touch.

It makes you question everything you do and everything you think

And that’s when you start to sink.

The feeling of never being good enough,

Of not being what that person wants.

Never having the steadiness the stability.

Then comes the realisation you cannot change it,

And would not change it for anything.

As destructive as the love is its also rewarding in it strange twisted way.

For she is like my heroin she is my drug of choice,

My want my need my desires held in one person.

Would I walk away?

Could I walk away?

From the one that has captivated my heart, my body, my soul.

I cannot and will not,

As even thoough there are a lot more bad days than good,

I hold out for that one good day.

The day she can show me her feelings,

The day she’s able to hold my hand.

She holds my heart but can not love it,

But for that one day she cannot help loving it.

These are the days I live for,

When all is okay, it erases the bad days,

And makes the bad days a distant memory.

Until the next bad day then the cloud is back,

And I’m sat here begging for that sun to shine again,

As we move in circles, cycle after cycle,

Wave of emotion after wave we slowly move forward,

To finaly be happy with where we are at.

– Michael Holliman, Bipolar Love – For Wendy

Lonely Hearts? Bipolar Disorder And Relationships

Lonely Hearts? Bipolar Disorder and Relationships

I’ve had a sad bear on Facebook this week and we got to talking about bipolar disorder and relationships. One of the regulars on the page is still reeling after the end of her relationship, not helped by the fact her ex is blaming everything on her bipolar.

When I first spoke to her about this a few weeks ago she was very much in the mindset that she was, in some way, un-loveable, because of her condition. She felt he was quite justified in both leaving her when the going got tough, and blaming the end of their relationship on her difficult behaviour.

I had to set her straight on this.

Lonely Hearts? Bipolar Disorder and Relationships

I used to think exactly the same way, and it took a long time for me to understand that, while bipolar may make a person difficult to live with at times, and quite definitely puts a strain on a relationship, it is not the only thing to consider.

I used to believe that bipolar disorder and relationships were like oil and water, vodka and good decision making: They just didn’t mix.

I’ve had three serious relationships in my life. Two of them ended, in part, because I was undiagnosed and my behaviour was unfathomable. They also ended, in part, because the people I was with were selfish/cheats/liars/immature/didn’t love me enough.

The first was honest enough to say he loved me but couldn’t deal with me anymore.

The second was TRUFFLE MAN. It had more to do with the different directions each of our lives were taking than anything else (including my condition).

My third relationship was very different. He didn’t find my condition difficult, so much as useful. I was diagnosed while we were together, and freely admit we only ended up together in the first place because I was in such a hole of depression and just needed…someone. Anyone. This was, perhaps, unfair to him. I certainly never loved him. I didn’t even like him. But because I needed him and because I’m obsessive and generally paranoid, jealous and possessive, we had a tumultuous relationship regardless of my true feelings for him. In many ways he had me convinced nobody else would have me, and thus the desire to stay with him was even stronger – I not only needed him, it was impossible to believe that leaving him would mean anything other than a life alone.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being alone with my own mind.

As a result I was very easy to manipulate. Whenever I grew suspicious he cited my condition. I was paranoid. I was crazy.

In my first two relationship this was true. With him, it wasn’t. He was a lying, cheating, manipulative bastard. But because of my history, because of my condition, and because of my fear of being alone, I believed what he told me.

It wasn’t him, it was me. Everything was me. Everything was my fault. And if he did something upsetting it was all part of the ‘learning curve’ that came with dealing with my condition. Nothing was ever his fault. It was either me or bipolar.

Relationships aren’t supposed to work like this, not even if you’re bipolar. As I said to a friend of mine the other day, the best relationships work when you place your partner’s well being above your own. When you are selfless. But both people in the relationship must do this, both people must be selfless, otherwise both end up caring for one person. One ends up alone, with nobody looking out for them, and the other ends up with an inflated sense of their own importance.

One gives, the other takes.

Relationships shouldn’t work like this – ANY relationship, regardless of the health (mental or physical) of those involved.

Lonely Hearts? Bipolar Disorder and Relationships

The thing with bipolar disorder and relationships is that bipolar bears are often incapable of taking care of ourselves, let alone anyone else. When we’re ill, we need our partners to look after us, but we’re unable to look after them.

We’re unable to look after them while they’re going through the stress and strain of not only worrying for, but being responsible for, the emotional and physical well being of a bipolar bear.

This isn’t easy on anyone. If you place this burden on the wrong person, a person who is all take and no give, they will break, and the relationship will break with them.

Not because you’re bipolar.

Not because you’re a terrible person.

Not because you’re doomed to be alone forever.

But because they aren’t strong enough, or capable enough, of dealing with the reality of your situation.

I’ve found that when you love someone enough, even if you’re an all-taker, rather than an all-giver, you can learn to deal with the situation. You can adapt. You can muddle through as best you can.

My first relationship was like this: he loved me. Whatever his faults, he truly loved me. And it got us through a lot, far more than most people would stick around for, especially considering he had no idea I was ill. He had no explanation for what was wrong or why I was acting the way I was.

At times, I quite simply seemed like a crazy, angry, unpredictable bitch.

People have questioned why I stayed with him for so long when he wasn’t perfect. The answer is simple: I loved him, and I was far from perfect myself. When I was well I took care of him very well. And he did his best to take care of me. Ultimately, he couldn’t handle it any more. But that wasn’t his fault. With no diagnosis I was getting progressively worse, not better, and there was no end in sight, not hope for things being good. Add to that the fact his mother had cancer and he was dealing with all of that, and you begin to see why, at age 20, he buckled under the pressure.

I don’t blame him for that.

Having a relationship when you have bipolar is complicated. But it’s important to remember that all relationships are complicated. Your relationship isn’t complicated JUST because you have bipolar. If you didn’t have bipolar you would still fight, you would still get jealous, you would still get angry, you would still argue. There would still be days when one of you was too ill to take care of the other, or when BOTH of you were too ill to take care of anyone. There would still be blame. There would still be guilt. There would still be financial concerns, family concerns, career concerns. There would still be the potential for infidelity.

Bipolar didn’t invent any of these things, it simple exemplifies them, and while there is no doubt that any bipolar bear is challenging at times, I have a news flash for you:

EVERY SINGLE PERSON THAT EVER LIVED WAS CHALLENGING AT TIMES.

Lonely Hearts? Bipolar Disorder and Relationships

Being in a relationship when one, or even both parties, is bipolar, is not easy. But it’s not impossible. It takes commitment, love, understanding, compasion, and above all patience. It requires you to be selfless, as much as you can, whenever you can, but it also requires you to be serious about your self-care.

You can’t look after someone else if you don’t look after yourself, and nobody can be 100% responsible for someone else’s care. Being bipolar and in a relationship is not an excuse to hand over your wellbeing to your other half and simply expect them to shoulder the burden of looking after both of you. You must try the best you can, when you can, whenever you can, to do as much as you can to remain stable and healthy. And when you are stable and healthy, you must understand that your partner needs looking after, that they need a break, that caring for you is their privelage, but it is also tiring, and they need to recharge.

Look after them when you can, so they are fully charged to look after you when you need it.

Try to help them understand what you go through as much as possible, so they know what to do and say, and what not to do and say.

If they need a break occasionally, that’s okay, but they need to make it clear it’s a break, and not goodbye, and they need to do it in such a way that it won’t make you ill – a planned holiday, rather than an abrupt separataion, done while you are stable enough to cope, and ensuring you have other people around to check on you.

And if it ever comes to it, don’t let them tell you your bipolar disorder is the reason they’re walking out the door. They walk on their own feet, by their own choice. If they love you enough they will find a way to cope. And if they truly can’t cope, if being together is making you both ill, in the end you may have to love them (and yourself) enough to let them go.

I loved someone that much once, and he couldn’t cope.

I let him go.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret it.

It was the right thing to do.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe there’s someone out there for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that somewhere, waiting to meet me, is someone who will not only love me enough to stay, but love me and understand me enough to simply accept it is part of who I am, and get on with life.

The Bounce: Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder Merry Go Round

Rapid Cycling Bipolar DisorderIt’s been a fucking awful week.

And it’s been a bloody brilliant week.

Yes the joys of the rapid cycling bipolar disorder merry-go-round are back to bite me in the arse this week.

Monday dawned like any other day, but by lunch I’d fallen into a pit of despair so deep I couldn’t climb out.

Mid afternoon found me soaring with the birds, unable to sit still, calm down, or stop giggling.

Two hours later I was in floods of uncontrollable tears, sitting in the car park at Waitrose stuffing my face with dohnuts.

Half an hour after that I had my head in the toilet puking my guts up.

By 10pm I was giddy again and roaring with laughter at the slightest thing on TV.

2am I was crying myself to sleep and praying the extra dose of anti-psychotics kicked in quickly and knocked me out.

They did. But not as much as I’d have liked.

They didn’t stop my dreams. I miss the days when they stopped my dreams. The peace was unequaled.

So Tuesday dawned on the heels of an uneasy nightmare and once again I cried…before going slightly mad and dancing in the rain while walking the dog in the park.

And so my week has continued.

I’ve endured anxiety, panic attacks, hyperventilation, headaches, and a variety of issues relating to my digestive system that I will not burden you with.

There have been bursts of super-productivity, and hours when I couldn’t concentrate for more than a minute or two. My memory short-term is utterly shot.

I’m no longer a girl.

I’m a bubble on the breeze.

I may float off into ether, never to return to earth, or land hard, bursting to pieces in the blink of an eye. I  might just stick somewhere.

Low, high, desolate or dizzy, wherever I land, that’s where I’m at, until a stronger breeze comes by and sends me spinning off again.

Round and round I go, when I’ll stop, nobody knows…

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder Merry Go Round

It’s a while since I had to deal with it this bad, I’ve been stable for about 18 months, and while I still have dips and peaks, still have wobbly days, still struggle to do the everyday things that people so take for granted, I’ve been better. Not cured. But better than I remember being in almost two decades.

I knew it would be back, it was only a matter of time. I was prepared. Or at least as prepared as possible. I’ve been trying to write this post since Tuesday morning and really struggled. That, in itself, speaks volumes.

When I can’t write, somewhere a robot is screaming, “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!”

The dream I had on Monday was bizarre. Not because it was about anything unusual, but becasue it was about someone I used to dream about regularly and haven’t dreamt of for a very long time.

My ex.

Not the one that burnt down the house. NOT TRUFFLE MAN. The other one. The first one.

Given the events of Monday I strongly suspected my subconscious was trying to tell me something. I’m not a Woo Woo kinda girl, I like rational, logical explanations for things, so you may think it odd that I put so much stock in dreams.

They’re just nonsense, right?

I’m not so sure. I think the subconscious is an extremely powerful force, far more powerful than the conscious mind. It knows things, it understands things in ways we’re unable to fully grasp.

It tries to tell us these things as best it can, but because the conscious and subconscious aren’t speaking the same language, the message gets jumbled and it seems like nonsense.

I really do believe that your head sorts things out while you sleep and tells you what the fuck’s going on. The problem most people have is that they don’t understand the language, and it comes out as gibberish!

I’ve recently been working with a friend of mine, Carly Brown, to better understand my dreams. She’s a gal of many hats, and one of those is as a dream interpretor. You can join her free group on Facebook if you want to see what it’s all about, but first let me tell you what she made of my dream.

It might surprise you.

To explain my dream briefly:

I was at college with a load of old friends I’ve not seen in years.

My ex (who in the dream was still my boyfriend) was away. He’d been gone a while and hadn’t called of texted and I was worried.

As with most of my exes, this guy cheated and I was extremely paranoid while we were together. My bipolar was in full swing, my bulimia was at its worst, and I had no idea I had either condition. I was rapid cycling and half out of my mind the whole time we were together.

Dreaming about him and my anxieties surrounding him isn’t unusual. What I found really weird about the dream was that none of my friends were comforting me, but I WAS being comforted – by HIS best friend.

A guy I absolutely detest.

Always hated this guy.

I was quite disturbed that in the dream he was being nice, hugging me, looking after me, and that when my boyfriend returned, and I should have felt relief that he was back, I instead suddenly felt uneasy again. I had been calm and comforted while his friend (who I hate) looked after me, and was immediately panicked and anxious when I was back in my boyfriend’s arms.

I woke up with these feelings lingering – the anxiety and panic associated with being with my boyfriend, all jumbled up with the insanely strong love I used to have for him, and confused by the comfort and relief I felt at being cared for by a guy I really, really, can’t stand.

I needed Carly!

Here’s what she had to say:

Hazel, I LOVE what your subconscious is unboxing in this dream! Dream symbols can have a lot of different meanings depending on the context, personal associations and waking life history.

Looking at the first major symbol, your ex-partner, here, he is a symbol for a recent event in your waking life stirring up similar behaviours and emotions within you. These emotions you have already identified as the paranoia and intense mood swings you felt this week.

Exes can also be a metaphor for the part of oneself which experiences those “light bulb” moments in terms of creative possibility, and I feel this is relevant for you right now.

Your next symbol is a minor one but still important- old friends from college. Here, the friends represent regressing back to freer times and acknowledging parts of yourself you had rejected, or perhaps felt you had lost in the depths of your struggles with your conditions both pre- and post-diagnoses. I feel like these aspects are probably feeling truly at ease and relaxed in your own and others’ company, perhaps how you felt with college friends. College is also symbolic of learning valuable lessons and, less obvious, developing professional relationships to better understand what you already know (oh, HI THERE! :D).

Next, the guy you never liked. Most people who feature in our dreams are usually symbolic of an aspect or trait within ourselves, and this character is no different. He is symbolic of “the enemy within yourself”, namely, your diagnoses. An enemy in a dream can indicate a part of the self which, during adversity, naturally shines a light on your strengths and wisdom gained within that struggle so that you are more easily able to accept the adversity itself.

If we combine this with the next symbol, hugging, your dream is telling you that you can safely let your guard down and be more open emotionally when facing your inner demons relating to your diagnoses and that it is a truly powerful part of you which you can get closer to accepting by literally embracing it. This is a really lovely display of how your subconscious is dealing with your inner self-care and is giving gentle messages on how you can meet in the middle for waking life too. It asserts: don’t reject the “enemy of relapse”, but embrace it as a catalyst for further improvement and also an excellent indicator of just how far you’ve come already.

It is OK to love ALL aspects of yourself, EVEN the ones you hated for the longest time. Your conditions are a part of YOU, NOT a part of him. You don’t have to fight them for that reason anymore. You can embrace them and be gentle with them for they have given you a wisdom and strength far beyond your years.

I’m still all over the place today, though I have levelled out enough to finally get this written. I have a feeling there’s a lot more to Carly’s interpretation than I’ve fully considered yet, and I’m going to have to come back to it later.

For now though, I just wanted to leave you with these thoughts while they are fresh.

The Clouds – Psychosis and Caring for the Psychotic

Castles in the Air - the Other Side of Psychosis

For some years I have harboured considerable resentment towards certain people for abandoning me when I needed them most.

When I was ill.

When I was psychotic.

Psychosis and I are old, old friends. I’ve had bipolar disorder my whole life. I was 25 before I was diagnosed and almost 29 before I started to get a handle on things.

In that time I experienced psychosis at different times and in different ways. Sometimes it was mercifully fleeting. Other times it didn’t seem to know how to end.

In fact, it got progressively worse until something broke.

Because of this I thought I knew about psychosis.I was never foolish enough to believe I could understand the psychotic mind.. I thought I understood what it was and what it meant.

I recently realised I was very much mistaken.

While I have ample experience of what it is like to be psychotic, I had never seen the view from the other side until recently. I didn’t know what it was like to deal with a person going through psychosis, and as such I couldn’t understand how so many people had so readily abandoned me throughout mine.

Some came back when I had recovered, most didn’t.

I am still very angry about that, I am still haunted by questions that have lingered for years:

How could they possibly not see that I was ill?

How could they leave me instead of getting me help?

Why didn’t they love me enough?

If anything, recent events have only reinforced my belief that it should have been blindingly obvious I was in deep, serious trouble.

That I was ill, rather than a bitch/slut/whore.

In hindsight, it’s obvious they something was seriously wrong. It’s obvious they should have something about it. But hindsight is remarkably clear-sighted, and there are two things I had never taken into consideration that simply over-ride all common sense when a loved one is psychotic:

Exhaustion

Heart Break

Trying to look after someone who is in the midst of a psychotic break is utterly exhausting and, quite possibly one of the most heart breaking things I’ve ever experienced. Until recently, I’d never had to do it, not really. I knew people who, like me, had been psychotic in the past, I’d even spoken to them on occasion when they were suffering a relapse, but I’d never been in the thick of it.

I’d never been the person they talked it all through with, every detail, every fear, every anxiety, every panic, every delusion, every insane thought that popped into their head and suddenly became real.

I’ve been psychotic.

I’ve never seen psychosis.

Not until recently.

One day I became so frightened by the things I was hearing from a friend I was forced to call the police. I couldn’t get to her and I needed someone to check on her. Physically she was perfectly fine, but mentally she was in real trouble. I’m no psychiatrist, so I can’t diagnose her, but I recognise the symptoms of psychosis when I see them.

It scared the living shit out of me. I was terrified for my friend. I was also terrified for myself.

It was like staring into a mirror and having my past-self reflected back at me, dark and distorted.

Castles in the Air - the Other Side of Psychosis

I know psychosis, I’ve lived it. I know it’s terrifying to endure. I never before realised how horrendous it is to watch.

It’s soul destroying, it’s heart breaking, to see someone you love in that sort of state and be utterly powerless to help. It doesn’t matter what you say or what you do, their reality in no longer connected to your own. You can’t soothe their fears, you can’t convince them of the truth. They’re in another world, and the rules are different there. The rules are cruel and unjust and constantly changing.

Trying to understand the reality of another person’s psychosis is to court insanity yourself.

Don’t try.

Seriously, don’t.

I’ve spent weeks attempting to understand my friend’s current state of mind and damn near lost my own mind in the process. I had to take a step back. I had to stop trying to unravel the ununravelable and have a breath. I had to resign myself to the fact I could listen, but I couldn’t enter that world. I couldn’t walk beside her and take her hand. I couldn’t throw my arms around her and hold her while she cried. I couldn’t kick the crap out of the demons coming after her.

Because she was in another world,.

And I couldn’t reach her.

No matter how hard I tried, and believe me, I tried, I couldn’t reach her.

She floated away from me, a cloud in the sky, boiling with thunder, and all I could do was watch her go and pray she came back down.

When she lands, I’ll catch her, I’ll be here.

Until then, all I can do is listen to the thunder.

And it’s deafening.

It’s terrifying.

It makes me want to run as far and as fast as I can.

But I don’t run. I won’t run.

I will never run from her thunder.

Castles in the Air - the Other Side of Psychosis

I know what it is to be a storm cloud in the sky. I know what it is to have lost your tether, to be floating away, further and further away, from everyone and every thing you know and love.

I know what it’s like to gaze down at the world you used to know and find it foreign, completely unfathomable.

I know what it’s like to find everything about the world below impossible to comprehend except for one thing, and it’s the most important thing:

Everyone is leaving you.

You’re lost, and terrified, and all they can do is run.

The cowards.

The bastards.

What the fuck is wrong with them, how could they do this to you? Don’t they know what you’re going through? Don’t they understand?

Don’t they love you enough to just listen to the thunder?

I know what it’s like to watch them run. It drives you further into the sky. It makes the thunder louder. It sparks the lightning.

It is the very worst thing a person can do to you.

It’s selfish, it’s cruel, it’s a hateful, hateful thing to do.

It is also, I have realised, completely and utterly understandable.

I never realised how draining that thunder can be, how exhausting. I didn’t know that just standing there, facing down the storm, takes the most overwhelming amount of courage. You’re afraid, every second you stand there, you’re afraid that the person you knew isn’t coming back, that you’ve lost them forever, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’re afraid you might float away with them.

That the madness is somehow contagious.

You don’t know what they’re going through. You don’t understand. Nobody does. Nobody can know what it is to be in that cloud, not even if you’ve been in a similar cloud yourself.

A psychotic reality is formed from the mindscape and experiences of the individual. Not only is it constantly changing and evolving, it is also utterly unique.

A psychotic may have some understanding of what it is like to be in the cloud, but they seldom understand how the cloud works. And if a person cannot figure out a reality built from their own mindscape and experiences, how the hell are they going to fathom one constructed from someone else’s?

Psychosis is incomprehensible.

I get it, I do, I know why you want to run.

But before you do, please take a minute to read about my cloud. It’s not the same anyone else’s, I’m not describing psychosis, not really. I’m describing my psychosis, my cloud. If you know someone in a cloud of their own, it will be different. If you have a cloud yourself, it will be different. But if you can get a glimpse of mine I think, perhaps, you might understand the thunder a little better.

You  might find it easier to stay.

These things I say and do, that seem so foreign and strange to you are as real to me as everything you consider to be reality. If I told you reality was wrong, that your world wasn’t real, would you believe me? If I told you the person you’ve been talking to on the bus every day for the last year doesn’t exist, would you believe me? If you were chased home by a man with a knife trying to rape you, and all I said when you told me about it was, “Don’t be silly!” would you laugh?

Would you find it funny?

Would you get the joke?

It may be terrifying to watch someone go through psychosis, but it’s far worse to be the person enduring a psychotic break.

Listening to the thunder isn’t nearly as bad as being in the cloud.

Believe me.

It’s hell.

In the cloud I know, with absolute certainty, what is real and what isn’t. But nobody agrees with you. Everyone tells me what I see is wrong. What I hear is wrong. I’m lying. I’m imaging things. I’m paranoid. I’m crazy.

What I see and hear and feel is real, but everyone acts like it isn’t. Everyone pretends the monsters aren’t there. Everyone laughs as hands close around my throat shake me until I die.

I KNOW I’m right, down to the very core of my being. If my depended on it, and it often does, I would stake my entire existence on the fact that what I know to be real is in fact reality.

Perception is reality.

If I see it, it’s there, if I feel it, it’s there, if I hear it, it’s there.

Whether you agree with me or not makes no difference – the cloud doesn’t change simply because the outside looks different to the inside.

My reality is as real as yours. But mine shifts and changes, moment to moment. There isn’t a single person in the world who knows what I know, sees what I see, believes what I believe, and I’m not really careful, all those people telling me I’m wrong fracture away from me.

They break.

Reality breaks.

Because it’s just not possible that EVERYONE in the world is ignorant or stupid enough to be blind to the truth. The truth that I see and hear and feel and touch. The truth they all deny.

Which means they are all lying.

Which means they’re all in it together.

Everyone is conspiring against me and, at the same time, reality bleeds from one nightmare to the next, your mind leaping around in time to show you the worst moments from you life again and again, to dredge up ancient pain and make it fresh, to catapult you far into the future, to the ultimate end of everything that could possibly go wrong.

And the ultimate end is always cataclysmic.

The world is conspiring against me, every pain, every trauma, every horror I’ve ever experienced, or feared, or imagined, is real and really happening, and it’s all really happening right now. All at once.

That is my cloud. That is my psychosis.

Can you imagine what that is like? Can you imagine how exhausting, how terrifying that is?

When you’re up there in the cloud you have no choice. You have to brave the storm.

So you people, down there, safe and sound in the real world, you people who think it’s too upsetting, too frightening, too annoying to listen to the thunder of your friend, your family member, your colleague. You people who think the clouds aren’t worth it, who can’t take it any more because you’re too tired, to angry, too afraid…

You’re not in it. You’re not in the cloud. The cloud is hell. You don’t have to endure hell. All you have to do is listen to the thunder. All you have to do is stand there. If you love your cloud, you will be there to catch her when finally falls from the sky.

Because she will fall.

And the fall could kill her.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary as hell. I really didn’t get it before, I only saw it from my perspective, only knew it from the view of the person left floating off into the night, alone, terrified, and stuck in the cloud. I didn’t know how hard it was to stay. I know now, and I’m sorry it’s so difficult. Truly I am. But clouds are devastatingly fragile.

They need you far more than you will ever understand.

I know you want to be anywhere else, dealing with anything else.

But if you love your cloud, you will stay.

If you love your cloud, you will listen.

I’m still not running.

I still won’t leave her.

And if I can stand here, and weather the storm, and be here when she falls, if I can evade my own cloud long enough to battle through and listen to someone else’s, you can.

You have to.

They don’t have a choice – they didn’t chose to float away.

You have a choice.

And if you chose wrong, you will lose them forever.

If you chose wrong, you will only be adding to the thunder.

Castles in the Air - the Other Side of Psychosis

The Eight Year Odyssey, Fucking Truffles & Being ‘TOO MUCH’…

The Eight Year Odyssey and Fucking Truffles

Another year and another Valentines Day have passed and anyone who knows me well will know I spent most of Sunday quietly muttering, ‘Fucking Truffles’ to myself repeatedly.

Fear not, I’ve not developed an unhealthy proclivity for truffles, quite the contrary, despite the fact I find them delicious I’ve been unable to bring myself to eat one for eight years.

Eight years on Sunday, as it happens.

You're Never Too Much, The Eight Year Odyssey, Fucking Truffles, and Why You're Never Too Much

Warning: Long Post Ahead!

You see, on V Day, eight long years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend.

This in itself is not an unusual event in my life, I’ve lost count of how many boyfriends and how many breakups I’ve been through, not helped by the fact I broke up with one of them about fifty times before we finally called it quits for good.

The reason this particular breakup is noteworthy is because it marks, more so than anything else, my descent into HELL.

For while there have been many men (and a fair few women) and many breakups, this one is the only one I regret.

That might sound harsh, and certainly when you take into account that the guy in question ISN’T the one I loved more than life itself, it may seem odd. But you see, breaking up with the other guy, the one I would, at the time, have given ANYTHING to be with, was, in hindsight, the best thing I could possibly do.

He wasn’t right for me.

He was, in point of fact, an unmitigated jack ass.

But Truffle Man, well, Truffle Man is another matter.

Some explanation is needed before I continue. In late 2005 I went through THE BIG BREAKUP. You know, the one that made me try to kill myself a few times. That was followed by the worst and longest period of mania I’d ever had. For the better part of 2006 I was out of control. Somehow, I still managed to graduate with a 2.1 from Manchester University and in September moved to Bangor to begin my MA. Shortly after arriving in Bangor I embarked on a long-distance, long-term relationship with TRUFFLE MAN.

I knew Truffle Man from Manchester as we’d been on the same course, although we didn’t know each other well. In what I have come to recognise as typical Hazel-Coming-Down-Hard-From-A-High fashion I decided I needed a new boyfriend.

When I say my behaviour had been out of control I’m not exaggerating. Drink. Drugs. Sex. Starvation. You name it, I’d done it that year. I lost six stone in just over 2 months and went for days, sometime well over a week without eating a thing. I exercised relentlessly. I fucked anyone I could find and I drank myself to sleep at night. I didn’t do a lot of drugs, but there was the odd incident, and I’m not proud of the fact.

When I came down from that high I was alone, sober, broke and, perhaps worst of all, still as heart-broken as I’d been the day I realised it was finally and completely over with my ex.

Mania didn’t help me get over the breakup. Mania hit pause, used up every ounce of energy I had, and then abandoned me, frail, poor, and lacking in several good friends I’d had previously.

I’d never acted in such a way before. It would be almost a decade before anyone even said the word bipolar to me, and in my exhausted and shattered opinion, the only explanation was that I didn’t have a boyfriend.

I would never have acted in such a manner if I’d still had a boyfriend.

The reality is that, while the end of my relationship kicked off that particular bout of mania, I wasn’t immune to mania while I’d been with him. In fact, the worst bout I’d had prior to that had occurred while we were together, and led to me cheating on him. He’d cheated on me previously. On balance, at the time, it seemed reasonably justified, but even so, it was out of character.

It was also the beginning of the end for us. I couldn’t forgive him for cheating (and he went on do to it some more) and he couldn’t forgive me.

I will not say that my mania broke that relationship, but it certainly didn’t help it. My depression, on the other hand, and the paranoia that comes withi both states, was simply something he couldn’t deal with.

It was ‘too much’ for him.

I was too much for him.

Even so, we were together three years and while we were together I was relatively stable.

So, when I came crashing down from the next big high and cast about looking for something to tether me to the ground, I hit upon the notion of a new boyfriend.

Not a quick fuck. An actual boyfriend.

Truffle Man would not come to be known by that moniker for some time, but in the interests of maintaining his anonymity, I will use it. He was kind, sweet, funny, and easy. By that I mean easy to be around, easy to talk to, and easy to charm.

He is without a doubt the sweetest, nicest person I’ve ever been with.

Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t perfect. He had a temper that ignited over the smallest things. He was overly sensitive, threw tantrums if he didn’t get fed every four hours and was obsessed with Richmond Skinless sausages, and cheese sandwiches.

He also liked to eat meat pies in bread rolls.

Strange eating habits aside, we got on well. But from the start the relationship was unbalanced. I was incredibly broken after my last breakup and miscarriage, still carrying a phenomenal number of secrets around with me, still not speaking to the majority of my family with any kind of ease, still protecting my father at the expense of my own sanity…

And I was still bipolar.

I didn’t know it yet, and I have no doubt that the new relationship went a long way towards stabalising me, but it didn’t do it overnight, and it didn’t do it completely. My drinking was still a problem. I actually quit completely for three months straight after Truffle Man suggested I was an alcoholic.

It wasn’t that I believed him and was worried, it was more that I was pissed off at the suggestion I was less than perfect and had to prove him wrong.

He certainly wasn’t right. At least, not entirely. But there were times I used alcohol and fags as a crutch. He despised my smoking and made it very clear he couldn’t be with me if I smoked.

I quit.

Just like that.

I went from 20 a day to none overnight and I didn’t think twice about it.

I no longer needed the fags. I had a new boy to play with.

This is how my mind works when it comes to addictions. When I need something I need it. When I don’t I don’t. There has never been a long stressful period of me struggling to quit something. I smoke or I don’t. I drink or I don’t. I think perhaps he thought the ease with which I gave them up meant I had never been much of smoker to begin with.

The poor boy didn’t have a clue what he was getting into.

Added to this was the fact that I was his first, and he…

Well, he was in no way mine.

We were together for a year and a half, and I have a lot of fond memories with him.

Then it all went horribly wrong…

I think it started when I went to Austria for a month over the summer of 2007. I was excavating two sites with my mentor from Bangor, who is Austrian and also teaches at Vienna University. I wanted to go. I desperately needed to go. But my reasons for this want,.this need, were not something I could explain to Truffle Man. All he could see was that I was going to be away for a month and, due to very limited financing for the whole trip, I was limiting conversations to text messages.

I didn’t want him calling me.

I can understand why this upset him. I can understand, in hindsight, why it pissed him off.

I should perhaps have told him everything I was feeling, it might have made more sense to him. But if there was one thing I knew back then it was that he didn’t want to hear about the ex.

I say THE ex because really, despite the guys and the girls and the parties and the insanity, there was, at that point, only one.

One ex, and another man I still loved who was all but a ghost to me at that point in my life. I’d buried him so deep he might as well have been dead.

They had both broken me, but I was so overwhelmed by the last one I’d all but forgotten the first.

As it turns out, he did far more damage, but I digress.

I needed to go to Austria for several reasons. Firstly, I was an archaeologist who didn’t feel like an archaeologist. Id done some digs and a reconstruction project while I was in college, but at Uni I’d failed miserably. I’d been on one excavation at the end of my first year, right after my miscarriage, right when I was at the lowest I’d ever been at that point, and it flipped me into the aforementioned manic episode.

The one that led to me cheating on my ex.

I’d come home from that dig a failure in every respect. I was useless as a girlfriend and I couldn’t handle two weeks away doing what everyone in my chosen profession does.

I was pitiful.

I refused further digs for the rest of my undergraduate degree, but by the time I was at Bangor I was feeling better. I was in a steady relationship with a good guy, my mentor was (and is!) a wonderful teacher, and I had something to prove.

I was an archaeologist.

I could do it.

And I could be a good girlfriend.

I could be trusted to go away and behave myself.

Trying to explain any of this to Truffle Man was out of the question. So off I went, on the heels of a huge row we had right before I left. I had an absolute blast for the first two and half weeks. I made loads of friends, loved the dig, smoked myself silly every day, had a few drink each night but never too much, and behaved myself completely.

Half way through week two my mood spun around and kicked me hard in the arse. I sank into a pit of despair so fast I didn’t know what had hit me. I struggled through the remainder of my time away, started calling Truffle Man despite the extortionate call charges, and counted down the days until I got home.

My return was hardly what I’d hoped for.

I stopped smoking the day I left, but he knew I’d been smoking while I was gone. We argued as soon as I got back, partly about the smoking, partly because I was complaining about how annoying one of the guys on the dig had been, and partly because he was just pissed off I’d gone in the first place.

We went to New York very shortly after and the trip was a disaster. I had friends out there I had promised to go and see, and their return to the UK was suddenly happening a lot sooner than expected. We went on very short notice and he lent me the money for my half of the trip. I thought nothing of it at the time as the University owed me a cheque for my tuition fees which, due to me working in the library and teaching, they were waiving. This amounted to nearly £2K so paying him back wasn’t a problem, it was just unfortunate we left a week before the cheque arrived.

The trouble was, I was still depressed. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. I hated America – it was too hot, too busy, there were too many people, and I was so fucking tired.

I dragged my arse around trying desperately to stay awake and, half the time, failed miserably.

He was, I think, disappointing by the experience, especially considering how expensive it had been. Things got worse when we got back and I found the cheque I’d been waiting for had been sent to my father, who had cashed it himself and decided to keep it.

This left me with no way of paying him back.

I mentioned some Truffle Man’s flaws earlier, one I neglected to list was his miserly attitude when it came to money. He hated spending money on anything, and even before I owed him anything, he got pissy with me if I spent any. I do now recognise that my occasional bursts of mania while we were together led to overspending he was right to be concerned by. But the majority of the time I wasn’t manic or over-spending, I was simply doing the normal things I was used to doing on a daily basis. He didn’t like going to Costa while we were out and getting a coffee, it was a waste of money. He didn’t like stopping in a nice cafe or pub for lunch when we were of on an expedition somewhere or shopping.

And if cheese sandwiches weren’t on the menu, I was in deep, deep shit.

This attitude always pissed me off, not least because of his need to eat so regularly. It meant we either couldn’t be out of the house for more than 4 hours, or I had to feed him and put up with his moaning about the price of lunch. I took to carrying an endless supply of Yorkie bars around with me, but they only went so far.

Statue of Liberty, New York, You're Never Too Much, The Eight Year Odyssey, Fucking Truffles, and Why You're Never Too Much

After New York, things went down hill fast.

He resented every penny I spent. I can understand this, I really can, and looking back I should have made more of an effort to pay him back, but at the time, money just didn’t seem important. I was flipping the other way again and my depression had quickly become hypo-mania. The overspending kicked in right when I suddenly owed him several hundred pounds. By the end of the year I was fully manic. and I wouldn’t be coming back down from that high for more than a day or two at a time until the end of 2008.

I finished my MA and took a job as a site assistant down south.

That was the final nail in the coffin that had become our relationship. We were already doing long distance, Manchester-Bangor, and in fairness to him he’d done the majority of the travelling.

There were too many ghosts in Manchester for me and I didn’t like to go back at that point.

The notion of me moving all the way to Bury St Edmunds really pissed him off. I think this was partly due to the fact he’d been working part-time at Tesco since finishing his degree, while I’d done a post-grad course and then got a full-time job doing something I loved. He was, I think, frustrated by his own career (or lack there of), simultaneously pissed off I was moving so far away, and a little envious of what I was doing when I got there. It did prompt him to apply for a better position at Tesco and I’m delighted to say he’s gone from strength to strength within the company since and is now doing very well for himself.

But back then, he hated my new job. And he was growing to resent me. I owed him money, I was too far away, I was moody, depressed too much for no reason, I’d abandoned him over the summer and smoked the whole time I was away, the list was getting longer and longer and the things he’d always liked about me were vanishing in a haze of depression and mania.

In his words, he felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t in order to be with him.

I really didn’t understand what he meant by this at the time, but looking back, I can understand it. He felt my manic-self was the ‘real’ me. That was how I’d been before we were together, it was (in his opinion) how I’d been while I was away in Austria, and as time went on I was becoming more and more that person, my ‘real’ self, and less and less the person he’d been with all this time.

I understand why he thought I’d been pretending – or trying – to be something I wasn’t.

He didn’t know I had drastic shifts in mood, behaviour, and personality, as a result of a mental illness that was, back then, completely un-treated.

From his perspective, I was reverting to my true self and he’d been wasting his time on a fake person trying to be better than they really were.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the paranoid I’d know in my last relationship came back with a vengeance and I was suspicious of everything he did. He worked with women, his friends were all women, and he would go to the cinema or off out somewhere with women. When a new girl started at his work (or he met her when he changed jobs, I can’t remember now) that paranoia went into overdrive. He talked about her all the time, he went out with her on his own, just the two of them, and no matter how many times I asked him not to, he just got annoyed with me.

I became convinced he was cheating on me.

In my defense, I had been through all of this before and it was my own private nightmare, back to haunt me. Whether he was or not, I have no idea, but the whole thing deteriorated rapidly. When he came to see me we did nothing but fight. When I went to see him all I wanted to was to be elsewhere. Eventually I couldn’t stand speaking to him on the phone, and the thought of going to see him made me physically sick.

It wasn’t that I’d stopped caring about him, it was simply that I was utterly convinced he was fucking another woman, and I didn’t have it in me to fight for him.

I’d fought for my last relationship and it damn near killed me.

I was tired, and pissed, in a new place with new people and mania pulling at my strings.

He wanted me to move to Manchester.

I wouldn’t have moved back there if my life depended on it, but he couldn’t see that.

I might have done it, too, but for the fact he wasn’t ready to move in with me.

I’d have been living alone in a city I’d nearly died in, a city my ex still lived in at that point, and doing some god awful job I hated.

And for what?

A guy who was cheating on me.

I wanted the open fields and the freedom of the digging life.

I wanted peace.

We eventually broke up after a week or two of skirting the issue, and it wasn’t well done. I couldn’t face the long drive to Manchester just to end another relationship and he didn’t have the balls to dump me to my face. So it happened over the phone, while I was at work, on, you guessed it, VALENTINE’S DAY.

February 14th 2008.

To say it pissed me off was an understatement. I was furious with him for his philandering ways (I had no proof this was actually happening, but I KNEW, in the manner one KNOWS things while manic, and that was enough back then), and pissed off that he wouldn’t man up and get over himself. To my mind, he was jealous of my new job and the fact I was doing exactly what I wanted to do while he was still living with his parents and working at a supermarket.

I couldn’t think of anything worse than living with my parents and working at a supermarket. I couldn’t understand how anyone could endure such an existence. But my family life was complicated and his was very simple. I had ambitions and dreams and he seemed quite content as he was at that particular point in his life.

I on the other hand, was going places, in the manner only a person in the full grips of mania can go.

And boy did I go.

You may be wondering why I call him TRUFFLE MAN.

Well, it went something like this. Very shortly after I moved – early January – I realised something was wrong. I could see the end looming on the horizon and I was TERRIFIED.

I didn’t want to lose him.

This was partly because he was a nice guy but, I think, more due to the belief that having a boyfriend kept me normal. After my last period of mania I was utterly convinced the only reason I’d acted the way I had was because I didn’t have a boyfriend. Sure enough, I got a boyfriend, and everything calmed down. The mood swings weren’t gone, but they weren’t nearly as bad, and my mania was short-lived and seldom destructive to anything save my bank balance.

On the contrary, it got me through my degree, the great bursts of energy and insight making up for the times I went weeks without doing any work.

But the end was nigh. I could feel it coming. In a burst of proactive avoidance I ordered a single red rose and a box of truffles to be delivered, by courier, to my beloved’s house on Valentines’s Day. I can’t recall what the note said specifically but it included a declaration of love.

I then promptly forgot about it.

I got so caught up in the paranoia over what he was up to and the excitement of my new life I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THAT FUCKING ROSE AND THOSE FUCKING TRUFFLES.

I didn’t remember until the conversation in which we broke up.

He started by thanking me for the rose.

He ended by telling me he never wanted to see me again, not even to say goodbye properly.

The Eight Year Odyssey and Fucking Truffles

For the remainder of that day I could be found wandering the Fens screaming, “FUCKING TRUFFLES!” at passing pheasants, like a chocolatier suffering from a serious case of Tourette’s.

My first big breakup was followed by a long period of severe mania, the likes of which I’d never seen before. My second was followed by a bout of mania so bad the other seemed like a happy memory.

And it just didn’t end.

I lost friends. I lost my job. I lost another job. I lost my flat. And then the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened.

I was forced to move back in with my parents.

I lasted a few months, and then it all blew up in my face. The truth about my father came out, he left, my mother was distraught, my family in tatters, the thing I’d spent half my life and broken my brain trying to prevent had happened despite my best efforts.

I was a failure.

And I was utterly alone.

I fell into a pit of depression so deep it took me over six years to climb back out.

Looking back over the last eight years there are a lot of things I regret. Too many to mention. I’m happy now. I’m stable. I have a diagnosis, medication, coping mechanisms in place. I’ve been through a lot of therapy and I’ve written away my woes. I understand myself, and my condition, and I’ve come an incredibly long way from the frightened, broken little girl I was eight years ago.

I have perspective.

And I know that where the men in my life are concerned, losing them was the best thing for me.

Except one.

Despite the horrible way it ended, despite the fact I’m sure he still hates me to this day for breaking his heart, and despite the fact I’m not sure I was ever actually in love with him, I do regret losing Truffle Man.

I’m not at all sure that loss was the best thing for me.

Then I consider how he handled me, and I know that while he might have been a nice guy, a good guy, which is certainly a unique occurrence in my history, he still wasn’t the guy.

I know this because of something he said to me on a regular basis. Something I have come to recognise as the plaintive cry of a person who isn’t capable of handling mental illness when it’s staring them in the face.

When it’s threatening to take away the person they profess to love.

“It’s too much. You’re too much.”

One of my lovely bears was telling me about her recent breakup the other day over on The Bipolar Bear’s Facebook page. She said it had ended because of her illness, because he couldn’t cope, because it was too much, she was too much.

She said she knew he was right, it was all her fault, she was too much for anyone to cope with, nobody could possibly put up with her.

It made me so sad.

Sad, and angry. Not at her, but for her.

I remember thinking this way. I remember feeling this way. I remember the conviction that I was far ‘too much’ to deal with and the belief that anyone who was willing to put up with me must be a saint.

That belief led me right into my next relationship with a man who was so utterly dysfunctional he made me look like saint, and yet everything was always my fault.

Because I was too much.

I told my bear on Facebook how backwards this view is and I wanted to share it here too. I understand why Truffle Man felt this way – I was un-diagnosed, untreated, and totally out of control.

And he had no idea I was ill.

Feeling my behaviour was ‘too much’ is understandable in those circumstances. Perhaps a better man, or at least a more experienced man, would have realised there was something wrong and got me some help, rather than getting annoyed and abandoning me, but he was who he was. He was young, and inexperienced, and for him, back then, I was entirely too much to handle.

That doesn’t mean I’m too much for everyone. It doesn’t mean I’m a burden. It doesn’t mean I should count myself lucky if someone is willing to put with me and settle for that person simply because they will endure my faults.

Love means looking after people when they fall, not kicking them when they’re down.

Love means loving the entirety of a person, faults and all, not limiting yourself to loving them when they are well.

For better or worse, in sickness and in health.

There’s a reason they put it in the fucking vows.

So, the next time someone blames you for everything that is wrong with a relationship and tells you, “You’re too much!” do please direct them to this post.

If they feel that way it’s because you’re not getting the help you need. That isn’t your fault. That is their fault. As a bipolar bear we are not always capable of recognising when we are ill, when we most need help. We are not always capable of asking for it, finding it, or accepting it.

We need the people who love us to help us recognise we need help, help us find it, help us ask for it, and most importantly help us do the work and stick to the treatment.

Because that’s hard.

It’s the hardest thing about this illness.

And when you love someone, you help them through the bad shit so you can enjoy the good shit together.

You're Never Too Much, The Eight Year Odyssey, Fucking Truffles, and Why You're Never Too Much