Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gok-ing my blog.

(I have another competition deadline to meet. 5000 words for the Bridport Prize and so rather than a new entry, I thought I'd finally get around to calling a spade a spade and not be precious about it)

My beloved Tornado Files has given way to Bipolar Alley. It's the same blog with a different title but makes it easier for search engines.
To mark the occasion, I am reposting my first ever post in case anyone new should wander by and stop to rest awhile with me. Welcome, and please stay. x


I used to liken my Cyclothymia to a catherine wheel.
I was once invited to a Guy Fawkes party in a lovely garden that led down to a river. The chap who was hosting it, nailed the catherine wheel to a tree then watched in horror as it jumped off its perch, whizzing and fizzing and firing its violent colours like a six shooter backing out of a saloon . Mien host chased after it, along the riverbank, in safety goggles and a V-neck sweater - attempting to bring it to justice with the aid of a long stick. I have rarely laughed so loudly and so long and when the suggestion that I might be bipolar arose, in my intial relief at an explanation of my life, I saw myself romantically as a catherine wheel. I was a gentle maverick, a children's entertainer, a rogue firework-sometimes getting out of hand and briefly dangerous but always entertaining and wonderful to look at.
In the months that followed though, as I hit my ups and downs with a new awareness that I found frankly quite terrifying, it struck me that unchecked, a catherine wheel could cause much damage and that I could cause more. 

I have always loved extreme weather; growing up on a very severe coast line, fun for me was walking along the seafront when the waves were so vast as to overpower the sea wall by several feet and crash over the recently abandoned car park on the other side. I adored the drama of it-the power of nature; the feeling that it could snuff me out any minute, but that it wouldn't bloody dare.

As a result, I love the sea although, at the same time, I am more terrified of its vast power than of anything else. Thundestorms are another favourite; always torn between common sense and exhilaration when thunderbolts are thrown through the air and that delicious grumble of the gods invites you to party. How I long to go outdoors.... and so often, I do.
In retrospect then, it doesn't seem such a surprise that I ricochet constantly between the horror of fear and the freedom to be out of control. When did it all begin I wonder?
Now of course I realise that I am a tornado, not a catherine wheel at all. I sometimes -but not always- get a bit of a weather warning and ooooohhhh the excitement! I soar on anticipation. I see the tornado start to build and I feed it with glee, whipping and whipping it round like a spinning top until it has such a momentum that there's no stopping it. I am an awesome sight-mighty,powerful, intelligent and I do not suffer fools gladly-all are ripped from their place of safety and tossed aside. I am bright and witty and everyone is drawn into my atmosphere. I do not rest, nor sleep but go along my clever, clever way, taking all that I want and showing the world how it's done. I draw admirers from everywhere, everyone wants a piece of this phenomena. I can spin forever!

 Yet in the back of my mind I know that this isn't how it ends, that the spinning will stop even when I don't want it to. I panic and struggle but sure enough, the cows and double decker buses get harder to lift and the debris starts to slow me down. I look for a man with a stick to help, but he has got bored now and wandered home for his dinner and after all, people have jobs to go to. I try only choosing light things to fling about me, but all the time the energy is being discharged ; something has popped the tornado like a balloon but it is me who deflates slowly until finally there is nothing by quiet and calm immobility and a sense of disorientation.
But the worst is yet to come, once the tornado of my soul has been snuffed out altogether and I look around, the horror of the decimation is revealed; the carcasses of friendships and reputations and time with children are strewn everywhere and I am completely spent and exhausted with a need to sleep and an inability to think. But even this is manageable, because I realise that when I do start to think, it won't be pretty. I am my own newscaster reporting on untold damage. I do not pull any punches. Apocalyptic is my style -I am a sensationalist after all.
But I have been thinking...thinking that if I were constantly a gentle breeze-neither a hurricane nor stagnant water- I think I'd find that less tiring.
So, welcome to Bipolar Alley: One woman's observations on how it feels to accept herself and the strategies she's experimenting with to pace herself.'... it's a working title :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Normality to Vertigo!

You have to take pot luck with me dontcha? Either, thoughtful observation, humorous aside or online diary . Today it's the latter, so you might like to reassess your position 

on my agenda was getting the online diary up to date (here we are), doing the business/tax paperwork and calling a few tradesmen. Instead, I have done some gardening (useful but not today's priority, same goes for the 3 4 loads of washing I have hung out), read over the competition entries I have submitted this month (gawd knows why as I have read them a dozen times a day since I wrote them and it's not as if the errors will have suddenly dissolved overnight)
I have had a shower and taken delivery of 10 substandard and overpriced shower curtains. not this one!

I have had my lunch and caught up with the blogs that I follow which is a treat I rarely allow myself. I have realised that the nick on my arm is not skin cancer as previously thought (again) but in fact a nettle rash. I have cleaned the laptop monitor, positioned my recliner chair so that the sun doesn't glare on the screen, read over old blog posts, checked my STATS for both blogs and they are woeful! I fetched a drink. Then I nodded off and so decided to use this rare piece of warm sunshine to do an outdoor meditation. So-obviously- I had to fetch some incense and 2 cushions. I didn't get off the recliner, just made myself comfier and more upright on it. I did my meditation breathing then imagined myself filled with light . This was easier than yesterday where I tried but could not shake of the feeling that I was filled with a hippopotamus.
I imagine that the recliner is evenly distributing the weight today. In an effort to be a good Buddhist, I will admit that I am not being kind to myself there, but I will be kind to those thoughts and to the thought that I wasn't being kind.
I know this is all putting off what I do not want to write, lest saying stuff aloud somehow makes it scarier.But now I think of it, I might have been coping quite well.

So, progress.  Friday was a good day-bloody brilliant actually. I didn't win the lottery or get that much anticipated dinner invitation from Jeffrey Dean Morgan .

No, rather it was that I felt normal.  You my friends, might take normal for granted, but let me tell you what a wondrous thing it is.
First of all, you have enough energy to both begin and end the day. Brilliant! You can see that something needs doing and so you do it. There's none of this adding it to the bottom of a soul-destroying list to do the day after hell freezes over and spending the next days, months and years feeling crap about it. No, not at all. You know you can't do everything in a day but can do some things and you quite look forward to getting them done and the resulting....result! There is a clarity in the air and in mind, body and spirit ; you wonder that things could ever have been otherwise and are hopeful but doubtful that they'll never be otherwise.
Decisions are easy "This is what I need to help myself in the future...this is what I will do about it " And for me, on Friday, it went hand in hand with "I have been off work for 8 months, I was going to read sunday papers, do the decorating, do the garden and make things. I have done none of those things which suggests that I am not the type of person who does. But, I love my work and so it's time to return to it and to use my wages to pay people who are good at the garden, the decorating and the housework and not feel guilty about it. (who gets the reference?Let me know)

And so, I e-mailed work that very day and I start back this week.

My job involves me working with children who are in distress, and so it seems sensible only to take on the less troubling cases for the time being. It feels right, it feels good. On Friday, my heart was going neither too fast nor too slow . It was a good place to be. P tells me that I was so grounded on friday that my voice was deep and velvety. Apparently, anxiousness raises the timbre of your voice.I want to get back to velvety. I think Friday arrived because I got some good news on Thursday, when I had been feeling overwhelmed. The shock of unexpected good news just jolted everything into place. relief obviously realigns my equilibrium but if I am not careful, it will send me ricocheting off in one direction or another. It's a jumping off point.
Saturday wasn't a bad day, especially the first half. There were lots and lots of laughs as my son told me he needed to stop off at the shops for a new PE kit before his sports day started which was in 10 mins time.. This was funny because he thought that possible and it was hugely entertaining watching him try to even walk in a pair of shorts at least 3 sizes too small and wearing odd socks. .
 By the time I went out with the girls in the evening, I felt a bit annoyed and self conscious. Annoyance is ALWAYS an indicator that things are about to change and I was very tired when we got home at 11.

The next morning I was due to run a stall and got up at 5.45 as planned. I felt very sluggish and completely devoid of enthusiasm. It was quite difficult to think ahead and so I didn't go because I couldn't go. I went back to bed for an hour at about 9 and woke up with everything racing whilst simultaneously feeling exhausted. It's a horrible feeling. I dropped my daughter off and did a little shopping but was disorientated and had some vertigo
. I went home for another hour's sleep and a little meditation but I could still feel everything racing, muscles twitching in my face, blood pounding, entire body in tiny tremors and I know that I have had that feeling, very often in my life.
Trying to look after myself, I used the massage chair and had 2 baths, which helped. My anxiety levels were going through the roof until the meditation . It was an awful day and I feel bad for the kids, who see me this way too often. My daughter developed a headache and I can't help but wonder if it was linked.
I try to be a good Buddhist and try to feel how I feel instead of trying to fight the feeling. It helps a little. I then tried to recall how I had felt on Friday when I had lots to do but it was all doable, and that helped too. I think I realised that this state of mind was not helpful and I want to aim to return to Friday's state as often as possible. I want that to be my normal. My '0'. So, I slept like a top and got up better, less anxious but still racing. That's where I am now. I have lots of things to do, know I can do them but have to concentrate very hard on priorities. I still have vertigo but it should go in a day or so. I am used to it. The pattern is emerging. Maybe I need to be prepared after my next 'normal' day. Lots of meditation on the day itself may be required and to look after myself the following day. Whatever I did, I am on the mend and so it worked.
Thank you for walking beside me through my thoughts x

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