Awesome People Plants

In our home, there are four teens, one tween, and a close to be adult who lives a city away. There is also a troll, sorry, challenging old woman (who has insisted since birth that I call her Mom) who lives upstairs and other living beings, including my growing collection of cactus that thrive in the shade. Yes. My cacti and I are all prickly, fat, and prefer languishing in the dark. The most important of my growing beings are definetly my growing brood of chickens. And just in writing that I realise how much describing them as chickens just doesn’t describe the enormity of who they are. What they’re blooming, growing into. I am at a loss for words actually. Because as much as I tear up when thinking of their amazing, step by step, aww growth spurts (ongoing), it has come with a hefty DIY catering and grocery cost (also ongoing).

When not selling a pound of flesh to keep us in house and home I do get invaluable moments and times with our many children, well, at least some of them. Our eldest son lives in another city which is to as he says: “foster a better relationship” which I read as: “I can only handle you in short, precise doses, after which we need to be seperated by land and sea”. Our next two, The Duchess, our eldest daughter, who holds the most superior rank until eldest son gets home, and The Queen (her BFF) still and regularly speak fluent flenglish to me. It’s when they talk to me using the little bit of flab they are trying to lose for their matric farewell (our prom) and they make voices and gesticulations to support. It is both frustrating and funny for example with me spending 10 minutes saying with increasing irritation instruction 1, instruction 2, and them saying in flenglish, laughing, sorry what? But it makes me smile on the inside that there are moments when they literally giggle in, out and with their bellies.

Our next son is immaculate in appearance, and a good looking guy, but less so in his immediate surroundings, particularly that which is in close proximity to me. He also adores me so much, that he takes my things and keeps them close to his heart. It’s a cute little habit that stretches my understanding of being a mother. He did however tell us that he remembered each of his school plays, and said that although he never really had a speaking part, he was amazed that my husband and I had come each time, cheered and waved in the audience and had once even taken him out for dinner (which is a treat in our house), and most importantly that he felt important each time. Our last, but certainly not least “I want to be the oldest” tween is a defiant, combination of all our entire household’s best AND worst traits. She also reguarly undertakes life threatening activity like talking back to me when I am reprimanding her. And argues, like she has a briefcase and hopefully, a TITANIUM cage to protect her from me. It’s like a good meme said: “There’s nothing like your daughter’s mouth to bring out your inner gangster”. Indeed.

So aside from all these endearing habits, languages, and moments, I concede that we are growing amazing things. That they are growing themselves. That it is usually, mostly a blessing to be part and parcel of all their development. That somehow I get to be a usually positive contributing factor to their lives (vitamin enduced I tell you). And that they don’t see me as disordered, mentally ill or broken. They see me as Mom. Momty. Someone to laugh with, cry with, inhale sweets under the blanket with. They actually want to be around me (poor kids) and know what to do when I need some space. Each day, though I don’t know how it will turn out, I know that they will be there. With kissy lips when I “don’t” want them, tissues for tears, and Mom and Me selfies even when I don’t feel pretty. And though I often prefer myself and my cacti in the dark, I always try and be in the sun for them. Also for me. Because they are awesome. Awesome People Plants. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

(Thank you Pixabay for the beautiful picture).


Family Easter Feelings

I haven’t been writing of late because our home is full. And fun. And full, did I say that?   All of our children are here plus extras and I am loving it.  At night, dinner time has stretched itself to ten plates.  Sometimes I wonder how they will be filled, but funnily enough, there is always enough and even a bit for a second helping.  And everyone loves it,  and we laugh and we eat, and all that really matters is that we are together.  My youngest daughter and I also use this opportunity to abuse board game my eldest son who is visiting for the Easter period.  We have NO shame in manipulating him into playing a game, and you’d not be sure of who the youngest is based on the firm footedness of retorts, raucous laughter and squeals when winning *mostly describes me*.

We love any opportunity to be together and as my son said well, he was happy to be home, and that we are a clan and this Mother Hen, at that point, could have clucked around them a thousand times more than she already had been. The Easter weekend promises more of this, and we are excited about chilling away slightly away from day-to-day pressures.  Don’t worry, as a mental illness aficionado, I’ll keep my worry level on light to panic, if the cookies are finished before the time.  I said relax not lose my mind, tosses hair.  But if I’m honest, the worry level has been boiling for some time.  For example when my son arrived over a week ago, I crushed cried hugged him when he arrived but immediately felt the sadness of meeting him at the airport. It meant that he didn’t live at home, that he was going back at some point, and being the girl scout mom that I am, I prepare. Particularly emotions.  I pre-cry.  It does NOT impact on the eventual cry (like when he leaves) but at least I would have diminished the tear stock slightly.

Also, as if on cue, I generally start to feel terrible ahead of key times / dates / holidays.  It’s almost as if I’ve been trained to be this way.  When I was little holidays, however short, including weekends it became, were always celebrated with far too liquid diets and accordant drama…. So ahead of anything family related, my stomach cramped, my head ached, and I just wanted to sleep.   And I feel the same way now, my training suggesting that something terrible is about to happen and that I needed to be prepared for that something too.   That’s a very hard thing when you don’t know what the something is, and the appropriate level at which to cry.  Being the mother I am and ready to share with everyone, I instead cry profusely so every possible something is covered in wet prayer.

So while I am trying, today I have decided that I am going to stay in my pj’s, leave the dishes in the kitchen and the washing in the machine.  Every other day I am consumed in cleaning up and being efficient when I think right now what is important, is being kind to myself and savouring time with my children. I think I also need to think about what is REALLY important and what is unrealistic and not to push myself.  I don’t know. I’m feeling a lot muddled and a lot like I need a pre-cry.  What do you do when you feel like this?  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

A Time of Renewal

A weekend from now Easter will be celebrated around the world and although we may not all “celebrate” I always think there’s time to renew, refresh and be grateful for what we have.  I must however point something out that as a person with chronic “invisible” illness and a mother, I’ve been struck by the difficulty in actually telling the Easter story and admire those who have told it so well. I do not mean to be blasphemous but cousin, if I tried to explain that a dude escaped but nothing was moved and his clothes were still there back in the day with Bipolar, gesticulating wildly, pausing to try to remember my train of thought, and possibly crying a little, I can imagine the looks I would receive as I walked to the cast out / leprosy section of society.

Similarly, I have had a multitude of children under five (who my husband and I created) look up at me inquiringly, asking for clarification on different parts of the story.  What does the Easter Bunny have to do with it? Was the Easter Bunny the pet back then? Mother mumble.  Second question:  they first hurt him a lot and then loved him and wanted to be his friend? Shocked little faces. And before my philosopher but practical eldest son could unpack ANYTHING further, I looked SO excited and said guys, let’s go make play dough!  But we were still talking about… NO. Did Mom say that you can sprinkle as much flour as you want?  And we all excitedly went to the colourful muck that was MUCH better than the mess of a conversation I didn’t want to have.

My Philosopher Son is coming on Saturday for a bit of a break. To reconnect and to finally have his 21st Birthday.  My heart in preparation is so anxious, so excited, so happy and so sad.  What do you tell the most precious cargo you’ve ever had that you are so so so sorry about the times you hurt them when you didn’t mean to.   That you are equally sorry about the times I couldn’t get up, although a quiet voice inside me screamed that I should.  That he and his siblings are the most beautiful, amazing souls despite and in spite of the contributions that I had and had not made.  That I wished him the kind of happiness that would be felt and remembered in each of his cells and signed in his soul. That he deserved the kind of peace I had never truly known.  Because he had always given pieces of that to me.

In anticipation of his arrival and Pet Bunny weekend next weekend, I am doing what my grandmother did, sneak off to the room to have a little cry.  To be flooded with the memories of his life, his support, his little frown, his enquiringness.  The fact that he watches National Geographic Deep Sea stuff because it cheers me up.  That he has annoying habits like tickling me (but we signed a contract against this now) and holding me.  In anticipation of all of this, I am grateful for the opportunity of renewal, to try things again, and perhaps google answers to those pesky questions before they’re asked by anyone again.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Emotional Exercise

Yesterday my eldest daughter and I went for a walk.  Well, she strongly encouraged me TO walk.  Her request was met with my usual enthusiasm for exercise aka NONE.  I much preferred the safety and sedentryness of my most recent occupation: pillow surfing. Because honestly exercise is a lot exhausting and all the memes offering advice about exercise are so muscular and driven that it’s quite off-putting. For example: “no pain, no gain”.  Screeching car brakes sound.  Pain? Gain?  Sorry friends, I do both already and I certainly don’t look or feel like the “buff” pictures which these misleading motivational sweat your butt off pictures suggest.  And also, let’s just be honest: to me the exercising frenzy women in the memes look like the female version of hulk with an itsy bitsy bikini on.  Scary.  I WOULD like a beach body, but not a machine that could crush soda cans whilst lifting weights during therapy.

Anyway, we walked and it was the best thing I could have done.  We started walking briskly and finally after exuberant, sweat inducing climbing on what seemed like a never-ending uphill road, I felt pleased and suggested a rest.  My daughter looked at me strangely, and said “perhaps a bit later on”, and I was flabbergasted.   Slave driver.  She rolled her eyes loudly remarking that we were a mere 100m away from our house and that we still had some way to go. Once I had given up complaining, I started seeing a few awesome things, set to the tune of my breathlessness.  The trees in our neighbourhood have been licked by the sun and are an array of red, browney, burnt coming Autumn colours.  Underneath the remaining green leaf underskirts are almost defiant, insisting that Summer continue to dance some more.  I told my daughter that I thought that this was a beautiful reminder that the season of sadness would soon commence.

Winter in my world was too cold, too sunless and yes, cold.  It’s almost as if Mother Nature is in mourning stripping her clothing of flowers and leaves until she is ready to grow again but quite frigid when you walk outside. And it’s ok. Everyone needs a rest.  And we smiled together about that.  And as she insisted that we walk a bit more, we talked a bit more.  We laughed about things her siblings did, how her Dad cried without any tears, and my reaction to passersby who hooted their ‘appreciation’ at my pretty daughter.  I insisted that I needed to buy a tennis racket made out of stainless steel (with a fly shocking insert that works on humans) to beat them off.  Really now.  And then I thought I could become Bicep Barbie so I could implement instructive means with my racket to alter permanently these “manners of appreciation” that get shown for her and all women.  And we laughed about that too. Bipolar Bicep Chubby Barbie.

Significantly, while we were walking, we talked about responsibility and the lack thereof. Don’t worry, I made us sit and take a break while we talked about this.  I couldn’t exercise AND think at the same time.  A few of the things that came out during our conversation is that I was tired.  Was that I had carried responsibility for such a long time and from such a young age that it was becoming a bone-crushing burden.  That I needed to be up, awake, apologetic for a chronic illness I never wanted or thought I would ever have.  And whilst I like certain things around me, and for things to be a certain way, they shouldn’t be so if they come at the detriment of something else – me.  If the curtains aren’t opened, the plants not watered, the windows not opened – just for a bit – is ok, if I am not.  And when we said that it’s almost as if I had lifted a heavy weight off my chest.  Like she understood so well.  And she said that I would never have to apologise to her for anything and that she loved me the way I was.  And you know what? I was ready to walk a lot more after that. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Revised Mental Health Tips and Tricks

Over a year ago, one of the first posts I wrote: Top Tips for Living with Someone who has Mental Illness suggested a couple of things you could consider when picking up yourself a lifetime of mental illness.  A bit like Trip Advisor for the mentally explorative. I have been travelling more since then and from the comfort of the couch, am prepared to offer so many more nuggets of advice, that I’m sure you have ALL been waiting for with bated breath. Yes. I’m POSITIVE people with mental illness (and pretty much anyone) are / is dying to receive additional information on how to be well over and above the restorative “just shake it off” I’ve come to know and love.   So bear with me as I pro-offer the latest findings from this reality research romance I call life:

Stay away from ANYTHING that will tip your mood even more / tip you period: On one occasion where I was trialling this out, I drank too much, Bipolar in tow at a funeral, with most of my husband’s family around me.  Yes.  The in-laws.  I will spare you the precise detail, but let’s just say that when you start singing and end up with a crying crescendo, centre stage, in tribute to the person who passed when you can’t sing, it’s not poetic.  No.  And you just end up crying, snivelly and snotty. Wow.  There is so much unprettyness and un stuff here, that I’m just gonna say stop and don’t.   It ALWAYS ends up messing with your mood and that’s not good for you. Not one bit.  Oh.  And it kinda redefines your reputation with most who were near and / or within a 10 km radius of your performance.

Newborn Baby Yourself:  When my kids were born I needed to come to terms with the fact that they had been in the womb and that been out in the real world was actually a horrible rude awakening.  No food on tap, tangible um, movements and no self-regulated temperature.  Understandable why newborn babies cry.  Facing those there factors just about blew me out of adult water.   Accordingly, I have learnt:  Newborn Baby Yourself. Have NO shame in having a nap when and where you need it, lying under a cuddly blanket, lavender pillow spray (I SWEAR by this), and if possible, someone to pat and sing to you.  And always softness around you is important.  A good pillow can and has saved lives.  And if all else fails – cry where *nice* people can hear you – until someone helps.  I have asked someone to swaddle me and they looked at me blankly.  I turned and looked at them and tutted.  You better up your nap etiquette friend.  Swaddling is the new hug.   Hugging while you sleep in a non-intrusive way. Whatever.  Not all of us can be sleep (and the lack thereof) connisseurs.

Ask your doctor about vitamin supplements:  I asked my pharmacist and have been taking vitamin b complex, folic acid and magnesium for about a month now.  And I actually think that it’s working.  The only problem is that they make you energetic.  Well there is another problem but all I am going to say about that is that you should drink LOADS of water to keep everything equally enthusiastic. Loads.  As I’ve said before in practice, with these darlings, there are times you would just like to be miserable in peace, and then you feel like doing stuff. Bleugh. NO self-respecting person with mental illness is energetic.  But increasingly, I feel like I have the wherewithal to deal with day-to-day life.  I do. Like I feel stuff but it’s a few decibel lower than normal? It’s still THERE but I feel like it’s ok, and I can breathe, and then I can digest whatever I need to. Literally, in more ways in one.

But the most important tip and trick is that I have learnt is that I need to forgive myself. And that I very seriously need to ASK myself for forgiveness for everything I put myself through when I really shouldn’t have. I’ve been through a lot,  I go through a lot, and I always try.  But I need to set need new standards and say no, and stop when it’s not ok and hurts and / or affects me.  Because mental illness is SO much already that I so much don’t need anything else.  I know that I don’t and neither do you.  Now after these gems, you’ll forgive me, it’s time for a pillow sprayed nap.  What would your advice be?  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Perilous Productivity

I am beset by the most terrible disease / disorder known to mankind.  And it’s so bad,  I am even prepared to say that it’s worse than Bipolar.  Ok maybe not.  But close.  It started so long ago that I battle to articulate a start date, the time at which I would know without a doubt, that I was absolutely and resolutely sick.  If I trace back to the first few signs, it would have to be taking care of our first child.  Reading all the Pregnancy magazines I could lay my hands on, I decided that the summary message was try to wake up when the baby cries (sometimes achieved, other times were self soothing training), and be prepared.  Super prepared.  Prepare for the prepare.  And I did.  My kid “knew” what he was wearing at age 3 days, colour coded with outfit spares, for at least a week.  And short of building my little kid a bomb / radiation shelter,  prepared I did.

The next sign would be the fact that cupboards and the meticulous packing of each would SPOOK me.  I would religiously pack cupboards.  Initially, because I have such a bad memory, it was like Christmas, I would find stuff I’d hidden from the kids (and apparently myself) and that was awesome.  And creating order was even better.   Because if your drawer wasn’t packed in some order I created who could sleep?  Sounds ridiculous, but not me.  The contents of drawers around where I slept would mock me: terrible mother you are, there are different categories / colours just MIXING in here.   There is no order, no colour coding, no careful folding.  How will your children know their life purpose if there is NO order around them? Huh? Yes. And at each of these times if I’m honest, our house was pretty clean, and I had no need for this draw disordered depression.

The other sign would be a fascination, love for, and complete adoration of different size post it’s, pens and notebooks.  I have spares for my spares, different paper for different purposes and a very high standard for the stationery I use.  For example I DO NOT use paper that is / was wet.  No.  Warped paper?  Things might be crazy up in here, but slow down tiger,  I will never use wet paper.  My stationery beauties are the vehicles through which I translate my vision and direction each day, my canvas and paintbrush, my packed in book size order collection of notebooks which always grows. What I translate is not necessary for us to know (usually a grocery list) – it’s the fact that I have the oh-so-beautiful means with which to do so (and enough stationery until I can paper mill my own in the event of the apocalypse).  Calligraphy shopping list highlighting “bread”, coming right up.

Now whilst this sounds like all fun and games, it doesn’t leave.  It doesn’t go away.  And even when I would rather willingly dig a hole, stick my head in it, and have my body laying comfortably close-by to avoid the world, this productivity infection AFFECTS me at these times even more.  I would be trying to have a much-needed nap and the niggly little voice would urge me to make lunch for my kids coming home from school (especially my youngest daughter), open a window at least for some vitamin D or something far away from don’t move a muscle which I’d prefer.   Being at home has meant that I’m doing more and more for my kids and family, and I think they like that dinner is at a certain time, there’s a cookie in a tin, and Mom has always put something aside just for you.  Mom tries to participate in fun things.  Mom is awake.

And I want to give them that.  New, happy, Mom did stuff for us memories (which they have more than reciprocated).  I haven’t always been that Mom.  With the introduction of different cocktails of meds,  I’ve slept for months before, gone to hospital (not for the last going on two years though…), and basically not been accessible or available to do anything let alone make memories.   It does however mean that I am generally a lot tired of being awake now, that I rarely have the beauty of long undisturbed rest, and this perilous, perilous productivity that stops me from attaining my life’s purpose which is to nap as frequently as possible is PERSISTENT.  Please help me figure this out?  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Bipolar Beetroot

I rarely struggle to describe how I feel and am coping (or the lack thereof) with things. In fact, it has always been the contrary: I could tell you for days at a time, with no toilet breaks, EXACTLY  how I feel and how the world is affecting me. Yes. Known for my miniscule ability to drill down into the nitty-gritty very, very painfully.  The only person who has actually lived through a conversation with me had a clock (important) and was paid by the hour (even more important) #therapist.  But currently if you asked me how I felt, I would battle to explain it.  I could answer I don’t know.  I could answer alone.  I could answer angry.  I could answer all of the above and an awesome mish-mash of all of it as well. And it is oh so frustrating.

Perhaps the way I feel can best be expressed through the story of another.  I was blessed to once have worked (prior to diagnosis ironically) for an organisation that supported people with chronic mental illness.  They had one of the only long stay psychiatric residential long stay facilities in our country, and I loved meeting and engaging with the residents.  One such individual loved painting his nails different colours (but only one colour at a time) and painted them almost professionally.  He insisted however that it had NOTHING to do with his sexuality but rather that he loved colour.  No problem, me too.  He went on to explain that colour affected his feelings and I listened carefully.  I understood that very well and perhaps I could learn to deal with him, these colours, these emotions that affected him, me, us, all the time.

He went onto explain that at dinner time at the facility, the residents took their plates and received their allocation of food before tea / sandwiches, meds and bedtime.  Of the offerings at hand during dinner, was beetroot salad with vinegar and onions.  It’s almost like a pickle with your dinner and most South Africans love it.   Him and I are included in the list.  The problem though is that the beetroot stains your plate (particularly mash) and pretty much everything else on it, and if you were perhaps eating curry with your beetroot, you would use your hands and everything would be temporarily purpled.  Let’s not even start to consider the impact of BEETROOT on a new manicure.  Wow.  Him and I both needed a cigarette to calm down after that thought.

Eventually, we looked at each other and conceded that the only way that you could deal with Beetroot and similarly coloured emotions on a good day, would be IF you donned elbow length surgical gloves, obtain an entirely new set of eating utensils (that could be burnt after) and nerves of steel to confront a colour like Beetroot.  Emotions like Beetroot. And accordingly, perhaps his story explains well what’s going on.  I’m currently experiencing a severe case of Bipolar Beetroot stainage, having soiled my plate, hands, table, utensils and everything else in sight.  And I really, really, don’t like it.  Time to adopt our secret approach.  Let’s see how it goes.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Thank you to Pixabay for the Photograph.




Forever Mind Flu

*Trigger Warning*   I’m angry.  Ok it’s more honest to say I am angry AGAIN.   I’m angry because I have flu of the brain and it’s not going away.  And because it only temporarily takes some of the symptoms away whilst reducing other much-needed bodily functions um, like the ability to think. The ability to remember, not chuck stuff all over the place, and to not cry on cue. And the most painful for me – not being sure of what’s real or not.  I don’t know who and what I can trust.  I am angry that I have been selected so lovingly by my mother or someone equally hateful to have the forever flu of the mind and it’s joyful increasing amounts of side effects and symptoms.  And although there are some warm and sunshiney days, let’s just be honest, that in comparison to what you go through at other times, well, it just makes it feel like the sunshine is just not enough.

The thing that affects me the most is the lack of sleep.  The broken-ness of sleep.  The sugar-ness of sleep.  I have recently taken to sleep walking to raid any possible sugar stash.  This includes the large sugar jar we have for tea and coffee.  I was fully prepared to sit / sleep on the kitchen floor, with self moistened fingers to eat the sugar out the jar.  Then I remembered my children’s easter eggs (they didn’t know about it fortunately), and I was going to eat them, and only stopped because it was too difficult to open the box.  I want to sugar myself through the lack of sleep.  Through this general lack of not feeling well.  Of having the forever mind flu.

What makes it worse, is that I feel compelled to be functional during the day – and not because anyone asked me to – but because my kids have become accustomed to certain things – a clean house (mostly), lunch, asking how their day went and dinner soon thereafter at a certain time.   And it’s not a burden. It’s the stuff I want to do as their mom.   But this forever flu more often than not makes these things I usually do out of love very hard and even trying to keep up with the bare minimum is soul destroying.   So I may be saying this often but you know what?  This Bipolar Mom doesn’t care anymore. No not in a funny way.  But I think my kids can have ramen for dinner one day and they will be fine.  Just because they don’t have hand crafted pies for dinner – they will be ok.  I need to be ok for me first.  Be part of those whow support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.