Mental Illness Memes

So memes mean a lot to me.  And I generally get my life advice from them, take them more seriously than my therapist, and pay particular attention to the order, emotion and category within which I receive them.  One place where you can collect such life changing memes is on Pinterest.  Or so I thought.  You see, I learnt the hard way (listen I live in Africa, Pinterest is freaking NEW) that Pinterest like selects stuff for you to look at based on previous views etc.  Now this MUST be flawed, because well I don’t know how it works properly, so I’ve clicked on things that I DO NOT like and wanted to get rid of. Because of this particular habit I am now following a number of people I don’t like, have no similarity to, and find largely annoying.  I also have mis-spelt Boards with random categories I wouldn’t use.  I clicked the like button many a time, instead of the please don’t show me this again.  And accordingly, I see and digest things as if from a fortune teller in moment by moment meme order on Pinterest UNKNOWINGLY.

And there were a few things that happened, with the emotional waves of memes that flooded my surf through Pinterest.  The first said that: “Oh I’m sorry, that filter between my brain and mouth is broken” (could totally relate), the second: “Is it rude to throw a Xanax in someone else’s mouth while they talking?” (laughed uproariously for way too long),   and then I saw the Bipolar ones.  “What people with Bipolar wish you knew”, “Tips for living with Bipolar”, and there weren’t any with good news.  Good enough news.  In summary for me, the message was how to live with your broken brain (one picture even showed a paper person with Bipolar on fire), and I thought holy sh*t – the outlook for me, and anybody with mental illness is bleak.

I am positive that there are other kinds of news.  Other kinds of pictures.  Other memes. But I would say that the negative outweighs the good.  And there is room for so, so, so much more than what I can’t do.  Or how my brain is red where other people’s is blue.  I do not need anyone else pointing out how hard mental illness.  Thanks.  I get a “good” daily dose.  To those who are writing, painting and drawing a positive and bright future for people with mental illness, please do more, go further, and talk louder.  Because the most dangerous thing about the current kind of memes and news, is that people with mental illness will see it.  Will believe it.  There’s an awful lot of it so why wouldn’t I / we? And if you’re anything like me, you don’t need help believing that so unnecessary self roasting stuff.ONE LITTLE BIT.  As for me – I’m avoiding memes for the weekend – and secretly asking one of my chickens to reprogram my interests.  Lest another meme mock me.  Happy weekend.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

 

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Mentally Ill Tapestry

I like to think about my blog posts. To weave and darn the words in my mind during the day until I can write about my trials and tribulations, hopefully readers will have a smile,  and I could possibly learn from it.  Today I wanted to write about how I need to migrate from being a housewife to a home executive, i.e. undertake income generating activities.  Read: from pie to proposal, cookie to concept note.  That was until I came across an article written by another person living with Bipolar Disorder, offering um, advice to the Spouses of people with mental illness.  In particular Bipolar Disorder.  And being the helpful housewife soon to be executive I am, I sent the article to my husband. And then I read the whole article and ripped my proverbial writing wool off the loom.

This Bipolar um, writer, suggests that the person you love is buried deep inside.  The person you used to love.  Other suggested techniques include taking “you time”, hot baths, and reminding / measuring whether your spouse is taking their meds. A couple of my other personal favourite yarns included only talking to your spouse honestly when they’re stable, if you can’t visit them at the hospital – get a ward pass and take them to the park.  And the one I love the most:  don’t take personally what is wrong with your spouse (although previous bullet said see the illness as “ours” and not “theirs”).   At this point, I lost my sense of humour, and tried to recall the message as swiftly as possible.

I felt as amused about this article as I did when I was two weeks late with our third baby, was as big as a whale and didn’t fit into any clothes, couldn’t drink / eat because the baby took up the space and had two other children under ten I took care of who weren’t waddling around, particularly in a park where it is hard to catch them.  Yes.  Whenever my husband said “we” were pregnant, I felt my baby and I both pull a f*ing Hunger Games Girl on him, as in shoot fatal arrows.  Because I’m not prone to violence, and generally “mentally stable” as is required for a conversation with me, I got even with my husband quite innocently one day.  He was fast asleep but close to the edge of the bed.  Because I was too uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep.  So I nudged him a bit, and he fell off the bed.  Not life threateningly but enough to bring about a satisfied slumber.  Well, for me.

And I am here to do the same thing to that writer:  I don’t really know if you have Bipolar, but if you’re anything like me, there’s a couple of things I’d like to point out: I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it and I don’t wish it on my worst enemy.  There are lovely days, and lovely things, and lovely experiences, but in comparison to the darkness, I’d rather have lovely “lite” than Bipolar.  Because my current lovely, is always tempered with don’t forget that the darkness can come back.  And it does, even when you are vigilantly compliant to your treatment.  As for the person you loved being buried:  I’m not buried nor have I ever been.  That’s what is wrong with the world and how they treat the mentally ill:  we don’t need to be buried, we need to be discovered and respected for the fight we fight everyday.   Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – but I am still trying.  And someone who tries every moment, every second, every hour, every day is noble.  And no-one just no-one, is going to be a measure of my trying.  And you know what?  A Spouse / partner who reads this kind of advice, takes it seriously and acts on it, should be unravelled from the beautiful tapestry you are.   They don’t deserve you.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Mentally Ill Mary Poppins

Today I came head to head with an increasing reality: I am morphing into a stay at home mum with chronic mental illness, with four emotionally challenging beings that have been on school holidays WAY too long.   There was a meme with a mother chugging a bottle of vodka and honestly, I could relate.  But I try not to drink and suggest people with mental illness avoid it entirely.     But other than these beings that are constantly hungry, not willing to assist with cleaning everyday, and dirty where they go, I am a lot enjoying being a Mentally Ill Mary Poppins.

For example, I now have a dinner alarm at 18h30.  My dinner is usually done a good two hours before then, with a little homemade pickle or hotsauce on the side.  I pride myself on having an extra batch of awesome cinnamon cookie dough in the fridge, a batch in the oven, and a batch in the tin.  I’ve made a white sauce, a macaroni cheese (that was killer), and tried recipe’s I’ve never attempted before.  Zucchini muffins.  Banana cake. And I’ve spent time with my children and that’s made my heart smile.

Trouble with being Mary Poppins though, is that I never actually saw a physical exchange of money between her and Mr Banks, and well, my household needs money to continue, not just the array of baked goods that are showing up in tins, and in and around my hips.  And other than that, IT IS F*CKING EXHAUSTING.  Remember, this particular Mary Poppins doesn’t sleep well (I now dream of the tins I’d like fill and pack my emptied pantry with), and my children, are well, more angelic but equally weird versions of me.  I committed to journalling with my youngest child and she MADE ME do it, even though I was so tired after making dinner, I just wanted to relax.  No no dear, Mary Poppins, and Moms with or without mental illness don’t do chill.  Don’t do rest. And I’m tired of sleep deprived mental tin packing.

I have however seen beautiful things.  I’ve heard beautiful singing, playing, dancing.  I’ve seen giggles at being caught with their hands in the cookie tin.  The pleasure of being together, even with an exhausted Mom on the side.  So for now, I will keep the vodka at bay, and rather snuggle into my husband and children’s snugglyness.  And maybe just maybe we will supercalifragilisticexplodoxus while we do.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

 

An Ode to My Husband and the Families of the Mentally Ill

Today I thought about being on the receiving end of a colour changing kalaideoscope.  Of someone who either sleeps the whole day, or cooks the contents of the fridge.   In it’s entirety.  Hygiene isn’t huge, and large bouts of furniture burning through insomnia fuelled cigarettes, and other delightful things, this little ol’ Bipolar me concedes that it may not all be pretty.   There are many who live with me in my unfolding world.  In my inconsistent world.  And the one who is often at the helm is my husband.  He sees me unbridled, rage extraordinaire or tearful tears that never seem to end.  And he knows what to do each time.  And because he does, I rely on him a lot.  A little too much.

He unexpectedly “knocked me off my feet” – there I was a bra burning feminist undertaking research on domestic violence – so I was very anti-men.  So he did what I expected least.  He didn’t act like a man.  No I don’t mean he wasn’t chivalrous, romantic, charismatic (which are the man things I like), but he was that in feminist friendly way.  Often being far too politically correct.  And me laughing because he was.  He seduced me with hotmail (it was a thing back then) love letters containing poetry from poets I’d never known – and they each spoke to my heart.  To my head.  To me.  I had found my person.  And I think he found me.

We had children he said he couldn’t have, we bought houses that looked like they couldn’t belong to us.  We even had fruit trees that bore little fruit, but that fascinated the children, and made that very husband laugh from his toes.  And I loved that sound.  Those sounds.  Of my children’s giggles as they ate the fruit.  Of my husband chasing after one of them when they were doing / threatening to do something life threatening.  Loved the fact that someone else’s heart beat the same beat for our little souls.  Souls that blossomed and grew.  He was there.  And remains in my memory’s sketchbook a passionate drawing of love, togetherness, parent-ness.  Best friendness.

That was before I was diagnosed.  Before the world deemed me crazy.  Before I readily agreed that I was that.  Before I climbed into that hole and dug myself deeper and deeper there.  And he has been there.  He left once, and his penance is that I will never let him forget it.  I hated him for that when it happened.  But, if I’m quiet and think about some of the more hair raising me, I would have wanted a holiday from me too.  Because the people who live with the mentally ill don’t have an easy time, they don’t know what to expect but they stick around anyway.  And that’s what makes them like us, like me, they holding our hands, are always prepared to say try again.  My husband – no matter what he becomes in the future – will always be my Bipolar Best Friend.  And he’s awesome. I’m sure that someone who really supports you is awesome too.   Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

 

The look and reality of mental illness

There I was, minding my own Bipolar Business, and planned to read a little before bed. Self care is my current top priority, so I thought it would be soothing. I also wanted to teach my husband a lesson, so being absorbed in a thick, gasp wrenching novel (every now and then), would be enough to pique his interest, and appropriate apologetic behaviour. And I do like myself a bit of husband, may produce chocolate, apologies.

And as I was actually getting into the book (completely by accident) there it was, in a famous author’s book THAT I USED TO LIKE the words: “and she looked at me like I was mentally ill”. And I gasped. Though not to get my husband’s attention. I am mentally ill. I was enjoying the book. I liked the author. Until I came across what I took as a very personal jibe. How do the mentally ill LOOK?

I immediately discarded the book. And dodged to Pinterest, to bullet journal picture sooth myself. The doodles distracting me from the author’s assault. And then again – there was a meme of what the different psychological disorders mean. And Bipolar was marked with a very loud: “looses touch with reality”.

I had not known before that I looked a certain way. That I lost touch with reality. It certainly hadn’t felt like that. Even though there have been times I really wanted to not be there. To not feel. I don’t need the assaults on me. The jibes that I’m not ok, look a certain way.

I’ve thrown the book away. Disabled Pinterest on my phone. And asking anyone and everyone with Bipolar to write about their experience. Develop new novels, barratives and realities of who we really are. What we are really about. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Savior Sandles

Yesterday, I had an epiphany, a calling, complete with a light shining / warm feeling descending from heaven.   I was called.  I was driven.  I was purposeful.  I felt like I don’t know, crusading.  Not the kill people thing, but more just carrying the mantle of the mentally ill in my country, making a difference, bringing people together.  And while the warmth and very awesome I’m giving back feeling feels, you actually need to DO SOMETHING.  Like affect the change you talk about.  Use the platforms available to you.  Plan and dialogue, especially for people with mental illness who have not done this before.  And all of this sounds AWESOME.  But, as I learned today, you need to GET UP first, and contain your mental illness much, before being able to actually affect change.

I was all well intentioned, had sent a follow up email to a skype meeting I’d conducted, where I’d been asked to guest lecture on the “patient’s perspective” on mental health with many other great outcomes, so I was feeling great.  I of course offered to ensure that vulnerable people with mental illness’s voices are included and got excited about that too.  And then me happened.  My mental illness happened.  So excited was I about becoming the Mahatma Gandhi of Mental Health in my country, my insomnia kicked in, in an ugly way.  I was WIDE AWAKE.  ALONE.  And I wasn’t feeling purposeful then.  Other than desperately wanting to go to sleep.  Funny thing is, I had taken my meds – I was naughty and had taken them late on a “school night” – but was awake through them.  And that fuzzy awakeness continued the night through.  And I finally fell asleep, at the time I was required to get up, and don my world changing wonder woman gear for the day.

So getting up at around 14h00, my chickens were clucking and making lunch in the kitchen.  They assumed that something wasn’t ok, and left me to sleep for the most part.    They knew I’d gotten to bed later than normal, and that sometimes I just needed to sleep.  They do go out of their way to cushion me.  And I so appreciate it.  And I needed it today.  And when I’m not sleep deprived Mommy, I cushion them too.  Like a little bit too much.  For example my littlest chicken once told me, when I had got home and she was sick, so I was WORRIED AF.    And I squeezed her.  And she said: “Stop squeezing Mommy, my lungs will pop”.    In my house, we regularly lung pop, and even the eldest chicken likes it, though he would never say so.

 

So whilst I didn’t put my savior sandles on today and take the road less traveled (my greatest achievement was a shower), I did take care of me and perhaps that’s a really important goal, to always have.  You can help mental health, but you can’t do that if you don’t take care of yourself first.  I’m planning a night cuddled up with my chickens on the couch, meds at a good time, a whole lot of lung popping and bed.   Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Finding Your Purpose

There I was, make up applied, high heel shoed, interview outfit and mood ready. I’d been preparing for the interview since the day before, and genuinely hoped for a positive outcome. I had been ready for my big breakthrough. My high fee paying contract. A messes with your mental health memorandum of agreement.

I spelt a rat when arriving at the interview place, the “Director” of the Organisation had mistakenly given me the wrong address. Ok it was one number, but that was the difference between seeing her or not. Between being interviewed or not. And I kind of want to work for a place that knows where they are, well at least geographically. So trying to limp stylishly toward her (I can wear high heels confidently between my bedroom and kitchen then quit), I sucked my breath in, and smiled as we walked toward the interview room.

The second loud, stinking rat, was probably her pronouncement that she empowered women by teaching them to make mock off perfume to sell. 😑 And I contemplated saying thank you, but this isn’t for me, taking my heels off, and walking out as calmly as I could. And I would have, if I didn’t have a huge gaping hole in my pantyhose at the foot, which I noticed creeping out of my heel when entering the interview room. So I decided to sit and see it through.

She proceeded to unpack the story of how she was helping women and children in a very rural area – where they had no other options, and very little, if any, agency. She taught them poultry farming, vegetable gardening, beading, and of course the Calvin Fake Klein. And she did it with her own money. And what they did was sometimes the difference between a meal or not. She wanted me to go and see what they do – and we bubbled for a good hour of what we could do. Thought of ways we could help sans perfume.

She was not articulate. Her narrative poorly weaved. But, she spoke of the women’s experience, the small but tangible difference in the children’s lives, some of the stories of people she worked with. And when she did, she spoke to my heart.

Now I have four chickens and need to pay some bills, including for my own treatment. So no, we cannot live on love and air alone. But she ignited in me a belief I had let go. That somehow it would happen. That my chickens would be provided for, and always have been.

She didn’t need me to be anyone other than me, she said she was honoured to have met me. And I mumbled about how much she meant the same. She just didn’t realise how much. How much someone could tell I was different but she didn’t mind. She made me begin to believe that life happens while we busy making other plans. That sometimes its about doing what warms the heart and that the rest wil follow. It’s always worked for me. And my life has always been about service.

No, I don’t mean selling youself out. And I do have to caution myself not to. But perhaps the belief and practice that if make your passion your work, you will never work a day in your life. I’m certainly going to try it. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.