Tag Archives: life

No man is an island…. but sometimes!!

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For my school exams in my final year, I had to write an essay on the novel Silas Marner, titled ‘No man is an island’; discuss…

I had read the book inside and out, upside and down and felt at the mere age of 18 I knew everything; that I was a champion of the world, that at 18, I knew all there was to know and pretty much acted that way.  Gosh, when I look back now, I realize how absurd that confidence was, given how little I knew of life and the curveballs it can throw at you.

That essay however has stuck with me during good and bad times, because what I did know even then (though only in some small way) is that none of us are alone; no matter how much we may think otherwise.

Our lives impact the people around us in ways we cannot comprehend when we are that young and the older we get, the more of an impact our presence or absence can have on those around us.  (Philosophical lesson over!)

I have a friend, (I love her to bits) who has seen me through my fair share of dark days and endless weeks, when I have felt nothing but emptiness.  She has given to me without a thought of receiving anything back.  Through some of her darkest days though, I have been there to wipe away her tears, to hold her and assure her everything would be okay, even though I hadn’t a clue if that was actually the truth.

But!

(And there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there:  otherwise life would just be boring!!)

At this point in her life she is happy.  However, some time back when times weren’t as good, she underwent cognitive therapy and thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread.   It doesn’t work for me!   But she espouses the virtue of this each time I mention a dark day or moment, or fleeting thought.  I have talked to her about things I’ve not spoken to most other people about; but when I ask for advice, what has happened before all gets spewed back at me as if it was some kind of viscous vomit.  Her intention is not to hurt, and I know that, but having a constant reminder of how things ‘were’ instead of how things ‘now are’ is not very soothing for my spirit.

The problem, the big ‘But’ in the room is I have told her this, and yet…. And yet….  my past experiences continue to become a ‘present day’ incident in her mind, irrespective of the now!  She wants to be my balm.  So what happens when you don’t need consolation and yet it is thrust upon you?  This is my dilemma.  For the most part I hold my own, for the most part I love her company, for the most part I can tell her most things with the complete confidence it goes no further.

But!

I also don’t want to be reminded of those times when life wasn’t good.

Imagine a champion jockey constantly being reminded of the races he lost, or a fighter being reminded of the times he was knocked out, irrespective of the times they have won –or their present circumstances?  No man is an island!  Where would we be without friends?  But sometimes, I want to be on an island, or at least have my present cheerfulness celebrated as much as my past miseries.

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I went to look for myself.

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I never really understood people who took time out to find themselves.

I remember hearing about an acquaintance that had taken a full year off to do just that; to go find her and discover who she really was?  At the time I was a young mother of three and a busy administrator who worked a full day and then had to come home and do all the things a young mother has to do also:

one I got home, peeled off the office-wear, changed into baggies,

talked to my children,

found out about their day, their worries and stresses and who’s not speaking to whom in school,

helped them with their homework,

made the dinner, cleaned up afterwards,

talked to hubby when he came home (much later than I) and found out about his day, listened to his stresses,

washed clothes,

tidied up the house and after all that

vegetate in front of the tv for an hour before falling in to bed and going straight to sleep to get up the next day and do it all again.

So hearing about someone who had taken a full year out to find themselves was to me the ultimate in narcissism. And a total cop-out!

What was there to find?

Where did she think she’d been?

How come she was lost?

What or who did she think she was going to find?

Did she really think she didn’t actually know who she was and if so, how is that possible?

I felt that people ‘like that’ had literally too much time on their hands and too much time in their heads; it was time I’d love to have, but it wouldn’t be used to ‘find myself’; it was time I would use to spend with the children, time

I would use to get ahead of myself for a change instead of running to keep up,

it was time I would use simply to have a bath – in peace – without a knock on the bathroom door or a muffled ‘Mom’, recalling me to action!

It was time I’d use wisely, it was time ‘I needed’!!

But as I say, I would not use it for something ‘fluffy’ like going to look for myself.That was all before I lost my own self!

That was before a chronic bout of depression left me ‘missing’.

I have struggled with bi-polar disorder for nearly 20 years. But this was different.  This was pure depression; pure jadedness, pure despondency, pure emptiness.

It was as if someone had turned off a light in my head, in my heart and in my soul: as if there was some sort of parasite living inside of me sucking the very life out of everything I saw, I touched, I did, I was. I wanted quiet, silently screamed for it, in my surroundings, in my home, but most of all in my head. For the first time in my life I was totally lost.

I’d not been writing consistently for a long time and when I did, it was mainly for work. I had not the time, nor the inclination to do it for pleasure; so taking out the laptop and writing just for me, for the joy of it, was way down my list of priorities.

Of course, it shouldn’t have been, but it was!

(Note to self, write something every day from now on.)

But now, now that I was lost, I had to do something to try and find myself again. And when I’m feeling bad, the first thing I want to do is write it down.

Perhaps this is a throwback to when I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist suggested I keep a diary of my moods. What started off as one sentence ‘reports’ on how I was feeling turned into gargantuan essays within a few years.

But I found the writing down of how I was feeling a ‘balm’ for my soul.   Even though in the past this has worked for me, I found even the refuge of writing resulted in a flat timber, a stiff affect, a soullessness so unfamiliar not only to me, but my nearest and dearest.

One of my sisters became very concerned after a number of emails from me seemed ‘empty of my personality’, completely ‘hollow’. She lives in Australia and a huge amount of communication between us is done by these long, rambling, newsy, fun filled emails. But she felt I was gone, gone was the fun, gone was the up-beat me, gone was the news. Instead each email was filled with how hard life had become, how joyless everything was; how I hadn’t laughed in months. I remember telling her the sound of my own laugh surprised me one day, when almost involuntarily I had laughed out loud at something my daughter had said and the sound was alien to my ears.

It took me by surprise!

That was when I knew I needed time. That was when I realized that it can be possible to lose yourself in a crowd, especially a crowd of people who know and love you.

That was when I recognized the importance of being true to yourself.

That was when I appreciated the need to have time to find myself.

That was at last when I understood you can lose the very heart of who you are at what seems a moments notice, the turn of a coin, the adversity of life and how it is important not only for you, but all those around you who you love to take time to find who you really are, or to come back to who you really are.

And wow, what a journey that can be……..

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What Makes Us Happy?

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What Makes Us Happy?

My brother asked me recently was I happy?  And as I listed off my ‘life’s ‘work’ and how I felt about it; my job as a mother to three growing teenagers and the angst they bring to any life, my job outside my home as an editor in a busy publishing company, as the wife of a busy businessman,’ he shished me into silence and asked me, “Yes, but are YOU happy?” 

 It gave me pause because for me, my life is my work, my life also revolves around my children, around their schedules, their school or college life, their hectic social life, my husbands work, his hectic schedule and for a while I had to think hard: well, am I happy?  It’s not a question I get asked a lot:  am I happy?  I am happy to do all those things, and be ‘all things to all people’ in my life; a daughter to parents I adore and who are actively in my life every day, a mother, a wife, a business partner, an agony aunt, a confidant, a lover to my husband of 22 years and yes a friend to my pals. Even that means different things to different pals.

I have a few women friends who own their own businesses and to each other we are a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on and a place to go to seek advice with work related issues, we find in each other a conspirator even and above all else an understanding ear; the worth of which can never be discounted.   To talk to other women who understand intimately the intricacies of business life for me is worth more than I can ever tell them. To others I am a confidant, a friend ready to listen and if my advice is sought to give it honestly in as much as I can; I’m closer to some than to others, but I am not a gossiper and what is said in confidence, remains that way.  I have friends whose company I enjoy and I would actively seek out if I was in need advice.  There are others who just want a meet up for a bit of fun and for them the strappings of friendship do not mean the same and therefore they do not get my one hundred percent!  After going through all of that quickly in my head as us women are wont to do, I had to think for a second as he shushed me quiet again; and consider am I happy?

It’s been a long time since that question was asked of me in such an open way.  Normally it would been prefaced with an incident resolved, or an upcoming function and it would be couched in those forms; are you happy the way things went – are you happy with the turnout – are you happy with the response – are you happy with a hundred other things that were within my control.  And the answer to those types of questions varies depending on how well or good I feel and what I have achieved.  But again my brother asked:  Sis, I don’t want to know about the ins and outs of your life; I want to know are you happy?

And I thought for a good while before I answered.

Yes, I am happy with myself, my lot, my family, my friends, my work, and everything else that makes up being a responsible adult…  Were I not happy in any sphere of any of that, I could still be happy in myself.  The same however can not be said the other way round.  When I am struggling with a bout of depression, then everything I do in life is tarnished as a result.  Everything is seen through a fog of unhappiness.  It’s been a while since I thought about just me; not work, not kids, not hubby, not anything else – just me as an individual.  I went to great lengths to explain to my brother that were I not happy, I wouldn’t or couldn’t do the things I do on a daily basis for everyone else, because putting yourself last can only be done as an act of selflessness and love towards others and if I am capable of loving others in that fashion, my own self worth is intact; therefore I do love my life and I am happy in it…

 

I don’t think he quite got it….  I think he felt for me be happy I need to think only about myself at times, and in my opinion that’s not true.  Not by a long shot!  But all this self-analysis did get me thinking however, what is actual happiness, how does it manifest itself and how do we all deal with it?  Just from our conversation, I know that the things that make him happy would drive me up the wall and I am sure vice versa. Am I content in my life, (under normal circumstances when I’m well,) absolutely; am I happy with my lot; absolutely, am I in control of my life and where it is heading; not always, but that’s life. Would I like to win the lotto and not have to worry again about doing work I don’t enjoy – pony up – where’s the winning ticket?  But who doesn’t regret certain elements of their lives.  Life wouldn’t be life without regret. Its how we choose to move on from and learn from that regret that is the true test of our mettle!!  And me – I’m pretty contented.  I’m still learning and I firmly believe you are never too old to learn something new and useful for your own life.  And with a big sigh I finally answered my brothers’ question.  ‘There is no place else I’d rather be than in his company right now, having this conversation, in the place he calls home surrounded by my family and those I love.  Yes, I am very happy indeed.’

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There’s a knot in the pit of my stomach.

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There’s a knot in the pit of my stomach.

Another overcast Summer day in Ireland dawns and as I look out expecting to see bright sunshine, I am greeted by a cloud of oppressive grey, dampening not only the whole country, but my mood too…  Dreary days like this do something to the psyche, leaving you foggy and heavy before the day even starts.  At least that’s how I feel.  All the plans I had in my head for what I wanted to do today start to evaporate in a cloud of apathy and all I want to do is nothing; worse than nothing, just crawl back to bed and put my head under the covers staying there until the sun comes out.  Were I to do that, it would just be giving in.   Life is all about facing challenges head on, but who said it had to be huge challenges every time.  For some people just getting up in the morning is a trial; a battle of wills but against your very self.  I’ve struggled with bi-polar over half my life and there are days, sometimes weeks on end when I’d rather not engage with the world at all.  I want to stay in my own bubble of misery and sadness because it’s just too hard to appear ‘normal’. Its not about ‘giving in’ to those feelings as has often been suggested, because for me I do not have that type of control over how I feel.  If I had a euro for the amount of times I’ve been told to ‘pull myself together and snap out of it,’ I’d be a rich woman.  But it’s not as simple as that.  When you suffer from depression, there is no magic switch that can be thrown so that those around you don’t have to ‘put up’ with your misery. It’s not like waking up, as some of us do from time to time, on the ‘wrong side of the bed’ as my mother used to say.  Some of us just get up in a bad mood for some reason and that bad mood can pervade the rest of your day.  When I am in a depressive cycle, I am, most of the time, not even aware of how bad things are, how bad I am until I’ve started to come out the other side.  Depression affects every corner of your life; it changes your view of not only your life, but of the lives of those nearest to you.  Everything becomes dark, miserable and hopeless.  Your self-esteem bombs and for me I feel undeserving of everything in my life.

 

It is extensive, omnipresent and persistent. 

 

If it had an actual physical characteristic, I would call it a malevolent body snatcher; that somehow it had crawled inside my body and taken over my very personality and all I could do from the inside is watch as this ‘entity’ destroyed everything and everyone around me while I stood there silently screaming but completely helpless.

The flipside of the depression of course is the elation.  There are times I actually think this is the more dangerous and damaging side of bi-polar.  For me, I can be very happy for a while, but that almost blissfulness, that ‘I can do anything’ arrogance escalates to pure anger, becoming a blistering white ball of destruction that flattens everyone in its path but especially me.  I’ve never been physical or violent, just enraged, out of control verbally, seething!

 

When that anger will bubble to the surface, I never know; for me that’s the true danger and destruction of bi-polar. 

 

The past few days have not been good.  I don’t do stress well….  In fact I don’t do stress at all.  The first psychiatrist I had said that with each episode brought on by stress, each new episode can be brought on by less stress than the last.  Its almost like the brains’ resistance to stress gets less and less, therefore it takes less and less to trigger an episode.  Medication helps of course, but for me, I never feel quite ‘normal’.  In fact I’ve been ill so long, I don’t even know what normal is.  I do know that for the last few weeks I’ve not been feeling like myself.  My motivation is seeping out of me, my ability to work hard is disappearing as I simply shuffle papers from one side of my desk to the other. And yesterday, I exploded after a colleague made a simple comment to which I responded like a volcano erupting and spitting fire; reigning destruction downwards.  Luckily for me, this person knows I’m bi-polar and while they were not too understanding yesterday, today they are forgiving – after my tearful apology!  I’ve read blogs about how difficult it is to live with someone struggling with bi-polar.  Believe me its nothing compared to how you feel if you suffer from it.  Today I can’t eat… except cigarettes and I’m on my second pack of the day so far.  I’m confused, hurt angry very upset and for the life of me I don’t really know why; well that’s not true; I’m bi-polar, there’s no other reason needed! I’ve gone through half a box of tissues wiping away the tears that just keep coming despite my efforts to stop them.  If you live with someone who has bi-polar, when you leave their presence, you get a break from it:  we don’t!  I’m not being callous, unthinking or trying to be cruel here, but this illness is with me every moment of every day.  There is no cure, just management, but even that leaves me open to swings albeit of a shallower nature than if I was not medicated at all, but life with bi-polar is no bed of roses; on that you can be sure!  Today is not a good day!!

 

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Sometimes I don’t like my daughter!!

I know what you are all thinking as you read this, that I am a terrible mother to even think this never mind to write it, but you know what I’m not!

I am realistic enough to realise that at times she will do things that really annoy me and that’s okay!  She’s a typical teenager, no better or worse than any of her peers and typically at this time of her life she is the nucleus of the universe.  The sun shines for Her, the Moon comes up for Her, the birds sing only for Her.  Her brothers are there to torment her and her parents, well, we are there to spoil her fun and ruin her life…!!

If my daughter was a mythical creature, I would suggest she’d be a fire breathing dragon.  When asleep and calm she is wonderful, magical, beautiful, majestic;  when she is awake, she breathes fire, bringing destruction with her everywhere she goes and in her wake remains the shattered ruins of what was once our home!  Her fire devours everything in her path and if it’s not her eating everything she can find, it’s the pack of dragons she leads.  Yes my daughter is a born leader, proud, confident, somewhat dictatorial (but not in too bad a way – now I’m feeling rotten here….) but she can also be bossy, rude, sulky and ignorant…  And this is the person I don’t like at time. It’s the one, who whenever I say no, firstly tries to cajole or bargain or reason me into changing my mind.  When that doesn’t work, it’s the one who becomes petulant, spitting nails that’s not my favourite person in the world.

The one who starts a sentence with “You know how I love you…”, I adore, because she’s so transparent and I know she really does love me which lifts my soul and makes my spirit sing every day.   The one who asks if I’d like a hug when she knows I’ve had a bad day is the one I want to wrap up in my arms and never let go…The one in whom I can see so much promise and talent and capacity to be greater than she can ever imagine, she’s the one I love with all my heart.

But the one who doesn’t want to even lift her own clothes off the floor or tidy her room when she can’t even see the bed is the one that I’m not too fond of.    It’s the one that can really hurt me as her mother  by what she says when she means to hurt that I don’t like…  When she is a mother herself some-day, she will realise what it is to be shut out by your daughter, to be viewed as a nuisance and not as a loving parent, to be shouted at and told ‘I hate you’… (although she’s only said that once to be fair…  most of the time it’s a little less brutal..)  But you know what, while I may not like her at times, I’ve loved her since before she was born, and I’ll love her till I die.  And she will get through these years and come out the other side bursting with the promise I see in her every day.  I just hope the same can be said for me!!!!

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