“You left Dublin? That must have been some change for you?”
“Yeah, it took a while to get used to. I miss footpaths, street lights and living within the delivery zone of takeaways.”
I focus on the practical things because I’m afraid to admit the truth; it didn’t take me long to adapt to living in the country and, apart from friends and family, there is little about the city that feels like home. It stopped feeling like home while I was living there.
2017 was a strange old year. The world continued to come apart at the seams, my health, both mental and physical, wasn’t great (again) which affected my writing and I spent a not insignificant amount of time trying to figure out how, y’know, to do life. It wasn’t all bad, mind; I wrote some stuff I am proud of, dedicated even more time to activism and met some brilliant people.
In sickness and in health; five words which seem obvious until they’re put to the test. This isn’t what either of us signed up for, except it kind of is. Who knew what would face us? That bipolar disorder was waiting in the wings, desperately trying to turn my mind into a battlefield neither of us is equipped to deal with.
When I first wrote about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder my inboxes were flooded with recommendations for books I just had to read.
I can understand why, reading about something we are experiencing is almost instinctual for some people. I am one of those people. Many of the books people recommended were already on my radar. Some were already on my Kindle. Some had a bigger impact on me than others. All taught me something about bipolar disorder or myself. The really good ones did both.
I’m in a funk, have been for a while. It’s annoying, but it’ll pass. Here’s the thing about living with a mental illness though, it makes being in a funk stressful. The second guessing, the over-thinking, the ever watchful eye checking to see if my mood has turned into something other than a run of the mill funk. When is a funk no longer a funk? At what point do I really get concerned that this is an episode of depression or the beginning of a hypomanic phase? I often lack motivation before I’m suddenly full of the stuff, in the worst possible way. It has taken work, but I’m pretty in tube with my mental health and this doesn’t feel like anything than a funk. Yet, the thought is still there. This is why having a mental illness is exhausting, even when you are well you’re on the lookout for signs that you might not be. This is just a funk, I know that, but I wish it would bugger off.
New Year Resolutions and I never really got on. The only one I’ve stuck to is the one I made three or four years ago about using up skincare products and make-up before purchasing new ones. I used up my, not insignificant, stash and largely stick by a one product in, one product out system. Yet, in the run up to January 1st I found myself full of ideas.
I’ve been struggling to write, with any real meaning, this year. Sometimes I write, but when read back it feels forced. Sometimes I write, but it goes round in circles until I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Sometimes the words flow easily, like this post about grief. For the most part, I’ve spent my time staring at a blank screen. My mind is full of ideas, but I can’t make sense of them on paper.
Enter Laura Jane Williams and her #AskTheQuestion series. These weekly emails, where Laura is honest about the things in life that are hard to do (emotionally and physically) and poses the same question of her readers that contributed to the story she shared, sounded exactly what I needed to reignite my writing spark. Laura is one of my favourite writers. Her writing is raw, honest and often times heartbreaking. It always makes me think and sometimes makes me cry when I didn’t realise I needed to, but it’s cathartic. Her ebook, The Book of Brave, helped me let go of the guilt I felt about some of the mistakes I’ve made.
The questions from weeks one and two definitely got me thinking. They got me talking, during therapy, but the writing still didn’t come. This week’s question is different. This week’s question hit me hard. The answer came immediately. The answer is part of the reason why writing has been so hard.
The question – What truth must you reveal to yourself, so that you might let somebody else in?
I’ve been staring at this page for so long that I no longer know where to begin. No, that’s not true. I’ve never known where to start, hence all the staring.
World Suicide Prevention Day and World Mental Health Day have been and gone. Both of which would have been good times to write about this, but I couldn’t find the words because it’s not my story to tell. Except it is. At least parts of it anyway.
The disturbed sleep, the dreams about organising a funeral, the fear and panic whenever the phone rings and it takes a couple of seconds for the caller ID to register who is calling. Those are all my stories to tell. They’re not the beginning, but they’re what I’ve been left with.