“that people too must wilt, fall, root, rise in order to bloom”

Yes, I discovered Rupi Kaur. I know it seems incredible but I didn’t have a clue who she was before my partner bought me “milk and honey” for my birthday. I fell in love completely. Her words actually take your breath away. If you don’t know her check out her IG @rupikaur_ and you’ll see what I mean.

So yes, I turned 24 (OMG, twenty-four!!!) on October 29th. My parents and brother were lovely and bought me things from my Amazon wishlist including “the sun and her flowers” by Rupi, and my grandparents gave me some money — which is crucial because GUESS WHO’S GOING HOME IN MARCH? ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
That’s my gift to myself to celebrate the first birthday while stable of my life. Also, it will be my first time in Ireland in euthymia — if I make it to one year stable — and I’m already getting emotional at the thought of it.

I wont’t lie: I’m going through a harsh time. I may have Inattentive ADHD — I’ll get tested on the 10th — and this lack of capability to focus and stay focused is ruining my academic career at the moment, and my mood’s going downhill as a consequence. I even got two panic attacks and I hadn’t got them in months so it was a shock. Anyway I’m telling myself it’s just a bump in the road, recovery is not linear and struggling doesn’t mean being back at square one.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year

they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
fall
root
rise
in order to bloom

– rupi kaur

 

 

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MAKE YOUR LIFE BE YOUR ART

I first read this quote three years ago or so. Make your life be your art. When I read it, my mind immediately thought of photography, and of what it means to me. Photography was the first and only thing which could actually keep me grounded in the midst of deep depression and dissociation. I will never forget the moment when I discovered that it could. I was trying out my EOS 30D which my parents had just given me – it had been theirs. I was taking pictures of flowers in our garden. The pic you see in this blog’s homepage is one of the pics I took that day.

Well, years have passed now, I even got a Diploma in Photography (while manic, but that’s another story) in the meantime – and nothing has changed. Photography is still my favourite grounding tool, as well as my greatest passion. A dear friend of mine, who happens to be a photographer, once told me: “Take out that camera and throw out those feelings”. That’s exactly what I need to do when I’m not well, BUT I had never found out what taking pictures while I was well felt like.

I went to Paris in August – I know Paris very well, but I still managed to capture some new pics I like. I still don’t have the ones I took with the EOS 5D (yeah we – my parents and I – have upgraded that EOS 30 haha) ready to show, but I’m going to post the ones I took with my iPhone 6S because I feel they need to be here.

I wasn’t stable back then, when I discovered the power of photography. But I am now – my psych confirmed I am. It was the first time I saw Paris with a stable mind. I still get very emotional when I think about that. (I wonder what going home and actually see Ireland with stable eyes will be like. I can already feel myself burst into tears of pure awe and joy. Oh my, I need to go).

Anyway. Paris. There you go. Three cheers for sweet stability!

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(Follow me on Instagram for more!
@cerridwenshamrock_photography – my official photography account
@recoveringthroughphotography – the photo-diary of my recovery)

BUT GIVE US ROSES

My last post on here was on April 8th. I had just been discharged from the hospital admission that saved my life – or at least my mental sanity. I saw All Time Low live on March 31st which was a dream come true. I was trying to “keep swimming”, The reality was that, despite not being depressed anymore, I was paralysed with fear of relapsing back into that dark and suffocating hell. A state of mind which, inevitably, brought me back to depression on and off for a few week, reinforcing my fear. It was a vicious cycle and it took me a lot of tears and work with my therapist – blessed be she – to overcome it.

So what happened between April 8th and June 18th?

You weren’t meant to bear that burden
Look at the roses in your garden

You can breath now and forget
Forget it gets hard for you to stay
But you don’t really have to throw it all away

These words are from the ATL song which the name of this blog comes from. This is what happened. I went out and photographed the roses. And no I’m not saying that’s the cure for depression. I take my meds painstakingly. But there’s a new monster I’m fighting, its name is depersonalisation. It’s making me go insane. And nothing like photography helps me grounding myself back into the present moment. I should actually be photographing more — it’s just so hard sometimes. Everything is so hard sometimes. But if I think back to the person I was on April 8th well, I’m a whole new different person. As my psychiatrist said when declaring I was finally in euthymia (because yes she did!): I’m myself again. And no matter if it looks like I’m obsessing over them, I believe that knowledge is power and so I’m reading and researching my illnesses as much as I can to not let any of them take over again.

Because now I’ve seen the roses.


How We Manage Our Relationship While Both Being Mentally Ill

This is an article I wrote with the hope to become a The Mighty contributor. Posting it here while I wait for the editors to review it and decide.

You know all those posts you see on Tumblr or Instagram, saying that you can’t be in a relationship if you aren’t at peace with yourself? “You can’t love another person if you don’t love yourself first”, things like that.
Well, I have Bipolar Disorder and my partner has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). We’ve been in a relationship for three years and a half. You’re probably thinking we’re crazy — well, technically, we are. Who is neurotypical? Not us.
Talking about madness, we are madly in love. Actually, I proposed to them (they’re agender) on April 4th 2014 and they said yes, so we’re going to marry. But I’m not here to tell you that love alone is enough against mental illness: it is not. What I am going to tell you is how we manage. Here’s how we’ve got our relationship to grow and bloom despite mental illness rooting deep around its bulb.

1. Communicate and reach out – This probably is Relationships 101, but if both of you are living with mental illness this is vital: talk to each other. Reach out if you’re not feeling well. Let the other person know your triggers. Work on a list of coping strategies and do it together. Have a couple crisis plan ready to turn to. You need to know what helps your partner and what doesn’t, as you’re both going to be the caregiver at times, and you’ll need every piece of information about your partner’s illness, no matter how little. I know I sound like crappy self-help books, but really, make lists, write plans, do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re communicating. This will save you a lot of arguing and tears.

2. Set healthy boundaries – This is going to be painful. I guess it’s better to state this straightforwardly. You’re not and you CAN’T be your partner’s therapist. You’ll need boundaries to avoid getting badly hurt or hurting your partner badly. It’s hard to set them and harder to respect them, because you’ll find yourself wanting to save your partner, but the truth is you can only lend your hand: you can’t walk your partner up the road to reach it. They’ll have to walk by themselves. The same goes for you: you can’t pretend that your partner is your therapist. That’ll hurt both of you, for once you’ve confused the roles it’s hard to take a step backwards. Also, your illnesses need to be confined into boundaries, or they’ll eat away your relationship. Ask your therapist for help in doing this.

3. Beware the guilt trips when you’re the one feeling well – I remember a period of my life when depression had got a hold of me and I was completely sucked into the Bipolar depressive episode – except that my Bipolar was still undiagnosed and I had been misdiagnosed. At that tine, my partner’s BPD hadn’t emerged yet. They were not well – anxiety and depression were there – but not too bad either. A sick pattern had then developed: I would feel abandoned and painfully lonely when they went out with their friends (note that we live three hours away), and they would feel guilty for just living their life. My illness made us argue every time they left home. Compromise got us through that painfully tangled pattern: we decided that I needed extra care through extra texts and extra calls, but I promised to wait for those text and calls trying to remind myself that I wasn’t being abandoned. So what I want to highlight here is— mental illness will try to make you feel guilty for absolutely everything: don’t let it make you feel guilty for living, even when your partner is ill. You have the right to live.

4. Don’t believe everything you feel – Here I’m especially referring to dissociation, derealisation and depersonalisation. When a person experiences one of these symptoms, he or she probably simply does not feel. No love, no affection, no anything. We’ve both been through that kind of apathy and we know it can drive you crazy. “What if I don’t love them anymore?” We’ve both been tortured by this question playing and replaying in our minds. If you’re experiencing this right know, just hang in there. You DO love your partner. Ask for help. Ask your partner to be extra sweet— that helps sometimes, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. This shall pass. Don’t believe everything you feel — or don’t feel.

5. Don’t believe their mental illness – Sometimes, your illness will make you say things you don’t really mean— nasty things, things you’d never say to your partner. If your partner has said something that is really not like them, it probably was their illness talking. Make a list of your partner’s illness symptoms and signs, so you’ll know when not to believe to what they’re saying, and you’ll be able to help them acknowledge they need help.

6. Get involved in your partner’s treatment – Go meet each other’s doctors, know what meds your partner is prescribed and help them with taking them as prescribed. Be an active part in each other’s therapy process: this will boost your trust in each other and help you understand each other’s illness(es) better.

7. . Don’t lose hope – Love wins. Even against mental illness. Use semicolons instead of full stops (we’ll never forget you, Amy). Your story has just begun!

 

World Bipolar Day 2017

WPD logo2

My mind is slow. I am recovering from one of the most destructive depressive episodes of my life, and I can’t think like a neurotypical person. So I am writing while not knowing exactly what I am going to write. But, as I said in my post for the International Bipolar Foundation campaign “#MyBipolarFuelsMyPassion4” (check it out!), my Bipolar fuels my passion for writing. And I couldn’t just stay silent on a day like this.
My 2016 article was a celebration of people diagnosed with Bipolar— the title was “Here’s To Us”. I hadn’t founded this blog yet, so I don’t think any of you read it.

Today, I want to celebrate the professionals. The caregivers. The apps. All the people, the services, the facilities whom have got our backs.
I want to celebrate my own psychiatrists, whom I owe my sanity to, for taking care of me — and when I say care I refer to its deepest, profound meaning — during my recent admission.
I want to celebrate Mrs C.Z., who was my psychologist back when I was still undiagnosed, for saving my life.
I want to celebrate my partner, the brightest side of me, for they are the most loving caregiver despite having to fight their own demons in the meantime.
I want to celebrate my parents, who struggled to understand at first and still there they are, standing by my side despite all we went through because of my illness.
I want to celebrate the developers of Medisafe, the app that constantly reminds me to take my meds as prescribed. I want to celebrate each and every nurse and healthcare worker of the ward where I was inpatient, for choosing to work in a psych ward.
You all are part of what World Bipolar Day aims at: fighting the stigma around mental illness. And so thank you, you beautiful, beautiful people. And happy 30th March.

I’m Being Discharged

I’m being discharged to an intensive outpatient programme. It’s going to happen tomorrow morning, and on Friday I’ll be flying to London with my partner to see All Time Low, the band who saved our lives. My life is re-starting. And I’m not ready. I’m fucking not ready. My psychiatrists said things would be even worse if they discharged me on Thursday literally throwing me on the plane, and I know they’re right. After all, they think I’m ready for discharge. They even agreed to the London trip, even if I’m putting myself at risk (mania, to name but one), because they know how important it is to me. I can’t go and spoil it all because of my anxiety. 
I need an anxiety management plan and I need it tomorrow. I’m not going to leave the hospital without it. I know the anxiety disorder is just a secondary diagnosis, but to me it is destructive and disruptive just like Bipolar and I need that to be acknowledged by doctors.

But I trust them. It was them who saved me last week. 

Now that I’m being discharged, when I look around I can feel waves of gratitude. This bare hospital room saw me at my worst, and now silently watches me flourish like the flowers in my garden, finally free from the chains of this terrible depressive episode.
I am so grateful for this admission. I forever will be.

[Inpatient, day 8]

This Ward

This ward is peaceful. Sometimes some patient gets restless and upset, but nothing shocking or disturbing has ever happened. I was so scared by all the tales on psych wards, but now I know: you’ve got to understand mental illness. That’s the key. If you do, nothing can scare you.

This ward is hopeful, literally: it is full of hope. Hope to get better, hope to find the right cocktail of meds, hope to be able to live again, to function again, to have a real life again.

Perhaps this ward is an exception– in that case, I was lucky. But this ward is what saved my life, and to this ward I’ll be forever grateful.

[Inpatient, day 5]