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Hope is the Bird who Feels the Light and Sings while the Dawn is still Dark

Bonjour, I’m Pauline. It’s a privilege to offer my experience to your understanding of bipolar disorder and dual diagnosis with substance abuse. I once self medicated with alcohol, but now have 11 years of sobriety. May I begin by respectfully acknowledging the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations on whose traditional and unceded territories I live, work and play.

I’m a 55 year old mother of three, Nani-Ji to a half Punjabi Grandson, and I’ve spent 35 yrs being the wife of a saint. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, mentor and colleague. Many people are affected by having this ‘soul sickness.’ Besides social dysfunction, I have suffered from denial, which presented a barrier to accessing care and finding interpersonal healing.

In the last 16 yrs, I have been on 10 medications, and now fine tuned on three. Honing my insight, I am at my healthiest yet, with the expertise of my psychiatrist and psychologist. In my own mind, it is far easier to relinquish alcohol and gain a clear mind than give up the highs of mania. I had resisted adequate treatment fearing “a root canal of my soul”. To compound denial, my eccentricities were encouraged by all except those closest to me. I was lauded for my flamboyance, generosity and humour. Coercion to step up treatment occurred in 2014, when for one day, I found myself psychotic after many sleepless nights in pain. I was rescued by my family and kept safe in five point restraints over night. This, my only hospitalization, lasted 1 month. Besides avoiding hospitalization, the imperatives to accept aggressive treatment also included avoiding depression and dementia, both associated with brain burnout from the highs. Less ups means less downs.

Depression is waking to the disgust within the nostrils of my rotting body. It is the compulsion to take all my pills and slip under the bath water, a profound inertia confining me to days of indecision and bird watching from the sofa. Where can one find hope? In the words of Tagore; “Hope is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”

For patients suffering, hope in mental illness is the gift that treatment extends into the darkness. To the many scientists and clinicians who have played a part in this miracle of healing, I give my deepest gratitude. Treatment resulted in dampening my inner world of symbols and connections. Purpose and significance, I now share with others. I am abstinent of spirituality; which has been replaced with reasoned atheism and measured forays into transcendence. I still write poetry, but much less prolifically. And I am more objective about their quality.

Ecstasy is replaced with peace.
Unpredictability becomes constancy.
Impulsivity is stayed with pause.
Multitasking concedes to completing one.
Irritability softened into patience.
Restlessness is answered by acceptance.
Overconfidence yields to humility.
Bragging surrenders to confidentiality.
Interrupting quiets for listening.
Over-sharing is set aside for curiosity.
A monologue of opinions opens to dialogue.
Gregariousness settles in self-contentment.
Flirtation returns to loyalty.
Extravagance levels into moderation.
Risk taking is tempered with caution.
Selfishness imbued with empathy.
Insomnia crushed by sonorous coma.

I don’t miss drinking whatsoever, but I do miss my highs. I doubt myself when I am feeling good, worried I am escalating. Rebuilding self-trust is by one deserved day at a time. I am grateful to have got a grip before I lost everything I cherish. I am thankful for effective treatment, for wholeness and the chance to renegotiate my identity and rediscover my soul.

~Pauline

UNCUT: Part 1 of 2 – Bipolar Babe’s Mini School Presentation

Visit us @ www.stigmafreezone.com 🙂

Here is Part 1 of 2 of Andrea’s Bipolar Babes Presentation at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver.
Life is about being authentic and Andrea is excited to share her uncut version of her talk. I think it is the funny things like the P.A. system and squeaky chairs that make it seem like you are actually there!

Thanks for your support! 🙂 ~Andrea

UNCUT: Part 2 of 2 – Bipolar Babe’s Mini School Presentation

Visit us @ www.stigmafreezone.com 🙂
Here is Part 2 of Andrea’s Bipolar Babes Presentation at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary. Life is about being authentic so I am excited to share my uncut version of my talk. Once again, I think it is the funny things like the P.A system and squeaky chairs that make it seem like you are actually there! Thanks for your support! 🙂 Part 1 of this presentation may be found at:

Happy or Hypo-manic?

I often have to stop myself sometimes and ask “Am I hypomanic or just really happy?”  At times it is difficult to know where the illness begins and ‘I’ end.  Having bipolar disorder can be confusing, but regardless, I am very happy and I am not concerned about charting this mood.  I facilitated our 25+ women’s group recently and nine people attended.  When it was my turn to share I told the group that I won an award from the National Council out of Washington D.C. for mentorship and our society has been awarded $10,000!  I also get the opportunity to travel with Natasha Tracy from www.natashatracy.com to Las Vegas where I will accept the award.  My amazing new friend Natasha nominated me and I am so grateful for everyone that has supported me in my work. 

Winning this award has prompted me to reflect and I often forget how far I have come.  I recall being 32 and attending a seminar called the Landmark forum where the idea of a Bipolar Babe t-shirt was born.  I always held onto a dream that the world would know my story.  I wanted to share with others so people didn’t have to experience the same things that I went through.  Self-medication, disabling depression, a suicide attempt, and a psychosis that brought me to my knees.  I didn’t have anyone there to guide me, hold my hand, or direct me to resources.  It is amazing to have created peer-support groups where people receive this kind of care and more.  Also, I have been presenting in the classroom as of late, and when I read the kids’ feedback I am reminded of ‘why’ I tell my story.  It’s to let that teen know that they are NOT alone in their struggle, and to encourage another that they can indeed understand mental illness and treat everyone with acceptance, empathy and respect. 

I never expect recognition for the things that I accomplish, but I am thankful that I have received it.  I am happy being the babe and doing my Executive Director thing and at the end of the day I am content…no I am extremely happy in a real and genuine sense and it is amazing. 

No matter how trite…”Go With the Flow”

As I present to kids in classrooms about bipolar disorder and my personal story, I clamp my fingers together and form a type of grasp that displays, if I ever were to fall I would be caught.  In my wellness plan I have created wholeness in every area of my life down to the amount of water that I drink every day.  We often know the rules: eat well, exercise, and form to the perfect image of health.  Realistically, I cannot keep up and I am sure you find it difficult to do so as well.  It is so vital to ‘try’ and conform to your own sense of well-being, creating a personal foundation that works for you.  I have found that simple details such as going to bed at the same time every night is so vital and even things such as having a positive love relationship is key.  Having a supportive partner has not only helped me flourish as a person, but it often feels that my mental health has been bathed in a pool of passion filled with positivity and love. 

People ask me, “How do you stay well?”  I believe that my helpful crutch has been to maintain a solid attitude, not just positive, but an approach that emphasizes wellness, openness and most of all the ability to ‘go with the flow’.  No matter how trite, the ability to roll with the waves can spell your fate from a place of wellness or faltering with illness in a deep sea of hopelessness.  I don’t expect anything.  I don’t anticipate that I will be healthy tomorrow and I have learned to let go of the fear.  I used to be torn with the facade that I had a terminal illness; every crack in my knees spelt arthritis and certain headaches were surely leading to a brain amorism.  Am I afraid?  Sometimes, it is unnerving, not knowing what turn my illness will take, especially when it is out of my hands, but really that is what life is about.  It is unpredictable and we can never anticipate anything at the next instance.  We must as I said, ‘go with the flow’…

 

BDSBC's Annual General Meeting

The Bipolar Disorder Society of BC had their 2nd annual general meeting on Monday, June 25th, 2012.  People often ask what a general meeting is; well, it is a requirement of the province to keep our charitable status and more importantly it is a cause for celebration.  Can you believe that the society has been around for 2 years already?  It is amazing the leaps and bounds that it has crossed to date and all of the funding that we have garnered.  We have huge expectations put on us for the Fall and at times I get a little nervous as things are growing at such a fast pace.  I feel that at times I am expected to get all the classroom presentations lined up and I fear expressing my doubt and worry over such things.  I'm am sure things will work out but it is daunting. I am often thought to have it all together and we are now expected to deliver results.  We have a mental health tree (A tree handout for youth that will direct them to where they need to go for help) to produce and a video to tape that will train presenters across the province.  Excited?  Yes.  Nervous?  Just a tad.  I love that I can be frank on this BLOG and tell you how I 'really' feel.  

We also just started a new bipolar babes' women's group.  We already have 11 participants!  The demand is huge and seems to be growing.  Soon enough I will be able to start a waiting list and eventually begin a new group.  We have applied to the Victoria Foundation for funding as this is only a pilot project.  I have no doubt that it will be successful.

Things are hopping on the babe front and we have you to really say thank you to.  We appreciate your love and support and hope that we can continue to rely on you in the future.  We thank you for all your likes on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Bipolar-BABE-Bipolar-Disorder-Society-of-BC-wwwbipolarbabecom/168880573172522 and your participation on our facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/90862654894/

Much love and hugs!  Babe  XO

       

Stigma Stompin on New Ground

What’s new in the world of babe?  Well, I was in Burnaby with our President, Rachel Lariviere conducting presentations for working professionals in the educational field and I also presented to a small alternative school.  A young woman arranged the entire thing and she was so enthusiastic about our presence.  Every time I speak I realize why I am doing it and feel happy that I am taking the opportunity to share my personal story in hopes that it will help others better understand what life can be like for someone who has a mental illness.  I was a little unnerved by a young student that left the room because he had been in the psych ward and I suppose a lot of what I was saying was ‘hitting home’.  If my perception is correct, I recall feeling the same way a long time ago…defensive.  No matter what anybody said to me during my hospitalization, ‘they’ were all against me.  I was somewhat hurt when the young gentleman left as what I was actually trying to do was to make him feel comfortable with the reality of what simply is.  I asked the group to bring up images in their mind when I said ‘mental illness’ and one kid said ‘retards’ and another said ‘annoying’.  To say the least I had a tough crowd, probably the toughest yet!  Overall, it seemed to go over well in the end and the kid that said he pictured ‘retards’ was delighted to hand in an evaluation card that said ‘Great Job!’  Phew, I got through that one.  If you are keen to have a babe presentation please let us know and I will be happy to accommodate.  We have now brought our program off the island onto the mainland and are thrilled to be spreading the word.  Let’s keep ‘Stigma Stompin’ together!   

A special shout out to the Accent Inn in Burnaby!  They kindly gave us a night on them – complimentary!  The stay was so smooth and comfortable, we can't help but be super grateful.  Thank you for your continual support and generosity to local charities like us.  🙂

Doreen – A Fellow Stigma Stomper

Let me introduce Doreen to you folks.  Just call her Doreen, SBC : 'STIGMA BUSTER CHICK!'

Doreen writes a lil piece for our blog:

This summer, I picked up a copy of a newsletter put out by a professional association. When I read it, I almost passed out. The newsletter contained a repulsive joke with some of the most insulting, cruel references to people with mental illness that I have ever read. The joke repeated those poisonous stereotypes that constitute and perpetuate the destructive stigma about those with mental health challenges.

I was outraged. The reason that I was angry was because that publication would never have dared to print such slanderous statements about other oppressed groups like First Nations or gays. I thought to myself " Those of us with lived experience are no different. We have the same rights to dignity and respect as any other group. After I calmed down, I called the professional association and spoke to their secretary. I said that I worked with people with serious mental illnesses and that they are some of the most highly intelligent, courageous and exceptional people that I had ever met in my life. I said that it was unacceptable to slander and malign people in recovery in their newsletter. I said that it was cruel to take thoughtless jabs at people struggling with serious illnesses. I said that their joke showed a lack of respect to those in recovery and that people in recovery deserve better than that. I requested that they publish a very sincere apology in their newsletter to people living with mental illnesses.

Their office manager totally agreed with me. She took my concerns to their President and Board at their Board Meeting and all of the Board members unanimously agreed with me and my position.

They agreed to publish a formal apology and they did so in their August 2011 Newsletter.

I insisted in giving feedback to the content of their apology. Part of the newsletter's statement of apology are my words exactly

That offensive joke was in their newsletter for two monthes running before I noticed it. I am very glad that I was given this opportunity to counteract those destructive stereotypes out  there that perpetuate that stigma and keep it alive. I am very happy to have had the chance to take part in stomping out and shattering that stigma forever.

I look forward to a day where respect and honour for people in recovery is the rule and not the exception.

I also believe that the revolution starts from within. Each one of us has to take action. Each one of us with lived experience has to be a vigilant  watchdog and speak out whenever we see slander, disrespect and insensitivity shown to those with mental illnesses, whether it is in a casual conversation, in our media, in a book or article or anywhere. Each one of us has to say " NO!, that is unacceptable."  Then gradually we will forge a society of tolerance and respect for all our brothers and sisters living with mental illness.

Hazel Meredith, Executive Director of the BC Schizophrenia Society, Victoria Branch, asked me to tell my story as a guest speaker at the BCSS Board meeting on Wednesday, August 17. I told all of the Board Members about what happened and they gave me a round of applause.

Hazel published a " Kudos" to my stigma – busting in the new BCSS Victoria August 2011 Newsletter. Please see attached BCSS Newsletter.  

Here is the major part of the formal apology given by the professional association in their August 2011 Newsletter :

" We are sincerely sorry for printing a joke which referred unkindly to people living with mental illnesses. We understand that it was viewed as inconsiderate and disrespectful to persons living with mental illnesses. ( The following part is totally my wording ). We apologize sincerely to every person with a mental illness in Sidney, the Peninsula and elsewhere for that joke containing cruel references to mental illness that may have caused them hurt and injury. We applaud the courage and intelligence of every person who struggles every day with the ravages of mental illness.

Thank you to Doreen Marion Gee from Victoria B.C. who brought this matter to our attention.

We will certainly be more diligent in the future in choosing content that does not offend our readers."