Two steps back one foot forward

Thank you for being there for me, everyone. Your comments, likes and reads have helped me to hold on to dear life this past week. I truly think your thoughts and prayers got heard, and the mental health gods decided to spare me this time, again.

Motivation is coming back to me, slowly. I’m not as triggered by things and the dissociation went away. I’m so thankful that this depressive episode was just a short one.

Here is where I went wrong. I thought I was safe, and that my rapid cycling bipolar had stabilized because I had been more than OK for more than two months. But it humbled me again with another episode. I’m never safe. I’m never cured, even with the help of anything. It has to be managed. I think I put too much stress on myself by taking up full time classes and freelance jobs. They were great experiences, but I feel like I put those job related things before my mental health- and if I don’t want another episode in the future, that really needs to change. So, this month has been two steps back. We live and learn.

The state I am in

You know when things are off when you need to take a day off from art class (also known to me as, the most relaxing activity in the world).

I’ve fallen off the bipolar horse and am getting trampled by it again, big time. I’m dissociating pretty badly, and I’m still numb, lacking appetite, and feeling pretty confused, and out of it.

People often equate bipolar as getting a boost of creativity, but that’s a huge misconception. When I have depressive episodes, I can’t even pick up a pencil, let alone finish something. I’m making myself paint because I think I would feel much worse if I didn’t. I can’t say the results are that good.

I’m trying to stay away from social media as well as actual people, because I know I’m super vulnerable right now. Any small comment can throw my mind into symptoms of PTSD and all of that fun stuff. And I will get defensive most likely.

Sorry, this post isn’t all that interesting to read, or enlightening. In a city of millions of people, I just feel pathetic, sick, and so so alone, even when I’m with others.

 

It has been quite a while, depression

I didn’t really see it coming for me this time. I know I had been really busy, and it was a bit of a stretch right now to be doing anything full time in my condition, but I did it anyway.

My perception shifts, once again, to the negatives I have in my life. The negatives I have not even thought of for a month or so. I have no real friends where I am, I have no job, I live with my parents, I have no idea what to do about my future. It’s all doom and gloom. I try, at the same time, to remember the upsides, but it sounds like a false prophet. I don’t really feel it. I feel numb, and gratitude can’t be felt with all this numbness.

Call it what you will. The ripple effect from Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But that’s not what this is about.

When I shift into this kind of mode, as I’ve written about it before, the colors literally look less vibrant, and I can’t emote. I can’t work out, and everything is a catastrophe in my head. Everything I’ve ever done is useless, and I feel like a victim in every episode in my life. I see in my head, a full house of the people who know me, laughing at me for where I am in my life.

My head decided that today was a mixed episode kind of day. So I’ve painted the whole day away, and I don’t feel even a little accomplished or joyful.

I’m going to try to ride it out. But this sucks.

Rant.

It amazes me when someone outright judges with a straight face, to my face. It’s hard to know if it’s intentional sometimes because it’s so outrageous, or if the person is just blunt about everything and has no filters. I’m pretty blunt sometimes, so maybe this is the taste of my own medicine.

I was chatting with a classmate at the art studio after painting, and we got to talking- which was mostly her asking about my personal life. My life is pretty complicated to explain because I choose to be more secretive than not, so I give her the clean abridged version, which is that I’ve switched from Finance to Illustration, and that I’m freelancing. I should mention here that she had no affect. Couldn’t read her emotions from her face, so here is my take on what she said and meant. She goes on to make snide (or what sounded like) comments about how math and art are similar (e.g. topography, which, is not; math explains beauty, but art displays it, leaving the interpretation to the viewer.) And rhetorically asked if my mother “got depressed” after I told her that I quit my high paying day job to do something that’s not sustainable like illustration, and finally, my favorite, if I had a chance to marry one of my coworkers from my day job, because “at least then you could probably make a living.” I was having a little cringe fest inside. My soul died a little from this reminder that people who think like this are out there.

First off, who are you to care about how I make my own living? I’m not stupid- I didn’t just choose what I’m doing now without any consideration to how I’m getting my next meal. Second, I myself got depressed not my mother. Third, I would never marry someone for their money- I would want to be their equal, that’s what partnership is about for me. Unlike someone.

Granted, she was an elderly lady who seemed a little resentful, but I just still cannot get over the fact some people (other than my extended family, but they’re family,) judge strangers in plain sight and to their faces when they only have seen the tip of the ice berg. Sorry (not sorry) lady, you’re wrong because you don’t know the full story. If you did, you’d probably judge anyway and tell me that having bipolar is my fault or something ignorant like that.

There’s just so much negative energy in me right now, I can’t even begin to work on my commission.

I’m an illustrator! How my life took a dramatic turn (once again)

I feel like it has been ages since I last posted. I should say that it was not because of something bad happening, but it was because of something normal. More than just normal, but good. I’ve been very busy.

I have some good news- and it is especially good because it is about my career and where it is headed. I mentioned before that I was struggling quite a bit to find out what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and I know now. Not fully, but well enough to feel pretty secure. And it’s a cliche, but it had been under my nose all along.

It was this one week, you see, when everything changed. When everything clicked. When it felt like it was a sign from the universe, or God or what have you. It was a validating hug that came from all directions.

First, one of my classmates from the art class I was taking reached out to me to ask if I was interested in some illustration work. She knew a friend of a friend who needed illustrators. My illustration so far had been only for my own pleasure, or what someone might describe as “just a hobby, nothing more.” It had been more than that; it was my therapy- it was where I found peace. I constantly sketched, painted, inked- mostly animals, especially my cat. But a year had passed and I found my skills good enough to draw professionally! The guy wanted animal illustrations (in my own style!)-I was stoked because I could not call myself a commercial artist or illustrator until this day, technically. He liked my portfolio on instagram, and we got to work. I was so proud and happy at the thought that I could maybe make money while doing something I love. I took it as a sign.

The same week, I got another commission. It was for several pet portraits. This time, it was similar- I was at church, and I showed my instagram (which is basically my portfolio) filled with ink drawings and watercolor paintings of animals, and she wanted some of my work for her bedroom! I was so excited to have not one, but two projects come up when I least expected it. I usually don’t believe in this stuff, but this was the universe giving me a thumbs up to what I have been doing with my time, and perhaps a sign that I was heading in the right direction.

My therapist was not surprised when these boons came my way. She had the “I told you so” look on her face. She said that she told me before that I was a good artist, and she knew something like this would happen. She said that she saw a lot of clients who struggle with their creativity and artistic abilities because society isn’t very accepting of us creatives. Instead the message is, “get a stable high paying job, start a family and retire early” and not “do what you do is best suited for you.” I don’t think my math degree and my subsequent job in finance was a waste of time. But I am rather glad that I found out early enough that I had something better waiting for me.

The next step for me would be to keep taking classes, get better at my craft, and above all, create more places online in order to reach out to people to sell my art.

White lies to myself

You know the feeling when something so terrible seems like light years away, stuck in the distant past? Oh, the relief. But there is a twist: the pain from it is still so raw, and palpable but no longer relevant in the present moment. That is how I imagine most of the people in the dormant stages of bipolar recovery to be, when the meds work and the depression and mania are in check. I’ve detached myself from that part of my past- my depressive phase- (at least outwardly), and it became another piece in my private collection, guarded by many locks and bolts to the outside world. To me, it was just another dark past that I have overcome. As Mariah Carey came out of the bipolar closet, I went in as far as I could.

It all started when I started going to a local church. Read: when I began interacting with people outside of my family, my treatment group and my art class. For someone who grew up without a particular religion, as a lifelong atheist, it doesn’t make sense. But I was thirsty for a human connection, preferably a non-judgmental, and kind one, and church seemed like the perfect place,and it was five minutes away from where I live. It may sound somewhat calculating, but I wasn’t so opposed to converting if my needs were met. And my guess was right, the church turned out to be another family I came to embrace, and it was all good.

Except, it got in the way of being authentic. Being me. Long time readers know my issue with this- this fine line of oversharing and being authentic. I found myself introducing myself to these people as a glossy version of myself, which skips the part where I quit my job because of my bipolar breakdown, the multiple suicide attempts, hospitalizations and moving back home across the country, and then moving yet again because my parents moved. And not working, and not looking, or aspiring to become something any time soon.

The glossy, approachable, I-have-my-shit-all-figured-out version is that I’m an art student and voluntarily quit my job and moved to New York City to pursue a career in art. Ah, how different things look when you swap out the true reason for a innocuous, false one. I started taking comfort in this version of my story to others, and I almost started believing it myself. It moved me towards more and more projects, and to practice drawing, painting and towards learning about art history. I actually subtly started dreaming about doing art for a living. Not that I was sure of it or knew how I could make it.

Like a bad breakup, I had abolished what was left of my hospital experiences, and those dark dark moments of depression from my memory (and most importantly, my story.) I feel a slight tinge or guilt when I have to tell people this new version, and frustrated that I may be making myself work towards a rather temporary goal that may not be something that I really want. But really, for now, I’m happy. My story will simply have to change when the time comes, I guess.