Things that change

There are things that are going to change over time in a person:

Such as their appearance, status, health, how much money they have, their workplace, employment status, world views…

But things like character and personality are most likely not going to. It’s common, but foolish to judge someone by their external current state of being. It takes a wise person to look beyond the transient.

Life update: improvements!

Hey there! I know it’s been awhile, but a lot has changed (for the better) in my life, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been busy.

  1. Meds: I’ve come down on my lithium, finally! I was taking four little pills worth 1050mg per day, but now I am down to 900mg. I asked my doctor about this because of my hand tremors, and out of the three things I was taking, lithium seemed to be the one that was probably causing it- and plus, I have been feeling a lot better lately, so this was a good time to lower my dosage. I’ve asked about possibly coming off of lithium completely, and it sounds like it’s a possibility, but something we would reconsider more down the road.
  2. Career Choice/School: I signed up for a boot camp preparation class for software engineering, which is very INTENSE. There is pre-readings, the classes themselves (4 days a week), then the homework which follows that. It’s made me very busy and I am so happy that I am at the level where I can occupy myself with something other than just my recovery. I’m also really glad that I’m on this set path with a clear career goal. I’m really excited to be embarking on this challenge.
  3. Yoga: I went back to my yoga practice, which I abandoned almost a year ago. I’m doing vinyasa style yoga, which means that there are almost no pauses between poses, and moves very fast. I am hoping to get more toned and a little stronger because I’ve atrophied a lot from my depressed days when I stayed cooped up at home for days. Yoga just makes me feel good.
  4. Therapy: I’ve faced some of my demons, and I am becoming more self aware about my relationship with them. Some of the main ones were workaholism, having bipolar itself/self-stigmatization, things from the past that have been fueling my PTSD, anxieties, my situation (where my life suddenly just fell apart) , losing friends etc. I’ve really made peace with these, and I feel good about it. There is still a lot more that I need to tackle, but some progress is better than no progress.

Those are the main ones I feel improved in the past month or so. Since school is taking most of my time out of my schedule, I think I will continue giving short updates like these every few weeks, so stay tuned!

At crossroads

Options are great. Really, they are a privilege. I know this, but it’s still agonizing.

Every night I’m up, thinking about how I haven’t made a decision about my career. I’m impatient, of course, and never have been able to “enjoy the ride,” as my therapist recommends. I mean, how can you when every single moment that goes undecided seems like lost time that I could have spent focusing on one thing and not on trying to decide?

My dilemma is one of which many artistic people had to struggle before me.  Do you choose what you love to do (fine art in my case) as your career, or do you choose what is practical? I’ve seen both sides argued eloquently, and I’ve seen successful people on both ends.

Now, while I love the idea of following your North star, your intuition, and following your values, my compass seems a little broken and points to many directions all at once. I would love to do what I love on a daily basis. But I also love the idea of a stable job, independence and good health insurance that usually comes with the package. There’s also the perils of failure. If things don’t pan out for whatever reason, what is the worst it can happen?

So I sit here paralyzed, once again with this privilege of choice. One of these days, I’m going to flip a coin…

 

This is… Anxiety

I’m shaking. I’m a mess. Freaked out and paranoid. I feel untethered and insecure. I feel like there is no one for me out there to be a friend. Hell, I don’t have any close friends left. I feel like I did something wrong, but can’t remember it, or that I’m not aware of my mistakes. Something feels so so wrong, I’m slightly dissociating.

I know all these feelings are just feelings and not real (or at least not 100 percent), but it’s uncomfortable to be sitting on it right now.

The days I don’t have class or something obligatory, I feel absolutely useless. I’ve been truly working on my workaholism by not overscheduling. But when I don’t have things to do, I’m in a panic (or I’m drawing, that’s the only thing that calms me down), frantically looking for things to do.

I feel like I’m not enough. People are telling me that I am, in fact, enough. They also tell me if that isn’t going to happen, at least make myself believe I’m enough- but that’s just not possible right now.

Everyone is telling me to get back on my workout regime. I really would have if I could, and if I had the energy. I have trouble staying awake, so I should probably work on that first.

I’ve been looking for a new psych because of my insurance, and I’ve been rejected by three so far. Some of that mentioned that my case was too serious, and they could not take the responsibility. Well, that’s awesome.

What is missing? What am I doing wrong? Why am I still sick? Am I just being impatient? Do I just suck at being an adult? Do I suck at everything I do? I am getting depressed again? Why is life so difficult?

Career path: too many thoughts

In retrospect, I don’t know if the things I accomplished thus far were “a step forward.” Malcolm Gladwell asserts that you need to have 10,000 hours behind you to call yourself a master,  or get more than just “good” at doing something. But the caveat is, you have to do it right. If you practice wrong, you’re practicing to be bad at something, theoretically. I look at 10,000 hours of waking life that is behind me and ask myself, did I do my life right?

If one is asking that question, the answer must surely be no. You don’t really question things you did right; most of the time, they are taken for granted. Was it since college? Before college? Was it my major? Or that one internship? That relationship? That friend? I could ponder this question to get to the bottom of where “things went wrong” but I know it’s stupid to expect a cut and dry version of the unfortunate origin for it all.

While it was all happening, though, it felt right. It was difficult, but what isn’t difficult that is worth achieving? I managed to get through it all. It was the wrong kind of difficult, sure, the depression inducing, bipolar eliciting kind, but I didn’t know this at the time.I was, in a sense, practicing life wrong, if you will.

So from where I stand now, effort seems futile if it’s misdirected. And if I overwork. If I trust my decision making skills. Right now is when I need to trust myself the most, I feel as if I have the least amount of confidence for it, after all that has happened. Right now is when I need to take a leap of faith, but I am the weakest I have ever been.

I’m scared that this artist thing isn’t going to pan out. I already started looking at becoming a graphic or UX designer instead. The job where you do everything on the computer. Jobs that are digital are more viable, it’s a no brainer. But I look at both and try to imagine 5 to 10 years from now on, how I would feel about my choices then, and I just can’t- things are too hazy, there are too many moving pieces for me to be able to predict what might happen, and what might be a better choice. Again, the leap of faith awaits.

I know that it’s a luxury to be able to sustain indecision. I’m not that young anymore (neither too old), but not young enough to be trying every single thing that’s out there to see which career fits like a glove. I shouldn’t even be thinking about this at this hour.

 

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.