Mental Health

SIX.

One…two…three…four…five …six months later! Hello everyone!

A lot has really happened in my hiatus and as usual it has been a whirling rollercoaster of experience. Of course I’ve been riding the rollercoaster of Bipolar Disorder without a seatbelt on. Highs and lows of bipolarity and everything in between.

You see, in these six months, my favourite nephew began first grade. I’m excited. This little guy touched my life in the most unheard of ways. Some six years ago, one Thursday 6th September at 2pm, my beautiful sister put to bed a dainty baby boy with perfect caramel skin, beady eyes, rabbit ears and full head of hair. How happy I was to be the newest auntie, bonus mum and nurturer in town! (This was the first time any of my siblings had been blessed with a bundle). I have a soft spot for children and I’m obsessed with the naming norms. (I already know my future baby’s name yet there’s absolutely no bun in the oven yet!) So I nicknamed my nephew the tiger shark. Yes, after shark, the animal. Because I envisioned him growing up with the attributes of the shark. (The shark is symbolic of being a terror of the sea, it is fierce in everything it does. It does not compromise; it aggressively pursues what it wants.) I’m eternally grateful to my shark for teaching me that motherhood (or babysitting) basically needs you to be a multitasking jangler of different tasks at the same time. There were times I had to sing, dance, rock my hands, use the blow dryer just to get him to sleep or stop crying. I’m not even chest thumping but my nanny game is now out of this world, all credits to him. Looks like I’ll become a par excellent mama in future. Thank you dear Divine for this now all grown responsible little man full of life and immense energy.

In these six months, my beautiful, super smart, strong willed and perfect level of extra mother, turned 60 and became a senior citizen and we held a thanksgiving party for her. All hail mama, the lighthouse in my storm, our number one cheerleader, hype man and safety net in a chaotic world!

In these six months, my little sister turned 21. (Should I say I’m excited again or is it becoming cliché?) Considering that just yesterday I was teaching her to write. To think that now she’s all grown and kicking ass. I’ll never let her know the quarter life crisis. Cheers to the wonder woman, my little sister who’s not so little anymore!

In these six months, still on family, my other big sister became a fierce feminist. I mean why not? Because how does a patriarchal society become egalitarian without feminism?! Been a long time coming. Power to my budding powerhouse of a sister, my womyn, my lifeline, my hero, my heart!

In these six months, I noticed how much of a trooper my little brother is. I can’t believe he will be clearing high school soon. And after 7th October, the whole squad will be legal. Happy 18th birthday and congratulations in advance, sweet one!

In these six months, not more than a month ago, my little cousin came into this world. She’s a slice of heaven. Whoever said newborns look like grumpy old men was lying. She’s officially the youngest in the clan and she set a new standard. Buffaloes will be the new cool when she’s all grown and set for wedlock, she’s beyond cows. I said what I said. Lol.

In these six months, my eldest sister, is still the most charismatic.

In these six months, my dad is still my heart in human form.

In these six months my friends are still the realest.

In these six months, God is still God.

In these six months, the weather took a drastic turn! April came roaring like a lion. Cold like the heart of b*tch. I felt like the hailstones pelted right through the roof and into my soul. Cold weather catapults me to oblivion, shuts down my reflex and affects my productivity. Bright beautiful sunny days like today breathe life into my well being and whisper words of beauty to my aura. I love to welcome and sock up the sun rays because too soon the cold will graduate to thunderstorms and I will sulk.

In these six months, however, one thing was constant: circular insanity! Aka bipolar disorder, darkness my old friend, the pain in the brain. Actually the reason I didn’t blog was because my fingers lost coordination. Gross I know. But that was an unfortunate and severe side effect of one of the psychotropics I’m on. The other reason was because mental illness is uncultured. OG Bipolar just told me not to write. Squint your eyes, tilt your hear to the east, feel the zephyr that comes by, if you don’t, too bad…run a mile, text your bestie, sleep, eat… or just bite your nails but don’t blog. But it’s joke on you now, I know you’re a demon and I will slay you. You are uncultured, because you leave me to stay on my cool sometimes when someone’s dead but let me lose my cool when I can’t find my pen! You know it is definitely not because I’m more acquainted to the idea of death than the idea of losing a pen, but because mental illnesses or mood disorders, and especially you bipolar disorder, are a maze in itself, it is as though there’s a switch in my brain that flicks unrhythmically and unannounced. Circular insanity. Temporary insanity. I’m not sure if that’s an overstatement but I’m sure mental illness is still the largest elephant in the room. I nicknamed my mind “the minefield.” My mind is a minefield; an actual minefield of self actualization and lethargy. But today as I type this, I feel like I’m revamped and my energy is on steroids and I have reached a dangerously awesome level of might and will power. Woohoo!

In these six months, still, one thing was constant: the blogosphere. This is hands down the best place to be online! The beauty that is oracles and wordsmiths. The beauty that is penmanship. The beauty that is artistry. The beauty that is forever unmatched and undefeated. The beauty that is the write way. Forgive me if I’m going to get all sappy when I talk about how much blogging has impacted my life. I constantly find comfort and independence in a riveting read. You fellow bloggers (and the readership) inspire me to get outside my bubble, move beyond my insecurities, accept my disability all while offering compassion and sympathy for others. To love freely and unconditionally. To keep LIVING my dash. To build safety hedges to protect my sanity. To reset my mind, body and soul without a heads up. To LIVE. Thank you is an understatement!

In these six months, in the next six months and beyond, love, light and healing to everyone battling mental illness. Be steadfast. You are not a victim but a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. Today and everyday, me and our fellow survivors need your light, warmth and raging courage. Here’s to grit, here’s to strength and resolve of character, here’s to resilient dynamism, here’s to the only pill popping throng of chronic illness survivors whose illnesses aren’t visible to the naked eye, here’s to the beauty of the strange!

© Ida-Sharon

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Birthday, Death, Mental Health

59 YEARS AWESOME!

Okay. It’s right about that time of the year again where I bust out of my comfort zone and tackle something a bit different from my normal slop. It is my dad’s birthday. Happy birthday to my dad, Samuel! He turns something something years old today. Scratch that, he’s 59 today! I’m a sagittarius; I love precision.

A few weeks back my dad was rummaging through his backpack because he didn’t have his keys but they were right on the table and I laughed at him and told him he’s 58 and he went like, “What has that got to do with my keys missing?” You see, my dad doesn’t like to be reminded of his age. Neither do I. I mean I’m a chip off the old block. Lol.

I seriously don’t know what I would do without my dad! This man has given me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believes in me! There are days when I’m over the edge ( like today) and I think I just can’t do this anymore. But he always instills grit, resilience and will power in me, with unfailing optimism that astounds me time and again. He is the finest example of loyalty, commitment and unconditional love in my life.

My dad exudes pride, even though I might not necessarily fit into the long desired ideal daughter mould sometimes. Mental illness is hell on wheels; more often than not you will lose your cool. During my teenage years before I got my bipolar type 2 diagnosis, I went from hospital bed to hospital bed, one or two of them for surviving suicide. I remember missing school for the whole of second term in senior five. Dad was not always there during all this turbulence and I was very spiteful about it. Today, I understand that he had his own struggles and I could not even see them because I was either too young or too preoccupied with this disorder that teaches my brain to have this nasty habit of overriding logic. I have since learnt that nobody is perfect. Dad has loved me to life. Dad has loved me in the best way he knows how to.

If I’m still here navigating life, it is not because of these “magic” pills I pop daily. It is certainly because of my dad too. I know psychotropics can be a godsend but anyone who has experienced mental illness first hand knows that psychotropics, psychotherapy and an astounding support system is pivotal to recovery.

My dad and I go a long way. We are best friends and kindred spirits. We are yin and yang. We are not very physically identical however, because I take after my mother. (But I swear he would swear I look like his grandma, the one he named me after). I have his complexion though. Both of us are very passionate word weavers and very established blubber mouths; we can talk till you get vexed. He is a better storyteller, however, and I’m better at snorting and laughing and cackling. My dad has got jokes for days. Our major pet peeve is bad grammar. So please do not “pet our peeves.” Lol.

Not to burst your bubble but my dad does not quite understand depression. And that’s okay. He religiously asks me to explain what exactly I feel when I cannot get out of bed or how it feels right after I pop the pills. I try to tell him that depression is like someone throttling you and tearing right through your heart with a knife all at once, because that is the best way I know how to. My trips to the psych hospital have made me understand that there are people who just can’t relate to depression or mood disorders. All they experience is sheer sadness. My dad is part of that lucky throng. He says his greatest heartbreak was when his mother, my grandma, died in September 2015. I saw him shriek as he viewed her casket. My grandma’s death and its effect on my dad remains the biggest formative and painful experience of my life. The other one is pain. The brain. Pain in the brain. Pain in my brain. Mental illness. OG Depression. The slayer of beautiful souls. The barbed arrow right through the heart. Dying on the inside while still alive. Constantly being sent to a tailspin of grief for no discernible reason.

But by virtue of me being my dad’s daughter, I will always come out ahead. My dad is tactfully skilled at survival skills and that’s a major life hack I’m slowly by slowly mastering.

Happy birthday dad!

I profoundly respect you and admire your disposition and your diplomacy to deal with conflicts and complicated situations. It is easy to you on a pedestal. My dream is to perfect oration like you someday so I can bail humanity out of botched speeches with impromptu genius like you sometimes do for it.

© Ida-Sharon

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Mental Health

DEPRESSION, AMBIVALENCE, A YEAR OLDER.

I know many people perceive depression as an intolerable, persistent sadness and deep gloom. My most recent experience has vividly shown me that depression can be subtle, sneaky and disguised in symptoms that can be hard to identify. If you are having unexplained pains or aches, often feeling irritable, irked or angry for no discernible reason, crying at the drop of a hat – you could be depressed. This is me lately.

Depression is poking me in the most unexpected way, both physically and behaviourally. I’m obviously very lethargic but what hits hard is the frequent crying spells, the short bursts of spontaneous, out-of-nowhere (sometimes anxiety provoked) teariness. My little brother could be trying to show me a meme on his phone but I’d be very irritated and balancing tears and on the brink of slamming the door on his face just because he called my name “a little louder than usual.” On Monday I cried on the bus to town because I simply felt “unloved.” These feelings honestly make my stomach churn. I want out.

I have also have a significant lack of appetite. One meal per day suffices pretty much. I don’t even feel hungry in between. I’m also experiencing what feels like pathological guilt. I know guilt is a natural sensation at times but I have branded mine as pathological because it painstakingly scans the past and sees only a series of failures. I feel overtly guilty for having been born, guilty for having depression, guilty for having mental illness, right now I can’t think of any major life role (daughter, auntie, friend, girlfriend etc) without being consumed by feelings of guilt.

While these symptoms are specific “clusters” of depression symptoms manifesting to create different experiences of mental illness, it’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things. I mean I experienced another milestone… I turned a year older! Against all odds. Sailed through the shark infested bipolar depression waters of suicidal ideations, guilt tripping and everything in between. Forgive me but I’m happily unhappy, actually very ambivalent about this. Ambivalent for the prime reason that it was only yesterday that I walked into my 20s and let the tinges of adulthood kiss me fresh vibes of a world, tainted, yet beautiful. Ambivalent because now I’m inching closer to the quarter life crisis. Or so I feel.

However I must say turning a year older has triggered my love for reading and writing more. Readership is powerful. The pen is mightier than the sword. Underestimate it at your own peril. I’m falling out of love with my jeans and welcoming comfort to my skimpy dresses. I’m gladly binging on something called love. Something I had previously believed was a misnomer and a fictional concept. Love. Love that is a messed up world. Love that is going to fix us, no matter what.

So… Dear New Age,

You may look like a big number, but to me you are just as old as I am. You are the youngest I’ve ever been yet also the oldest I am. I’m just as paradoxical as you; tainted yet so pure. I would like you to know that I’m in search of something, something still unknown to me. We can discuss this over a year’s time as we turn over a new chapter on 10th December 2019, while we’re stumbling half drunk on our own musings and words. Until then, let’s learn a bit about love and a little more about ourselves. Let’s keep feigning strength until it’s inked in our bones. May we find our yellow brick road to recovery. May it strike us, one day, in retrospect, that these years of struggle for sanity were worthwhile. Peace and love, kid.

© Ida-Sharon

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Death, Mental Health

GOD BLESS THE DEAD.

Today.

In memory of our angel baby, my nephew, born sleeping today. He was the most ethereal of them all; perfect even in death. I will never be able to expound on how for the past several months I hoped and prayed he would not just be our rainbow baby but my birthday twin or at least my zodiac twin. I’m eternally grateful he actually turned out to be my zodiac twin. My little sag baby.

Also in memory of our other angel baby, my beautiful niece, born sleeping too, a year ago. She was the most dainty baby I ever laid eyes on. Born endowed with a headful of black curls and perfect caramel skin. So graceful in her deep sleep!

And also in memory of our yet another angel baby, also perfect on so many levels because God does not make mistakes. Our guardian angel, the baby we carried but never met.

These three are forever cradled in my heart and I like to think that they are now in great grandmas’ strong arms, basking in heaven’s glory until we get there. (I think I might need an extra pair of arms because too many of my loved ones are up there and when I get there I’m planning to hug all of them and never let go!) Until then, I’ll be here looking after this big brother, our now turned sunshine baby, keeping all the memories alive. The stark reality is that he is only six but he can already tell visitors that his baby siblings “went to be with Jesus.”

This pain feels insurmountable but hey I love these four in all seasons, and love is paramount, that is why we teach him to keep the memories alive. Plus he is the smartest six year old you will ever meet. So much style and grace in one little human. He radiates so much positive energy and his demure demeanour lights up a room. His toothless grins improve moods mood tenfold.

In memory of our angel babies. In memory of all the babies we carried but never met. In memory of all the babies we held but could not bring home. In memory of all the babies we brought home but did not stay. In memory of all the little angels too perfect for this tainted earth. ❣️

God bless the dead.

© Ida-Sharon

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Mental Health

YOU MIGHT WANT TO BUCKLE UP.

I have since realised that it is almost impossible to navigate from cradle to grave without coming head on with the besetting sin of audacity, bigotry and injustice. You cannot see my facial expression as I write this but I am dog-tired of all forms of pigeonholed beliefs.

These sins are better shared. These sins are better highlighted. Raise your voice. Protect your energy. Protect your aura. Protect your sanity. You have the right and the moral imperative to do this. Speak out on the countless injustices that surround us, without fear of retribution. Be candid. Be bold. Be uncensored. Because when you turn a blind eye to this, injustice thrives.

I must say I’m particularly impressed by how the digital revolution makes us see even the injustice happening far from our shores.

But I want to believe that humanity shares a vision of equilibrium. And I also believe the world will not fall back into balance on its own. We must therefore raise our voice. We must not condole audacity, bigotry and injustice in any form, whether racism, classism, sexism or even “sheer” suppression of voice. The more we muck with these sins, the more we have to dedicate ourselves to unmucking.

Speak out on injustice because justice is something that is pivotal to our being. Speak out.

Some of my pillar virtues are justice and truth. I continue to envision a world that is just and balanced and harmonious; a world devoid of all stigma, including those related to mental health.

Let us find out where the rain started beating us. Let us go back to the drawing board, let us make another blueprint, let us do a thing, two or three, let us create a safe haven, let’s make the world a better place!

A few tips on how to fight injustice:

  • Set an example. (Make changes in your own life).
  • Speak out. (This could be by a simple blog like I’m doing or by posting on social media etc).
  • Exercise your right to vote.
  • Donate to a course in which you believe.

Power to you!

© Ida-Sharon

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Mental Health

COLD TURKEY.

Hey everyone! It’s been a minute! Life definitely happened during my hiatus; I underwent a huge rollercoaster of emotions.

Well I appreciate all these experiences. As a firm believer in the notion that one must learn from everything that comes at them, I appreciate the yin and the yang, all of that.

That aside though. I left my hometown and STOPPED my psychotropic medications… COLD TURKEY! This is not advisable clinically and it was not a personal decision. It has been about 14 days of not taking my antidepressant, my antipsychotic and mood stabilizer after some years. I love how psychotropics are steadily percolating through our culture and shaping the public understanding of mental health.

I must admit it has not been a walk in the park as I have had to try many psychotropics over the years. I have taken prozac, olanzapine, amitryptiline, carbamezepine, haloperidol, artane, escitalopram etc. Hitting the psychotropic jackpot sometimes needs patience.

However psychotropics are generally commendable if you ask me. They have constantly awakened me to the poignant beauty of this life. These drugs are nothing short of magical; they have resiliently fought my feelings of lethargy and constant bleakness and random outbursts of emotions for almost no discernible reasons. Words fail me.

But now the chickens have come home to roost. I’m having serious withdrawal symptoms that range from insomnia, confusion, anxiety, agitation, nightmares, fatigue, migraines, muscle spasms, fogginess, flu-like symptoms, night sweats, tingling and numbness in the arms and legs. Literal brain zaps.

However, because my bout of depression is not here yet and my appetite is not messed up, a part of me is secretly hoping that this is just a slump and everything would resolve itself and someday I’d be able to lead a “normal” life. Ignorant as it may sound.

Let it be known that I’m not advocating for abrupt discontinuations of psych meds (your psychiatrist needs to wean you off them!) because these drugs cause biological adjustments in the brain, but so do mood disorders. This is no scant basis. Exude caution.

Will I be making another impromptu visit to my psychiatrist soon?

I HOPE NOT!!!!

© Ida-Sharon

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Mental Health

DESTIGMATISE THE CONVERSATION!

I have not been able to blog for several weeks because my depression has been a witches’ brew of guilt, anger and bad religion. Lethargy had drained and numbed me to life itself. Things have successively been going wrong leaving me feeling like the butt of life’s joke.

Today I’m going to respond to something that cut me to the quick. I’m going to do it with dignity and not resort to name calling or shade throwing, because then I will have kept the same (bad) energy that one of my close relatives had when they publicly tried to shame my folks for my mental illness.

Okay. Can I be honest? Lay my cards on the table? I am aware that stigma and discrimination whether stemming from ignorance or not, are a direct depiction of one’s own insecurities, if you can’t accept someone for things they can’t control or didn’t choose, then you are the problem. If you can’t stomach the thought of their well-being, you could just love them from a distance.

I have to write this so everyone here can get a good look at ignorance and audacity in an overtly heightened state. Nothing is ever worth demeaning a person’s existence. Society NEEDS to destigmatize the conversation around mental health. We cannot do this by talking? Straight forward isn’t it? No.

Most people start the transition from childhood to adulthood looking to the future at a world of possibility. I on the other hand transitioned by a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. But I cannot be shamed because I wear it like a crown. A crown of grace and grit.

“End mental illness stigma” is a phrase we hear often. The word “stigma” technically means “a mark of shame” and in the context of mental illness advocacy, we mean the unfair mark of shame others assign to us when it is revealed we live with different mental health conditions. It can also be shame we assign ourselves when we feel like there is something wrong with how our brains work, and decide to keep our thoughts hidden from others. However this idea of “ending the stigma” only scratches the surface of the real shame, micro aggressions and acts of discrimination people who live with mental illness sometimes face.

I’m blessed that I got a proper diagnosis. My psychotropics seem to be working like a shaft of light into my weary, befuddled brain.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Therefore society should stop making mentally ill people feel bad for their symptoms. We are flaky. We are sleepy. We are grumpy, aggressive and forgetful. We lash out. We cry. We over think and over compensate. We are sorry. We are trying. We know we are in limbo between too sick to be healthy and “not sick enough to be healthy. ”

S/o to everybody battling an invisible illness!

© Ida-Sharon

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