Duality

Submission to Man Repeller 'Writers Club' May Prompt - "This month on Man Repeller, we’re exploring duality. Things with two sides. For this month’s writers club prompt, we want you to explore your two opposing sides. What’s your biggest contradiction? Tell me in 500 words or less."

Things with two sides, you say? Prompting the exploration of duality? Allow me to give you a crash course on what it’s like to bare a duality you have no control over. I am my own biggest contradiction and it isn't because of having “standard” multiple traits. If there’s one topic that covers this months ‘Writers Club’ prompt in a nutshell it’s the condition I live with everyday; Bipolar. A disorder with the literal definition of duality.

I am often met with questionable assumptions people remark when I tell them about it. This is a taster then, if you will, which I hope will expunge some of those pesky misconceptions! Euphoric, exceedingly confident, powerful. Despairing, empty, powerless. Up and down. No in between. From one period to the next my mood and behaviour contradict one another, there are two versions of me that don't reflect how I “really” am. It’s a game of never ending ping pong where no contestant ever wins. 

Five years ago aged 19, sat in an office with a putrid green carpet and the unnerving whirring of an exotic fish tank in the background, my first psychiatrist described having Bipolar to me like this: “You are a house. The middle floor has gaps in it. The roof has holes everywhere, and the basement is beyond repair. Now, what we want to do with your treatment is try to keep you on that middle floor, not shooting through the roof or falling through to the basement.” Suffice it to say, being described as a decrepit house is never anyones #lifegoals. Nonetheless, I have found it is totally true and staying on the middle floor comes attached with its own set of challenges, medicated or not.

Being this house-which clearly needs builders on the job ASAP-isn’t my choice. I don't  choose to want to itch myself out of my own skin when I am depressed because I can’t bare to be me. I don't choose to think I am undeniably the most intelligent, super efficient (and sometimes most beautiful!) person to be around when I am hypomanic. It is simply how my brain operates, constantly in a dual with itself. Even though it can be really tough, I have started learnt the joy of learning to live with this condition. In general, life is abundant with unpredictable moments and outcomes and I have the addition of my mood dictating these things. That’s why a smile anchors itself upon my face when I think about how having Bipolar has taught me to ALWAYS live in the moment. 

Faced with thinking about who I am, the duality of Bipolar has drawn one certain conclusion. I am a walking, talking contradiction. That said, while I may be bound to the weight of this disorder, the idea of just being (which ironically comes with it) creates the greatest sense of freedom. I am whoever I am at any given moment, and that is exactly how I am supposed to be.

Calculating Risk

 Short piece submitted to Man Repeller's Writers Club

Planning seems to be at the forefront of everyone's minds at the beginning of a new year, which makes sense, no? “new year, new beginning” and all that. We spend the better part of our lives figuring out all the steps we need to take in order to achieve the ideals we have in our heads. This year I find myself wondering “what will happen if I let go of my persistent need to plan?” At least to some degree anyway. The answer to that is unknown and, as we all know, the unknown has risk written all over it. 

2017 was a year of personal development for me and one of the things I learnt was how to utilise my faith as a means of guidance when I feel most lost. Perhaps the probability of achieving my goals has a greater variation with that new outlook, but the irony is that despite lowered levels of certainty, I have never felt such clarity before. Don't get me wrong, I can be a complete control freak and always need to be five steps ahead. For example, my To Do list consists of everything and anything including shower, put clothes away, SAVE MONEY!!!, pack lip balm in bag, try sleep in rollers, pluck that one eyebrow hair and even make a to-do list. These lists I make day in and day out somehow give me a faint sense of purpose. It’s obvious that where small-scale organising is concerned, planning has to remain as it would intrinsically. But the thing is, not plucking that pesky eyebrow hair poses no risk to me (I hope) and continuing to plan these things for the day to day is normal (again, I hope). 

The plans I'm talking about belong to an entirely different scale altogether.

A friend who unwittingly asks me questions that challenge my more obstinate views (thank you, btw) got me thinking about the year ahead. What struck me most when he asked about me having any plans was that I was unusually calm when answering “no,” followed with me realising that I essentially have none set in stone. Predicting outcomes for things I want in life often leave me with sky-high levels of internalised anxiety. As someone who requires a plan for everything, I hate to admit that it hasn’t always helped to try and mould those outcomes and it’s safe to say that they certainly haven't looked the way I had idealised. 

With all that in mind, what risk do I hope to take this year? Well, I hope to replace planning the things I cant control with patience, leaving outcomes to be determined as the dice gets rolled. Although a big part of me is itching at the thought of not being in control, an even bigger part of me knows that diving straight into the unknown means 2018 might just surprise me.

Love?

 Short piece submitted to Man Repeller's Writers Club and published on The Mighty Site as well as The organisation Hestia’s Blog.

Defining love comes with so many varying narratives and it’s certainly about more than just romance, which is why I’m not writing about any lover of mine. Frankly, they aren't worth penning (or typing) anything about. Instead, I’m putting down in words why loving myself has been of indispensable value to my being. Sounds cliché, I know, but up until now, I haven’t been able to write about my experience behind it. Hell, I still find it hard to talk about. Nonetheless, here it is, laid bare. 

Innocence, fragility, naïvety; just some of the characteristics typically associated with a teenager. Suffice it to say that I was all of those things aged 15. How then does a girl that age navigate her life after becoming a victim of sexual assault? Well, I traipsed around loathing every part of my being for a long time. Also, I genuinely believed that I wasn't worth someone else’s love let alone my own and surfacing below the trauma was my confidence, trapped there by my fear of being judged. I was completely convinced that I had been and always would be labelled as “damaged goods,” and that no one would ever want me. The only thing I can liken it to is when you get a cut that doesn't stop bleeding, it bleeds and bleeds until you get it stitched up. What you're left with is a permanent scar; a sign of imperfection. In this day and age, with images of perfection plastered everywhere you look, it was hard not to feel the way I did. 

The thing is, the memory of what happened is worse than what happened itself. It is that same memory, however, that made me realise I wouldn't be able to feel love without having a good relationship with myself-scars and all. I had already let the perpetrator get away with what he did because, well, threatening to “financially destroy” my family definitely put a spanner in the works. Letting a pathetic excuse for a human being get away with a crime was one thing, I couldn't let him get away with negatively affecting how my future panned out too. 

I, like most people, desire to be desired. In order to be desirable, I knew that ultimately I needed to accept who I am and also think about the kind of person I would be happy to be. Granted, this sort of thing doesn't work itself out overnight. It’s been nine years since what happened, and from time to time I still ask myself  “am I damaged goods?” Only to answer “no.” It has taken a very long time to say that with conviction. Feeling a sense of self-worth has been hard to grasp, but what I’ve been through has taught me how to do exactly that. It is certainly ironic that for the very same memory that falsified my self-image I have also learnt how to love who I am.