THE SICK TWISTEDNESS OF REALITY.

Today is the end of an era in my life, an end to something I thought was finished. Today is her funeral, my grandmothers, its overcast and way too early, the drive was exhausting. By breakfast the sun is too bright and the birds too loud, my hastily covered black chipped nail polish is a stark contrast and reminder against the quickly applied shade of white, the quick efforts of respectability failing at closer inspection. My hair hangs loosely around my shoulders as I try to make my numerous piercings less noticeable. After the over-religious service we are brought to the burial site, my sister and I don’t approach, choosing to stand yards behind the rest of the party even after being beckoned by the other members of our immediate family.

I will not approach that grave, not in these circumstances; it will be on my own terms when I choose it to happen. Against my father’s wishes he was buried at his mother’s behest at the hometown cemetery in a double deep grave. Today that grave was opened so that my grandmother’s body could be placed with his. The nauseous feeling within starts to well-up, the sick dread that they’ll spend eternity in a shared place. I have never been here before; I doubt I will be here again. Within my grandmothers casket I’ve been told that a porcelain doll has been placed over her chest. My grandmother can now take her treasures and her son with her to whatever destination she has chosen to foresee. I can feel everyone’s eyes on my sister and I as they notice that we stand apart, a deliberate isolation. Some of them not realising that there stands the open grave of a father I never knew, others watching carefully to see our reactions. Everyone here knows that it was his choice to leave this life.

The unreality of the situation feels like a mockery, my sisters and I being duped. It starts to feel as if we’re still too close; this twisted charade of a funeral is only enhanced by the shadows of the trees and the eerie chirping of the birds. Today is grandma’s day, I can feel it somehow, she got everything she wanted from today, and even in death she was the victor. I have to acknowledge that she loved us girls, her son was reflected in our eyes and looks, yet history can’t rewrite itself, this chapter in life can’t be told any other way. The family I never see and knew are all approaching, trying to make the awkwardness dissipate, trying to include us; my mind is yelling that we don’t belong here. I’ve paid my respects to Grandma, talking about my father makes me cringe, people who don’t know me start talking about my father, Grandma’s funeral doesn’t need this added tastelessness.

They couldn’t just let us be, some find comfort from talking about the dead. The dead are dead and they aren’t coming back. The imposter that is respectability lasts the day, the hoax serving to reinforce my mother’s reputation, my mother is a lovely woman, today was about representing her to the best of our abilities. Today we were the ‘perfect’ daughters of a widow; I will not let the sadness and anger about the cards I’ve been dealt to show through the cracks of respectability. The last connection to him is now over, my sisters and I can finally be done.

The irony on his tombstone: “He lived for those he loved”.

I realise that a lot of people won’t agree with what I’ve written here. These were the events of yesterday and part of my history. Sorry that there is so much anger, lack and of compassion and empathy, but we make our beds to the best of our abilities.

Happiness Isn’t Our ‘Natural’ State Of Mind.

The reason we want things isn’t because they will make us intrinsically happy, instead we expect them to bring us happiness. The paradox of happiness, whereby we can live in conditions that have improved significantly over the generations, yet our level of actual ‘happiness’ hasn’t been enriched. I’d call it ‘smoke with no fire’, people creating reasons to gain happiness yet no noticeable effect. What are the causes of happiness? Do the contents of our moment to moment experiences reflect a truer form of happiness?

People in some instances are incapable of finding their own happiness, always in pursuit. The idea of happiness becomes a fugitive emotion that remains intangible despite achieving successes. You have to examine what it intrinsically means to pursue happiness both morally and ideologically. It has been judged that the psychic damage is caused by the educational and economic systems, pretending to find logical solutions to human unhappiness. The perception of happiness is becoming entangled by social and intellectual idealisations. The pursuit of happiness has become naturally embedded within culturally acceptable norms. The psychological and emotional consequences of pursuing happiness in contemporary society analyses what constitutes as true happiness often contrasting with the over dramatized unhappiness.

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People insist that the notion of happiness can’t be left in the dominion of vague feelings or inexplicable internal conviction, requiring empirical reasoning and calculation, and not merely left as an ambiguous sentiment.  Using empirical reasoning to judge happiness would neglect the subjective nature of happiness, interpretations of happiness often misinterpreting utilitarianism and hedonism as happiness. Andrew H. Mills poses the question:  “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, ‘No!”.

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We then can argue how reliably aware are we of our own happiness, often referring to past days as “happy old days”, but is that a reliable judge of emotion? Seeking happiness means to accept and commit oneself to examining the incompatible desires and values that are internally manifested. Is ‘true’ happiness actually attainable, or is it merely a pedestal sentiment that is unreachable, promoting people to keep trying harder to pursue ‘true’ happiness. Mills has further stated that mental cultivation and selfishness generates unhappiness. My belief is that to achieve a semblance of happiness people need to share the view that human life is imperfectly arranged, but that its wrapped in potential.

Charles Dickens: “Where is happiness to be found then? Surely not everywhere? Can that be so, after all? Is this my experience?”

Mania Of The Past Through The Lens Of The Present.

You can’t in any whole capacity understand the mania of the past through the lens of the present. What was originally termed ‘mania’ in the past currently exhibits little resemblance to the ‘mania’ experienced by people with bipolar disorder. Mania has always existed as a form of madness, in contemporary psychiatry ‘mania’ signifies as an episode or as a pole on the affective spectrum. There is a strong need to transform the image of madness, re-framing mental illness as a positive, at least the hypomanic edge that it correlates with. When you’re truly manic the repercussions of your actions never gain much thought, there is a certain amount of ‘glamour’ attached to mania, a sheen that creates easy oblivious actions which have little association to your ‘normal’ train of thought.

The bliss of oblivion. Many people would prefer to be the manic sprite instead of the depressive shade that haunts their homes when darkness encroaches. There are no romantic notions towards depression for those who experience it recurrently; depression is a beast that slowly eats away all the feelings inside, leaving you numb and vulnerable. The clinical terms used to categorise bipolar disorder act like an oversized ad-campaign sign on a main road that reads ‘manic-depressive’. It feels like an endless resistance to the labels, the labels becoming the straightjacket of mental illness, restrictive and confining.

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The Skepticism of Auto-pathography. The Unreliable Narrator.

Auto-pathography is an autobiography that is focused on the disability/disease or disorder of the author. The skeptics criticize the ability of any authors who write autobiographies to adequately create a self-representation and self-regulation of their work. A mental illness narrative asks whether the discourse of mental illness can be narrated as a true debilitating condition. Questioning whether it is the author’s therapeutic or pathological identity that is engendering the narrative. The author is also tainted by their medical identity or label, influenced by their psychiatric categorization of symptoms and the effects of ongoing medication treatments. The reliability of the narrative is completely undermined by the person’s mind that has been altered by both the illness and the treatment, ultimately creating a fictional self-story that can’t be in any complete way corroborated.

Authors all write for different reasons, whether it is to directly mislead the reader or as a vice to protect themselves from their own perceived inner guilt. A lot of authors are completely unaware that their first-hand narration makes them unreliable; the recounting of their events is filtered through their distinctive set of beliefs, experiences and biases. Reality is ultimately multi-faceted, shaded by the uniqueness of each individual interpretation and their perception of objectivity and honesty. A direct example of the unreliable narrator is my experiences with depression, whereby I view winter as dulling the memories, finding it hard to construct a coherent narrative with most moments having been forgotten. The elusive memories create misrepresentations and uncertain insights into the ‘actual’ occurrences of events, making discernment unattainable.  

A Mad, Mad World…

A mad, mad world. I’m getting pretty excited for Halloween this year; it’s one of my all-time favourite days, not the treats, just the costumes and general outlandish atmosphere. This year I feel as though I’m the very clichéd figure of madness, masquerading in a costume that isn’t really a costume anymore. The maniac that is mental illness occupies a wholly unenviable ontological status. The iconic figure that has been chained in the asylum cell. The heightened sense of excitement during Halloween fuels my reckless and excessive drinking which is generally followed by unequalled feats of dancing and generalized eccentric behavior, but then again I always think it was a good time, so no harm no foul. My psychologist keeps on asking why I do certain things or how they make me feel; truthfully I have no idea, in the end I just keep giving extrapolated and rambled responses, offering honest yet elusive answers.

BTW: both pictures are me from last year, was sah excited.

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My Bipolar Sunshine.

A woman’s mental health journal: “I’m god or I use to be”
Her husband made a marginal note: “Did you quit or were you fired?”

Beautiful, crushingly so, you’re going to be the rest of my life. You are a forest, not a temple, you can’t be destroyed and desecrated, and you will always grow back over and over no matter how badly you’re devastated. If I was given the option to be a ‘little’ manic for the rest of my life, I would sign my name on the dotted line and say “HELLS YES!”. Being that ‘little’ bit manic simplifies the world, people smile back at me; I can easily become that easy-going sociable deity that my anxiety holds back from. My anxiety shifts its perception, people are no longer the scary or judgmental third parties of my life, they’re just people. Crazily enough my jokes to strangers even seem funnier (I’ve been having a giggle about my doctor being called Fernando for the past week). It makes me put my opinion forward, I always have an opinion in my classes at university, but hypomania makes me more forthcoming, people come to me for help with their work. The ability to be social is my ideation of heaven, without it I feel like I’m living a type of sub-life.

My go-to phrase during hypomania is “shit happens, life goes on”, I live by that phrase a lot, during hypomania the realisation that nothing in this world is permanent, not even our worries is endlessly realized. The notion that I should be just manic enough, on the low end of the spectrum. On one side of the spectrum you think that you’re Jesus, the other end promoting creativity and productivity. A common misconception surrounds the belief that the less medicine someone is on the less defective they are. Crazy doesn’t truly exist is any whole form, being diagnosed with bipolar doesn’t mean you’re crazy, maybe it merely means that you’re more sensitive to things that people can’t see or feel, or maybe it’s never truly crazy, just a little bit mad, how much depends on where you fall on the spectrum, how much depends on how lucky you are.

The Abnormality of Normalcy.

Who decides what is classified as normality? It’s a self-perceived judgement that we assign to people which has been based on what we pigeon-hole as ‘normal’ versus ‘abnormal’. As a person with bipolar disorder I find is especially difficult to differentiate between the supposed abnormal and normal behaviour that I’m meant to exhibit. Abnormality is defined as a deviation from the accepted thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Normalcy is described as the absence of illness, associated as well-being, the line between the two is difficult to pinpoint with various shades of grey in-between. Normalcy is to abnormality what opportunity is to opposition.

The creation of normalcy can be a strategy of physical as well as mental survival.  Potentially the non- or abnormal (or anomalous), the excluded and marginal, may create their own world of normality.  It can therefore be questioned: how normal are the people who create it? The concept of “normal” has a long history that has been defined and redefined to accommodate that changing perspectives. The Greeks originally linked the concept of “normal” with “natural’, consequently denoting an ideal state in which the regular and average also converges with “healthy” and “good.”

Maybe hypomania and depression is my form of normality, in my mind that is how I perceive myself. That is my normal, anything different is for me abnormal. It is also ‘normal’ for our minds to change what we believe is abnormal, predominately determined by the milieu at the time. Abnormal and normal is completely reliant on context, I think the whole concept of the two is flawed and interchangeable. They are both used to define the other, does that mean that abnormality is a myth merely used to differentiate between people, reliant on perceptions and judgments that aim to reject those who deviate away from common standards? There isn’t a ‘normal’, no one is completely normal, its an invented idea related to conformity, conformity allowing a more functional state within society.

Normal is a measure used to understand realities, society’s problems stemming from the misunderstanding of what we really are versus the social myths that have been adopted to label and separate varying groups of people.

“The real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule.” C.G. Jung

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I have a very child-minded perspective of the world that allows little to no room for the areas of grey. The mood swings that people with Bipolar suffer are perceived by them as normal; they are their initial standard, making it difficult to perceive the different moods as ‘wrong’ or abnormal. The negative stigma or ‘untouchable’ topic of Bipolar has to be changed, everyone is abnormal, and normal is merely an unachievable standard that we base our own actions off. Normality is self-perceived and regulated by each individual, the individuality of normalcy makes everyone abnormal.