I want to live before I die – Joyline Maenzanise

 

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For a while now, I have been haunted by the superfluity of my existence

Of late, my mind has become weary from all the years of displaying resilience

I keep searching and am struggling to find a way out of what feels like a runnel

It is fading, the belief that there is a glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel

At this point, I no longer find inspiration in loved ones or ambitions I had

For so long, love received and goals set have worked to keep me motivated

Sadly, that only got me to this place of feeling emotionally depleted

My days seem to have become mere obstacles that must be overcome

The pain – even as I quit smoking – I still do whatever it takes to numb

I pretend to be jovial, I pretend to be interested, I pretend to be present

But, could it be that through all this, I may not be pretending to be “OK” after all?

Could it be I am trying to give myself a break and move away from this dark pall?

I talk openly about my struggles for I don’t want to bottle my pain so dire

I talk because a part of me wishes someone might help me out of this mire

Probably as an effort to help me feel better, I am told that we are all “not OK”

It could be an effort to deter me from burdening others or expecting any aid

As just another solution I’ve thought of, “go for therapy”, some folks have said

Sadly, access to (queer-friendly) mental healthcare services is a privilege

Not many of us seem to understand this as though it were a cryptic adage

Still, some folks understand my pain and that is all I can appreciate

It has taken some time but, now, I embrace the stomach-churning revelation

I ought to be to self the person I hope will offer emotional support and inspiration

Still, I find it all tiring and when night comes, I wish I would sleep everlastingly

I have had to learn to manage panic attacks which often overwhelm me agonizingly

Oftentimes, I find myself convincing self to get out of bed in the morning

On many instances, before leaving the house, I make sure to give myself a pep- talk

Other times, I wait until the coast is clear before, out of my room, I can walk

Through all the struggling, I find myself wondering, what is the point of it all?

What is the point of being alive? On me existential questions as these take their toll

Death does seem like a pacifying escape from what seems to be meaningless

But, before I eventually die, regardless of cause, how I yearn to just live.

– Joyline Maenzanise

 

Joyline is a contributing writer at On The Line, a South African publication. Some of her published work can be viewed here: Stories by Joyline Maenzanise : Contently

 

Image by Brian Minear Photography

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NaNoWriMo 2017 for Rochdale and District Mind

 

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As November closely approaches, we are also getting geared up to dive in to the madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – a major annual event which sees published author’s and aspiring writers amongst us preparing to face the challenge of undertaking 50,000 words during the course of November.

That’s averaging 1,667 words per day, and provides 100% commitment from the participant to meet that target.

To give you a vague idea of the amount of work 50k is, that’s pretty much just over the word count of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby… (47,097!)

This year, I have geared myself up for my first ever NaNoWriMo challenge, and took the sensible advice to start prepping early. To say I started three months ago, it certainly has come around quickly!

Whilst taking this challenge, I also thought it a great opportunity to do some fundraising for a charity that is very close to my heart.

Rochdale and District Mind is a local mental health and wellbeing organisation who primarily relay on donations and sponsorships to keep the Charity afloat. The volunteers work tirelessly to support and assist in recovery for those in need – myself being one of those seeking help when I turned 18.

Mind was the first services that I braved to access on my own. At the time, I was severely struggling with depression, cripplingly low self esteem, bouts of mania, self-harm and addiction after suffering in silence from my early teens. This pathway ultimately lead me on the right pathway to get my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder – from which I received the treatment I needed to get back on my feet, go back to university and raise my beautiful young daughter.

As of many people who I have to be thankful for, the kindness and the efforts of the service workers at Rochdale Mind saved my life.

As much as I feel I can’t give enough back, this is my way of saying thank you. For my NaNoWriMo project 2017, I will be undertaking my first fiction project, a novel, which focusses on the realities of mental health.

Please help support Rochdale and District Mind (and also encourage me in my word count!) by visiting my just giving page below and giving a small donation.

 

DONATE HERE!

 

I’d also love to hear from those who are taking part with NaNo this year!

 

Thank you!

 

To find more about the incredible services and support that Rochdale Mind do please visit their website: https://www.rochdalemind.org.uk/

I am so much more.

 

woman

 

Badgered and bullied

I always felt both sadness and rage

at home and school

 

just wanted a moment that was mine

where I didn’t feel swept and carried away

by some sea that was not mine,

 

and my best friend were books

few people seemed to understand me or care

those who did only wanted to use me;

 

I am putting those years behind me

looking forward to a better future because

I choose to be happy even on my hardest days

 

won’t let depression or anxiety conquer me

I am so much more than this misery, anger, and pain

that is trying to strangle the life from me.

 – By Linda M. Crate.

 

You can find more of Linda’s words here at https://www.facebook.com/Linda-M-Crate-129813357119547/

 

Image rights by Pexels stock images. 

Self Care.

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Self-care is a really difficult thing to endure when you are feeling under the weather yourself.

This week, I have had to force myself to get up off the couch, get showered and eat. Life changes, illness, pain and other indemnities have left me feeling tense and angry over the last few weeks and this has of course mirrored itself in the forefront of my mental health. I am one again finding myself enraged with not only the unpredictable practicalities of life, but aiming the flaming arrows at myself everyone around me. Not good news for my close friends and family, my partner and my daughter – particularly when I can’t seem to gain any sort of control over it.

I had my bi-annually medication review with my GP a few days ago, and mentioned to her that with all that is happening – decline in my physical health, moving house, the change in weather  – my mood has significantly dropped to the levels where I feel I’m in the red warning zone. She doubled my Sertraline, something which hasn’t happened in a long time, and two days later I can certainly feel the effects. This morning I managed to get myself out of bed without being too exhausted to want to crawl back in to it, I feel less like an emotional blubbering mess and my productivity and creativity has sky rocketed. Hallelujah.

I am starting to realise that the many medication tweaks and altering my environment to compliment my bipolar waves will be permanent. There is no easy ‘one state’ fix for me. These little adjustments are mandatory to see me through to a healthy life. I feel okay with this now, there will never be a single solution.

As the years go by, and I get further and further away from the messy life before diagnosis, I can feel how far I have come and how much I am learning from my past to implement in my future self-care. There’s so much value in experience.

 

The Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression.

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Last year, I had the honour to be approached by the founder of The Recovery Letters blog, James Withey, who asked me to submit a letter for his upcoming book, the Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression, which compiled letters from people who had once suffered – to the currently suffering.

My contribution made it through to final print, and when I got the package through from Jessica Kingsley publishers with a copy of the book, I wept with absolute joy. Upon reading the extracts, the book offers a real inspirational insight in to what it feels like to suffer, and each letter is raw with relatable stories, advice and hope.

Here is my contribution to the book.

 

From Megan. 

 

“Dear You,

 

Struggling with Depression is one of closest things a human being can endure to being stuck in time.

I’m sharing these thoughts from experience. It has been a journey I once kept contained within myself; one that I never thought I would even begin to understand, let alone gain the understanding of those close to me. The day I closed my eyes to the light and woke in the darkness was a day I was convinced that I’d lost myself completely.

 

How do you even begin to make sense of it when your life suddenly pauses and you find yourself stuck within an infinite stretch of nothingness; watching everyone around you carry on with their lives, running towards the future whilst you are left behind? That numbness you just can’t seem to comprehend, slowly replacing the oxygen you once breathed in, poisoning your bloodstream the more you struggle for air. The sadness you can’t shift, lurking around every corner you turn and echoing it’s cries through each painful movement your body tries to make. That vicious hum of anxious energy that strikes time and time again when you have your back turned, potent enough to stop your heart mid-pulse and cruel enough leave you hanging there until you are convinced it will be the last beat it will ever sing.

That desperate search to track down the glimmer that was once yourself, becomes a one-way road that always leads you back to where you first started. After a few effortful attempts running down the same path over and over again, you eventually find yourself getting more and more exhausted with every step you take; until your mind and your body begins to run on an empty soul; a dried up motor that rusts and cracks under the heat. Depression for me was a never ending moment in time, one which I thought I’d never escape from.

 

One of my first Therapists – one of many to follow – gave me some valuable recovery advice back then which has stayed with me to this day. He said to me;

 

“There is a clear difference between believing that you can’t, and knowing that you can’t.”

 

When I heard those words, my perspective finally shifted enough to stop myself from running down that same one path. The reason why I had stalled in this endless loop of despair and a tunnel vision of doom was because I had made myself believe that recovery wasn’t an option for me. But in reality? The opportunity to get better was there. My eyes just couldn’t shift the fog that was my own damned perspective.

 

And then all of a sudden, the possibility of recovery became real. It was as simple as getting out of my head and remembering where I was – more importantly who I was – at that very moment.  

 

So to you dear friend, please remember this. The next time you feel like you are stuck in time, the truth is; you are not. It only feels like you are stuck there. Remind yourself, that outside that perspective of yours, the clock really is ticking away. And it’s leading you to discover the most breath-taking, most beautiful opportunities you thought you could only dream of before now.

Hold on for hope, Recovery begins with you.

Love, Megan.”

 

Please do support James for all the hard work he has done by purchasing a copy for yourself, or even as a gift for someone you know is going through a tough time. Each one of these letters holds so much value and hope for those who are suffering. Details of how to purchase can be found in the link below, along with the Recovery Letters blog.

blog: http://therecoveryletters.com

‘Sharing Stories’ – Depression will always be with me, by Keigh Ahr.

“Not all stories about mental illness are dramatic. Some, like mine, are rather mundane; no hospital visits, no incarcerations, no shattered lives. Yet even a simple cut on the skin, or a garden variety cold, can lead to more serious conditions if not treated properly. That’s how I choose to view my own struggle with depression – what should have remained a minor problem became, through years of neglect, a significant burden that threatened to harm myself and my family. And I suspect my story, due to its very lack of dramatic detail, is actually quite common.

During my teenage years, I began experiencing moments of acute sadness and anxiety. I knew these episodes were different from the ordinary feelings of unhappiness and stress I also felt, because my behavior at these times would be far different. I would stop talking unless it was unavoidable; lay in bed on weekends for hours, lights turned off, in nearly catatonic paralysis; have no appetite and difficulty sleeping, and the lack of food and rest only worsened my condition. Some of these episodes had a triggering event (bullying, a bad grade, not landing a role that should have been mine in a school play), but others would arise for no apparent reason, like an earthquake in my mind. These episodes would last a couple days, maybe three or four, and often came with a conviction that the feeling would never end. I was a fool for believing I could be happy – now I know the truth, that I’ll be miserable like this the rest of my life. And then suddenly, the mood would stop, rarely due to a triggering happy event. I would feel “normal” again, and marvel both at my past behavior and sudden recovery. I didn’t understand what had happened to me, and my lack of comprehension made me very afraid. I hid from that fear, hoping against all reason that the dark moods would never return.

Years passed, turning into decades. A lifetime of graduations, jobs, hobbies, lovers, friends and family. Times both good and bad, pleasure and pain, victories and defeats. But even in years when I was generally happy and relaxed, those episodes of acute sadness and anxiety never completely left. I’d feel an episode come on, and would be powerless to stop it. The same conviction would return: This time it’s for real – I’m never getting over this. My behavior during these bouts became more irrational. Have tickets to a ball game I was eagerly anticipating? An invitation to a good friend’s party? When I was depressed, I not only couldn’t make myself go, I relished the sensation of disappointing myself. And then, just as before, the feeling would vanish, and I couldn’t believe the decisions I had made. By my late twenties, it didn’t seem right to continue experiencing these bouts of mental anguish. I sought counselling, which always proved effective (by the third session I’d feel energized and empowered) yet temporary (a new attack would come within months after the last session). Still, I had become a functional, productive member of society, and resigned myself to accepting these periodic bouts as just part of what made me who I was, as permanent and unchangeable as the color of my eyes and skin.

I then met a wonderful, patient women. We married, and brought forth two delightful children. These were good times, but while the attacks may have been less frequent, they certainly did not diminish in intensity (I’m grateful to have never become physically violent during any of these episodes). And when I regained my composure, I could no longer ignore the impact of my episodic emotional violence.

The truth can hurt as it sets you free. When the person whose happiness is so important to you says that she’s tired of walking on eggshells around you, or that your children are afraid of you, and her words speak to a reality you’ve already seen in the eyes of your family… those are words you cannot ignore. You are forced to react. You can respond by finally embracing those feelings you’ve feared for so long, and let the consequences be damned, even if you turn into a monster.

Or,

You get fed up with thirty years of denial. You realize you’ve been sick for a very long time, and won’t be getting better until you get help. It was the only choice that made sense at the time.

I’ve been in counselling on a regular basis, and taking antidepressants for a decade now. I had been concerned about the medication making me feeling ‘unnatural’, artificially happy perhaps, but that hasn’t been the case; I still feel as much disappointment, frustration, and sorrow as before. And if I’m not careful, I can still succumb to those agonizing bouts of despair that plagued me so frequently in the past. What’s different now is that I can sense when those feelings are creeping into my psyche, and have the ability to keep them from taking hold. I’m not cured, and doubt I’ll ever stop treating this disease. But my wife loves our weekend getaways, my children enjoy going to superhero movies with me, and my hope is far more powerful than my fear. Life, yes, is good.

I began this story comparing my depression to a minor injury or disease, as a means of summarizing what has been, for the most part, a fairly uneventful experience. But that comparison trivializes the impact depression has had on my life, so at the conclusion I want to pivot towards a different medical metaphor. I don’t know many diabetics (and apologize to any of my readers should this coming analogy not be true to your experience), but depression seems to me a similar chronic condition. There is no cure, and ignoring the problem can be literally fatal, but with proper medication and attention you can live a normal life, however you choose to define that term. Depression will always be with me – I don’t like that, but like a diabetic, I can’t wish my condition away. But I no longer fear it.

Thank you for reading. May you enjoy health and happiness you deserve.”

 – By Keigh Ahr

You can find Keigh Arh’s blog here at The Diligent Dilettante.

Stories are still needed!

Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone elses life.

Send your story with your name to themanicyears@gmail.com and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.

Sharing saves lives –

M x

The Interval – a glimmer of stability in a mad, mad world.

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Life is stable.

 

As stable as it could possibly be in my situation anyway. I’m back on my old medication; a very low dose of Quetiapine, mixed in with an anti-depressant for the fun of it, and things have settled pretty well.

I have been discharged from the care of my Psychiatrist and back to my GP. I have been taking my medication as early as possible, to induce the right 8 hours a night’s sleep in me, swapped partying for meditation and writing, and I have been plodding along with life just fine.

I have been through the up’s and downs and the in’s and out’s of Bipolar for quite some years now, and I am learning to appreciate the times when I do find myself drifting on calm waters; because I have spent 95% of my life fighting the struggle for it.

The peace has given me a lot of time to reflect, and concentrate on other things – looking after my daughter – rather than trying to look after myself – building strength in my relationships, and thinking about the next steps I can take to prepare myself for a career leap. It’s been enjoyable, this quiet interval in my life, and one that I know would be wasteful of me if I wasn’t to use this time to focus on bettering myself and my surrounding environment. To an outsider, it doesn’t seem like such a praise to make, to just get on with my days.

But for people like us, it a destination we have taken a long, long road to get to.

It’s a hell of a journey when only a few months ago you found yourself forcing yourself out of bed in the morning, braving work un-showered and barefaced, with barely your hair touched with a brush. When you found yourself locked in the toilets on your lunch break with your tear-stained jumper over your face, suffocating the sobs that burst out of your chest after one of your hourly panic attacks. When you found yourself in that unbearable training session, stuttering at the most simplest conversations between you and the colleague sitting next door, because your mind has been taken over by the incomprehensible fear that is named these days as ‘social anxiety.’ When you found yourself questioning why and what stripped you of your confidence and started gnawing away at your former self – leaving nothing but shattered pieces of You that can’t seem to be put back together again.

But today, I am whole. I am me, and I am going to use myself for all my glorious ways, my kind smiles, my laughs, my childish dances in the moonlight. I am going to make the best of all those whom I love around me, pray for them and sing along with them and make those memories I can store away for one of those inevitable rainy days.

Because they will come, the rainy days. They will knock the wind out of my lungs and have me down on my knees begging for release from this life.

 

But today, I am whole.