A Little Realisation

This morning I received a text message from one of my girlfriends. It was a picture with the caption ‘4 years ago today’ – one of those memories you get on Facebook. I looked at the picture and I noticed two things.

The first one was that we both looked casual, relaxed and happy. And young, although I guess that is to be expected.

The second was that although I don’t own that same dress anymore, my style really hasn’t changed that much. Black Maxi, Gold Jewellery, Same nail Colour I still wear, hair pulled back because it was the end of the week and I just couldn’t be bothered.

For anyone who were to look at the picture, it would look like we were having a happy, carefree time. And to an extent we were.

It occurred to me however, that beneath my smile and the happy exterior, there was a lot going on in my brain.

I remember that day clearly for some reason, and the below is basically a summary of what I was thinking.

I felt ‘fat’, like HUGE. I hate the use of the word fat, however, in being genuine about what was going through my mind at the time, it was exactly that. I remember being in that dress on that particular day feeling glad that it hid what I considered to be a disgusting body underneath. I remember chastising myself for drinking wine because I really couldn’t afford the calories.

I was feeling anxious. Anxious about where my life was heading and whether I would ever amount to anything that lived up to my desire for myself.

That would prove I was worthy as a human being. Because at that time my self-worth was ultimately entangled in what I looked like, and how “successful” I was. Ie, how my career was going, how independent I could be and would be, and how much money I could earn.

To put it in perspective, I didn’t want money for superficial things. I didn’t really care about the flashiest car or the nicest handbag for example (not that there is anything wrong with having or wanting those things). I just wanted to know that I could earn an amount of money that defined me as successful in both my eyes and in the eyes of others. That I would be validated if I reach a certain income or level of career success.

I was worried about my grandma, as my grandpa had recently passed away. I thought it was my responsibility to be in a position to look after her if anything happened to her. I was also terribly heartbroken by his passing – there are no words to describe how much I loved him and how his life impacted mine. I still feel the pain of his passing. Every. Single. Day.

I was anxious about being lonely for the rest of my life. Not alone, but lonely. That feeling of emptiness you get when you are not 100 percent ok with yourself, therefore when you are not around other people you feel desperately alone and in fact, quite sad.

I was worried I would never be good enough.

The thing is, most people looking at this picture would never see all of the things going on behind the mask that I wore that suggested I was happy and carefree.

It wasn’t all bad, I did still have a sense of self love as well.

It has guided me through some troubled times, times of great ups and down, stellar success in some areas, heartbreak and love and it has landed me here.

So something, deep down inside me, continued pushing forward, looking for truth about myself and life, taking challenges on board as lessons, and urging myself to move in directions that were good for me, even best for me, sometimes disregarding the advice of others.

I have to say that reflecting upon that photo actually makes me feel quite proud. I didn’t get the easiest start in life, and there have been many challenges in my journey just like most others.

We are put to the test in our time of trial and also in our times of success. Who we choose to be and remain to be no matter what life throws at us is really the thing that defines us. The thing we have control over.

I once read that in order for a diamond to be formed they require incredibly high temperatures and pressure at depths more than 100km in the Earth’s mantle.

This allows them to develop particularly strong bonding between their atoms which in turn makes their surfaces incredibly hard and difficult for impurities to penetrate.

The word diamond is of Greek origin and means ‘unbreakable’. However, despite everything diamonds endure during that process in order to deserve that term, they are still vulnerable to impurity. There are very few diamonds who don’t have any impurities or flaws.

Which makes me think about us. Isn’t it true that in order to build strength, endurance, patience, and compassion we must undergo some challenging times in order to understand and possess those qualities?

Despite the pain we may feel in the process, I feel it is far better to be someone who has suffered pain and understands the importance of compassion than someone with a hard heart who has never had a struggle and is immune to other people’s pain and torment.

Likewise, I would prefer to be someone who has built strength through times of trial and is able to assist others who are going through the same, then to be someone who is weak and helpless when they finally meet challenge as we all inevitably do, and be unable to assist or understand their fellow human.

Just like a diamond, even when we endure all of that, and we think we have dealt with our challenges and it is our time to shine, we will always be vulnerable to the sneaky impurities waiting to penetrate our well built and hardy exterior. Therefore nothing will ever be perfect, but we have been formed to withstand what comes our way. We are strong and defined and ready.

There is one thing about the photo above that I found great comfort in, despite everything I have written here. That thing is that I really saw myself. As in, yes I have grown and developed and learned over the last four years. But that girl was still me – I am still the same person. Same style, same thoughts, same heart, same brain. A little older, a little wiser, a LOT stronger, but the same girl. And that really made me happy.

In order to develop, we do not need to change who we truly are at our core. When we are really in tune with who we are as a person, we don’t change ourselves, we grow into a better version of ourselves. We can remain true to ourselves whilst we improve.

And lastly, it made me realise one important point. That to Live is to Learn – it is automatic.

But to Grow … Well that is optional, it is our choice.

One Minute Of Motivation – For The Bright Stars

Most bright stars in our Milky Way Galaxy reside in a disk. Since our Sun also resides in this disk, these stars appear to us as a diffuse band that circles the sky.:

You … My Dear,

Are the brightest shining star in the sky.

Your effervescent glow lights up the world around you.

Ever lasting luminescence paves the way forward for you, and also for the others lucky enough to be afforded time in your presence.

You are the beacon of hope, strength and love.

You are magnificent.

Shine bright forever, never let the darkness of this world touch you, dim you, let alone consume you.

You are Light, You are Love, You are Everything.

 

 

One Minute Of Motivation

 

 

Be Still

 

 

Psalm 46:10~ "He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth.” | Meditation Quotes:

For anyone that usually follows my blog they will have noticed that I have been particularly quiet in regards to my writing and social media lately. Usually I post a lot, but lately I have been taking a little time for myself. I found this picture online the other day that summarised where I am at perfectly.

I think sometimes in order to know what direction to take next, a little peace and quiet, calm consideration, free from others opinions, thoughts and ideas can go a long way. Sometimes we just have a lot going on, in all areas of our life, and we feel like we are barely surviving, let alone thriving. Can you relate to that?

In order to manage our own life, we may occasionally (or often) feel the need to retreat. To focus on our own ‘stuff’. To manage everything on our own plate before we can make ourselves available to others. We might have to decline invitations to certain things, not be able to see the people we want to, “hermit” for a while in order to get through.

It is really hard to make solid life decisions when you are in the middle of chaos. Chaos breeds chaos, in an alarmingly snow ball effect kind of way. I find for myself when I really need to sort things out, the best way to do that is to have some quiet time.

To be still. Be still in my body, but most importantly in my thoughts. Clear my mind and seek answers to the many questions that are constantly catapulting around my overactive brain, causing uncertainty and stress and disharmony.

So, being Good Friday morning I have a little time to sit down and to write as I usually do – openly and honestly about my life. And this is it – I am taking some time to Be Still.

To stop and smell the roses, enjoy the company of my husband, give thanks for my wonderful life, the lessons I have learned in the last 12 months (Unwanted and difficult but lessons nonetheless) and ponder my next steps, for example where, and more importantly ‘who’ I want to be. Who I want to surround myself with, and where I would like my life to travel.

The only person who can decide all these things is me. So I have cut out all the white noise and I have taken a few great weeks to consider it.

A couple of words that have kept floating around in my head the last few weeks and re-surfacing time and time again are the following:

. Gratitude. A word that some would say is overused, particularly in the writing world, however a word that in my opinion can never be used too much. In my darkest of times I still have so much to be thankful for, and despite the fact that it might not change my circumstances; when I steadfastly hang onto this word it does help to change my perspective, which in times of trial is more powerful than given credit for.

. Truth. Only we can know our own truth in life, and sometimes that nagging feeling or that epically LOUD screaming voice inside of you telling you something, urging you or directing you, really deserves your attention.

Most importantly we should never let anyone else, try and tell us our own truth, convince us otherwise in regards to our feelings, or try and make suggestions about who we are, to question our character or integrity, when we know those accusations are false. Sometimes you need to just say ‘bye bye’ to the people who are hanging onto you, digging their heels in and trying to drag you down with them. Send them light and love and then point them in the direction they need to go.

. Destiny. Some people think this is BS. Some people believe you make your own fortune, fate, destiny whatever you want to call it. I agree with that to an extent, however my all-time favourite book by Paulo Coelho, the Alchemist suggests that every person here on this earth is given an opportunity to fulfil their amazing personal destiny and that when we want something the whole universe conspires to make that happen.

Yet most of us get scared, or caught up, or off track taking the sensible path, the easy path. We ignore the signs or omens that are put in front of us and we live a life that is vastly different from the one we had the ability to. This is always food for thought for me whenever it comes to big decisions.

. Forgiveness. There are a lot of people that come and go in our lives and a lot of situations that can be unpalatable. Betrayal sucks. People hurting us, using us or abusing us sucks. People not taking adequate care of our feelings sucks. People taking advantage of us for their personal gain sucks.

I have learned a hard lesson over the last 12 months that if you hang onto this bitterness, the anger, the hurt, and you allow it to fester, to grow and build and multiply itself (and it will) you will literally be your own undoing. It will destroy your good and beautiful soul from the inside out, day by day, hour by hour.

It will take hold of your light and strangle you until there is nothing left of you but an angry, bitter and twisted shell of your former self. Sound dramatic? It is true. The only way to truly be free is to genuinely let go of past hurts, to allow yourself the freedom of forgiveness, to fill your pot (as someone I know likes to call it) with all the goodness you hold, and that life holds for you.

Because if what you are putting into said pot is anger, bitterness, resentment, fear and hurt, that’s what will be coming out straight back at you and the people around you. There is no better feeling than freeing yourself, by forgiving others for their past wrong doing. If we are being honest with ourselves, it is a forgiveness that we would hope those around us would bestow upon us in return because none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.

Life is one big lesson and growing experience. We don’t actually get control over the amount of time we spend here, but we do get control over what we do with that time. That is certainly a blessing and something that I personally, am so very grateful for. (There is that word again).

So, to finish this off I will leave you from one of my many, many, favourite quotes from the Alchemist and wishing you a wonderful long weekend full of love, happiness and good people.

 

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” – The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo

What I Learnt From Marrying In Haste

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First things first, to fully get the context of this article, it may help to understand that I met my husband around 18 months ago today. To put things in perspective, we were engaged within less than 3 months from the day we met, and we got married before I had known him for a full year – just.

I wasn’t on a mission to get married and have babies (not that there is anything wrong with that) but I was certainly at a point of frustration in my life because “the one” I had always truly believed existed, had not yet appeared. The “wrong one” had become all too familiar.

So when I met the man who was to be my husband, I pretty much knew that after the first night I spoke to him. Why? How? Well because from the second I met him, he treated me like a queen. That first night, in a busy and noisy pub, he approached me on the dancefloor and held out his hand as an introduction.

He twirled me around once, and then told me his name. We talked for a long time. He wanted to know every little thing he possibly could about me. He bought me drinks. He bought my sister drinks.

At one point, I left my phone with him and went off to the bathroom to give my sister the run-down on this lovely, random guy. We were gone for about half an hour. When we made our way back downstairs, there he was, standing at the bottom of them right where we had left him, smiling and holding out my phone. Not at the bar, not talking to another girl, not halfway home with my IPhone in his pocket, not annoyed that we had disappeared. Patiently waiting for me.

I let him drive me home. When we got into my driveway, he took my phone and put his name and number in it, and then called his own number from my phone, so that he definitely had mine. I knew his intentions were serious. He wanted to see me the next night.

I felt like I had known him a thousand years, and he made my stomach do little flips, he made me feel safe, and after our first date, I knew I wanted to marry him. Because it was different from anything else I had experienced. It is all summed up in my article “How Will I know if He Really Loves Me?” which you can read here.

So, on the evening of his 30th Birthday, when we were out in Melbourne for dinner, he pulled out a beautiful ring and proposed. I was taken aback, but very sure of the answer – YES. He was surprised at my surprise – he said “I always tell you the day I meet you is the first day of my life, so of course I gonna ask you to be my wife on my birthday.” (Please bear in mind he has limited English when reading that sentence, as I have written it exactly as he said the words.)

So, we made plans to get hitched, and quickly. We chose 9 months from our date of our engagement to be the weekend of our wedding. Everyone in my life had a bit of a meltdown. “Are you pregnant?” “Is he just using you for a visa?” “What is the rush?”

We used to say to each other all the time that we already felt like we were married. I thought of him as my husband and he thought of me as his wife so why wait? We didn’t look at it from a perspective of it being terribly romantic, and spontaneous to get married so quickly, it just felt right.

Now that I reflect on it, I have learned a lot about what getting married quickly means and how it changes the dynamic of a couple (more specifically how it changed the dynamic of ‘us’). Because it was such a hot topic of conversation for everyone in our lives, I thought I might share the things that transpired and that I learned throughout the process.

“I do”

We said traditional vows, because I love the timelessness of them. I have always loved the romance of tradition, despite not always following it myself and to me it felt right for us to do that. I have seen a lot of weddings where the couples write their own vows, they often include personalised, quirky things based on their previous experience of the other person and things that they like/don’t like.

Despite wanting to be traditional, I don’t know that we would have had the capacity to write our own unique and individual vows anyway. We didn’t know enough about our dynamic as a couple to understand what may be important/annoying/appreciated in the future by the other person because we were still in the ‘honeymoon stage.’

We were still very much learning what made the other person tick, and what didn’t. We were undoubtedly in love, we were committed, we were sure, but we didn’t have that same level of comfort that people who have been together for 5 years before getting married might have. In all honesty, we were still getting to know each other. Some people might consider that reckless, but for us it just was what it was.

Significant Arguments

One of the things I have learned about us in the last 18 months is that we, like every couple, argue. Maybe we argue more than most, I am not sure. We are different people from very different cultural and religious backgrounds (read more about my life being married to a Muslim here) and we have had some blow ups of epic proportions over the last 18 months as we have tried to navigate our lives together as a team.

I think combining two lives into one is generally speaking difficult enough, but when you add different religions, different cultures, different languages into the mix, a huge amount of groundwork goes into laying a solid, mutually satisfying foundation.

Our first massive argument was a month before the wedding on the night of our bucks and hens party. (Original, I know). My husband to be didn’t even know what a bucks party was nor did he really want one, he would have been happy to go to a middle eastern restaurant and smoke some shisha.

However, we are in Australia and a bucks night is kind of a rite of passage. A number of my Aussie male friends graciously offered to take my fiancé out on the night of my hens party as they didn’t want him to be left alone on his own.

Now, what I learnt from that night (from both of our perspectives) is that when you have spent 11 months getting to know someone and you are one month out from marrying them and things happen unexpectedly that totally blindside you, it creates a massive amount of stress, anxiety and panic. The question “Do I really even know who I am marrying?!” Is not one you really want to be answering four weeks before your big day.

To be more specific, in our circumstances, my fiancé was treated to a very “Aussie” bucks night out. In fact, by regular standards, it would be considered incredibly tame and boring. But for me, based on our past discussions and my expectation of what would and wouldn’t happen and what he had told me to expect were just different from how the night panned out.

He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just under pressure to make quick decisions and try and fit in, and I don’t think either of us was prepared for what life had in store for us that night. Call us prudish, but traditional hens and bucks nights just aren’t really our thing.

So we had a huge fight that lasted for DAYS. Realistically, it wasn’t a fight about the bucks night, or anything that transpired, it was a fight about our values. Our expectations of each other.  And who we were separately and as a couple. And trust. There were communication break downs, peer pressure and a lack of cultural understanding that all combined created what seemed to be a raging disaster, between both myself and him, then consequently myself and my friends, that ideally wouldn’t have happened, and not right before our big day.

Had he and I been together for 3 years, and had the time to build that foundation of trust solidly before the events, it would have been no biggie whatsoever. But because we hadn’t, it threw both of us, and it really challenged our relationship momentarily. However, I did acknowledge at the time and I still do today, that this is a product of marrying someone you are still getting to know – it is one big whirlwind.

Conflict Resolution

To continue the point above, people have and develop their own conflict resolution styles over the span of their lives. They can be influenced and shaped by family dynamics, personality types and previous relationships or in some cases like ours, in response to past trauma.

Neither of us has had an easy upbringing (something that actually gives us a lot of understanding towards each other) but we have developed coping mechanisms to deal with that trauma that actually make it quite difficult for us to resolve our conflicts effectively.  We have opposite reactions to arguments.

Therefore, the first year of disagreements were a lot more drawn out and dramatic than they actually needed to be. As time goes on, we stop seeing every conflict as the end of the world, or a trigger for abandonment issues and we have developed a much healthier strategy to resolve them.

This is something that for us that could only have happened with time. Time allows understanding, trust and strength to flourish.

Friendship

For me, my husband is not only my love, my rock and my safety net, but he is also my best friend. People say that all the time, and I believe a strong relationship, a successful marriage is founded on a great friendship.

It takes work to make a friendship great. Just like a marriage. Consideration, quality time, understanding, compassion, compromise, an ability to listen, learn and grow all come into it.

But in addition to all of that, there is no one I prefer to hang out with, whether it be kicking around relaxing, going to a function, or out on the town, than my hubby. Because he is my bestie, and I am lucky I get to live with and see my best friend every single day.

Growing Together

No matter how much you know about yourself, or how great at life you are, how proudly independent, functional, successful you are, living with someone, being committed to someone for LIFE will teach you so much more.

At least it has for me. It is another level of understanding yourself. How you function and participate in a team, how you trust or don’t trust, how you cope sharing, your ability to let go, to forgive and to overcome insecurities.

The thing about marriage is, you have nowhere to hide. All of you deep seated self-consciousness, fears, inabilities, your inner most behaviours and even thoughts, suddenly aren’t so secret anymore.

There is nowhere to hide that stuff. It is going to come out at some stage, and you will have to face it (please refer back to section about bucks party). I have learnt more about myself with my husband, then I ever did whilst I was single and exploring life independently.

I had to face some serious emotional demons. Things that had been pushed away, back into the corner of a dark, deep part of myself where I hoped they could remain forever. It is scary, it is confronting. When you marry someone quickly, you don’t have time to prepare yourself for all that. You just have to roll with the punches, face everything as it comes and deal with it.

The great thing about it is though, if your other half truly loves you for everything that you are (including the parts that you wish you could change) there is someone standing beside you, to help you examine all the pieces, pick them up, and put them all together again, hopefully in the right order, and leaving a few permanently behind. You grow and learn together.

Life is not certain. I know people who got married weeks after they met and are still together 20 years later. I know people who have been together for 10 great years, gotten married and then 12 months later filed for divorce. Every circumstance and every person and couple behind it, is different and should be treated and respected as such. The rewards come with risk – that’s life. And “Happily ever after” was something I was prepared to take a risk on.

Moving on from the things I have learned, the lessons that I got whether I wanted them or not, these are the reasons why I married my husband in haste… Because I love him, and I knew I loved him from the second I met him.

Because I knew it was right, and I didn’t want to wait, so I didn’t – simple. Whilst understanding the concern from my friends and family (totally got it) I had made up my mind and no one, no argument, no begging, pleading or crying, was going to talk me out of marrying the love of my life on the day that I had chosen. I had waited my whole life to be his wife, and I wasn’t going to waste another second.

And lastly, because at 27 years old (still young admittedly) I had plenty of life experience behind me, to know that this was my human, and this was my time. I one hundred percent stand by my decision to do things my way, in the timeframe that I wanted to.

It may be one hell of a roller coaster, but it is my roller coaster. Our Roller Coaster. Our life, our journey. And for every bad time, sad time and argument he and I have had, we have grown stronger, but more importantly, there are 100 good, great, beautiful and memorable moments to match them. And they are odds that I can live with.

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The Two Wolves

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I certainly cannot take credit for this one, but after encountering this tale many times in life, I have never forgotten these words.

Some days I need to remember this more than others. Every day is an opportunity to feed the good wolf, to grow, live, love learn and explore.

Every day is also an opportunity to do the opposite. But what a waste of the precious few days that we have.

Sometimes the struggle we go through seems never ending, the days seem dark and long, we feel weary, and worn.

That is life.

We need to live for the better days, the bright, sunny, joy filled days. We owe it to ourselves to fight the grey clouds hovering above, to patiently wait for a glimmer of the sunlight peeking through them, a sign that better times are coming.

Nothing lasts forever. Celebrate love, joy, peace and freedom.

Feed the white wolf, the good wolf. The alternative is not really an alternative at all.

 

 

 

 

One Minute of Motivation – The Lone Wolf

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Sometimes in life, destiny shifts the direction of our path so that we are not a part of a pack but rather running solo. There are battles in life that require skills, knowledge, truths and an internal fire that only you possess.

On these occasions you have to fight the war on your own. Some of us are naturally inclined to roam free endlessly and are not daunted by this task. For those of us that don’t fit that mould know this – you are the only one who truly knows and understands you. It may be that  your higher purpose in life requires the solitude that you are experiencing.

No distractions, a sense of peace, a moment to breathe, time to prepare. When you are surrounded by love and good intentions, yet none of them can help you, know that this is a test only you can pass. A burden which only you have the strength to carry. No one can save you but yourself.

Only you know the rhythm of your own heartbeat, the intimacy of your own thoughts, the intricacies of your perfectly unique soul. You are not alone, rather you are free. Free to rise. Free to conquer.

Free to fulfil your fate in a way others would only dream of. If the challenge set before you is one only you can face, if no one else can answer the questions asked of you, then know that they have been sent to you because you are the only one who can bring victory upon this. The strongest soldiers face the hardest battles. So you are strong. You are true. You are worthy of the challenge.

You can find more info on, and the purpose behind ‘one minute of motivation’ here

Living With Bi-Polar Affective Disorder

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This is the story of a very special friend of mine.

This friend, is someone I met at university, and have grown to become very close with and fond of over the years. When I met her, my first impression of her was that she was a little eccentric, but in a good way. She was fun loving, stunning, hilarious, and to be honest, a little intimidating. Not because she was trying to be, but just because she was so gorgeous, and full of life, welcoming and warm that I felt small compared to her.

She will probably be surprised to read that I felt that way about her, I am not sure if she sees herself clearly, or maybe she feels like that person is a distant memory after the events of the last few years.

Today, I would add another word to the list of adjectives I would use to describe her. The word is strong. And another one – triumphant. And maybe, lastly, I would like to say the word proud. Because I am proud of her, but mostly because I think she should be proud of herself. She has shown immense bravery during a period that has been challenging, scary, confronting and most of all completely foreign to her.

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A year ago, my friend Carissa was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Affective Disorder. The reason that we sat down to discuss her journey and struggle with her mental illness is because at times she has felt very alone, and misunderstood, and we hoped that if we could shed some light on her disorder, other people may have more understanding.

One thing I know about Carissa’s life, is that it is not easy. I know that she often feels like she is failing because things haven’t gone the way she expected them to. I have watched her pain and turmoil, witnessed the good and bad phases and I am just so in awe of the fact that she has continued to push forward, grow, learn and succeed in her perserverance despite everything she has been through.

Acceptance and understanding of mental illness is highly publicised at the moment, and there is a push for more openness and honesty around the issue. So Carissa explained to me exactly what the last ten years of her life have been like, from her initial suspicions that she may have some underlying mental illness, to her diagnosis and her ongoing  management.

She has grappled with coming to terms with the illness, what that means for her life, how it is possible to maintain friendships and family relationships, and working toward stabilising her life and moving forward in pursuit of her dreams.

I have re-written our discussion here, in full, and with her permission.

Carissa describes herself as someone who loves to have fun, laugh, and enjoy life. She also gets great joy out of her creative pursuits, and has a strong head for business. She has always had a desire to collaborate with like-minded people to create business strategies that are a little different from the mould, and has always visualised her future self as a successful business owner and entrepreneur.

She is intelligent, and witty and when she embarked on a move to the Sunshine Coast for University when she was 17, the future looked very bright.

She is 28 now, and in the past 11 years, Carissa noticed a gradual shift in her moods and her mental state. In the last five years, she has been hospitalised for periods of a week to twelve days on three occasions. Bi-Polar is defined as the recurrent experience of episodes of mood swings, which result in severe changes in mood and behaviour.

These mood swings can span from elevated and irritable mania or ‘highs’ to sad, hopeless and depressed (lows).

The frequency, intensity and length of these episodes, not to mention the recovery period for each (Carissa concedes it takes six months for her to get back into stabilised moods after either of the above) can make living what most would consider a “normal” life impossible.

For Carissa, she has worked out that she has been working through two yearly cycles – every two years she has found herself in a manic phase that once stabilised, has taken her six months of considerable work to come out the other side of.

Each time she has been hospitalised during a high, she has been able to pin point the trigger for a ‘manic episode’. She has little recollection of those periods because as she describes, she has felt like she is not present in her own mind during that time.

She first noticed a change in her mood when she was 17. She moved out of home and enrolled in university at the Sunshine Coast. She found the change in environment somewhat challenging despite being popular amongst the students and those she shared accommodation with. She felt herself becoming depressed and would find it hard to get out of bed, lacked motivation and had little desire to participate in activities or her studies.

She was diagnosed at this time with depression.

She met a boyfriend there, who at the time she felt was absolutely the love of her life. During what was a hard time for her, she describes him as ‘her rock.’ Her stability in a life that had been destabilised. She was heavily emotionally dependant on him. After a couple of years of dating, she was devastated and shocked when he came to her one day and confided in her that he no longer felt he could continue the relationship. He was very upset as she describes it, and she distinctly remembers the moment when he broke down in tears and told her that ‘he felt like he always had to look after her.’

She hadn’t considered that her dependency and change in moods had been impacting him so badly. Utterly heartbroken, she found it very difficult to move forward from this point in her life. She had lost her best friend, her safety net, her love and her rock. She also felt like she had lost her identity as who she was had been very much attached to the relationship in what felt like an unfamiliar environment.

She did her best to move forward and completed her degree. Moving back to Brisbane, she managed to secure a job within a large firm in the industry of education, as an education consultant. It was a high pressure environment, and the constant demand for meeting targets and expectations were wearing her down. Determined to fulfil her dream of success in business she persevered, until one day she broke down in her car both physically and mentally, and found herself being taken to hospital by a friend. She felt at this point that she was just stressed, tired and under pressure.

She recovered quickly and went back to the job. Her friend’s wedding in Hawaii was looming, and she very much wanted to be there. Most of her friends had committed to going, and she booked her tickets and started to plan what would be the holiday of a lifetime. The excitement and emotions began running high, and whilst she doesn’t have much recollection of what happened next, she found herself hospitalised for a week, after experiencing her first manic episode.

She never made it to Hawaii.

There was no diagnosis at this point, although she was prescribed medication and her family were struggling to understand what was happening. Her life seemed to be shrouded in chaos and she made a decision to remove herself from her current environment and try to start afresh.

She moved to Canberra to stay with her sister, and managed to get another job there. Within twelve months, she had found herself in the same position, in the midst of a manic episode, and hospitalised again.

The third and last time, a year ago, doctors informed her that taking everything into consideration, they were satisfied that she had Bi-Polar and an official diagnosis was given. At first she found it difficult to believe that this could be true. She was concerned with whether people would accept her condition. She started to research the disorder and found familiarity in a lot of the symptoms and behaviours that she read about.

Each of the hospitalisations or manic periods were triggered by work stress and friends weddings which enabled her to understand the patterns of emotions, internal and external pressures and expectation that seemed to be the starting point. During each and every one she kept a diary, which upon reflection showed patterns of behaviour and thoughts.

She recalls the trauma of being in hospital each time explaining to me that it is the worst feeling in the world. The first few days she was not really conscious of her surroundings, but once she started to realise where she was, her stomach sank. She attempted and succeeded in escape on one occasion, finding herself walking a great distance in the middle of the night, confused and dazed but not wanting to go back to the psychiatric ward she had been assigned. She finds being in hospital surrounded by other patients with mental illness to be very confronting and intense.

One of the hardest things that  Carissa deals with is that she feels a complete lack of control over her behaviour and actions in a manic phase. In her most recent hospitalisation, she found herself walking with one shoe on and a bag of non-essential items to the nearest train station in an attempt to get to a friend’s wedding in Byron Bay. She was confronted by police at her first stop, unsure of whether she had any money or phone, and only a few of her belongings left on her person (the rest had been lost and discarded along the way).

She tells me that her greatest regret, is the friendships she has lost during this ten year journey, because due to incidents of erratic behaviour or aggression, people have conceded her too difficult to be friends with. She understands their reaction, takes ownership for what has happened and wishes she could take things back. In her opinion, sometimes things are just not recoverable.

She is constantly looking at and trying new ways to improve her quality of life and manage her condition.

She is fortunate to have a group of supportive friends, who are understanding of her circumstances and available to catch up, talk, or visit her in hospital where needed. She concedes that not everyone with mental illness has the same support and tragically people take their own lives out of a sense of hopelessness and despair .

Whilst she has dated briefly over the years, she is yet to find another partner that she feels the same connection with that she did when she was at university, however she remains very optimistic that it lies somewhere in her future. She explained to me that given the nature of her disorder, it has completely consumed her life, her energy and her time in the last five years and she has grappled with finding a sense of stability amongst all the chaos. She feels that she is “owned” by her Bi-polar, and she is working on taking back her ownership of her life, and finding a sense of harmony with her illness.

She says it is hard not to sink into a depression when you are coming to terms with such a serious diagnosis, and that at times she has wondered if there is something wrong with her, that makes her different from other people. She explained to me that growing up and in adolescence,  she was always a bit different and that people described her as “one of a kind” which she now puts down to the fact that she had a mental illness no one knew about.

She also finds it difficult that she has not been able to successfully work for some time, which makes her feel that her life is lacking in purpose but she knows that in time, that will be able to change.

She appreciates the support of her family, who have weathered the storms with her, shared in her confusion and pain, and now, relief, that they have a formal diagnosis which gives them more understanding and clarity of both her as a person, and her behaviour and struggles over the years.

When I asked her where she has found the most peace and solace, she said it was within her art. She is a painter and has found that to be a great form of personal therapy.
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He dream would be to open an art studio with a café or florist inside, and to assist other people with her same condition given the opportunity. You can find her collection of art on Instagram under RissocoDesigns, and she finds inspiration from other artists and every day events and objects.

She works with a social worker once a week and has a prescribed psychiatrist who are helping her to actively manage her illness.

She explained to me that her first port of call when she suspected something wasn’t right was Beyond Blue (details found here) and that talking with them initially helped her and gave her hope. More recently she has joined a mental illness fellowship (MIFQ) details here, where she has made some great friends and enjoys doing art classes there weekly.

When asked what her one piece of advice would be for anyone who suspects they may have Bi-Polar or mental illness, or who has been diagnosed and is coming to terms with it is that everyone experiences mental illness differently. She recommends that having a good GP that can monitor your history and advise and look after you is important as she feels that chopping and changing GP’s every time things got challenging set her back. She also now realises that every time she had a bad episode she made the decision to move away which was essentially running away from her problems, and has hindered her progress.

1 in 100 people suffer from her disorder but it doesn’t affect two people in the exact same way in her opinion. She also encourages people to reach out. She feels that for herself, she has found people in society, her friends and her family to be understanding and accepting of her illness, just sometimes a little unsure as to how to approach it.

It has been a steep learning curve for everyone in her life, but she feels that she has a good support system to work with and has hope for a wonderful future.

From an outsiders perspective, I say again that I am really proud of the person that Carissa is and has always been. She is incredibly caring, kind hearted and loving. Watching a friend go through something as debilitating as Bi-Polar, I can say that at times I have felt like I ‘lost my friend’ because things change, and you wonder if you will get back to the point you were at. However, we have had so much fun over the years, and we still do.

When recounting some of the memories of the past years during our interview, I was pleased to see that we both had a sense of humour about some of the more erratic moments. We were able to laugh together, and cry together which I think keeps everything firmly planted in reality.

We don’t always have a choice in the cards we are dealt – this is one of these occasions. I think the fact that Carissa has handled what she was dealt with such a brilliant attitude is testimony to who she is and something that deserves applause.

She still feels unsure as to how people will interpret her condition, and suffers from social anxiety sometimes. She explained to me that during her low periods, going out and socialising is completely off the cards, rather she withdraws into herself and she has endured periods of months at a time where she has been unable to brush her teeth or her hair, or get dressed on her own. She knows that people around her find it difficult to comprehend that she is not capable of such menial tasks especially given that when her mood is stabilised, in contrast she is a very vibrant and capable young woman.

Her strategy for managing her illness is to take things slowly – one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. She still has hopes and dreams, but she tries to stay in the present moment and stay focused on her day to day awareness and health, as getting obsessed with future plans has proven to be a catalyst for manic episodes.

Most of all, she wants people to understand that mental illness affects lots of different people in different ways. You can’t categorise everyone with the same title or make generalisations or assumptions. She believes that more understanding and less judgement is always the best way to approach anyone who may be suffering from a similar disorder.

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Details for Beyond Blue – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Details for MIFQ -http://www.mifq.org.au/

 

Living Dangerously AKA Living in The Past

 

 

 

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I’ve had a real “Aha” moment in the last week. Seeing as it has taken me 28 good years of living to get to this moment of understanding, I felt compelled to share it with you.

The thing is, the “Aha” moment would not have happened if not for some turbulence in my relationship with my husband. Despite our occasional quarrels, we actually have a very good relationship, and our day to day life together is pretty easy going. We live very well together.  We are happy in our own company and also in each other’s. There are never arguments over small things like what to watch on TV, or getting annoyed because someone forgot to hang their towel up, or what we are having for dinner, or one of us not making an effort. We contribute equally and we are both quite relaxed.

I also put that down to a very high level of mutual respect. However, one of the things about being newlyweds who have only been together for what most would consider a ‘short’ period, is learning how to navigate arguments.

It’s been a challenge, we have had some big discussions, tears have been shed, and tantrums have been thrown. If you are familiar with my writing, I am the first to say that nothing in life is “perfect” and our relationship is not exempt from that rule.

Bless my family and friends who have been witness to, heard about or supported us through this roller coaster ride. It’s not easy. But what these disagreements have come down to each time, is us trying to assert our boundaries within our real word relationship (not the completely love at first sight, head over heels relationship that we also have enjoyed since the second we met) and learn to understand the other person’s conflict resolution style.

Real life has challenges, it has stressors and it has genuine impact on our day to day happiness and state of mind. People say it shouldn’t, but I haven’t mastered the art of being immune to anything outside my personal life while living inside my personal life at the same time. I am a human being, not a robot. We can’t live in our little bubble of happiness alone forever as much as I would like to.

Reality ultimately sets in, and we have to try and understand that each and every small thing the other says differently than normal, or the bad mood they come home in, the silence or the snappy response (that one mostly from me) actually may not have anything to do with us, or the relationship, and everything to do with outside influence.

So, in short, we are learning about each-other, but, we are already married. It is an interesting dynamic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love him and I love our story.

However, what I have been grappling with of late, is not letting things from the past become entwined in our present. Ie past arguments between us, or past experiences that have shaped our emotional response to certain situations. People talk about it ALL the time. Live in the moment, be present etc.

It has taken me until now to really, fully grasp why those mantras aren’t just one liners plastered on all sorts of cards, memes and inspirational quote type websites. The message behind them is so, incredibly relevant and important.

Because, you see, I found myself regressing into past hurts, past experiences and past arguments every time I was faced with any kind of emotional challenge or confrontation. I was always defensive, always waiting for the second that he would let me down or hurt me like I was hurt in the past.

I had good reason to be prepared like that, because my life experience has taught me to be that way. I had come out the other side of a number of quite traumatic experiences (as have many others) and it was perfectly natural that I had built up self defence mechanisms in order to get by. Survival mode kicks in.

Any person wanting to live closely with me would have a 3000m high wall to scale, before they would really be able to feel completely trusted by me. It’s pretty sad but it is true. I am not suggesting that my pain or experiences are worse or better than others, they just are what they are, and I had been let down in the past. Not just by a romantic interest, but by people in my life whom I should have been able to trust and rely on.

So, over the last few months there have been times where I have been almost emotionally punishing my husband for things he has no control over and really had little to do with him.

In trying to completely open my heart and welcome long overdue love and trust in, I had found some corners of it that remained dark and a little bitter. I had thought I was ok, but I now realised that I wasn’t completely healed and that if I didn’t act quickly, I might lose everything that mattered so much to me. If I couldn’t get a handle on this self destructive behaviour I would continue to hurt the person I love the most which is an unbeareable thought on it’s own, but I was also hurting myself.

So I had some work to do. Because I sure as hell was not going to allow myself to drive away the most important thing and person in my life, my soulmate and a love I felt like I had been waiting a long time for. And as a wife, that is not who I intended to be either. Bitter and twisted is certainly not part of the dream.

I had to sort some things out.

So I did a little self-analysation, soul searching and the like. I spent a lot of time talking to people who know me well, and I spoke to an amazing psychologist who identified some of the triggers that were the catalyst for my negative coping mechanisms.

Whatever you need to do, in order to grow, understand yourself and see life more clearly, in order to heal, that is your decision, and your business, and you should not be ashamed of that.

We all need a little guidance and help from time to time.

I started to recognise what was happening, and gain some much needed understanding.

Then, last night it all came to a head.

I had a minor disagreement about something very small and insignificant with my husband. We didn’t talk about it, and after he went to bed I sat there and thought of all the reasons why I shouldn’t just let it go.

Because one time he said this, or because this has come up a couple of times and I don’t like it, or because if I let this go now, it will continue to happen and he won’t change, or I can’t let him think it’s ok for him to say that because he has done it in the past and I’m going to hang onto that.

And it occurred to me, like a light bulb went off in my brain, that I was allowing past arguments to dictate to me that I should hang onto my anger over this tiny, irrelevant issue. I was allowing my past to prevent me from being happy and grateful in that moment that I have a wonderful husband. That I am so lucky that I found the love that I never believed existed. As for wanting him to change – firstly that is not realistic and secondly why on earth would I want to change the most amazing person I have ever met?

Someone recently told me that the past is the past, it’s done. It actually has no control over our present except the control that we give it. It has no power over us other than the power we choose to give away. It’s really not easy to grasp this and to allow yourself to enjoy the present in all it’s glory because a lot of us are programmed to live either in the past or in the future.

Whether it is dreaming of what is to come, or worrying about what may or may not happen, or feeling regretful of past decisions, or actions, we are still not living in the present. It may be that we are looking back on past times with such fondness, wishing we were still enjoying those moments, that we are not enabling ourselves to fully enjoy and embrace this current moment.

So rather than tally in my mind all the times he has upset me, or things he has said that I didn’t like (whether he meant any offence or not) I chose to look at the present moment. And everything he has done right.The present moment was good. We were healthy and we were happy. We were in love, and had the tiniest difference of opinion which makes us individuals. If my expectation in my marriage was to agree on every single thing in life then I had already set myself up for failure.

So, instead, I looked at my husband and I was grateful that I was lucky enough to be married to such a wonderful man. Instead of judging him on that tiny little thing, I chose to see him for the person that I know he is. It may not sound like much, but for me, it was a huge paradigm shift.

All the anger, sadness and bitterness kind of evaporated, and instead I felt in control, calm and content. Because I felt peace in my heart.

I realised how close I was to letting things that have already happened and don’t actually matter at all in this present moment, almost poison and destroy my life, my happiness, potentially my marriage and most obviously, my present moment. It takes courage to make the decision to move forward and stay present when it is so much easier to stay stuck in what has already happened or focus on what could be coming.

Living in the past, is living dangerously. Because by choosing to let the past control your present and as a result your future, you are actually gambling with every wonderful thing that you have right now. Could you handle the loss of what is currently at stake? For me, the answer was a resounding no.

So I had to make a change.

And I am sure there will be no regrets. I can’t say I will be perfect, I am sure there are more mistakes forecast in my future, but I can say it is quite a wonderful feeling, when you choose to take control of your own happiness, and enjoy your current blessings. It feels good.

One Minute of Motivation – Change

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It’s funny how people say the only constant in life is change and yet so many of us are particularly adverse to it. It is really easy to be completely content in the warmth and cocoon of your own comfort zone, particularly when you happen to catch that often fleeting moment of thinking things are perfect just as they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how, alternatively, when things are completely out of control, almost disastrous and nothing seems to be going right, it can take us until we hit rock bottom to actually make a change and do something about it.

Why wait? What have we got to lose. The truth is this – nothing in life stays the same. We age, we grow, we mature. Friends come and they leave. Businesses thrive and fail. Ideas can be a fleeting moment or we can act on them and make them a great triumph.

Life is not stagnant and nothing lasts forever. We mourn those people and times that have passed. The memories of fonder times, with people we can no longer celebrate our life with.

Change is frightening, yet we are all united in it, because we all experience it. Change also brings with it opportunity, endless possibilities and can be the catalyst to propel us into our next and greatest adventure. Every success in your life, every moment of joy and happiness, has been inspired and preceded by some form of change.

So rather than fear it, let’s embrace it. Welcome it, and give it every little bit of energy, drive and positivity that we have. Let’s get behind it, and allow it to lead us forward into the greatness that is our unknown future.

Change is inevitable, but how we choose to harness it is within our control.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Think Different, Apple

You can find more info on, and the purpose behind ‘one minute of motivation’ here

 

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One Minute of Motivation – For the People in Dark Places

Inspirational Quotes To Get You Through The Week (February 4, 2014):

This one is for the people in dark places. There are so many of us that know and feel your pain even if we can’t directly relate to your personal difficulty. Whether your struggle is just one day, a year or seems like a lifetime, every minute that passes, every hour and every day is moving you closer to a time where things will be easier.

I would dearly love to specify each and every heartache, and every trouble and it’s possible answers, but the truth is that every struggle, search and journey is as individual as the person behind it.

They say the darkest hour is before the dawn so when you arrive at the place where you feel like you can no longer go on, you can rest assured that better days are coming. Most of the time these things don’t last forever.

 Everyone has good days, weeks and years. Yet many of us know the pain of the opposite. Often-time the hardest thing to do in times of trouble is to reach out, and stay connected but it can also be the best thing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the journey, the path to the light can be made one tiny step a time, most importantly we must keep moving forward. Time can be the healer of most things but remain kind towards yourself. Someone special once told me that everything is just ‘one moment in time’ and I have held those words close to my heart since. They stand me in good stead each and every day.

We all have a purpose and a reason for being here. It is often our dark times that propel us into our greatest triumphs. Stay strong and know that you are not alone, that you matter very much, and that you are loved.

You can find more info on, and the purpose behind ‘one minute of motivation’ here.

 

 

 

 

 

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