Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

Give Yourself A Present

This post first appeared on Health Minds Canada’s website:


Next weekend is “the most wonderful time of the year” according to a famed Christmas song. Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. The “Holidays”, Winter Break, you know, that time of year, the part that’s supposed to be full of giving and cheer?

Why don’t I feel cheerful? I hate this time of year. It’s awkward when people wish me “Happy Holidays” and I am thinking “what’s happy”, because I don’t know anymore. Last blog I said I want to believe that everything is going to be fine. I do. But there is a difference between fine and happy. Fine means I can function and get through the day; fine can be my baseline.

I have mentioned this prolonged mixed state I am in a few times before, and this mixed state has also involved some rapid cycling. I am stuck in this loop of moods and emotions and feelings. I had a moment at work last week where I thought I was going to bawl my eyes out if anyone talked to me and I felt myself tear up and had to start drinking water and immediately put on my “Feel Better Mix” to calm down. Not long after I was anxious, then I was having these thoughts where I question everything, i.e. “Am I where I am supposed to be in life”, those type of thoughts. After having lunch out of the office, I was fine, and my mood changed to a more elated one, and by the time I got home and saw my husband, I was in a hypomanic, very hard to calm down state. I  couldn’t stop talking. I couldn’t eat dinner. I had all these ideas and the thoughts and words could not get out of my head.

Why do I hate this time of year? To be honest, a few years ago, I was in a terrible state of mind at this time, having just left a job where things had turned sour and I felt lost (I hadn’t yet started my current job), I was in one of my most painful depressive states and I felt like I didn’t want to be here. I was not fine. I was not anywhere close to fine. I don’t know how I got through it, but I did (because the best way out is always through as I mentioned in my previous post).

My anxiety seems to take over my memory and makes me remember how I felt then, or tries to make me remember. I will became anxious and wonder why, and then remember the time of year and try to remind myself that I am in a better environment now, things are different now, but nope, anxiety takes on a life of its own. It makes me feel sensations I don’t want to feel and takes away my qualify of life. I want to reign it in. I deserve better than this. I try to think about all the things I have been able to do in spite of/despite having anxiety, how panic attacks pass and how I know how to get through them.

I saw a quote the other week that I really like:

“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” – Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks

A present doesn’t have to be something material; it can be anything. Maybe your favourite episode of a show you really like is on and you let yourself watch it. Maybe you allow yourself time to read and enjoy a book. Maybe you allow yourself some down time to relax however you want. Something that is just for you.

So what could a daily present be? Today, I gave myself the present of being able to focus. I was able to focus so I can write this blog post. I was also able to do laundry, fold the clothes, hang them up, put them away (which usually doesn’t happen). I was able to cook this afternoon to get ahead for the week (also a rarity). I have given myself a present, because being able to focus gives me hope that my brain and mind are trying to calm down, and are not letting anxiety rule.

Tomorrow, the day after, the day after that? I have no idea what I will give myself. I’ll just let it happen.

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Everything’s Gonna Be Fine

I love inspirational quotes, particularly the one above. I’m sure many of us have heard the saying, “This too shall pass”, which is what Robert Frost’s quote reminds me of. I know when I am experiencing something unpleasant, or going through a long depressive spell or, as I am currently, an extended mixed state. I have to believe that it will end. That there is a way out.

Every challenge is a stepping stone, is a notch on the belt, is something that makes me stronger and is a lesson learned. To get out, I must go through. I won’t just be passing by, I have to have the full experience, as unpleasant or painful as it may be.

I was watching season 3 of Transparent last week, and the season finale really touched me. The final minutes of the show, one of the characters, Shelly, performs her one woman show, “To Shell and Back” and she sings Alanis Morrissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” as a metaphor for what she has been through and how she feels. Prior to this scene, the family had been having a makeshift Passover seder, and one of the characters said they should open up about what they feel enslaved by. Shelly does not share, but she tells her family, essentially if they want to know how she feels, to come see her perform.

I always tell my husband/family/friends that if they (or anyone) wants to know how I am, then read my blogs. Sometimes it’s easier to express myself this way, even if it is a very public way to do so. When the words appear on the page and the thoughts are out of my head, I feel freer.

Shelly’s performance was liberating for her, and was her catharsis. If you read the lyrics to “Hand In My Pocket”, you will see how they can be comforting to so many people.

You can get a sense of this from the first and last verses:

I’m broke but I’m happy, I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded, I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

And what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano

These lyrics speak to me because even if I feel lost, and I don’t have it figured out, who does? Who has the answer to everything? I know it’s trite to say “have hope”, but let yourself believe (if you want to), that everything’s going to be fine. Fine- not perfect, not great. But that’s okay. Fine is a more realistic expectation. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, find your own baseline.

William Wordsworth said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”, so that’s why I do this. No matter how I am feeling when I write, I am breathing my feelings into my blogs and putting my real self out there, whether I am fine, whether I am not.