The year that was!

The year that was!

Towards the end of every year I usually like to reflect and then write a list of a million things I could have done better in hopes that maybe ‘one day’ I will accomplish what I want to do. Basically a pity party of ‘I could have done better’.

Only now I realised that this year has been different. Like really different. In a matter of 12 months, I conquered more than I have in my whole 28 years of existence. You see, when you are bound by fear, you let it blind you of any vision. You can’t see past the next 24 hours or the next hour depending on what kind of day you’re having. My life leading up to now has been a chaotic mind mess EVEN as a Christian.

Thankfully last year I decided that 2016 was going to be my year. I still don’t really know what that means but I know I kicked butt.

First off, I do not encourage everyone to do this without your doctors advice and guidance and in saying that, I stopped taking anti-depressants for my anxiety. YES! A big deal. A very risky deal and I do not encourage anyone to do this without doctors guidance. I am FOR anti-depressants as they helped me cope for the season I needed them. It was a long and painful journey for me to even find the one that worked well but I couldn’t stand being reliant on them and the only way I was going to start finding victory was to face it head on which was petrifying considering I was about to travel for 4 months abroad but I did it. Which leads me to my next point.

After Dad died last year I knew I had to travel. He always repeated to me “Go travelling, Sarah. Travel, Travel, Travel”. Since I had pretty horrific anxiety, I never left the country. I never went on holidays except for a couple trips to the east coast but I never made time for me. So I decided to sign up for one of the best trips of my life and ended up going to 3 countries! 🇳🇿 + 🇺🇸 + 🇲🇽
In the State of Maryland, which is on the east coast of America, I embarked as a Camp Counselor for 3 months at a camp for those with disabilities. It was the most wonderful, hard working and rewarding experience. The days were super long, jam packed and tiring. Sessions were 7-12 days long and it was 12+ hours of work. We slept in a cabin built in 1937 surrounded by wildlife. Yeah, it sounds lovely but mice & bugs were your roommates and bears and deers roamed the woods right outside your doorstep. It is not as glamerous as Disney make it out to be! but through the hard work and sometimes sleepless nights, we provided the best time and atmosphere for every single camper. I encourage every young person to do it. It will stretch you, challenge you and change you in the best possible way.

The perks of being at camp were the cities I got visit while on our break: BALTIMORE, WASHINGTON DC, OCEAN CITY, PHILADELPHIA, PITTSBURGH, NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, ORLANDO, LOS ANGELES and a surprise trip to MEXICO after camp ended! Yes, beautiful Mexico.

I could write so much more about my year but it is impossible without making this the longest post ever to written. So I will finish off with this…

Last year I wrote that I wanted to be: FEARLESS, TRUST MORE, LOVE MORE.

I can humbly say that I did all three. Travelling to a country I’ve never been to before for 4 months opens your eyes and it shifts your thinking. I came back from my trip bolder than ever, I knew and loved myself more and was able to pursue things I’ve never thought I wanted to pursue.

Next year, I pray that I continue to be fearless. I pray I continue to love myself so I can love others. I pray I continue to learn more and open my mind to bigger and greater things. I pray I never shrink back to the girl who let anxiety rule her life.

So long, 2016! You were the best year yet 💋

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I hate Christmas….

I have dreaded every single Christmas to date. I know, I sound like the grinch but it’s true. I LOVE JESUS but as I touched on it briefly on a previous blog, I’ve really hated most family related events so lets add Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and all the holidays while we’re at it.  I just can’t wait until the day was over.

Why do you ask?

It hurts.

It hurts like hell.

It reminds me that my bipolar mother would rather spend Christmas alone than spend it with her own children. It reminds me that my Dad is no longer here and that in itself is enough to not want to celebrate. It reminds me that my family is and will never be like any other family let alone “perfect”. It reminds me that all other Christmases have ended in pain so what’s going to change? It’s never been my favourite time of the year because it reminds me of brokenness.

Now before you get all turned off by all of this and think “well maybe she should be thankful that she has a roof over her head and even gets the opportunity to celebrate Christmas” speech I’d like to say that I completely understand all that. I understand perspective and being grateful and I really am. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am so grateful for everything I have – but – it does not disqualify my current struggles.

I am learning that God is ever faithful. Yes, I had a pretty unfortunate.. actually I’m just going to say it… sh*t upbringing and having to process and deal with all of that crap is going to take a long time (thank God I have a very patient therapist!) but God IS faithful. I always wondered when it was going to be “my time”. The time when I would finally love Christmas (and anything related to family) and not have that stab-in-the-heart feeling every time it came around and in the last few months, I’ve seen a glimpse of it.

You see, for most of my life, starting from a very young age, I was forced to be a carer. I was a carer and mediator in my family and from then, I was just used to having to mature too early and deal with other people’s junk while putting mine to the wayside. It caused me to only ever have that mindset but to never truly trust and let anyone in. However, only recently have I realised that God has aligned people in my life so well that through the victory I gain from dealing with past hurt and trauma, he highlights to me how important they really are to my life but not just from me to them but from THEM TO ME. It was time for me to be cared for and he shows that through his people.. my church family.

So this Christmas, I hate it a little less and I trust a little more..

Why? Because I have church family who have opened their arms so I can spend Christmas with them. A very simple and small gesture to some but it means the world to me. It’s a safe place where I don’t have to mediate. I don’t have to stress. I don’t have to dread and for once in my life, I don’t have to want the day to be over.

It has rekindled my faith in that my God has everything sorted.

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely.” Psalm 68:5-6

Overthinking

I used to be in my head aaallll the time, all the time!

Thinking about past conversations, future conversations, what I said, what I should’ve said.

Thinking about how I should be feeling, how I should be acting, what are other people thinking, what are they thinking of me…

All this thinking drove me nuts! And I just wanted to stop thinking, get out of my head and just feel. I remember thinking to myself (haha) “I just want to feel, I just want to be present and feel.”

Now this required getting out of my head and this was what was scary. Because when we live in our heads even though there is pain, there is also comfort, familiarity, and ‘safety’. Even though we’re fearful and worrying, we feel safe being fearful and worrying because we’re constantly running over every little thing of how life ‘might’ happen and we feel somewhat prepared.

That is all worrying does for us, it has us feel like we are somewhat prepared for the uncertainty that lies ahead, that’s it. So there is a pay-off, there always is.

So the question is, how to get out of your head?

It starts with trusting yourself and backing yourself. Trusting that everything will be okay and that you can handle whatever happens, and backing yourself in doing the do, taking action.

~sidenote~ You can always handle what life brings your way.  It’s not that you can’t handle something, it’s that you don’t want to have to. And if you don’t want to do anything about life then don’t expect life to do anything for you. What you put out is what you get back.

Now choosing trust is CHOOSING trust. IT IS A CHOICE. And you’re currently choosing fear and doubt so why not try something else?

So why not take a chance on trust?
Why not give it a try?
Why not back yourself?

Because sometimes we can fail at something we don’t want, so why not try doing something you love?

Source: Anxiety Taskforce with Andrew Pearce

‘Tis the season!

As the Christmas season approaches, I’ve become more aware that there are people that truly thrive in it and those that dread it.

There are many reasons but those that dread it either don’t have family here to celebrate with or they do but come from a broken home or where spending Christmas together is endured rather than enjoyed. Not everyone has or comes from a healthy family and Christmas can amplify anxiety, isolation and disappointment already present in people’s lives.

I would know.

Without going into too much detail, I have a parent with a mental illness and the other who has passed away (unexpectedly) last August. Growing up in a poor dysfunctional home actually has strengthened my sister and I into strong, mature, compassionate successful adults but it also produced many barriers and one of them resulting in us resenting anything family orientated for many years to the point where I refused to see my parents of Christmas 2014. If I had known, I wouldn’t of done it but that was the last Christmas my Dad had here on this earth.

Family dysfunction is much more widespread and real than we realise, and for many, this is not the most wonderful and magical time of the year, but a difficult maze of expectations.

Please be mindful of those around you. There are hurting people who need love not just for the holiday season but especially because it’s holiday season.

Raised by (a bipolar) mother. (Jan, 2016)

One day I will share my story but for now, here is a very similar one to mine.

“In November 1969 I entered the world. “Don’t worry mum, I’m here to help you.” Out of the womb and straight to work. My mother was twenty and I was her second baby, my sister was born three years earlier when mum was only seventeen. Mum walked down the aisle of the Cathedral at sixteen with a bun in the oven and with bipolar disorder, not that it would be diagnosed until twenty-three years later.

We started noticing our mum was different to other mums quite early on. She was always in and out of hospital. “What’s wrong with mum?” we would ask. The only explanation was that she was having another ‘nervous breakdown’. OK, but what does that mean to two little girls… it meant we had to go stay with the relatives again and be separated from each other.
Far too many people have a mental illness. I believe it is one of the cruelest illnesses, being that there is no cure, just management. I know people will argue with me and say at least it’s not terminal, but what about all those lives lost by suicide. Or the families destroyed because of the difficulty of living with a person with mental illness, the relationship breakdowns. I will admit it is very difficult at times to live with someone with such a condition. After my parents’ divorce, mum met my brother’s father, that relationship didn’t have longevity either. That was over twenty years ago, and speaking to my brother’s dad a couple of years back, he told me he might have stayed with mum if he had known she had bipolar, and how to cope with it.
So there she was late 20s, single mum with three kids and a mental illness. How did she cope? How did we cope? I won’t lie; it was challenging at times and other times crazy and fun. Going to 10 different schools wasn’t fun though. Nor was the time I walked home from school with a boy, at that sensitive age of fifteen, and mum was getting taken to hospital by one of our neighbours. I was really scared. She couldn’t speak properly – her speech was all slurred. I remember thinking, “Mum you’re like a zombie”, and being very embarrassed in front of my friend. No need to be though. Years later he confessed his mum also had a mental illness. I guess he also felt too ashamed back then to talk about it. Thank God twenty years on it is not a taboo subject.
Which brings me to the crazy times and what makes me have a childlike enthusiasm for most things I do. Partly that’s because I was busy being the ‘parent’ in my youth and partly because I observed the zany things my mother would do in moments of mania. Like the Christmas Eve we didn’t have a tree or presents: I was sitting at home feeling quite sorry for myself, being about eleven, knowing by that age Santa wouldn’t get us out of this one! There she came around the corner, taxi beeping, in the back seat with a six-foot Christmas tree, fully decorated, hanging out the window. “Mum, I thought you didn’t have any money?” “They let me buy the one on display in Coles.” I didn’t ask where she got the money – all I know was I was one happy little girl that Christmas. Unfortunately gambling and bulk buying, being two of the side effects of mum’s illness – and a signal that she is becoming high, was not so practical when living on a single parent pension and having to feed three kids. Thank God for the Salvos and other charities that came to our rescue at those times of need.
How have we learnt to cope over the years? I don’t know. PATIENCE, or maybe because it is very repetitive. You seem to adapt to routine. We do try and be very patient when mum is talking really fast non-stop about the same topic over and over. Or the times when she’s visiting and comes and sits on your bed at the oddest hours – also another sign – because she can’t sleep and just wants to talk to someone. Well I like my sleep, but I try very hard not to lose it. My sister has a better knowledge of bipolar as she is a pharmaceutical rep for a drug that treats mental illness. Over the years she would always say “Mum can’t help it, you must be more patient”. I’m afraid she loses it too, occasionally. Mum was living in another state. My sister and I thought we would drive up from where we live and take mum to the coast for a few days. When we arrived we noticed she was a little high, but we thought we would get her out of the house and give her partner a break anyway.
Just twenty minutes into the drive mum started and wouldn’t stop. Same old stuff we had heard hundreds of times before, reliving the past, paranoid about someone. “Mum we have to concentrate on the road, can you be quiet please?” Of course she didn’t take any notice, so I told her to shut up. My sister gave me a right serve and told me how awful I was to speak to mum like that and once again that “SHE CAN’T HELP IT”. I would say precisely one minute after that she turned her head while driving and said to mum, “Would you bloody shut up!” I gave her a look that said it all. We both started to laugh, what else can you do? Sometimes we all lose it a little.
Mum lost her partner of twenty years a few years after that trip. Death usually brings mum’s mania on, but this time she had a delayed reaction. The first six months of grieving was hospital-free, but in the year and a half since then she has been in and out of hospital three times. I am so proud of her because she has accepted her condition, takes her medication and recognises when her levels are off and that she is becoming high. We don’t know what the future will bring and I know there are some very good medications that treat bipolar disorder. I have to say, though, I pray for a cure. Mum has had a tough life and I would love to see her well always. She is a beautiful person, just a handful when she is manic. No longer to be scared or embarrassed by mental illness, that is what having a mother with bipolar disorder taught me. I feel blessed for my life and it has taught me compassion. Mum gave love and care when she could, even in times of mania. My sister was a teacher before going into the pharmaceutical industry, my brother has been in the army for the last ten years and has been to East Timor on a peace-keeping mission, and as for me, I have recently sold my small business I had for thirteen years to start the next chapter. Mum must have done something right – not bad for a single parent with bipolar.”

TO THE ALL MANY SUFFERERS THAT ENDURE THIS DISORDER I SAY: DON’T LET IT BEAT YOU. TO ALL THE FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES I SAY: BE AS PATIENT AS YOU CAN. TO SOCIETY I SAY: DON’T BE IGNORANT. TO MEN AND WOMEN OF PARLIAMENT I SAY: MORE FUNDING PLEASE! AND TO MUM I SAY: I LOVE YOU.

Document via blackdoginstitute.com

Welcome!

G’day to those visiting!

I have recently decided to dabble with WordPress and am in the process of combining some of my writings I have written over the years to here while trying to get my brain around how this site works so please bare with me. Once my past blogs have been published, I will then continue writing in present time.

Cheers and hope you enjoy what you read.

Sj x

*I am not a fancy-pants blogger. I just have an over-active mind 😉