Tag Archives: Bi-Polar

Tell your story walking

7 Dec


For the last two weeks now I have been intending to post out a piece on The Festival of Ideas and ArtiPeeps’ future. It hasn’t materialised for a number of reasons,  primarily because I seem to have lost myself somewhere in all the swirl of ‘doing’ and plans for the future. There has been no space for any extraneous writing other than those required by funders. Upon exploration now it has become strikingly clear to me that during this year I seem to have foregone self-care for service, which ultimately (I know) can lead to no good. You don’t need to totally ring yourself dry, background your needs and story for the sake of your passion/vision/project. It’s easy to do but it isn’t health or well-being or sensible. If you do the act is probably rooted in something darker and often in personal history.

I know that my bi-polar doesn’t help the situation. Balance is hard to find when you’re permanently chemically imbalanced, and I’m so driven and generally enthusiastic that I forget that there is an underlying process going on that is triggered by stress and drives me from up to down: if there is an up there WILL be, guaranteed, a down (that is the way of bi-polar, I forget that).

I also have two very active and powerful schemas going on which skew my thinking: what I call my ‘I am responsible’ schema and my ‘Care for others’ schema. These are interwoven patterns of thinking, cognitive miswirings that I have to permanently handle. They are always triggered by ‘doing’ and/or creating and they complicate everything I do. They were powerfully triggered by The Nine Realms, and as this year has gone on I’ve had to manage them more and more. They are strong and nasty and can make me think I’m not good, make me hit myself, or take things away like self-care, meditation, gentleness, food or steadiness and replace it with cruelty, anxiety, sabotage and a level of self-detestation that is hard to understand when you think I would be feeling great about myself.

When I stopped cognitive behavioural therapy, even though I had come to understand my thinking errors profoundly, I knew these miswirings couldn’t be fixed. I was gently told that I just had to become an expert at managing them, and that each time I did it would get a little bit better. Inch work which accumulates. That each time I tried something new, like ArtiPeeps, or the BBC, or the theatre company, or the library, that I would have to face these schemas and ways of thinking again and again. I don’t think I was presumptuous enough to think that I would come through The Nine Realms psychologically unscathed, but I was and am, shocked at how quickly, despite the success of it and the clear benefit, my balance went, how quickly I chose to replace myself with ArtiPeeps and the greater good.

My self-esteem has never been connected to what I do, what I create. You might expect otherwise. My self-esteem has always been nurtured when I have truly felt I have taken care of myself, not sabotaged, not endured or stuck the shards in (again). An intrinsic feeling (consolidation) and not something externally manifested. This is why achieving things externally never lasts for me because by the time whatever I have decided to do has finished I’ve usually died somewhere along the line and am scrambling around in my mind for some resemblance of myself. Why have I done this again?!

It took much longer to tie up The Nine Realms than I expected. There was the success of The Festival of Ideas (which came as a delightful add-on afterwards) the wonderful coming together again, and then the sending out of the backer rewards (delivering) and the last payments of invoices, which only was completed today. Unexpected things cropped up too: I had to rejig The Nine Realms budget for The Arts Council only the week before last when all I wanted was for things to stop. After a year of regular 60 hr a week work patterns and driving myself towards this collective goal and celebration of collaboration, I just wanted it all to stop. How can it be that the event happened 11-15 September and I’m still putting the project to rest at the end of November? Every ounce of me had been given- willingly, and I had to draw on a sense of energy and a positive psychology that wasn’t there anymore. My best self.

I had to use every reserve to complete what needed to be done, whilst my feelings of badness started to become huge (that’s the miswiring and the stress). What should have elicited feelings of joy and pride left me more in contact with my ongoing psychological vulnerability (my grin can hide a lot).

Physically I have had difficulties this year: I now have to walk with a stick a lot of the time, and I am losing mobility in three of my fingers in my left hand. I have cerebral palsy and I think in middle age, things are catching up on me. I soon won’t be able to grip much with my left hand and without my leg brace I walk like a geriatric lobster. I’m having to learn a new way of being, come to terms with the restrictions of my new physicality. When I caught glimpses of myself in The Nine Realms event photos, I was quite shocked at my own vulnerability- how stiff and ungainly I’d become. This physical shift has been going on at the same time as ArtiPeeps’ growth. It’s ironic.

For the past couple of weeks I have banished myself to my bed- to restore my body and mind and to try and reinstate some balance in my life. Every single self-care and physical practice that had been so carefully created over the previous three years vanished during this year. I took it all away myself ,and replaced self-care and myself with ArtiPeeps. It was a willing, wonderful giving which I couldn’t control, but equally it can’t continue because it’s unsustainable, doesn’t allow me to create and nurture my own story, and to give my true best to ArtiPeeps. How can well-being be a fundamental to ArtiPeeps if I don’t practice it myself? It doesn’t set a good example and serves ‘old Nicky’-beliefs that, in reality, are long gone. This is what humanitarian Zainab Salbi said about the nature of giving fully:



I don’t want to be that rung out towel. I want to continue to grow ArtiPeeps into something wonderful, and to celebrate the creativity and talents of everyone who is involved. I want to serve from a position of strength and (as much as possible) equanimity. Now, I just have to get the balance right and to keep on walking the best way I know how- with integrity, care and a quieter mind.


Here’s a profoundly valuable and insightful video by performance artist Marina Abramović which has further consolidated my belief  in the notion of challenge that I have recently embedded into ArtiPeeps’ new artistic statement



As ever, thank you for your interest, and I shall endeavour to get a post out about the 3rd ArtiPeeps season of work shortly.


P.S.  Deb Talan’s song “Tell Your Story Walking” was is inspired by “Motherless Brooklyn”, a novel by Jonathan Lethem

Lost and Found

29 Oct

This is a story of words.

I began as a word. I grew into a sentence, that formed into a paragraph, that turned into a story, that turned into a  life

You know how I said last week that I was putting a story about creativity aside  for the sake of Edwina’s tale. Well now’s the time for me to tell  the other story, the story I could have told you last week and chose not to. But the time feels right now. My blinds are drawn, my computer a-glowing and my fingers are itching. It’s a tale about the power of words  found, lost, destroyed and found again.


Once upon a time there was a little girl. She lived in a slightly scruffy terraced house in a University town- what could only be described as middle class suberbia. She had a mother and a father (luckily) and a cat. She was shy, drippingly shy. At school  in the lunch hour she would sit each day on a red-cracked bench in the playground and imagine all sorts of amazing things in her head. She would use her imagination like a shield.  Behind the shield she would shape images into words and let them grow into stories.

She used her imagination to create spider-web connections, connections she did not have with other people of her age. She felt distanced, removed, not normal. You see when she was born, her scream did not come when it should. Just not quickly enough. The oxygen molecules did not go to her brain fast enough, and there was brain damage- the-cerebral-palsy-physical- brain- damage kind-  a wonky gait, a spasming hand, a limp left side. But it wasn’t ‘that’ bad she could pass for ‘normal’. But she never did feel normal: never felt normal inside.  She felt-o-so- different;  and the words,  sentences and paragraphs she formed helped her address her difference.

The words were like a thick syrup or tincture to her;  they helped her cope with the sadness that had started to fill her up inside.  The sadness of who she thought she was. A sadness that set up residence and of which she became afraid. She became afraid of the world and the darkness began to seep into her very core and slip-showed in her little brown eyes.

As she grew the words became more and more important to her. They would sit in her mind for hours and want to burst forth. They needed an outlet and as she got older she found she could put them down on paper. The words could take a form and exist outside of her mind. This was quite often the only time she felt at peace.


She continued to write – through her  parent’s divorce, through broken friendships and through an increasing darkness that had started to manifest itself within her. (O the mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall/Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed*) Her words started to get darker and nastier. Teenage-hood beckoned and the gloom nestled deep within. She began to offer her words up to the gloom. A supplication. Her words, rather than taking her away, began to validate all that she thought was bad within her and all that was different.  She wrote about glass and shards and sunsets. The words became dead to her even though she was letting them live on the page. The girl, then the young woman, was getting depressed.

Drip. Drap. Drop. 

The big black-drop sheet came down. And the words and the darkness began to save her: BUT THEY WERE THE WRONG WORDS. 

Words used in the wrong way. If you take my meaning.

The words continued to form but as quickly as she put them on to paper they began to zip themselves up again. They settled back in her head and rested there pulsing, waiting for an outlet. Slowly they began to dry up. She lost her voice.

The hurt grew.

She told no-one about this, and she hid it all behind a huge grin and a mass of curly hair. She became the person everybody wanted her to be, and she began to vanish, just like her words.

She lost herself. O.

But then, as the late 1990’s beckoned and she made the decision to study another energy started to emerge- it was exciting, fierce, disinhibiting and unique. She began to be filled with a sparky force, something kinetic, and she found she could write again. In fact words poured forth from her like water from a out-of-control hose. They pressured out, and her sentences and paragraphs were extremely articulate, praised, and she started to succeed. This feeling she loved, and it helped her fight against the darkness. But inside she always knew, something uncomfortable was happening. But she couldn’t put her finger on it, and the burning light that she had become, grew and grew, and GREW. She became the light, and she didn’t give a damn.

Her output was extraordinary. It was easy: the plays, the magazines, the essays. For the first time she felt like a star in the cosmos. A big burning, beligerant star. Like she could. So far away from little red-cracked-sad-eyes-bench- girl. It was fantastic. But she kept on crashing. Up and Down. Down and Up. Then there were only downs.

NO more light. No more words. At all.

Eventually the darkness encased her and she retreated to her bedroom and never came out. She sat for hours and played miserable music and thought deathly thoughts. She stopped communicating and her mouth sealed up. Tombed in. Zipped right up. Then, then because she had nothing left to turn to, she started to write again. The words came back,  and she would hurtle towards her keyboard and her fingers could not move quickly enough to capture the anguish and stricture of her thoughts. The words began to run rampant.

They poured out, the words- into poetry (for poetry often can articulate the soul more than prose) and into free form;  and then she would wash herself clean, submerge herself,  because the words felt dirty, not hers but her mind’s. In the silence of the water, in the bath-depths below, everything would stop. And each day the words saved her, even though they were ill. They were her only hook on life. All she had-page upon page, letter upon letter.


They said, ‘We have come to the conclusion, that you have bi-polar affective disorder, the sort that gives you increasingly worse depressions’

Bish. Bash. Bosh. Scoop these up: Lithium Carbonate. Sodium Valproate.

The words disappeared once more, and really for good she felt. Irrevocably gone. Sealed up. Diminished. Self-Eradicated. Zombified . The little lost girl again, but this time with no shield. Periodically she would try to write and no words came. So she started to paint. Still expressing but it was still not the same.


It took her 8 years of hard’ talk-talk work’ to see the light again. Words not paged but spoken. In-between times trying to write and create, and just getting frustrated at how she couldn’t. It came out in music and staves , but the elusive words; well, they were always just..out..there…….



Here,  Now.  I can honestly say that when I started this blog-site  my words truly came back. They flowed. I truly became creative again. It started off for my group but it’s now also become about you. And the words that I’m writing now are the right words. They feel right. They’re not formed to feed an illness; they are not a shield. They come from a healthy need to express and to share. There’s no sadness there. No need to use and abuse words. It’s just there in me beacuse I am me and I like to create.

This is a poem about my writing that I wrote at the time:

Bi-polar makes you think that life is black and white. It makes you think your creativity is black and white, so if it goes as it does when you’re ill (or the words turn into something shard-like and destructive) you think they wont come back, that the creativity is gone for good.  But as I’ve moved from darkness into light and into health I’ve come to realise that creativity isn’t constant. There is an ebb and flow to it. It’s not always there, and it comes when you are inspired, and  when you act upon it and share it, like for this blog each week.

Now ‘I am a Landscape’. I don’t need to hide behind my words or fear that they will vanish, even though I worry nothing will come out each time I think what I’m going to write about for you. It’s a matter of a growing trust in myself and my words. I don’t have to fear the act of creation because I can hold strong like a mountain  or  be soft like snow. Now my creativity is in me and given. Like my orange intent above. There is no illness-indulgence attached. It’s all there I’m lost and I’m found. My words were lost and are now found. And now I have only more words and creations to gain. I am a Landscape, and long may it continue!

‘Aren’t autobiographies born in a question we ask ourselves-how did I get to this point? Don’t we look back over this path and tell ourselves a story? This is how it happened. This is who I am. ‘ Friedrick Weisel

If you have ever experienced the loss of your creativity, I’d be interested to hear your story too….

Thanks once again for your interest!  All the very best.



  • Hoo-Hooo! Watch-Out, Watch-Out ARTIPEEPS HALLOWEEN HOTCHPOTCH is about this Wednesday. Our first multi-collaborator Halloween-themed post will be unleashed into the world. Look at it if you dare………
  • Our Visitor Peep, Susan O’Reilly, has another 4 poems up. She is really keen for some feedback, so (if you do have time) do take a look and respond.
  • Flash Fortnightly Starts from the 7th, your dose of short fiction every other week from Laura Besley
  • And we’re shortly starting up a FabFiction Page, so if anybody would like to share their prose and/ or poetry  do let me know via the comment box or @ArtiPeep
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