Tag Archives: Recovery

Big Black Drop Sheet 

13 Apr

 

Over the past month and a half depression has come over me like a big black drop sheet. Big black drop sheet is the way I described my depressions when I was first diagnosed with bipolar in 2004. This particular depression has surprised me, almost come out of nowhere but not: having to stop my meaningful plans, change tack, lie in bed for days, have insomnia, tolerate crying unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Depression has hit me again, and I thought I was an old hand at picking up the signs.

This time sadness, shame and self-hatred have been the most overwhelming emotions surrounding me. For someone so clearly capable to keep banging up against a crashing amount of self loathing has been hard to take. I cry like a little girl, so I’m told, and that is probably true. For the things that I am presently mourning for today are the very same things child-Nicky was attempting to deal with years ago. I know that this is not unusual, maybe something we are all faced with at some point.

I have bipolar II which means I have hypomanias and not manias (hypomanias are energy-based and not psychotic). You also have more depressions than ups.  With bipolar II if you track back there is usually a history of the depressions getting increasingly more severe with fewer and fewer hypomanias in between. Bipolar II is also not regular. There are no regular cycles. It can spring up on you at anytime. You can’t predict it, so it is therefore quite hard to manage.

Since my diagnosis, and the therapy that followed, I’ve gone about my life trying to emphasise the well parts of it, which can make you, and others, almost forget that you have an ongoing illness that sits behind your well periods. I’ve come to realise that this attitude isn’t necessarily healthy for me although it might seem like it should be. My capability and energy can unhelpfully mask what illness I have. Over the last 20 + years I have been regularly depressed after anything I have achieved: jobs, creative projects-you name it. Stress triggers my bipolar. It’s hard for me to consistently hold anything down for a length of time.  This is a bitter pill to swallow and face. This is further complicated by the fact my self-worth isn’t derived from what I do. It’s derived from how well I look after myself, and generally I do that pretty poorly as I tend to ‘become’ things when I do anything. All my self-care subtly vanishes as I flounder, sabotage and watch my self worth ebb away.

 

Brain

 

Out of what has happened to me lately I can see that the strategy of treating myself like I don’t have an illness, that I am a ‘well person’, doesn’t necessarily work for me despite its inherent positivity. To keep myself well and catch things early I have to have the fact I have bipolar right in front of me so I can catch things. This is important because symptoms can appear from out of nowhere, escalate and dig-in and before you know it I’m a ‘goner’. I forget that. Like in the summer last year, when all of The Nine Realms threads were coming together and I was very stressed and working 60 hour weeks. I started to change: started hitting myself and becoming very aggressive whilst still feeling full of energy and highly functioning. I became a different person for a while, which I came to understand in hindsight was me in a mixed state (where you are both depressed and energised at the same time). For about three weeks I was not myself, felt dreadful, but was fully able to work and was driven by my intention to follow through on every aspect of The Nine Realms. This state incremently and subtly crept up on me, and from that state the seeds of depression were sown.

I didn’t catch the change in my behaviour because we weren’t being vigilant enough. Maybe if we (and by we, I mean my mother and I) had been actively on the lookout for changes I might not be lying in bed right now. I’m not saying that I need to be treated with kid gloves or stopped from doing anything that might trigger me. No, I’m not saying that, but maybe a new strategy needs to be put in place. A few signs in my house need to be put up that remind me that it’s a good responsibility to manage my illness. That I have an illness, that despite being on medication, comes up and slaps me merrily on the rear. It’s not nice, it’s not pretty but it is the cold stone truth.

This depression is the first time I haven’t been comatose, which you would think would be a turn up for the books, but it doesn’t feel like that. The extensive period of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  I had for 7 years has taught me that there is distance between myself and my thoughts. I know I am not my thoughts, and I also know how to challenge my thoughts. However, despite having this knowledge, because of my miswiring, it doesn’t stop me from feeling the negative emotions attached to them which then spirals me downwards. So I still get powerfully locked into the negative loops in my schemas (established, entrenched patterns of thinking). In this last week I have just started to use again the CBT techniques I was taught. I think the fact, that this time, I haven’t become my thoughts is what has saved me from becoming comatose. It’s lessened my feelings of helplessness. I have mind tools to deploy. My therapist (who was a specialist in persistent severe depression) taught me well.

This is the moment (you would think) I would be cracking open the champagne (if I drank), pulling the party poppers and celebrating the fact I have been given these tools, but I have found this half-processing state to be far worse than the familiar comatose depression state. In the comatose state you’re out of it at least, you’re not feeling anything other than awful; or you’re so out of it it doesn’t matter. In what I’m feeling now- this half-state- you feel so consciously cornered by your head and your schemas. You feel everything, and you are constantly batting off negative thought processes and delving into, and staying with, emotions. It’s tiring, all-consuming and scary (even if the process has the hidden positive of reminding you you can still feel). This strangely makes the thought of the comatose state more attractive. Tackling my negative thinking constantly is wearisome. Writing things down, charting why I feel what I’m feeling. It’s tiring, even though I do know in my heart of hearts it’s probably a healthy responsibility but……nevertheless. It just doesn’t feel like it. If I take on the new ‘I have bipolar’ strategy, I have a lifetime of charting and managing ahead of me, and sometimes (in all honesty) it feels like it would be better for it all to stop. These types of thoughts are the worst and still come back again and again.

It usually takes me a year to recover fully from a depression. Getting through this bit where my constant rumination and negative processing get in the way of me moving forward. However, I absolutely intend to put my ‘I have bipolar’ signs in the house so I don’t forget (even if it looks a bit bonkers). With a new strategy maybe I can catch my negative core beliefs and thoughts more quickly, treat myself more kindly and live a little bit more of an honest life that actually knowingly supports my vulnerability (which is something we all share). This might help prevent the big black drop sheet from dropping down so quickly in the future. It will come back but maybe the next time it might be a little bit more translucent.

 

Nicky

Volunteer Responses to Space2Create (FreeSpace #3)

26 Nov

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Volunteer Responses to S2C

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I asked a few Space2Create volunteers to tell me what it meant for them to be involved with S2C, what volunteering did for them. As a voluntary led organisation we rely on volunteers but must also recognise that the volunteers are as much a part of the group as any of the participants. We want the group to allow individuals to deal with problems in their lives, to begin a positive journey. We hope that individuals will come to our groups and evolve then move on, this applies to participants and volunteers who we hope grow from the experience of being involved with the creativity we use as our tool to aid recovery and development.

J writes:

“Being involved with space2create benefits me individually in many ways. Firstly, as a qualified (though not currently practising) occupational therapist I recognise the benefits of creativity to aid well-being. In fact it is core to our profession and much research has been carried out around this issue. Secondly, the group allows me to use many of the skills I trained for. Working with individuals and groups but always recognising that everyone is unique with their own set of goals, aims, beliefs and desires. Thirdly, I love being involved in creativity on a purely personal level. It is a passion and interest of mine and I benefit from its therapeutic value greatly.

Space2create encourages creativity, individuality and self expression . It allows me and everyone involved to develop new skills, experiment, learn from others and this in turn gives me confidence to try new things and to encourage and support others to do so.”

C writes:

“The benefits to me of S2C are manifold, but primarily revolve around being an integral part of a self-supporting and enthusiastic team, and also in the satisfaction gained from delivering a valued service to participants and, in the case of flagship projects, to a wider public. The creative aspects to the role are valuable both in providing a focus for various therapeutic and communal energies which the charity helps to embody, and in providing a personal sense of achievement with the completion of each project or piece.”

K describes:

“Being involved benefits me enormously – It’s the one session of my week where I can be creative, safe, productive and satisfied.

Through creativity I can express my deeper feelings, fears, worries, joy, contentment,… In the safety of the group I can go from a giggling childlike woman to feeling, and exploring, my ‘troubles’ as an adult in the here and now!!

The creativity is a place from which to connect with all the other members of the group. We all have our different ‘issues’ but the feeling of the ability to communicate and find ourselves ‘all in the same boat’ is better than any therapy I’ve had in a long while.

It’s the best thing that’s happened to me this year and I am so grateful this opportunity has come my way. It’s not only a space to create, it’s a space simply to be.”

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JimDog

Ribbon and Wire by Mat JimDog

(‘the volunteers and participants of S2C entangling, supporting and merging’) 

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All these people give their time to help individuals who are struggling to cope, are isolated and excluded. By their actions positive steps are forged to help these individuals move forward and begin to recover their lives from whatever distress they have been in. Volunteering is itself a tool to achieve this. There is nothing more powerful for one’s own well-being than to help another improve theirs. Creativity is our vehicle but it is the relationships, links and community that individuals come together to form that allow it to happen. Without the volunteers Space2Create would be nothing.

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For more information on all those involved see:

www.space2create.co.uk

http://www.lakelandartstrust.org.uk

http://www.cumbria.gov.uk

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logo1To find out more about S2C:

www.space2create.co.uk

Twitter: @S2Cspace2create 

Facebook: Space2Create

Email: info@space2create.co.uk

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Many thanks to Space2Create for sharing what you do and for sharing it with us.  Here’s to more collaborations between us!  Nicky

FreeSpace #1 Space2Create

9 Oct

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Space2Create: Volunteer Power

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When a small Mental Health charity called Workbase closed almost exactly a year ago it left around thirty vulnerable adults, ten volunteers and five staff devastated and without a place to go. The charity took on people recovering from serious mental health problems and helped them move on by using meaningful activity and training. Some went on to education, some to jobs and as part of the progression some moved from service users to being volunteers.

At the news of the closure a number of the volunteers decided to learn from the mistakes that led to closure and to start a creative group to help individuals struggling with illness to improve their mood and wellbeing. Space2Create was born.

A year on Space2Create is a thriving and rapidly growing organisation that runs drop in creative sessions for anyone, runs sessions on local mental health wards and delivers sessions to other groups and organisations. Always on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate, Space2Create works with the Lakeland Arts Trust, Cumbria County Council and other local groups to provide opportunities that are creative, fun and meaningful. Local events have been the stimulus for creative projects. A shed with a character living in it obsessed by shoes for Mintfest, and a comic and window display in a local shop for the Comic Arts Festival in Kendal.

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Shed

The Shed created for Mintfest

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Window Display for the Comic Arts Festival in Kendal

The Window Display for the Comic Arts Festival, Kendal

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Space2Create firmly believes that creative activity brings people together and helps vulnerable individuals who are ill or facing isolation improve their well-being as part of their recovery. Space2Create is totally volunteer led providing a service by people recovering from serious problems for people recovering.

This is demonstrated weekly with the atmosphere of fun, mutual support, socialisation and creativity generated in the groups. Also the fantastic creative work produced. Space2Create does not put expectations onto people but lets them achieve what they can and celebrates that. People who have come to the sessions are now moving on and running activities for Space2Create, it is wonderful to see them growing in confidence.

Space2Create is now ready to expand in further directions with planned groups for creative writing, photography and sessions for deaf people led by deaf artists.

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logo1To find out more about S2C:

www.space2create.co.uk

Twitter: @S2Cspace2create 

Facebook: Space2Create

Email: info@space2create.co.uk

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You can hear and see more from ‘ Space2Create’  on Tuesday 14th November via their 2nd ‘FreeSpace’ contribution. 

The Recovery Project Collaboration: ‘Creatives Making a Difference’

4 Jun

THE RECOVERY PROJECT

More than several months ago I had an idea about creating a mini-collaboration on the theme of the mental health term  ‘Recovery’. This is not only particularly relevant to me because I have bi-polar and am in a state of recovery myself, but also because ‘recovery’ is important for lots of people (including creatives) who are affected my mental health issues. It’s a universally important theme and experience.

With this in mind I asked the poets Carol Robson, John Mansell and Rebecca Audra Smith (all accessed via Twitter)  if they would like to collaborate on this and write a poem for the project, each taking up a particular facet of the path to recovery. Carol took up the theme of DESPAIR, John, MUDDLING THROUGH and Rebecca ‘RECOVERY’. I asked 3 artists who were then paired with the poets: Ray Bentley, Photographer Jeremy Moseley and Hugo Smith (all accessed via Twitter) to produce artwork inspired by the three poems. I also asked audio visual artist Shaun Blezard to write an accompanying soundpiece for the three sections. So this whole project is completely fuelled by new literary pieces, artwork/photography and sounds. The piece can viewed in sections or be taken as a whole. I have also produced a mini-film  which includes audio versions of the poems, and will give you an idea of the piece as a whole and how it could be turned into an installation of sorts (watch this space…).  It is worth mentioning that everyone involved in this project either has direct experience of the issues or an explicit interest.

The Recovery Project is an important bench-mark for ArtiPeeps for it really represents the first contribution to a new mental health initiative we are going to be instigating more explicitly in October: ‘Supporting Mental Health’.  This ongoing  initiative will produce collaborative material which will form an online artistic and  therapeutic resource for people in need. This will be part of other larger shifts in ArtiPeeps’ intent. There will be more news of this and its implications as time unfolds. But it’s all good.

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THE RECOVERY PROJECT

“Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.”Scottish Recovery Network 2009

Recovery is not about ‘getting rid of problems’. It is about seeing people beyond their problems – their abilities, possibilities, interests, and dreams and recovering the social roles and relationships that give life value and meaning”Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins, 2002

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THE RECOVERY SOUNDCSAPE

by Shaun Blezard

Section 1

DESPAIR:

Restraint Chair No.1 (crop)

Restraint Chair No.1 by Ray Bentley

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Another Psychosis

by Carol Robson

 

Here in a place, which I should be
I need to be here and in all places
Yet! an urge to run rages through me
fear of physical contact, my brain now in overload
here, feeling alone in a place full of people.

Like a frightened gazelle
taunted by its hunter
I search for the exit to safety
an egress to my solitary state
my place of safety in my Prozac stained mind.

Neural networks firing their manic impulses
ignoring my vain attempt of rational logic
craving for their mania overload
knowing again, they will fight a long battle
against the Lithium army, that will bring them down.

Highs and lows come and go
trying to live your normal life
my exterior facade is all you see
as it hides a mind and soul in turmoil
just trying to get through to the next hour.

A life in a day to day existence
that craves for whatever is normal
a time bomb mind with a fragile trigger
controlled by whatever the drug of choice is.

Clinging to a life of hopes and dreams
that is out of this drug controlled despair
I will one day rise again like the Phoenix
out of the ashes, of Another Psychosis.

© Carol Robson 2011

 

Section 2:

MUDDLING THROUGH

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Photography by Jeremy Moseley

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Solitary Lights in a Forsaken Landscape

by John Mansell

 

Day opens like a strange flower.
Had it really closed?

Eyes adrift with bitter tears.
I see you viewing me with unease,
…………toothbrush in hand;
Do not call me stranger.
Do not make me mute
……….by filling my mouth with dread.
Lined linear colour,
the implements of survival
…………in their little compartments
…………………….with designated times…..
Consumption of the divine;
a woman purled in momentary
silence forages the impression
that once she knew me.
And then, like a shoot that appeared too soon
……….is gone…..
Each moment a disgrace to pleasure:
………..the floods of worry
…………………..have strewn me along
…………………..various embankments…..
And when certain suns shine,
I know it is a worry
as unnecessary as
…………the solitude I veil myself with…..
Walk with me these grim corridors.
Though I was able yesterday, today I have fears
that arrest me.
I see faces and eyes rimmed with farewells.
I hear names spoken,
and children laughing…..
If I listen intently enough, I am sure
one of those children is me…..
I am sure there were good days once…..

Shift the falling grains
so they rumple not to the
………..gathering years
but the trench of a memory
…………you think may have held yesterday;
as if your yesterday never existed.
The moisture of dreams drowns
the fallen edifice of your time…..
You are, but never was
because you fear
what you were for it would exhibit
………what you
………………..would be…..
you keeper of empty paintings.
Sleep in a place
where time is a flick of a page;
the dying groans of lost hope,
the flippant drapery
………..of a night
that will come despite
…………your efforts, thief of my life
…………despoiler of all I held beautiful…..

Day closes like a strange flower.
Had it really opened?

 Section 3:

RECOVERY

trying for the brighter by Hugo Smith

‘Trying For the Brighter’ by Hugo Smith

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Recovery

by Rebecca Audra Smith

 

Hunting for the key
that can slot into my ear
unlock who I am, with
its slow turn and click.
 
I can hear it in my head,
doors open to staircases lead
to cellars where weeds chatter
about sunshine, light and seed.
 
Fumbled fingers in the bed
searching for a lighter
to set fire to the sun,
board a chariot, ride far.
 
I could have burnt my home
to ash, to dust- my family
rooting for my bones;
I’m trying for the brighter.
 
Planting keyholes inside tulips,
my hands are full of keys
each day a little lighter,
a stronger step for me.

The Recovery Film:

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