What does well look like for you?
I have painted many pictures of myself when a Bipolar episode knocks me out of my life for a while.
But what about my well times?
I don’t identify with the cartoonish cliché of Bipolar Disorder. I don’t spend each day either drowning in depression or being supersized by mania. This depiction of the illness lacks nuance. It’s a stereotype wheeled out for memes or lazy reporting.
I can only speak about the fingerprint of my own experience. Severe, but well managed.
Sure – when I am unwell, I tend towards very unwell. I won’t sugar coat that.
But, for me…for me – when I am well, I am well…well.
In my well times my life is not a daily struggle. If anything, I struggle less than many ‘mentally healthy’ people. Thanks to my Bipolar Disorder, my box of psychological tools to deal not only with my illness but life in general – is full. But before it thundered into my life, my toolbox contained the equivalent of a pair of tweezers and some toenail clippers.
I am well now.
And it looks a little like this…
It is settling into myself. It is being alert to all I am capable of. It is a beautiful, clear, hard-won self-knowledge
It can be simple things – being able to read and drive and go to the shops, immerse myself in my family.
But it is more than the simple things.
It is actively pursuing my edge, courting the possibility of foundering, because I know the feeling of foundering will be fleeting compared to the dull ache of regret which could plague me for years.
A couple of weeks ago an interesting job opportunity dropped into my direct messages. Both it and I were great on paper. Veterinary qualifications and experience. Writing qualifications and experience. Listed as the first requirements.
It lit the spark I needed to update my CV, which had been languishing back in 2015.
I applied for it. I was invited to interview.
And perhaps for the first time I thought about what I wanted, rather than blindly throwing whatever I needed at it to get the job.
And so, I clicked ‘join meeting’ with all the skills and experience I could bring (for example writing well) and all that I couldn’t (for example managing stakeholders).
I came away thinking – I could do this, but do I want to? If offered the position I think my ego may have convinced me to squash myself into a shape I didn’t naturally fill, just to prove I could.
Thankfully, being authentic in the interview paid off.
Having a way with words was more important to me, and stakeholder management was more important to them.
And when I got the email thanking me for my time but telling me that I wouldn’t be progressing further in the application process, I felt – a sharp little sting and then… relief, because I really didn’t want to squash myself into someone I wasn’t.
There is always a danger in well times.
It is the fear of what may happen in the unwell times.
There are times, even when perfectly well, I have to resist the pull to sit in a metaphorical corner rocking with my hands over my eyes doing nothing, because I know what has happened to me, could happen again.
I’ve felt that pull many times. I have resisted it many times. Over time I’ve gathered proof that resisting is the only way to have the life I want, even if it is a life lived with this illness. Without that resistance I would lack a lot. My second child and my self-worth top a long list.
Most recently that resistance has gifted me an updated CV and a stronger sense of who I am and what I want.
I know in the last couple of years, mental unease has crept into many people’s lives and distorted their thoughts, feelings, and view of life. It’s a foreign and frightening landscape to find yourself in. And finding your way back to the well times can feel impossible.
For me, the first steps back to wellness always start with a couple of questions:
What does well look like for you?
Does your toolbox contain more than a pair of tweezers and some toenail clippers?
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7 thoughts on “The Well Times”
Another wonderful piece of writing, Anita.
I am almost finished reading your book. It has been difficult at times, due to hiccoughs in my own health, but also because yours is not an easy book to read.
It is beautifully written, and uncompromisingly honest, and it has touched me very deeply. Which at times has made it hard to read.
I am honoured that you gave me a copy.
With much love and warmth,
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Thank you Norm. I really appreciate you reading my book and it means a lot to me that it resonated with you, even though the read wasn’t easy. I hope you are looking after yourself, and you and your family are well!
Hi Anita! Firstly let me say I haven’t been in circulation for a couple of months and hence haven’t commented on your posts of late. It’s been a bit of an ordeal, packing up, renovating and moving, but we r IN now, and r happy, although we still have a fair bit to do. Hope u and the family r all healthy and enjoying life. Loved your last post ‘The Well Times’ and it really resonated with me. The spectre of another episode hovers over me, because of the horror of the memory of it, even now. But in the last 18 months, I’m very well and functioning. I’m back contributing to family life, looking after my 1-year-old granddaughter Raffie, reading, cooking and gardening. I like nothing more than an afternoon cooking like mad, feeding family or friends or those I know who might b doing it a bit tough. My toolkit includes all of this, plus a daily walk and of course meds. Big congrats on your recent job application! The fact that the company was keen must’ve been flattering but as u said in your post, u applied because U wanted to; it was on your terms. That’s being well! Always luv your posts, cheers, Judy Ps I’m going to check out my local bookshop; would they have Abductions FMBL in stock?
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Lovely to hear from you. Moving and renovating is such a big job. Good to hear things are going well for you.
I also love cooking. It is mindful and productive. Unfortunately your local book shop is unlikely to stock Abductions. I have been left to do all of my own marketing, so it is very slow going. I’ve managed to get it into Brisbane City Council libraries and hopefully a second independent Brisbane book shop in the next few weeks. But I have no support from my publisher,, as has been the case throughout the publication process. You can put in a request with your local book shop to stock it. If they are interested they can contact me and I can send them images of the cover and back cover blurb, as well as a synopsis to see if they want to go ahead. Or they can check the Thought Food website book section for an excerpt and the cover.