You Are Enough

I like romance, I need someone who is affectionate, someone who will kiss me hello and goodbye, someone who hates the idea of a couple sitting apart on a sofa as much as I do. I want to be spoilt and I want someone to spoil right back. I believe in complete equality in a relationship and I don’t mean just that you take it in turns to play little spoon. I want to learn about someone, I want to be their best friend and I want them to be mine. I want someone to grow with, not just to grow old with.

I used to be afraid of saying all of the above. Afraid of being weird, prudish or uncool, afraid of being me. I sacrificed my happiness because I felt the real me wasn’t good enough for the world. “I am not enough” is my deeply ingrained, default mind set, for everything. I’m not intelligent enough to be talking to these people, I’m not funny enough to make that joke, I am not attractive enough to have that partner. As a result I have been incapable of saying “No” in the past. I’ve been unable to say “No” to dating someone I didn’t like, I’ve said “Yes” to sex I didn’t want and I’ve actively changed myself to meet another person’s need, to the detriment of my own. I destroyed partners where I felt I didn’t deserve a relationship, I have cheated where I seized attention and I have gratefully accepted damaging friendships because I didn’t feel worthy for more.

On paper Adam was a well-to-do dream; well spoken, well-educated, politically minded, career-minded, home-owner, cat-owner, plus I was physically attracted to him and apparently he liked me. In person, however, he showed no warmth, his kisses were never more than a peck and greetings were like hugging a cardboard cut-out. I couldn’t bring myself to put my arms around him, I wanted to kiss him but he had an exterior that meant I didn’t dare move in and he was incredibly, emotionally formal. I felt like I had to impress him and short of being constantly hypomanic that was never going to happen, I couldn’t be myself, I was afraid he wasn’t finding me funny, pretty or clever. This wasn’t a cute case of being love-struck this was complete incompatibility and I was desperately unhappy. A healthy person would have experienced this and left; I stayed and convinced myself I wasn’t miserable, that I couldn’t do better and that it would work if I changed myself enough. Besides, Adam validated me, my Mother enthusiastically approved, which made me think that maybe being on Adam’s arm would cure me of being less-than.

Taylor; a tall, Essexey, tattooed, smoking, divorcee who chose dogs over cats; A tradesman who drove a completely uneconomical and quite frankly, ridiculous car; A fully grown adult who wore baseball caps inside the house and spent a fortune on multi-coloured trainers. Plus, I had the constant urge to correct his grammar… Taylor also made me laugh, I pulled stupid faces at him and I knew he’d kiss me afterwards. I wasn’t afraid to hang off his neck or to curl up to him when I wanted. I would remove my make-up in front of him. He knew I watched “fluff” TV (in fact, we watched I’m a Celebrity together) and I didn’t stop dancing in the kitchen when he poked his head round the door and burst out laughing. I was happy with him, but one look at my Mother crinkling her nose at the thought of tattoos, cigarettes and an ex-wife and I stopped the conversation and agreed that Adam was perhaps the better choice.

If someone had asked me to choose to date someone who got on with everyone else or someone who got on with me I would have looked at them like they had lost the plot but hindsight shows me that that was the decision I was struggling with. I came unstuck because I didn’t believe that I had enough value to have my opinion, my wants and my needs accounted for. In the end I did choose Taylor and while we didn’t last, I enjoyed the time we spent together. Adam never stood a chance of being someone I wanted but I was contemplating sacrificing that just so that other people might like me more.

All the things I listed at the beginning of this post, well, I deserve all of those things. Not because I’m special but just because I’m me and I’m human and because everyone deserves those things, should they want them. Every emotion you have, every feeling you experience, every opinion you hold is valid and remembering that, is remembering that you are enough.

When I was in a particularly dark place a wonderful woman once said, “Who the hell do you think you are to be judging yourself that badly?” this person also showed me that my job was to love and look after myself; to show myself complete compassion, kindness and acceptance.

Today, I know that “I am enough” and I plan to act that way.

Always be Prepared

It’s 00:26 and I’m en route home from a work event. I’m exhausted, I want to break-down in the same way that a five year old does when they can’t tie their shoelaces; it’s got nothing to do with shoelaces, it’s to do with frustration and it all being just “too much”. A stranger, opposite me, just asked about the next stop, which helpfully jolted me out of choking back tears. Crying is always okay, I’d just rather wait until home than do it on a train that’s packed with drunks.

Tonight was an alcoholic minefield. One which I just wasn’t prepared for. It’s so normal for me nowadays to attend events and “dos” where I decline alcohol and enjoy myself and the whole scenario goes unnoticed. Tonight however, it didn’t go unnoticed. People put their foot in it, I made rookie errors and I nearly got shamed by my boss.

I preach honesty, to the nth degree, however there is one circumstance where I don’t avoid masking the truth. I have been in my job for three months and I love it, they know about my bipolar but they do not know about my alcoholism. It is not to do with shame or denial or anything in that vague vicinity, I just don’t want to jeopardise my career due to wider misconceptions. In a few months when they know me more I will let the cat flee from the bag, but for now it’s on the DL and if anyone asks me why I don’t drink, I say it’s because I’m bipolar, which is not a lie, but is most definitely obscuring 90% of the truth.

I’m going to give you a run-down of what happened tonight and you can judge for yourself exactly how catastrophic it was;

6pm – My colleague (Colleague 1 or C1 for short) and I were fixing our make-up. It was the end of a long event that we had been working at and we had to go, straight on, to an evening award ceremony, with little time to prepare. We were chatting away as usual and she kept referencing times where she/others had got absolutely smashed at the awards and had done XYZ and then said “Oh yes, you don’t drink do you? I’m sure we can convince you to have just one” to which I swiftly replied, on auto-pilot, with, “Oh no, sorry, [light laugh] I won’t be having anything.” I have assertive firmness to a T nowadays but even so, it did, mentally, catch me off guard.

7:30pm – Having made sure everything that I could do, logistically, had been done, I headed upstairs to the delegate area, of the awards ceremony, where clients and colleagues were burning through an abundance of champagne whilst trying not to fall over their floor-length gowns. Everyone had a champagne flute in their hand and I was instantly set upon by server after server extending offerings of potent trays of alcohol. It was everywhere. I could hear the fizz from the flutes, the pop of corks, the chink of glass against glass. I slid to one side and surreptitiously requested one of the waiters find me something non-alcoholic and he arrived at my side, moments later, with an orange juice. It was a relief to have something in hand but even, so I was acutely aware of my surroundings and of how alcohol was permanently overflowing whereas soft drinks weren’t just hard to come by, you had to send out a forager, on your behalf.

7:35pm – “Not drinking?” For all those who are not alcoholics, please avoid this opener, it’s such an inappropriate ice breaker. We know you mean well, but conversations around drinking-abstinence can lead down a multitude of very private avenues. I didn’t miss a beat and replied in the negative which sparking a conversation about drinking with an, already tipsy, colleague (C2). I was surrounded by the focus of my addiction and now I was discussing it! I tried to get away by starting a conversation with a man to my left, only to have C1, who was in the crowd, spill champagne all over his jacket, I swung away as the smell stung my nostrils, only to be re-trapped by my original, oblivious torturer. Someone announced he was going out for a cigarette and I pounced; he was out of menthols and I didn’t even want to smoke (having recently quit) but I needed to get the hell out of there.

8:00pm – Called in to dinner, I sat down and instantly clocked the red wine, white wine and champagne glass to my right. With no water at the table I was scuppered, again. After profusely turning down tinted bottle after bottle a waiter finally came over and filled up a wine glass with water. With a table covered in at least 30 alcohol filled glasses, with people to-ing and fro-ing, I could see that me picking up someone else’s glass was just an accident waiting to happen. I hailed a waiter and requested a normal glass to drink out of and they politely, but slowly, obliged. Watching everyone around me drink, into giddy happiness, lit the envy in my stomach; Not for the drinking but just for the fact that they didn’t have to stay alert like I did, I couldn’t just relax, I had to cover all bases, it felt like a huge weight was just battering my already exhausted mentality.

8:30pm – I bit in to the beetroot laying across my salmon nigiri starter and could taste the wine vinegar it had been marinating in. It stung my tongue as I scolded myself for not checking the menu. I was exhausted and I was slipping. I pushed a lot of my food around my plate and could feel the tension in my shoulders.

10pm – Awards had been announced and mains had arrived. I was famished and I could smell the beef, cooked to rare perfection. I’d been awake since 4am and I couldn’t wait to devour my food and get home to bed. Without thinking I teased off a chunk, dipped it in gravy and bit down eagerly. The unmistakeable twang of reduced wine filled my mouth as the boozy jus became stronger and stronger in taste. FOR FUCK’S SAKE. “Panic and stress will make this worse, what’s done is done, be calm”. My interior mantra kept my exterior in check as I placed my knife and fork either side of my plate and quietly motioned the waiter over to my table, desperately trying not to call attention to myself, unfortunately most of the table had caught the movement in their peripheral. I asked him to find out if there was alcohol in the gravy, already sure of the answer. He motioned to another server for help, drawing yet more attention to the situation. The waiters disappeared off to the kitchen and returned, swiftly removed the offending meal and replacing it with a polished plate, with non-alcoholic gravy. In the meantime nearly everyone in the vicinity was curiously looking over at me; I forced myself to keep a natural smile on my face and roll my eyes in a blazé fashion. A particularly perceptive colleague mouthed “alcohol?” and nodded knowingly, the girl to my right, whom I had never met asked if everything was okay and why I couldn’t eat alcohol, “is it an allergy?” she asked. I told her it was just not worth the risk due to having bipolar. The drunk colleague to my left started sounding off about how people ask her why she never drinks, the reason being? “I just never do it”… The irony was inescapable. The long and short of it was, my drinking was the centre of attention and I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

10:05pm – I started eating the non-alcoholic replacement but I felt uneasy because I was sure I could taste an unwelcome tang. I assured myself it was fine, the waiter had said, specifically, it was non-alcoholic and I was afraid of making a fuss, so I finished the plate. I regret that. I should never have eaten it. Touch wood, nothing bad came of it, but even having the feeling that something’s off is enough to leave a plate of food, regardless of how much fuss is made. Two things can happen when an alcoholic digests alcoholic food; 1.) the taste can set of a chain reaction and kick start a memory and then a craving – something you never want, let alone at a function which is drowning in alcohol. And 2.) if the alcohol content is high enough you are essentially drinking alcohol, which can kick start a neurological process in which you have unwittingly taken your first drink and you lose control over the ability to drink more. In the future I will be choosing mild hunger over alcoholic insanity.

11:30pm – Dinner was over, the night was drawing to a close, I was talking to my boss and the previously mentioned, particularly perceptive colleague. Whilst I had been running around, working, I’d missed the after-dinner chocolates being handed out and I really wanted one but I was trying to be on my best behaviour and so was ignoring the urge to walk up to a table and pinch one. The three of us were chatting away when a server apparated beside us, offering up three post dinner sweets, white chocolate, my favourite. Each of us took one and popped the morsals, whole in to my mouths. I took a bite just as my colleague quickly said “Maddie, there’s alcohol in these” My whole body froze. My, oblivious boss burst out laughing and said, “He’s teasing, ignore him!” With what I am aware was a complete look of horror on my face, I could taste that he was serious, he shook his head, unsure of what to do to help. “I’m not joking, they’re champagne chocolates”. The flavour was strengthening, I felt sick. I had no idea what to do. With my boss in front of me, clients swarming around me I couldn’t spit it out, could I! Or could I? I sure as hell wasn’t going to finish eating it but the bathroom was on the other side of the floor and I’d have to fight through countless lawyers to get there. My boss was laughing at me, saying “calm down!”, “One chocolate won’t get you pissed.”, “Oh for goodness sake, don’t be so stupid”. As I wheeled around in panic, trying desperately to stay calm, I could hear my colleague saying to her “You don’t understand, she sent her food back earlier because of it, she can’t eat it.” My boss was leaning in, pushing her face closer to mine and continued her incredulous commentary. Fuck it. I grabbed a napkin and spat the chocolate out. Nothing is worth my sobriety. I could hear my sponsor’s voice in my head “I don’t care where you are or who you are with if you need to spit it out, just do it”. I grabbed a glass of water and washing it round my mouth, the flavour hanging on to my taste buds for dear life. My boss fell silent, I think the fact that I’d resorted to doing such a thing in the middle of a ballroom, in The Savoy, London filled with clients and colleagues meant I wasn’t dicking about.

Fifteen minutes later and I was in a cab to the station, to get on this train. I wanted and still want to cry out of frustration, anger, indignation, you name it. Tonight was just horrendous, but I didn’t have a drink and for each day that I don’t, my life is a success. For some people reading this, a drink is a way to enjoy yourself or relax and unwind, to me, it is like playing Russian roulette without the empty chamber; no person, job, client or black tie dinner is worth pulling that trigger.

If I had spoken to a fellow alcoholic beforehand, meditated on it, read the menu carefully, requested a non-alcoholic dinner in advance and asked what was in the chocolates, tonight would have been a very different and wonderful experience. The world is about being equipped to take life on life’s terms so that you don’t miss all the wonderful things. This evening, I let myself forget that not every situation will be within my comfort zone but that’s not to say I shouldn’t have ventured out. All I’m saying, is that if you want to stand underneath a rainbow you better buy an umbrella.

 

 

 

The Translation Game

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Depending on my circumstances, every day or so, someone finds out about my bipolar, about an aspect of it, or that I’m experiencing a mood shift. Inevitably this means that I am on the receiving end of some of the most inappropriate lines, obnoxious comments and naïve assumptions. So, in a bid to prevent this from happening I decided to create a top-ten, because, as we all know, the internet loves a list!

I’ve narrowed it down to my most frequently heard and I’ve annotated each one with a translation which emphasises exactly how ridiculous they sound. I will save the worst until last.

Shall we?

 

  1. Cheer up, I reckon I can make you smile! – (On multiple occasions this was swiftly followed by my ex pushing his face in to mine and yelling ‘COME OOOON!’ …I don’t miss him.)
    1. Cheer up, I can prevent an infection by telling a good joke!
    2. Watching someone try to “cheer you up” is awful. It invokes guilt, frustration, anger, on both sides, and generally makes you feel worse so please, just stop.

 

  1. Snap out of it!
    1. A heart attack? Snap out of it!
    2. Trust me when I say, nobody choses to have a mood swing, there is only so much control you have over it and acting like it’s as simple as making a decision is insulting, hurtful and ignorant.

 

  1. You have bipolar? I have depression, so I know exactly what you’re going through.
    1. You have an ear infection? I have a bad back, so I know exactly what you’re going through.
    2. Just because they both cause pain doesn’t mean they are the same. Yes, depression is a part of bipolar but it’s not that simple, for example, my life mainly revolves around mania. Besides, you and I are different people, we will experience things in completely different ways so, no, neither of us will know exactly what the other person is going through.

 

  1. Why is mania bad? Being happy is awesome!
    1. Why is a kidney stone bad? Beach pebbles are awesome!
    2. Being happy and being manic are totally not the same (please click here). This is not so dissimilar from people saying depression is the same as being sad.

 

  1. Sometimes I don’t want to go to work either but you just have to get up and get on with it.
    1. Sometimes I don’t want to walk but just because your leg is broken doesn’t mean you get take the bus.
    2. *Face Palm*

 

  1. You look alright, to me.
    1. I can’t see your blurred vision, so therefore I deem it non-existent.
    2. Mental illness is not necessarily visible. Even if it was, the medication I take to make me functional makes your assumption null and void. Also, are you a fucking doctor?!

 

  1. It’s so in to have a mental illness right now.
    1. It’s so in to have diabetes right now. Or worse. Do you actually have bipolar or are you taking life threatening medication just to look cool?
    2. I cannot tell you how sick I am of hearing this. Most of the time I will, wrongly, just tune out and nod along because I can’t bear to get involved and I’m slightly afraid of what I’ll do to the person who has deemed it appropriate to say such an insulting thing to me. I have no doubt there are people in this world that fake mental illness but to generalise to that extent about a struggling community, and then casually throw the comment around is obnoxious.

 

  1. You shouldn’t take medication, it’s not good for you.
    1. You shouldn’t take blood thickeners, they’re not good for you. Or I am not a doctor and I have no knowledge of your medical history or current symptoms but I know better because INTERNET.
    2. It is irrelevant if you have your own personal experience with medication, with bipolar or anything similar to me. I do not care if you are even qualified in certain areas related to my diagnosis. If you don’t know my symptoms and my medical history or you aren’t my psychiatrist you should back the hell away from my treatment. Medication is right for some, it is wrong for others. It just so happens that it is right for me at this current time. I can appreciate that someone telling me this may have my best interest at heart but I can also tell you that it is an inappropriate thing to lecture me on and you are not within your rights to tell me what to do with my illness.

 

  1. I think everyone is on the bipolar spectrum.
    1. I think everyone is on the spine bifida spectrum.
    2. That’s genuinely how stupid that sounds. Yes, everyone experiences mood swings, some more than others but that does not make them mentally ill. Saying so is insulting to mentally ill people. The “Bipolar Spectrum” IS a thing but it refers to a wide array of mental illnesses and does not encompass every living person. Admittedly I have, often, agreed with people on this, if only, to get them to stop talking!

 

  1. Bipolar? Oh cool! Like Stephen Fry!?
    1. Cancer? Oh cool! Like Morrissey?!
    2. This, I cannot stress enough. Not fucking cool. I hear this so, so, so many times and I hate it each and every time. I want to punch you square in the jaw for your blatant stupidity and insensitivity.

 

So there we have it! Can we have a big cheer for everyone involved! I would like to take the time to thank everyone that inspired my list, always a privilege never a chore, without you, none of this would have been possible!

On a more serious note though, these comments have come from strangers, friends, best friends, employers, teachers, my parents, maybe even your parents (who knows!) my point is, is that mental illness is a minefield, for those who have it and for those who don’t. As a result everyone makes mistakes, puts their foot in it and on occasion comes across as insensitive and stupid. A good general rule to keep to is, if it doesn’t make sense when substituted with a physical illness it probably won’t make sense with a mental one. Another general rule is never assume you know someone, know their life or their state of mind.

Or, put more succinctly by Jerry Belson in 1973…

“Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME

I Met a Man In New York City

Destination, N.Y.C. Why was I going? Partly because I wanted a break and I plan to live in New York one day. A lot because I decided a spontaneous trip to a foreign city was the best thing I could possibly do right NOW! A little bit because of a crush I had developed on someone. Everything kind of just converged. If it weren’t for the latter reason I reckon I would’ve gone somewhere like New Orleans, just for the Jazz.

It was fascinating, watching how my feelings toward the holiday varied according to mood. Two days before, I sat on a train and I did not want to go to New York, I toyed with sacking the whole thing off and just spending a few days underneath the duvet – sod the money, fuck the trip, I was tired. The day before that, I wanted to run around screaming ‘I’m going to New York City!’ and the day prior to the flight I couldn’t stop quoting Legally Blonde in my head, “You mean like on Vacay?!” In fact, I sent an email, to my boss with the word ‘Vacay’ in it, twice. When I got on the tube that morning I couldn’t stop smiling, New York City(!) the coolest day! Yet five minutes before boarding I was seething over two bitchy airport attendants who had laughed at the amount of items I’d wedged in to my liquids only bag. Once on the plane I didn’t feel anything, not good or bad, neither depressed nor manic, NYC was just a fact and that was that.

During the holiday itself, I was just in a happy state of borderline-hypomania, apart from a few hours of sudden exhaustion on my first day, which I put down to jet-lag. Now… well… now, I’m sitting at LaGuardia airport oscillation between writing about bipolar and wanting to write about a fucking guy. That little crush, I mentioned earlier, escalated. So much so that I had to start a conversation, a couple of hours before I was leaving with “So what happens when I return to England?” For a variety of reasons, liking this guy was absurd but what was really surreal was how much I liked him when we met up, after four years of not seeing each other, in NYC. This is the most surprising, most inconvenient and most remarkable romantic encounter I have had to date.

My history with relationships has often revolved around me sacrificing my needs in an aim to seek someone else’s approval, however, today, I told the truth; I stated that I didn’t want a casual thing to evolve out of this weekend. I said it would have to be one of three things, either we would be an item or we would see how it goes with the plan that one day we would be an item or we would be completely platonic. And guess what? He didn’t shun me, the world didn’t explode, nobody died; it was the exact opposite of drama. He, in exchange for my honesty, was honest with me and the end result is that he has some thinking to do due to his own personal circumstances. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit sad when he didn’t immediately say “Yes! I’m so glad you feel the same way” But what would have been worse would have been if either of us had lied. If I had said I was okay with a casual hook-up and emotionally damaged myself later down the line, if he had just jumped in to a relationship and then backed out because he wasn’t in to it, or if he’d just said no, instead of taking the time to talk to me and we’d never explored our options.

I got told once, that there are only three answers to wanting something;

  • Yes.
  • Yes, but not yet.
  • No, because there’s something much better for you.

To me, this guy has to work out if he likes me enough, to try to make this long distance, potential relationship work. If he comes back to me and says no, I will be disappointed and upset but I will get over it as one man saying no does not spell the end of my dating life. If he likes me but decides the logistics are insurmountable then he will get over it and he will meet someone else. When you experience rejection, the world keeps turning, friends keep matchmaking and dating websites keep running.

The hardest part, of all of this, has been having to make myself still, while I come to terms with the fact that I have no control over something that I want. All I can do is wait for my answer and remember that unmatched feelings hurt, they can make you cry, make you numb, make you rethink and regret but they don’t last if you don’t let them. Not being someone’s leading lady doesn’t have to be the biggest drama in the world.