Since launching the desire to take on a challenge far greater than I (or my mother) ever anticipated, the concept of adventure has taken on a new persona in my mind. Fear, it seems, has taken a back seat, and has been replaced by its mischievous cousin, thrill; the one likely to take a challenge head on and exceed it with bells and whistles. Accompanying thrill is anxiety, the naggy step-cousin that just will not let things be, a constant buzz in the ear of how everything could go wrong, how nobody is likely to support, how getting out in the open is doomed for failure just like last time, and how all the past issues are still here, waiting, and cloaking the light with their stinking wings of paranoia.
Quite how my mind goes from super-excited enthusiasm that I must tell absolutely everyone about it, to absolute thrill followed quickly by anxiety and near-paranoia, is anyone’s guess, but it is unfortunately common in those who are possessed of a disposition referred to commonly as Bipolar Disorder. Living in a town with one of the country’s most prominent former Asylums is an ironic reminder of where I could have been housed less than a century ago. Now for the past few months I have sought to consider myself as separate from said diagnosis, but unfortunately, the title rears its head on a daily basis to remind me that it’s not going away any time soon.
In fact, not ever.
Managing this condition is my primary goal – therefore it has a very prominent role in my daily living. Having left my career over three years ago and ventured into new territories of self-(un)employment, student, network marketer, designer, illustrator, entrepreneur, volunteer, and perhaps more but titles evade me, the idea of going back to all of that fuzzy insecurity no longer appeals to me. I crave stability of some sort, because I know I will no longer have a mental stability that I can perfectly rely on. I am unreliable in myself, in my mind, because I do not have constant control. However, the idea of working in a job that does not cater to my altering emotions, needs, creative outbursts or ethos of living, simply fills me with despair and sadness. I often feel that there is no role that I can do that will allow me to earn money. In the same vein, I am not eligible for any help from the government with this – I am not disabled enough, even though I even find their questionnaires about my condition debilitating – the government seek to support those with physical disabilities, and have yet to fully comprehend that those with mental health conditions can be paralysed by fear and anxiety alone, from something as simple as a phone call or being asked to step outside of the house. Being someone who would rather be completely self-reliant, not have to depend on anyone, having always been the bread winner, and leaving home aged 18 years and two months, taking handouts from the government is also completely against my ethos. I prefer not to be dependent on a state that does not care for me, and would instead condemn me for not working like a foot soldier.
Stigma, is what it’s about. Stigma, has hounded me for years, has not allowed me to come to terms with periods of depression whilst being a mother of young children and as a police officer facing unruly people who wanted to tear my hair out, has not allowed me to come to terms with attempted suicide because I could no longer face the torturous demons inside my own head telling me how worthless and unloved I was by family, friends and even colleagues. Stigma is a battle of its own magnitude, and it’s a battle that is put out there by the sleight of tongue and rejection of the people we need the most, and the people whose opinions we seek and trust.
Fortunately (we all like a good ending), building on this event I am starting to come into contact with people who are genuinely supportive, who are affected in some way by mental health broadly, or by Bipolar Disorder specifically. I had been posting pictures on Instagram of my runs – not necessarily of me running, but actually of what I find on my runs, the reasons that I am able to get out every day, and how I’m feeling. My running focus is my therapy, it’s free, I have control of it, and when I find new and interesting routes I am thrilled and cannot wait to go back again and explore some more. Altering what I go running for – not simply to train – has given me that encouragement and motivation, but it’s also the effect that it has had on others that has left me feeling inspired to go further, believing in me with absolute conviction that someone who has never ran more than a mountainous marathon could take on 42 Ultra runs on consecutive days without knowing anybody on the route. The companies such as TrueStart Coffee and Borders Physio that have sought me out because they find me inspiring is still hard to register, because I come with lots of baggage and it’s ugly and angry. Those people who took the time to donate to my sponsorship page have reached out with faith when I still have almost 5 months to go, and another 6 weeks on top to complete. It is an empowering feeling that someone can believe in you, I genuinely encourage you all to go out and let someone know that you believe in them, that they are awesome human beings who can achieve and even exceed their goals. The results will be phenomenal.
My ethos is becoming clearer in my mind, it doesn’t require complications, just simple acceptance of all our faults, smiles to show we appreciate and acknowledge each other, living by nature’s rainbow with fruit and vegetables as much as possible, beverages and sports fuel that are ethical and environmentally responsible, supporting community programmes, supporting small charities, supporting the underdog, and keeping my family at the heart of my reasons for doing anything off-the-wall. I want to be the role model that my children grow up with, and not have to tell them to look at the TV to find one. I don’t think I want much, but I do want to be able to be me.