Hello! Yvie here, likely to be laid up in bed, hunkered over a coffee chicory-cacao aka chi-cao, writing out notes for another idea, plotting my next creative adventure to keep the fires burning in my heart, or simply exploring doodles and photo filters. Or, that was me to some degree, now I do what I can from my bed; I write a little, draw on an iPad a little and edit the few photos that I take through the seasons, usually from within my house or garden.

We’ve all faced challenges, we’ve all experienced upheaval, and just when I thought my diagnosis of bipolar was it, along came another to put life in perspective. I’m still making room for acceptance and grief, still working on myself and my ability to forgive, to grow and to learn. Aside from self-pep talks, when we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles it is the human spirit that knows our trials are lessons for us to work with, learn from, and surpass.

Recognise your struggles, and work with them, they are part of your story.

No, it won’t be easy. Nor should it be. But, boy, will you discover more about your life when you do. Here’s a short piece that may explain my take on life. We can never truly know each other without knowing our pasts, that’s the amateur genealogist in me.

My earliest memories are of paradise.

Yvie Johnson, TEDx 2017

I lived on an island, I was free to roam from our colonial house perched up on the hillside, I would usually be found on the beach swimming in the larger of the two beach pools under the watchful eye of a Gurkha guard. I was about four years old and I was content with my island life. I remember the monsoons, the complicated walk-truck-ferry-bus to get to school, the mosquito nets, the cockroaches and the grass snakes, the swimming races against my elder sisters (aged eight and thirteen), confident I could win. Life was one big family adventure and I soaked it up. Like many things in my life, I taught myself to swim by jumping in at the deep end. I hadn’t feared trying to swim, aged three or four, I just did it.

Later my mother told me the Gurkha had been keeping a watchful eye whilst I figured it out. I’m very grateful for his ability to let me discover an important life lesson—I learn best when I jump in at the deep end. It’s sink or swim.

Only, as I get older, I become more afraid of the process and I long for that fearless child’s mind once more. Travelling became a part of my life from birth, my first move to a foreign country at just 3 months old. It wasn’t always out of choice, but it is a constant that I find comfort in, a part of my perpetuating need to search for myself: where do I truly belong on this little blue planet? Why am I here? What am I capable of? What is my purpose?

Now I have one foot in North Wales with my multi-lingual family, and an eye on destinations, near and far. I crave the mountains and hilly trails when I’m on roads and in cities. The sound of running water and capturing flora and fauna discoveries through a lens, are my counter-balance to external and internal tolls. At one time I wouldn’t have understood the treasures before me, but now my eyes are truly open. My inherent determination to seek out and explore, both physically and philosophically, whilst I cope with the mental tribulations that come with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and the physical restrictions of managing M.E., is a deep-rooted spark that pushes me where many may falter.

My journey is taking me back to being who I once was: fearless, adventurous, courageous. Hypomania and M.E. is an awkward combination, and a tightrope to journey on. Deep down, I simply strive to be the best version of myself, whatever my circumstances. Even when I really don’t know what I’m doing.

I prefer coffee to tea. Dark chocolates and berries. Reading by torchlight. Doodling and designing till the morning light. Lie-ins and waking to harmonies on the radio. Pulling on trainers and running out the door. Meaningful hugs, designer mugs, illustrated cotton bags and turquoise accessories. Affirmations and inspirational videos. Second-hand shops and stripey socks. I’m not sure what my natural hair colour is. Photographing the detail. Exploring my philosophies. Learning facts and discussing ideas. My nicknames have included Smiler, Yeti, Y-Fronts, Yoghurt, Lettuce and Spaghetti.