life, Uncategorized, writing

Things to calm the brain

The past few months have been kind of chaotic. Despite that chaos, I’ve been making good progress on my goals and I think this is in part due to finding things to help my brain along.

You see, I have bipolar 2. My brain can be a bit of a dick sometimes. That’s enough to contend with most days, but add in grief from my Nana dying, prepping a house to sell, selling said house, and packing to move cities among regular life and other things – well, it’s been an interesting few months. I fully expected to fall over at some point and not get back up. I’m still standing. And actually doing better than I have in a very long time despite the aforementioned challenges.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on some tools that helped me – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear those!

Friend and fellow author, Richard Parry, introduced me to the video below. It’s been a staple in my rotation ever since. I haven’t played the game myself but it’s an excellent meditation.

I played Tales from the Borderlands last year (absolutely stellar game – right up there in my top 5 at present) and discovered this song. It’s gorgeous and when I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and close my eyes everything disappears. Bliss.

And those noise-cancelling headphones? AMAZING. I picked up a set of Backbeats Pro 2 through a reward programme and could not be happier. Sometimes I walk around with just the active noise cancelling on – it dulls the background noises and makes my brain a happier place to live. And when I do want sound? Well, the quality is much better than my old cheap headphones or my tinny phone. SO HAPPY.

20180208_200024Another thing that helps is getting out in nature – I’ve been taking the kids to the park or beach most nights after dinner. They run and play, I make notes for the next days writing or read. Sometimes the view is a little distracting and I don’t get much done – that’s cool too. Brains need time to declutter themselves.

I try and make time to do the other things I love too: play games on my PS4, read books that I actually enjoy, watch a range of excellent TV shows and movies, take time out of the house to be ALONE.

That last one is pretty important. I need time alone. Like, NEED. My headphones give me the illusion of it when I can’t actually be alone, but there is nothing that quite compares to a little solitude. Not for me, anyway.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going?

 

 

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Uncategorized

Looking back

This month has been a grand old mix of just about everything, and I can hardly believe that we’re almost to the end of the year. I had high hopes of knocking out another novella, but that hasn’t panned out quite so well. All good. I turned 32, had an amazing birthday, Christmas was wonderful and my garden got a massive clean out. So as a whole, it has been a good month. Just not so much for writing.

At the beginning of 2012 I posted that this year was going to be all about exploration. I knew it was going to be a ‘big’ year, but had no idea in what way that would manifest. Quite frankly, I had no idea what was in store for me. This has been a hell of a year, and while the growth that’s occurred has been great and life is on track to improve, in some ways I wish it never happened. It has been hard. Really hard.

I started back at university, which was really something. I LOVED the paper I took. I learned so much and have been able to apply a lot of the things I’ve learned to life in general, as well as using new skills to help friends through some stuff. It really confirmed for me that counselling is going to play a role in my life – whether as a career, or just as something I have in my arsenal of skills*. That said, I did drop out from the Lifeline training as I had this overwhelming sense that it just wasn’t something I could follow through on (the weekly time commitment etc).

This was just as well, because not long after that school started back up for Ivy and things deteriorated pretty quickly. She’d already been on a downward spiral, having major difficulties with her temper, her moods and life in general, but the added stress of school just seemed to tip her over the edge. It wasn’t long before she started talking about killing herself, and making plans for how she would do this.ย Naturally, I was beyond concerned and we went to see child mental health.

Since the beginning of April this year she’s been in therapy weekly, had a mass of testing done and been declared to have either ADHD, Aspergers, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Depression, Bi-polar or a combination of these things. They can’t really pin-point which is it, and have said she is ‘unique’ and ‘baffling’. She is also highly intelligent, but we already knew that. They got us to trial some medication for ADHD but it was like she was on speed, so we opted to discontinue that within a week of starting and haven’t looked back.

This lead to us making the decision to homeschool. School seemed to be a major source of her depression and it had got to the point where she could eat nothing at school, she had almost constant tummy aches, chronic anxiety about what might happen at school, and would begin crying or screaming at me within moments of walking out the classroom door (which would pretty much continue until bedtime).

Needless to say, none of our wee family were thriving, and it was killing all of us living in a warzone with one incredibly unhappy little girl. No child should have to feel the way she was feeling.

It was August before she got her exemption, but since then she’s been doing really well. Her desire to learn has come back, she is creative and imaginative now, and while she’s still very difficult to keep focused, at least she has a lust for knowledge. She can eat again, she has no tummy aches, and she hasn’t spoken a word about wanting to kill herself for months now.

Total win.

She’s still very explosive though and gets exhausted easily, just behaving herself on an ordinary day is tiring for her. What other kids normally cope with is very taxing for her, and I’ve learned to make allowances. If we have a busy day, an overly stimulating day, we stay home the next and she can meltdown as much as she needs to in the comfort of her own home. She’s generally very well behaved in public, which is a blessing. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s the best we can do right now. I’m so pleased we can do this for her, and even her psychologist has said that the main factor in her getting ‘better’ even this much has been home school, not therapy.

All of this has meant more stress in our collective life, but in mine mostly. I’ve gone from having two kids home full time, to having three and adding teacher to my already comprehensive list of ‘stuff I do’. I’ve got to admit I do enjoy it (thank goodness!!) but it has meant we’re still working on routines and I’m still learning to take time out for myself (I’m not very good at that yet). We’ll get there eventually. It’s clear to everyone who knows her that this was absolutely the best thing we could have done for her.

To make all of my daughters difficulties even harder to deal with, I got my cycle back finally (after years without!) only to find that I have PMDD. This is pretty nasty and meant that initially I was all but useless for about 10 days a month. I thought I had lost it, and then realized it was incredibly cyclical. The doctor confirmed it, and I’ve since tried a few things to help. I’m still working on sorting it out permanently, but after 8 or so months now, I am finally learning to go a little easier on myself in those down days, and make the most of the rest of the month. It’s a work on progress.

As for my writing, well I didn’t get a single thing published this year. I spent most of my time working on longer pieces – I finished the first draft of Sun-Touched, and I wrote, edited and submitted Burn (at least I thought I did. Turns out I actually submitted a portion of my final assignment for my uni paper… moral of the story is: don’t hand in a bunch of things at the same time, you might get confused), and started a second novella as well, currently titled Shell and Bone. I feel good about the lessons I learned regarding writing, which will hopefully pay off next year. I’m trying not to be too bothered about the fact there were no sales.

The bright spot of my writing life has been my writing friends, who are so wonderful, and so great to work along side, and the discovery that no matter how long a break I take between projects, I can slip right back into writing with ease. Beautiful.

EDITED TO ADD. OH AND I CO-WON AN AWARD. I had totally forgotten, but Anna reminded me. That was also an amazing thing that happened in my writer life. A Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Works. Epic.ย 

So yeah. Rough year. Big year. And that’s without all the tragedies and sadness that has happened to those I care about. If you’d asked me what I thought life would look like at the beginning of 2012, I could never have predicted that this would be it. I think we’re all still adjusting, but that’s probably just what we’ll have to call ‘normal’ for… well, perhaps forever. Who knows.

For right now I am looking ahead. I can’t see how 2013 could be any more challenging (knock on wood!!), so I am certainly hoping for more light spots than dark, more obvious progress, and more positive change within our family unit.

I’ll be studying two papers – one per semester – and as my writing group as dubbed it, 2013 is going to be the year of the novel. Sun-Touched is going to be my primary writing project and I can’t wait to knock it into submission quality.

I truly hope that your 2012 was a little easier than mine. And if it wasn’t, I’m really sorry it was so rough. Enjoy the last days of it, though, you survived and that’s something to be proud of. That said, I’ll be raising a glass on the 31st and saying thank god it’s over!

Here’s to 2013. Catch you next year ๐Ÿ˜‰

*I managed to swing a B+ on my counselling theory paper (which I’m over the moon about. I know it’s not an A, but all things considered, it’s quite an achievement). As well as to complete the Mauri Ora course through Te Wananga o Aotearoa.