Tag Archives: cyclothymia

Bipolar Awareness Day

27 Jun

Today is the first ever UK bipolar awareness day. A great chance for people to talk openly and learn more about this much misunderstood and stigmatised condition. I have spoken at length on the blog about my own experiences with cyclothymia, a form of bipolar (and the same one Stephen Fry suffers with  – that makes me feel special!) and even made a little monster called the Bipolar Bear to reflect the daily struggle of living with the condition. You can visit him here.

I urge anyone who is worried about the welfare of a loved one, workmate, or acquaintance, to just talk. Don’t be afraid to ask a simple ‘are you ok?’. To those of us who have mood disorders like this, don’t be ashamed to tell the truth if someone reaches out. We are all in this together

200 Posts Ago…

17 Jun

This is my 200th post. That’s a lot of rambling, even for me. My first post on this blog was posted on Jan 6th 2011, but this was my second attempt at blogging. My first go fell flat on its face six months previously after a couple of posts, when I realised that I actually had nothing to blog about. I was existing rather than living and was certainly not fulfilling my potential in life.

This being a landmark post at number 200, it got me thinking about who I was and what I was doing when I first started blogging. Things have changed no end since then.

This was me back then, 28 years old, and in the middle of having my heart broken for the second time by the same man. Struggling with an undiagnosed mood disorder, living in a shared house, recently hospitalised with a mystery illness, and very unhappy. I hadn’t picked up a pencil, paintbrush, or pair of scissors in a long long time, and it hadn’t even really occurred to me to do so.

Something needed to change. I was entering a bit of a manic phase where I needed something to keep me busy (and keep me out of trouble), which was when I started creating again. Starting out with some doodles, these evolved into sock creatures and eventually into monsters. The monster obsession grew, and finally I had something to blog about. It wasn’t until I met Mr Monster at the end of 2010 that I started to take my art seriously. On our first date he asked me “So, what do you do with your spare time”. I replied, with an air of mystery, “I make monsters”. He told me that was the best answer I could possibly have given, and from there the ice was broken. We began throwing around ideas for a business name and it was from that conversation that ‘The Mistress of Monsters’ evolved.

As we got to know each other, Mr Monster took my business in hand and took it upon himself to design me a logo (still the best present anyone has given me), and gave my then fledgling and rather generic looking blog a revamp into what you see today.

This is me today. As I write my 200th post, I’m 30 years old, happy, and engaged to marry my partner in crime. I have sound health, and a busy life. I understand myself, and am happy with the person I am. I have a lovely home, two beautiful cats, a loving family, and supportive friends. It pays to count your blessings sometimes, and I feel lucky to have the chance to list them here.

Introvert vs Extrovert

19 Mar

Apologies for going way off topic with this one. I ordinarily use my blog for art and fabric based ramblings with a bit of life thrown in, but on this occasion, allow me to talk about something a little different.

I recently came across an article in the Guardian entitled “Why the world needs introverts“. Despite being fine with public speaking and always the first up at karaoke, I’ve always had a very introverted character, so of course I had a read. What I read hit me hard, and has had a profound effect on me over the last few days.

The article was written by a lady called Susan Cain, ex-lawyer turned writer from New York. She holds powerful views on the changes in society which have led us towards what she calls the ‘extrovert ideal’, where we are led to feel that to be anything other than confident, loud and quick to make decisions is wrong. She calls for introverts to be allowed to be themselves, and to use their unique characteristics to the advantage of us all, without being overshadowed by those who may speak a little louder.

Growing up, I have very powerful memories of being constantly asked by teachers, “are you ok?” and “Whatever is the matter?”. Another favourite was to be told that I looked miserable or that I never smiled. The crazy thing is, nothing was wrong, I was perfectly content, and this constant questioning led me to wonder if something really WAS wrong. Why did I not fit in? Why was it that my quiet ways were seen as so wrong and anti-social.

If ever we had to work in a group at school, my heart would sink as I knew that any ideas I came up with would fall on deaf ears, only to be floated and accepted later-on by someone more confident with a more forceful way. I never had lots of friends, just a couple of very close ones, and if ever they were off sick or on holiday, I would happily sit in the playground with my head in a book until they came back. In fact, one vivid memory is of one of the ‘cool kids’ trying to take my book away from me. Instinct kicked in and without even thinking about it, I slapped her square across the face. Wrong I know, but satisfying, and it saw to it that she and the other bullies never bothered me again – Until I got to secondary school that is.

After school and into adulthood I began to feel the pressure towards fitting in to the ‘extrovert ideal’ as Susan Cain talks about so eloquently in her article. I forced myself to go out to noisy bars when all I wanted was to curl up with a good book. I threw myself into public speaking when every fibre in my body was telling me it wasn’t for me. I accepted invitations for events which I know I wouldn’t enjoy as hard as I might try. I do all these things because introverts like me are made to feel that we are being rude, or boring if we choose to inhabit only those environments in which we feel comfortable. I love my friends intensely, but would rather see them for cosy dinners or chats over cups of coffee than in a busy bar with the pressure to drink and, god forbid, to mingle with strangers!

Susan Cain makes some interesting points about what makes us either introverted or extroverted, and a lot of it seems to boil down to how we respond to stimulation. Extroverts need constant stimulation, stuff happening, noise, busyness. Whereas us introverted types can be completely overwhelmed by these things. We like peace and quiet, one thing at a time, and find multi-tasking just doesn’t work.

So why are we being forced to feel that the way we inherently are is wrong? We are like square pegs being forced into round holes and I’m sure, on reflection of the introvert/extrovert argument, that this is why I’ve led a life plagued with periods of depression and eventual bipolar diagnosis. I spend my time trying hard to fit into an extrovert world, I make myself go to places I don’t want to go, do things I don’t want to do, and then wonder why I fail miserably and end up getting myself all upset. If people with a character like mine felt able to just be ourselves, then we would be much happier, and those around us would get the best of us.

So, introverts of the world, it’s time for us to stand up and be what we are. Sensitive, quiet, thoughtful and fond of solitude. I may not be a party animal or a raver, but I am a good person with a lot to give. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Susan Cain has a book coming out at the end of March called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. You can see her talking about her ideas here. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, It’s well worth a watch, especially if you have, or work with children. I don’t want other people to grow up with the same insecurities I did.

The Bipolar Bear

13 Nov

The BiPolar Bear

My latest creation, The Bipolar Bear is probably my best work to date and I guess that could be because I put a lot of myself into it. This little guy is not a commission, he’s not for sale, he’s just for me.

The word ‘Bipolar’ is massively misused. Just a quick search on twitter for #bipolar will turn up a whole host of people using the term as a way of describing someone who maybe feels a bit sad sometimes, who can’t make up their mind, or has the odd mood swing.

Make no bones about it, bipolarity is a serious and often life-threatening illness. An illness like many others, where through no fault of their own, sufferers have to learn to live with and manage the condition on a daily basis. It is NOT self-inflicted, it is NOT a case of ‘pulling yourself together’ and it is NOT something to be ashamed of.

The Bipolar Bear is a fabric representation of my own bipolarity. I didn’t want it to be a case of just happy and sad. For me, at my down times I feel worn, broken, faded and thoroughly exhausted. Bilbo Baggins said it best when he said that he felt like butter spread over too much bread. The down side of my bear has been inked, torn and patched back up to try and evoke that feeling of being totally worn-out in every way that a person (or bear) can feel.

I’m lucky that my manic times are not too severe, I generally feel happy, confident, ambitious and capable. Everything is rosy and nothing will bring me down. I found that harder to convey on the bear’s happy face but I am pleased with the result.

The Bipolar Bear

The Bipolar Bear

A massive thank you goes to Mr Monster, not only for photographing and animating my bear, but also for all the support he gives me every single day.

Happiness is…

17 Sep

Sometimes in life, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.

I am grateful that it’s in my nature to find joy in the small things in life – sometimes I have been mocked or derided for being that way, but I really wouldn’t want to change. Yes, that side of me can have a tendency to make me seem naive and child-like, but are those really such undesirable qualities to have?

On the flip-side, being so easily pleased can also mean that I am equally easily crushed. In the blink of an eye I can go from skipping through the daisies, to the sky caving in. Would I give up one for the other? Would I stop giggling at daydreams and seeing monsters in the clouds in order to avoid the times when the world is ganging-up on me? Ask me that today and I might say ‘Yes please’, ask me tomorrow and I’m sure I will say ‘Hell No!’. That’s just the way I am.

It does me good sometimes to remind myself of the good things around me and of those little things that make me oh so happy – allow me to share.

1 – Tea in MY mug

My mugMr Monster and I had a lovely day a month or two ago at Flying Saucers in central Bristol – a pottery painting cafe where you can choose from loads of different blank pieces of porcelain to decorate. We spent several happy hours drinking tea, munching on biscuits, and each painting a mug for the other to call their own.

My mugThis pretty little owl was painted for me by Mr Monster and I love her. This is her before she was glazed and fired, and on the back of the mug he painted the likenesses of our two gorgeous little kittens. Every time I drink out of it I feel all cosy and warm to know that I have my very own mug and such a lovely man to make me my medicinal cups of tea to go in it.

My mugThese are the finished articles including the fox mug which I made for him.

2. The Great British Bake-Off

Bake Off

BBC programming at it’s best. If this is where my license fee is going then I pay it gladly. A good gentle hour of TV, watching people make delicious food with passion and love. As a child I can remember really enjoying watching cookery programmes and into adulthood I have always found them immensely relaxing. As someone who finds relaxation doesn’t come easy, it makes a welcome break from my ever fertile mind.

3 – Stuffed Magazine

Stuffed

Stuffed magazine is a stunning publication showcasing plush artists from around the world. Beautifully put together and endlessly inspiring. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t pick up one of the copies on my shelf and have a flick through. The newest issue is currently winging it’s way to me from America and every day when I go to check my postbox, the sense of anticipation is palpable. I’m sure it will be here soon and when it is I will be a VERY happy little mistress. Oh… And the title always makes me snigger!

4. Writing

typewriter

Recently I have rediscovered my love of writing. I guess as someone who has so much going on in her head, getting it all down in words is a good way of letting off steam – a bit like Dumbledore’s Pensieve for any fellow Potterheads out there.

As a teen, I wanted to either be an artist or a writer. For work experience when I was fifteen, I organised a placement at my local newspaper (I arranged it a year in advance, that’s how keen I was!) and gained a good insight into the world of news journalism. Although I enjoyed the experience, I wasn’t keen on the fact that even at a local level stories were being embellished and sensationalised. At that tender age I didn’t really think about the fact that newspapers weren’t the only avenue and turned my back on the idea.

Despite writing endless short stories as a kid and knocking around the idea of a novel as an adult, I haven’t really written for pleasure in very many years. Blogging has been a great way to get writing again – the internet allows self-publication at the click of a button and whether anyone reads what I have to say or not, I can still get my thoughts out there.

Blogging has given me the confidence to put my written work ‘out there’ so to speak and the feedback I have been getting has been wonderful to receive. I have soooo many projects up my sleeve for the future… Perhaps I can be a writer AND an artist after all.

5. My Family

Family

I’m at the point of life where I am not just thinking about myself anymore. I have my family to consider. Mr Monster and our two beautiful little kitty’s are everything to me and I am really enjoying building a life with them. Although sometimes I struggle to look after myself, looking after them brings me so much joy and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.



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