Dignity, the mountain at my gates
Written by See Change ambassador Sarah Bredin
I’m sitting on my brother’s couch. He and his wife have left me with my nine-month old nephew for the first time. He’s asleep and they’ve gone to see a film about a disastrous outcome of the attempted commodification of an epic challenge. It’s just me, Florence, her Machine, and the baby monitor.
That’s the film. It’s also the name of the shade of paint on my sitting room wall. The colour makes me think that on a clear day, you can see infinity in a turquoise sky, from the top of that mountain. Apparently the sky wouldn’t look turquoise up there at all, but that’s not really any of my business.
The week I heard my sister in law was pregnant with the first of our next generation, I felt a need to be respectable by the time the little person was old enough to be learning about respect. I didn’t dissect that urge; I don’t know if it was a need to feel respected by him, or a need to know that the people around him could respect me, or if I needed to know he would never feel pity or embarrassment in relation to me. Whichever it was, it was urgent.
The only slum that I have ever been in was in Kolkata, India. I passed the same way a number of times. The dwellings all appeared makeshift, made out of bits of metal sheeting, election posters and plastic advertisements. The first few times that I passed through there,the uneven ground, puddles and lack of space were enough to keep my attention occupied. After another few days, I started to notice the impeccable tidiness visible through the doorless doorways. The women who sat at their doorless doorways, wore their sparkling saris and glistening jewellery with poise.
I’d say if you’ve got it, flaunt it if you want to. If you feel you haven’t, then make sure and polish what you do have, while you figure out what “it” is that you’d like to have and how best your time can be invested to edge closer and closer to “it”. Climbing Everest it’s really not.
For most of my life, in spite of being able to be positive for others, the most prominent parts of my identity were things that I didn’t like. Over the last couple of years, the forming of good habits, and the investment in, and return from, those good habits, has really raised my opinion of myself. I act like someone with a high value on herself and I get to feel that value.
If I am getting up hours before most people most days to meditate and exercise, how could I possibly allow myself to feel devalued by the words or actions of other people? Society is a long way off forgetting the awkwardness surrounding mental ill health, but the more of us that emerge fit and polished from our wrestles with it, the better image we will have as “the mentally ill”.
A game-changing investment of my time and money since the news of the baby has been therapy. From hearing others’ changed perspectives, and becoming aware of MyMind’s low-cost counseling service,partnership with an unburdenable ally came right into my hands. For eight months, I had weekly and then fortnightly appointments with someone who had the skills and aptitudes to help me see my world through different eyes. We just talked, and she really listened: she translated my version of my life’s events into a history that all added up to explain my skewed perspective of myself.
Ending “illness”: living within conditions
I choose my words. I prefer to talk about “experiences of mental health difficulties”, “mental ill health” and to refer to my bipolar disorder as a “mental health condition”. I am not ill, and I live within the conditions for my wellness that I have learnt to recognize as being dictated by my condition. They’re guidelines that could also be useful for people without bipolar disorder.
- If your system requires a prescription drug to be in balance, for whatever reason, then take it
- Make sure that sleep gets the time it needs to restore you and to make every day a fresh start
- It doesn’t matter if stress is coming from a person, an aspect of a job, an overflowing orderless wardrobe or an unresolved issue from your past: it is YOUR responsibility to positively alter your relationship with that stressor so that it weighs less.
To me, managing my condition means managing my meds, sleep and stress. I do. I am a person thriving with a condition, not the victim of an illness.
I think the best way to armour ourselves against the lingering stigma surrounding mental ill health is to thrive, to bloom, to make the best of the mountainous terrain we might have come from to show the ease with which we can move through life once we’ve left our struggles behind.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” Dr. Seuss