Has it really been more than six months since I last updated my gallery? It does not feel like it, but yes, that much time has passed, and many things have transpired during that time. My first bit of news is that earlier on in the year we, meaning myself and those whom I share space with, discovered that my depression was more than depression. I am bipolar. In the first months of this year, I worked myself into a very fearful and manic state that resulted in my collapsing and clicking over into one of the deepest and darkest depressive states I have experienced for many years. It was quite a shock for someone who had thought herself 'cured' of her depression.
For the first few weeks, while I was not suicidal, I did long for an end to the fear and sadness that threatened to overwhelm me. I had worked so hard to overcome this illness, and I believed this fall was proof that I would never be free, no matter how much hard work I did. Medication has never been an option for me for several reasons, so it was a harsh and hard truth to bear knowing that I would always be "ill".
That's the thing with depression, you cannot see any light within the darkness. There is only hopelessness and fear.
But time passes, and when you are as determined (or stubborn) as I am, you eventually pull yourself up and out of the mire and keep going.
I came to understand that the depression was not so much a depressive state, but more a physical and mental reset. It was my body's way of putting an end to the manic state that was going to kill me if it did not end. The only real problem I experienced was the unnatural levels of anxiety and sadness that came with the onset depressive state.
So again, I had to go back to find the source of the fear that inspired the need for me to always be better, to always be improving, and to not disappoint others. I will not discuss the details here, but the source was found, the fear faced, and slowly, but surely, I began once more the process of undoing the underlying behavioural conditioning that was the result of the fear. Whilst I did so, I found myself discovering that the depressive state was passing a lot faster than it would in the past. I came to see that the reason for this was that I was no longer hating myself, harming myself, nor punishing myself for being weak and vulnerable. In truth, the hard work that I have done over the last few years to peel back the layers of harmful conditioning that prolonged my depression had been worthwhile. Without the harmful patterns of behaviour inspired by my self-loathing, the depressive state was more and more feeling like the 'reset' I mentioned above, and less like depression. Oh yes, I had many a day when all I could do was cry. I still do now. However, I am now learning to flow with my feelings instead of fight them.
The last eight weeks have been a very interesting time. Some days have been joy-FULL and others joy-LESS, but something else that has revealed itself is that I am now fear-LESS too. No, this does not mean I am without fear, but that I fear less than I did before. The fear behind the mania has been addressed. The fear behind the depression has been addressed. I will always be bipolar, because that is the way my brain is wired, however, I now have the mental and emotional strength to change my entire way of thinking, and that is exactly what I have done.
I came to understand that I have been conditioned to see this as an illness, when in truth, it just means that my brain is hardwired a little different to everyone else's brain. This hardwiring makes me who I am. It fuels my creativity, my passion, and my faith. It is so much a part of me, and has been a part of me for as long as I have been alive. So if I see this as an illness that I must battle with, it means that I only battle with myself. That is a war I cannot win, and one that results only in perpetual suffering and disappointment.
So instead, I had to accept who I am and understand that the only thing I can change is how I live. I have started sleeping again. Before my collapse, I was down to about four hours of broken sleep a night. In the eight weeks leading up to my collapse, I painted eighteen paintings, took nearly 3000 photographs, wrote pages and pages for my tarot, journals, etc; I socialised, ran my business and home, and still felt that I was not doing enough fast enough. My collapse was inevitable. What it revealed did not come as a shock. In fact, it made sense of several times in my life when my life had spiralled out of control in much the same way. Each of these moments were a prelude to depressive states that lasted for years. I am technically Bipolar II. This means that my mania is not as aggressive nor as frequent, while the depressive stages are longer and more dominant. This is why I was misdiagnosed. Bipolar II is commonly misdiagnosed.
It is a diagnosis that brings clarity and change to my life, but does not change who I am, because I have been living with it for almost thirty years. It is but a label that explains how my brain works, and my brain has worked that way all of my life. It has helped me to see that I do need to structure my life and be a creature of habit ... but good habits.
What I could change, and have changed, was the harmful conditioning that turns the way my brain works into a cage full of hurting and fear. Without the hurting and fear, there is no cage. There is no suffering.
Over the last eight weeks, I have been doing what is necessary to restore good health. I have been nurturing myself. I have stopped pushing myself to accomplish everything NOW and now only focus on accomplishing one thing at a time. I have stopped focussing on the big picture and now focus on the details, and making sure those details are created with love and care. I do so knowing that the big picture will take care of itself. If something does not get finished today, then it was not meant to be finished, and I will work on it tomorrow. If someone wants something of me by a particular time, then they just have to accept that I am always busy and that I will get it done for them only when and if I can get it done for them. If I cannot, then again, it was not meant to be. If others are disappointed when I say no, then those feelings are theirs to deal with. Not mine.
I am now being very clear about this with everyone. My only commitments at this time are to continue working on the tarot, and to continue building up my strength again. I can say with honesty that I am happy and at peace within myself. Not much ruffles my composure at the moment, but my calm has been hard-earned and now comes at the price of speed. I have become the tortoise, when before I was the hare. Now, slow and steady wins the race and will see this tortoise arriving at her destination alive and happy, not worn out and working herself into an early grave.
In many ways, I am probably luckier than most. My body has a natural reset button that many do not have. I am actually quite glad that the reset did get flicked, because if it had not, the truth of me may not have been revealed. Before, I only had part of the picture. Now I have the whole picture, and in seeing it, accepting it, I have finally embraced a state of wholeness and have found a centre of calm and peace that had, until recently, eluded me.
I am still in a depressive state, but it is a very kind and gentle place, and one that requires only that I treat myself with care and respect my physical limits. It is only when I do not, that I find my calm being challenged again.
For the first time in my life, I now march to the beat of my own drum. I no longer fear what others will think of me. I no longer strive to be all and everything to everyone else. I no longer force myself to become better each and every time I pick up a brush or write something. I am no longer full of fear, and find that my head is now a lot quieter as a result. All those little fear conversations that used to play out in my head have been silenced. I am free of the stigma of illness, free of the fears others instilled within me, free to create without fear being a part of what inspires me.
Yes, it's been an intense year so far, and one that has been full of challenges, but I cannot say that it has been a bad year, nor would I want it to have been any different. I have learned so much about myself and who I am, and now as a result of the experience, accept who I am.
So what more has transpired?
Well, I've made more than a start on the minor arcana for the Dreams of Gaia Tarot. Eighteen cards have been painted, and I begin work on another in the next day or so. I felt it best to step away from the tarot whilst I was healing, as this channelled creativity was part of the reason why I was so run down. I forgot to respect the process, and the process is that I imbue each and every painting with a part of me, with my energy and emotion. I forgot how much of an impact that experiencing the energy and message of each card has upon the senses and body, and with my sometimes painting three cards in a week with no rest in between, I literally emptied myself. So I stepped back and have not worked on the tarot now for about six weeks. The card that I start on shortly, is the first in a while and so I will be proceeding with care.
But just because I have not painted for the tarot, does not mean that I have not painted. Painting will always be a part of my healing process, and so whilst I was healing, I was painting. I will eventually get around to posting all of my new works over the coming days, but that is not all of my news either ...
I am also very proud to announce that the Messenger Oracle has been released and is now available in a growing number of stores throughout the world, through my publisher's website and my own --> www.dreamsofgaia.com ... I am so proud of this deck of mine. It has proven to be all and everything that I wanted. It is both beautiful and magical, powerful, and yet so simple and easy to use. I could not be happier.
And on that note, I will end this rather long entry with a hello and a smile