I’ve been asked to do a presentation to some schoolkids on working in fundraising and my experiences. One half of me got so excited and then the fear and anxiety took over. Will I get the verbal diarrhea I’ve become used to, talking to a group of twenty teenagers, or will I manage to somehow muddle through? How much do I push myself and when do I leave well alone? These are still questions that I am finding answers to in my journey living with bipolar.
Here’s the thing – there’s so much I want to write about and talk about, and so many thoughts that crowd my head I find it hard to articulate. I have started three different blog posts and finished none in the last few days.
I never used to have this problem. I used to be so articulate my mother would get frustrated as I could zone in on a hole in an argument and dissect it with ruthless teen precision. I was on debating groups at school and won prizes for elocution – I passed all my RADA exams. At work I would get my point across using as few words as possible and often was doing public speaking engagements to promote the charity or discuss fundraising with professionals. Written or spoken, I knew that effective communication was one of my strong points and a point of pride for me in a world full of pain, confusion and turmoil.
Then, after my last unmedicated episode five years ago that all changed. I remember sitting in meetings, horrified at what was coming out of my mouth but unable to stop it from happening. What I wanted to say and how it ended up sounding were two very separate things. Sometimes it was to the point of being incoherent and I had to really really stop and think about what I wanted to say. I have had this problem before in previous manias but never so pronounced.
What I have noticed is that, unlike previously, the word confusion hasn’t gone away. It’s not as bad as when I was in my full blown mania but I no longer have the word power that I used to. I will say something and DH will look at me funny and ask me to repeat it. Or I start saying something and stop mid-sentence. The latter is sometimes because I’m processing something in my brain and I return to it later if it is a tricky topic, but in general the amount of half-finished conversations I have these days is waaaaay higher than ever.
Yep, I have become verbose. Verbosity – one of the things I dreaded the most. So in reaction to this, I end up saying nothing at all for fear of opening my mouth and a ton of crap coming out. In my worst moments, I end up not speaking for days and DH and I communicate via text. Well he talks to me and I type back until I am ready to talk again.
I notice now that even more than before, so many thoughts crowd my head. It’s not so hectic now I don’t work but I sometimes have so much I want to say and yet can’t find the words at all. Stressful situations add to it. It gets frustrating and I end up hating myself, having lost a part of me that I used to rely so heavily on for self-esteem and pride. I used to think it was stroke survivors or people with other physical conditions that had to battle daily with this. Sometimes I look back and marvel at my naivety and, I guess, ignorance!
Writing is a form of release. The pressure of talking is taken off me. I type very fast (thanks to my early years as a legal secretary) and so lots of these thoughts can then translate onto paper. DH can tell what kind of phase I am in simply by what I write and, perhaps more importantly, how I write. Some of it will be garbage and some of it is real thought and emotion. So we sift through it together and make sense of it all later. He sometimes reads my unfinished posts and helps me tune them to something relatively sensible, or something to keep just for the two of us to revisit later.
It’s hard with a baby to find the time to type, but when I do have the time I always feel a bit better afterwards. Sometimes I will explore issues on my posts that I simply cannot articulate to DH so it is easier to write and then get him to read. It helps him understand what is going on in the chaos of my mind too and as a tool it’s hugely therapeutic.
So I’m very grateful for this blog and for forums – you can just write about a feeling, or a state of mind, and revisit it again later. You don’t have to go through the agony of speech.
If I could just write what I want to write to those students that would be wonderful. I know realistically that’s pointless so now I have to weigh up with my doctors whether it is worth going to do it or not. How much of a step am I prepared to take. I am warring with the old me and the new me and trying to find a path in the middle. Some days it isn’t easy. But perhaps I can regain a bit of myself by sharing positive elements of my past experiences? And I find it so interesting talking to young people, they have a fresh and vivid view on the world that helps tint mine in a happier shade.
So who knows? Perhaps I am not as hopeless as I think I am. It’s just finding the most effective way to make peace with myself and that is definitely still a work in progress.