Flux

flux – noun

1. continuous movement and change

2. a flow; an act of flowing

I always thought there would be a point of recovery where I would reach the destination – be well for good, whatever ‘well’ really means.

Life had other ideas for me. I think for all of us, life is a state of flux – of adaptation, change, movement. Lately though, for me, the fluctuations of energy, mood, hopefulness, motivation have had me rattled. Perimenopause and bipolar disorder are proving to be a tricky combination.

And yet, I’m learning something about flow, the act of flowing. Can I sink into the river of my inner world and let myself be carried? To understand that the narrow channels where the current picks up pace are not to be feared? To have patience with the meanders and deepen my rest in the eddies.

I have often wanted to be like a tree by the riverbank. Solid, deeply rooted. Unmoveable. But I am the river. Moving, eroding, flowing ever onwards.

epiphany

something med school did not cover
someone’s daughter, someone’s mother
holds your hand through plastic now
“Doc, I think she’s crashing out”
and some things you just can’t speak about

only twenty minutes to sleep
but you dream of some epiphany
just one single glimpse of relief
to make some sense of what you’ve seen

with you I serve, with you I fall down, down
watch you breathe in, watch you breathing out, out
with you I serve, with you I fall down, down

watch you breathe in, watch you breathing out (Out), out (Out)

Lyrics – Taylor Swift, Folklore 2020

I watched the 10 o’clock news tonight. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 frontline NHS workers will suffer from anxiety, depression or PTSD as COVID-19 continues to take its toll. A tidal wave of distress is preparing to hit mental health services, chronically underfunded and unable to meet even the current needs of our society.

And I’ve left.

I’ve left my job, struggling to catch my own breath. When I told little one “mummy’s not going be to be working in the NHS for a bit” – a smile of relief on her face – “Oh, so you can look after me mummy!”

Yes, baby girl. So I can breathe in, breathe out. So I can be the mother you and your big sister need me to be. So I can grieve. So I can fall down.

Forward fold on my yoga mat. I feel every vertebra of my lower spine crackle. The slow release of clenched trauma, impossible hope, tight despair.

I’m so sorry dearest frontline-weary souls. May I return to you a more spacious soul. Keep breathing in, breathing out. You deserve better. May we serve you, serve with you.

Crown of beauty

a crown of beauty for ashes

the oil of joy for mourning

a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair

Isaiah 61:3

This week, I attended Kundalini Yoga for the first time at the Nurture Shed in Somerset.  During savasana music, our teacher applied scented oil to our foreheads.  It reminded me of the practise of ‘anointing with oil’ found in other religious traditions including Christianity.  It was a very beautiful, tender experience.

In Hinduism, the forehead is an important site of the Ajna chakra – the third eye.  Coming from a Christian background but now finding myself more and more open to all expressions of spirituality, I find myself re-connecting to the spirit, the prophetic.

For a few years after my psychosis, it felt troubling to visit the idea of prophecy.  I had felt so spiritual, so connected to Heaven, so sure of my prophetic gift and the beautiful wedding feast where all my friends would be healed and full of joy.

flower crown

During savasana, I felt reminded of the verse above from Isaiah which I have clung to in the intense despair of depression.  The times when I have felt that my life has crumbled to a heap of ashes.  Days when I have woken up devastated that I did not die in the night.

I get a sense of my crown of beauty as I walk through recovery.  In acceptance of my diagnosis.  In my time alongside others in despair.  In raising courageous daughters.

Back in 1999, my wedding headdress looked something like the Odette flower crown pictured above from Gypsy Rose Vintage on Etsy.  Next year, I’ll be celebrating our twentieth anniversary with a crown of beauty from ashes.  I might even rock a boho floral crown & leather jacket!  I’m so grateful for my amazing husband, faithful through every sickness and health.

 

 

 

 

Before there was a tree

I have a new job, an incredible job full of possibility and hope for families suffering through perinatal mental illness. This poem is a reflection on another stage in my own healing.

oak

Before there was a tree,

or even the thought of a tree

there was dark, decay pressing down into the earth,

leaves disintegrating

only to release their final nourishment to the soil

there was the sleep of death, curled up, dormant

 

Before there was a tender shoot,

or even the thought of a tender shoot

there was a husk cracking

an unfurling – anaemic and fragile

searching for the light, spreading tiny roots

reaching for Spring

 

Now there is a sapling, the thought of a tree

the wind buffets the stem

the leaves are nourished by sun and April-shower

the soil enriched through loss

there is the beginning of a tree

 

Spring swim

jacobsladder

The first day after the clocks change.  Incredible stillness and light at Jacob’s Ladder.

I forgot my fleece rash vest.  I decide I don’t care.  Bikini & wetsuit boots – quite a look.

Fabulous, freeing, breathtaking water all to myself.

I stay until I start feeling the cold seep back into my core.

The air is warm enough to enjoy a towel down and a cup of tea in my dry robe.

To be still and enjoy the feeling of being awake, alive.

 

 

Kintsukoroi

kintsukori

Most of the time I feel like a piece of pottery repaired with gold;

breakage and repair as part of my history, not something to disguise.

Beautiful possibility written in the cracks.

Yet still on occasion those days come

when my cracks just feel like cracks.

Flaws, vulnerability.

I doubt my potential to support people in seeing the possibility of beauty

in their broken places.

kintsugi

I recently bought myself this necklace from Etsy as a reminder of the cracks, the beauty and the fragility.  All of these things are true about me, all of these things are OK.

The name of the necklace – senbonzakura – means “A thousand cherry trees”

I really like the image of a cherry tree, fragrant blossoms drifting in the wind.

 

Polarized

polarized

Life through a polarizing lens,

Contrast intensified

Darkness, darker.  Deeper

Pulling me under the water

Colour (and some may say)

Beauty heightened

Sunset full of the Spirit’s kiss

The clouds portent

Perhaps a storm is coming

 

This poem is something of a meditation on the diagnostic label versus the experience of bipolar disorder (if in fact that’s a thing)

 

Zentangle

IMG_20171017_184445522

I found these four artist’s cards yesterday with some of my first Zentangle drawings.  I made these almost two years ago while in a mental health respite centre.  They are dated and given titles on the reverse.

6/11/15 Mourning into dancing (bottom right)

10/11/15:

Every tear is precious (bottom left)

Growth is messy and beautiful (top left)

Beauty in the Now, not Yet (top right)

I was in respite on an important birthday for Eldest.  Hope felt hard to reach, hard to hold on to.  The guilt of my daughter going through this milestone birthday with a very poorly mum.  It wasn’t hospital, at least.

Through a haze of sorrow, I found there was immense tenderness within me. Firstly, towards Eldest – this helped me find the energy to make a trip into the local town and buy ingredients for birthday cupcakes topped with her favourite American candy, (Reece’s pieces and Reece’s peanut butter cups!)  A support worker took time the evening before her birthday to help me make them.  The conversation was gentle.

On the day, we opened presents in my small respite bedroom and I was able to take some leave for the morning.  I was there to hold her hands while she had her ears pierced, and to buy her some pretty silver studs.  A landmark celebrated, not as we would have hoped, but together.  For better, for worse.

Compassion towards myself was beginning to grow.  I can see it now in the Zentangles.  I knew that this was a time of tears, of mourning, of mess.  I felt it deeply, but I knew there was the capacity for beauty in me, in the way I was living this illness.

 

Today, almost two years later, I met staff newly recruited to the community perinatal mental health team here in Devon.  As part of their induction, I had the opportunity to talk them through our story of postnatal illness and beyond, and to help them reflect on how a mother’s mental health impacts upon the whole family; dad, baby, siblings.  When I talk to staff, I use a photo-story, with pictures of both my beautiful girls as babies and as they have grown.

Finding the Zentangles was the right timing; growth is messy.  Today it felt beautiful.

 

 

 

Finely tuned

I was talking to my husband a couple of nights ago.  I reflected on the ways that life seems to need a bit more fine-tuning for me than the average bear.

fine tuning

I’m enjoying it though, you know, the fine-tuning.  Sitting down with my Google calendar on the cusp of a new term, and making sure there is space.  Space to book in a day for oddly compelling jobs, like sorting out the crap drawer (we all have one… the random keys, Blu-Tac, tape-measure kind of drawer).

Space to swim in the river Dart or the sea down at Jacob’s Ladder.  To take a flask of peppermint tea and rest by the water’s edge.

Fine-tuning this term has meant resisting the temptation to take on a few more paid hours.  To recognise that Eldest has both excitement and challenges coming up as she starts high school, and she may well need her mum more.  She sometimes talks about her fears of me becoming unwell at the start of a new academic year – it’s such a season of change.

But this year the change is good.  It’s a change in my expectations of myself, a willingness to leave space and embrace it.  Two Septembers ago I was afraid of the space, driven by a fear that – at 40 – I was pretty much at the last chance saloon in terms of finding a career.

This September I’m at peace.  The work will still be there when the time is right.