Doing Things When You’re Used to Doing Nothing…

Many of you who live with a mental illness have probably been accused of being lazy before. I know that I have.. many times.. probably too many to count.

The worst part is, I often accuse myself of being lazy. My doctors inform me of limitations on my energy that I need get used to, but I can’t.

There was a time in my life when I was a multitasker.. capable of many things.. I understand that things are different, now that I have chosen to take medications to temper my symptoms.

Regardless of the medications that tire you out, bipolar alone is an energy bandit whenever you are stuck between episodes, and even worse, when you in the depressive cycles, which seems to strike most individuals with bipolar far more frequently than the sometimes pleasant(ish) moments of mania.

Maybe I shouldn’t speak for all people who live with the disorder here, but I personally don’t ever feel completely “well”. I can’t say that I feel constantly “bipolar”, but I feel that I have to carefully manage my feelings, emotions & anxiety, or else I am at risk of acting inappropriately.

In my last relationship, I learned too late that I was guilty of this more frequently that I was really aware of. I was prone to talking down to people, raising my voice, and using language that I is no longer representative of who I am.

By using tools & methods, which I will expand about later in the blog, I have been able to largely stop these behaviours, or at least recognize once they’ve happened so I can make the appropriate apologies soon after.

But that isn’t what today’s post is about.. today we are talking about laziness and energy levels. Recently, my energy levels have been very much improved. I have just started a new med, which will be part of a later post, that has really been a life changer for me.

I am the type of person who always has a project on the go. Before I became ill, I was able to see many of these projects through and accomplish really cool things in my areas of interest, which include business, event choreography, and blogging!

When I was healthy, I started my first business in 2005 selling handmade items from artists from all over North America online. This led to my launching a craft & rock event series in 2008 that was once named the #1 thing to do in Manitoba over the Stradbrook Street festival, which was a pretty big deal.

When the sickness happened, most of my endeavours, stopped almost completely. It was a bummer. When the depression hit, it made my inactivity worse. I wished that I had never accomplished anything during the years that I was well. Being not able to accomplish anything when I was sick, I literally had a measuring stick of how far I had fallen.

In the years that followed, I did start new ventures. I had a brick-and-mortar store in Roncesvalles Village in Toronto where I sold vintage dresses. I loved it. I believe I reference this time in my prior lithium post. After that failure, I spent a few years being depressed and licking my wounds before deciding that I would give it another go making handmade cotton dog accessories, which are all the rage on sites like Etsy.. my go to place for all things vintage & handmade!!

This venture lasted for sometime, until sales started to wane online. I had been prepared to maintain a small handmade business out of my home, but now I found myself pounding the the pavement to drum up enough business to pay for my web fees.

Well, my hard work paid off and I generated a ton a interest from grooming salons and even a national chain. I found myself facing a very difficult decision. I could transition my business into a small one gal, home-based operation, or I could begin looking into what it might entail to fill an order of a thousand pieces.

I decided that that version of my business wasn’t inline with my original vision and the thought of sitting in front of my sewing machine for that many hours just made me upset. I was comfortable with working maybe 3-4 hours a day. Even getting to that point after so many years of doing literally nothing had been an enormous struggle. I was still only managing to shower when it became absolutely necessary. I wasn’t prepared to take on the new challenges that new business was presenting and so I gave in to failure and let it all go.

I sent the remaining inventory, which I could have continued selling online (at least until it was gone), to my mother. I’m not really sure what she is going to do with it. I had borrowed a significant amount of money from her to buy my raw materials, so I thought that if anybody should get it, it should be her.

After that, it was back to licking my wounds.. yet again.. following a failed business attempt. I felt down because I had let that heavy lead blanket of wanting to do less weigh me back down into bed and under the covers.

The people around me were compassionate. They blamed the circumstances, just as I had done, but I knew they likely knew the truth behind what I had happened. I was afraid of the work. They thought I was too used to doing nothing and wasn’t up to the challenge of finally doing something. The truth was, I really was afraid. I was so afraid that the whole thing had started giving me horrible panic attacks. Every time I glanced over at my workspace and the piles of collars and leashes that I had invested 10s of hours manufacturing, I just wanted to die.

In hindsight, I don’t feel that I made an error in closing up shop on my dog accessory biz. As I continued analyzing what had happened in my previous business, and all that had come before it, I came to realize that, although I liked the “idea” of these businesses, none, with the possible exception of my first (which I started in 2005 and ran for some time), had been right business that I should have taken on as an entrepreneur.

Sure, I liked the idea of selling cute vintage cotton summer dresses, but did you know that I never wear dresses, unless it’s to someone’s wedding or funeral? Maybe the dress business wasn’t for me??

Sure, I have 4 dogs, but did you know that I absolutely hate doing monotonous work? That is essentially the definition of creating collars and leashes. You are literally sewing in a straight line forever, until you get the added perk of changing direction and sewing in a straight line again. Blarg. Recalling now, I am feeling totally freaking bogged down and overwhelmed all over again. Totally not for me.

I needed to find something that spoke to my heart. I think that is important to all people, but people living mental illness especially, and perhaps people living with bipolar specifically. Everyone wants to feel useful in their lives. They want to feel like their lives have purpose. People living with mental illness can very easily feel like they are a burden on the people around them. I absolutely know what this is like.

Especially know with your heart that you can be doing more.

As for my compatriots living with bipolar? We are a special bunch, in that we disabled in a different way. Many people have argued that our population tends to be more creative.. we are alleged to dream in full colour. During the day, just as we do during the night. We can feel brutalized by employment that doesn’t feed these tendencies. Sitting behind a cash register is an affront to the gift of our malady.

Very recently, I have found myself at the helm of another venture. One that I feel speaks to my strengths, my creativity, and my desire to be self employed. It is actually a series of ventures and what you might ultimately call, a social experiment.

The main venture, and the one that has been generating an income right out of the gate, is called Chalk & Stars Productions. I have been in the clubs with bands since I was 16yrs old and have always been involved in and around music. This company essentially helps the type of people who I already surround myself with in services ranging from promotions to event choreography and a whole lot in between.

The second venture, which is equally as important to my heart, is a feminist digital zine that I have been labouring over since October of last year. Since I first started working on it, I have already recruited additional contributors from the US, so that I will have that added perspective on the content we produce. That project is set to launch in the coming weeks and I will be sure to post relevant links, as soon as they become available.

The final venture would be this one.. tickety blog! It has been a companion of mine for many years, but I have always shied away from posting when I am feeling less than “myself”. I write in my journal for several hours everyday. I encourage that practice for everyone.. maybe not to the extent that I write, but everyone should keep some sort of log. This time, with the tickety blog, I want to write less on topics that I feel “you want to hear about” and more about my experience. I want it to read more like a journal. I feel that it will make for a much more enjoyable reading experience.

You’ll have to be the ones to tell me how I’m doing!!

I have gone all out with my latest ventures. I have leased an office and I am considering a loan so that I can entertain the idea of getting an employee. So what is the experiment? Is the bipolar brain.. or at least my bipolar brain.. as frantic as I think it is. My hypothesis? That I will better function will these 4 balls in the air.. and I have more coming down the pipeline! I believe that I need to be constantly stimulated with vastly different tasks throughout the course of my business day so that I can remain interested.

My fear, and this may seem obvious, that I may crash. I have allowed that into my brain as a possibility, but I am not presently prepared to let any of my projects fall by the wayside. I see great potential and personal fulfillment in everything that I have taken on and so I am of the mindset that I will find a way to make it work.

I have lived the better part of the last 8yrs laying in bed. As I’ve mentioned, I have put significant effort into improving my situation and adding value to my life, but I have failed every time. Should one or more of my current ventures fail to thrive, I at least pray that I am left with something that will continue to get me up everyday and out of the house.

I have been experiencing new challenges daily. I am faced with the anxiety of taking transit, meeting strangers at the co-working space where my office is, organizing my day so that I can cover all of the tasks that lay in front of me. These are all new experiences. I essentially haven’t done any of these things since arriving in Toronto, Canada’s most populated city, and so it can be wildly stressful, but has been incredibly satisfying.

That is exactly how I have been feeling lately.. satisfied.

I encourage anyone with any type of mental illness to follow the ’employment’ category that I will be contributing to on a regular basis. Should you have any questions regarding employment, like how to find employment, interview strategies, resumé advice, self employment, or anything along those lines, please feel free to reach out here.

As I said, I began my self employment journey back in 2005. Since then, I have secured several business loans as someone living with a mental illness with enormous gaps in my resumé. I completely understand what the stumbling blocks are and I have plenty of experience and insight as to how you might overcome some of these challenges.

That is it for this Friday. By the time you read this, I will have had a doctors appointment and will have hopefully obtained those medical records that I’ve been waiting to get my hands on. Following that, you will finally get to read about my long history with prescription medication, leading up to the Saphris that as, so far, completely changed my life.

I look forward to sharing that journey with you.

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