Dreaming Big

So much is happening…

That’s been the observation for weeks now, and nothing is letting up, gathering steam is a better analogy.

The trip away to Whyalla and Pt Lincoln was exhausting and amazing. I learned so much, so fast and scrambled to keep hold of it and keep my head together. I took a big risk going there, reaching beyond my reach and needing a lot of help.

And I got it. I understood so much more about how a tribe works. I feel so grateful and appreciative – to everyone who helped me. Thankyou deeply. It’s so important to me not to be swept away but to stop and acknowledge you all. You believe in me and what I’m doing and support me. Thank you! I will be saying thank you individually too – but thank you publicly! I can’t do this without you all, you are helping me to get a message of love into mental health, to speak out that people with multiplicity are real people, not stereotypes, and that art is essential for life.

I had experiences that I would call ‘psychotic’ except they were so beautiful and so peaceful and so lovely it would be like calling love making ‘rape’. I sat by the water and watched the dolphins and wept. I felt so alive and so connected it was onerwhelming. The sky was so beautiful I was falling into it. An inner eye opened and was so dazzled by the world I’ve had to let it partly close again. And a model of mental health reform turned up in my head. I’ve filled a notebook with it. I had the most amazing conversations, feeling like I was really out of my own mazed mind for the first time, able to see people clearly – not just other people like me, in the clarity of intensity and rawness, but all people. Every conversation left me feeling that I had been given profound gifts of insight – not me but everyone -, that everywhere people were throwing away the most incredible observations about the world and none of us listening to each other. I don’t have words for what I’m going through but the closest I can find is ‘spiritual awakening’, or would be if my system felt more universal towards any kind of spirituality. I feel… transformed.

I got home to chaos. Both inboxes overflowing, hundreds of urgent tasks needing doing, no structure or priorities, just an avalanche of information and opportunities and contacts. I threw myself into it and got swamped immediately. The first day I worked for 13 hours to just start listing all the things that needed doing. My mind fried, like an abuse victim near the abuser, all my thoughts tangled into knots. Feelings of deep shame and overwhelming anxiety welled up. My productivity crashed, it would take 3 hours to write and send an email that was coherent. Most of the things I had to do were ‘scary’ things, out of my experience or comfort zone. Things that took great courage, or needed me to change gears to sympathetically listen. I could tell I was so overwhelmed that even the simple things were becoming impossibly difficult.

The more inconceivable it is that you take time off, the more essential it is.

After two intense burn out days of doing my head in, I went back to the new plan and adapted myself to Rose’s work hours.

It was hard and I didn’t get it entirely right but after a couple of days working sensible hours my head was clearing and I was able to think better.

I was still bleeding out though, every hour taking me further away from feeling centred, grounded, calm, feet firmly planted. Rose could feel it too, that wildness and destabilising anxiety in me. I was losing the ability to be in sync with her longer than a couple of hours. I’d find a few hours of something different and connect, but each time I was coming back to a gradual slide down a steep hill. So we packed me up for a night at the beach.

At 3am, alone in the dark (isn’t life strange, I used to hate that and feel hurt by it and now I drive two hours into the night to find it – I’m reminded of a couple where one always complained about the other snoring and now they’re dead and gone, and the other partner can’t sleep without the sound of snoring, the quiet of the house too much to bear) I find the heart of my terror – a message from my anxiety that I’ve too many demands on my time and need to push some things back to next year. It’s a hard message to hear, but as soon as I accept it – not problem solve it, not resolve it, just listen and accept it, the whirling franticness calms and the ‘click’ I listen for when I’m out in the wild places, out under the stars, happens. Choosing between my passions and projects, for a multiple, is incredibly painful. But just recognising this message brings peace. I spend a day listening closely to my needs, tuning back in to the small voice of my soul.

I come home deeply centred again.

Into the maelstrom! My inbox is overflowing my desk, the emails keep piling up, letters from welfare that require urgent attention, I still need to do my tax. And family in trouble needing help. Why bother with all that connectedness and calm, I asked myself, look how quickly I lose it! I gathered all my lists of things that need doing back into one list. Every time I find a new task I add it. It’s several pages long, over half are urgent or beyond urgent, seriously overdue. I tackle an hour of rapid housework and get down to it.

I take half the morning sorting out my enrolment to college. Half the information I’ve been given is, as usual, plain wrong. One of my term long classes turns out to be actually be a semester long class, and several hours more commitment each week than I’d been told as well, making my workload much higher for this year than I’d planned. But it’s a rare, special, elective subject about a topic I’m absolutely passionate about and as much as I’m overwhelmed about doing it, I’m desperately trying to hold onto it.

I gather 10 of the other most desperate admin from my master list and work on them in small doses over the day, adding in little notes and messages here and there to friends so I haven’t dropped out of conversations completely. There’s a great analogy about to do lists, how every list has at least one thing on it that you’d practically rather eat a frog than deal with, and that if you tackle this thing first, the rest of the list will be much clearer and easier. That’s my take on it anyway. My short list is entirely composed of frog. Everything on it is stressful and challenging and makes my heart race and me feel sick.

I get three done, run off and tell Rose – I’ve eaten another frog! Then go and cook food. When there’s crisis is important to have good food easily accessible. I make carrot and ginger soup with half the $2 bag of sweet baby carrots we bought from the market together. The house is clean – we are mastering how to use systems and routines together! I pick the list back up in places over the rest of my day, in between helping family pack and move. At 11pm, Rose is exhausted and wants to go to bed but is sitting near me in solidarity as I tremble and curse my way through a few more frogs. I ‘hear’ a sense of being able to engage with another box of frogs from my main list, which surprises me, so I set to it and tackle changing gears to genuinely respond to the DI email inbox from the website – a task almost unbearably daunting since I discovered I’d missed an email from May and felt so bad about that I’d almost rather set the computer on fire and leave the country than reply to it.

I eat a lot of frogs. Rose is very encouraging. After each frog she tries to celebrate but I still feel so sick and overwhelmed I can’t breathe. Late at night, I get the last, big frog off that list and everything transforms. I’m giddy with happiness. The rest of the list is suddenly manageable! My life is suddenly manageable. The family crisis is manageable. My projects are exciting again! I’m looking forward to my week! I can think straight, can make plans again. Rose and I plan a sleep in this morning, a lazy start to the day in pjs, and waffles for breakfast. Everything feels wonderful again.

So much is happening…

I’m reading a book called Wishcraft by Barbara Sher, recommended to me by the awesome artist behind Outspiral, and it’s so relevant and brilliant I cry in nearly every page. I have been doing a lot of looking and listening lately – who else is doing what I’m doing, in some way? How did they pull it off? This book was a wonderful suggestion.

The most wonderful part of it is the author normalising this roller coaster for me. It’s not me! It’s not me being ‘mentally ill’, easy as that assessment is to make. It’s a trauma history and a lot of years of being alone, up against me seeking my big dreams and finding my place in the world. It looks messy because these things are very hard to do – to dream something wonderful and pursue it is very scary and wonderful and you need a good support system more than you need personal attributes like confidence, she says. I love her. It makes sense and it’s all gelling in my mind. It’s possible! I’m excited.

If, ten years ago, some kind soul had given me hard information on how to turn my dreams into realities, instead of just assuring me blandly that it could be done, it would have saved me an incredible amount of time and anguish. As long as I kept trying to believe in myself and reform all my bad habits, I kept crashing – and blaming myself. It wasn’t until I gave up on every fixing me and tried to improvise a set of aids that would work for me anyway… that I stumbled on the real secret behind the scenes… it’s not superhero genes and a jaw of steel, like the myths say. It’s something much simpler. It’s know-how and support.

I’m going to keep reading it and if anyone else wants to read it too, we could discuss it together as a kind of book club. 😀

This is a good guide to help me find my way through all the possibilities and opportunities suddenly open to me. I’m putting a lot of thought into the kinds of support I need, and I’ve actually published a rough draft. It’s only a work in progress as I build a better framework around me, but it’s a start and I’ll keep working on it and clarifying it as I learn more. I’ve actually replaced my Donate page with a Support Me page because I’ve realised that there are many ways to support me and I don’t like to make it sound like money is the only thing, it’s helpful but it’s only one way. Check it out, I’d welcome any feedback. 🙂

Rose has kindly explained to me that people have no idea how to support me most of the time, and no idea what my big dreams are or where I’m heading, and that as I’m a bigger picture person which is not that common, and I also share a lot of my strong feelings through this process, which is likewise not common, there’s a lot of anxiety out there around what I’m trying to do. That makes sense to me. I’d noticed it in the general feel of things – the more I’ve been winding up and making bigger plans, there’s been this sense of an indrawn breath around me – what are you doing? Are you nuts? So I want to start to find ways to communicate more, and more clearly, what I’m doing and where this is going and how people can be involved if they want to – if they share the dream too.

Life is amazing. 🙂

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