This month my friend Avril answers ten questions for The Phoenix Zine. I’ve always found Avril to have a unique perspective on the world that is all about caring for and loving others. She is also unabashedly honest, and I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.
Question: Who are your role models?
Answer: A model to me posesses an earthly attribute I aspire to gain. The Buddha had willpower and determination to gain the goal he longed for. He controlled what he ate (eating only a spoon of soup a day at some points), and sat under the bodhi tree until he was enlightened, refusing to get up. So much effort was put into reaching the desired result. Ellen is someone else who fought against the current and did something that she truly felt was right. The media was obviously not ready for her on-screen kiss with Laura Dern (in her coming out scene), because neither of them could obtain work for years after. People who have inner strength to do what they feel is right inspire me.
Q: What are your dreams for the future?
A: My dream is to open a ranch for troubled youth. I want to show them a very natural way to live, away from drugs and violence. Incorporating nature into life is a feeding of the soul. I want every child to change from the day they came to when they leave. They will learn that they are learning for themselves. There are no parents to yell at them, but hopefully there they will learn there is no point to slack off. I have big plans, but still need to gain the credentials before I can start anything up.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I like to fish. I never keep them. I don’t believe in killing living things for no reason, because I am not starving. I love travelling. Some people like to read books because they never want to stop learning. I never want to stop seeing and experiencing all the wonderful things I have from travelling. I also enjoy painting (abstract-emotion based).
Q: Are any of your activities limited by your illness?
A: I can’t travel for long periods. The doctors won’t give me more than one month’s worth of meds. This way there is no way the bipolar patient can overdose. I wanted to go to Austraila for a year but I couldn’t because I couldn’t get my meds for that long of a period. And over there they wouldn’t take my drug plan. It causes a strain.
Q: Where does your information about your illness come from?
A: Since the 50’s and their lobodomies, mental illness information has flourished. First learning from my doctor, and then I followed up with further reading on the internet, medical journals, library books and I even attended a group who talked about more personal issues. There is so much litterature out there about this disease, but i am still inspired to write about what it REALLY FEELS like to go through it.
Q: Does being bipolar limit your relationships?
A: Depends on what you mean by limit – it does limit the number of people who you can date who will understand and take the constant mood swings. But I feel it also deepens the relationship with the person who stays for the long haul. Because when bad things come up in life, you know you are strong because you’ve been through much much worse.
Q: Do you have any fears about your illness?
A: This is deep, but truly I fear I may kill myself one day if I’m in a low mood and not thinking clearly. I fear that I may think it is right and spontaneously choose to act irrationaly. Its so interesting how my train of thought can twist and turn upside down based on whether i’m on a high or low. With each comes behaviours that could be harmful and destructive. When I’ve lost control, I don’t curb these urges, and I do things I may regret later. However, death won’t give me that chance to regret it later. I fear how final it is.
Q: If you’re feeling stressed, what helps you relax the most?
A: Its funny, because when people think about the word relax, they think of hot tubs, massages, painting, meditation, music, but the only thing i’ve found works with anxiety and stress is to stay busy. I don’t give my mind a chance to process the stress. I go out, and do things I need to get done that day, then go out and do extra errands, this way I forget what I’m worried about and all wound-up about. Mind you, I still enjoy mediation, painting, massages, etc., but I find tricking my brain works best. Because at the end of the day, I go “wow, I accomplished a lot today”, and I feel GOOD about it!
Q: What question would you most like answered about being bipolar?
A: I want to know what is TRUTH!?!?!? Is the way I feel when I’m high accurate to life, or when I’m low and full of questions about meaning? I find I’m more rational when I’m depressed and more erratic when I’m high. I think very differently depending on the mood. Does the same subject I ponder have two answers?
Q: What do you find is the most difficult thing about being bipolar?
A: Most difficult to the bipolar situation is having people understand why I am acting the way I am. I wish I had a narrator saying “Don’t worry, she doesn’t mean it, she just feels really low right now!”. Its hard for them to understand why I act the way I do, when I don’t even completely understand it. More awareness is needed for mental illness. If i worked in a factory, and had a panic attack and started crying, most of the workers would think i’m “crazy”, or should be “in the nut house”. Education for all illness should be more widespread so that the person doesn’t have to deal with the sickness and then dealing with people who don’t know how to treat them.