Feeling Out Of Control...
Do you ever feel like you are not in control of your own life?
Alas, I get this feeling a lot due to the cycling nature of my mood swings. I use my carousel-metaphor to try and describe my feeling of helplessness - of going round and round on a metal horse that is taking me nowhere, trapped in a nightmare fairground after dark, unable to leave at the end of the day like all of the other children and families. The fairground is my brain and the carousel is my experience of life.
You can read about my carousel metaphor in more detail to get a better understanding of what it means to me HERE.
If, like me, you suffer from a mood disorder like Cyclothymia or Bipolar disorder you will be familiar with terms such as "flight of ideas" and accompanying problems such as "overspending" and "obsessing". These are just some of the things that many of us who suffer from hypomania deal with, and it can cause havoc in our lives, leaving us feeling out of control.
How I am Taking Back The Control!
I do hate to moan about my overactive and impulsive creativity though, so Carousel Gifts is my new solution to some of these problems.
It is an online gift shop that I have created as a place to home some of my creative whims.
It has the added benefit of perhaps being able to help fund some of them. Not to mention help me to feel less guilty about getting "carried away" with creative activities that have absolutely nothing to do with my actual work or business.
You must understand that when the hypomanic energy strikes, real-life automatically gets put on pause. This is not a conscious decision, just something that happens. I don't make the rules when my bipolar brain takes control of the reigns of my life. (Oh yes, I do love metaphors!)
What Makes Hypomania So Tricky...
One of the things that I find difficult when I am on a "hypomanic roll" is that I can very quickly become overwhelmed. Some people think that "being on a high" must be great fun, and sometimes it is, but most of the time for me hypomania turns into dark hypomania, and with this comes excess, irritability, impatience, heightened emotions, reactivity... and all of that bad stuff.
Whatever is happening inside of my brain to trigger these hypomanic symptoms creates a kind of vortex that sucks me into a swirling realm. I find myself surrounded by thoughts and ideas that compete against each other, bouncing off each other, triggering new thoughts and ideas. Ultimately I am encouraged to take action, spend money I don't have, and launch new ventures, if only to get the thoughts and ideas out of my busting brain.
Life and everything in it become speeded up and filled with a sense of excited urgency and the need for instant gratification. Nobody else seems to be on board my whizzing carousel with me. They want me to get off and get back to real life, do some real work... and I find that irritating... because I'm hypomanic.
What Happens When Hypomania Takes Over...
Don't forget that along with hypomania comes a certain amount of grandiosity. Often when I am in the throes of it all I genuinely believe that my ideas have enormous potential and that I am a genius and perhaps even a little bit superhuman.
It is not uncommon for me to stay up all night, without realising it, creating new websites and researching new topics that I have become obsessed with - like the time I took it upon myself to become an expert in nano-aquariums and aquascaping - when the truth is that in reality, I'm not even remotely interested in pet fish or underwater gardening. I now have a tiny aquarium overgrown with string algae and a handful of surviving water snails. Thank goodness the obsession was directed at nano (miniature) aquariums and not the full-size ones like you see in GP surgery waiting rooms.
The problem is that when I am in this state of mind I simply can't believe that I have wasted my whole life not pursuing something as brilliant as the current project, whatever it may be, and all realistic notions of work and life fly out of the window. Anything that belongs in the real world - a sensible routine, a sensible diet, a sensible job - all feel like they are getting in the way of what I was put on this planet to do!
For example, suddenly ALL I may want to do is draw trees. It's a deep and almost spiritual desire that makes me feel like everything else, including a deadline I have for a freelance gig that is going to help pay my rent in two weeks' time, is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I mean, why would I, the mighty creative genius, waste my time writing about some random pointless topic for some random stranger client and their business, when I should be doing what brings ME purpose, something that makes ME feel connected to myself, the earth, and ultimately the universe? What do I need to earn money for, after all, when the universe will always provide for me? Yeah, it can get pretty deep.
I did indeed spend a whole week photographing trees and then stayed up until 7am one night focussing like a crazy person on drawing the intricate branches on my tiny mobile phone screen, only for my phone to crash in the small hours of the morning and me to lose hours of work. Completely undeterred in my hypomanic state though, I simply opened up the sketch app and started from scratch. That happened twice before I decided to give up and go to bed.
I mean who does that? Who sits hunched over their smartphone in the middle of the night basically drawing a web of lines onto a digital device, no music or TV on in the background, just silent manic obsession, until suddenly you look up and realise it's not dark outside anymore? And all when what you should have been doing all week was your freelance writing work, earning a living, so that you can pay your rent!
And Then Comes The Aftermath Of All This Hypomanic Absurdity...
My point is, that after the hypomanic phase passes, I am usually left with unfinished projects, handmade things and artwork that I don't really know what to do with, and a feeling of dread because I know that I've done it again.
It was all an illusion, and now as a foggy depression sets in and my self-esteem plummets, I feel like a failure and a fraud, stupid and exposed after telling everyone on the internet about the amazing new venture that I now can't follow through with.
On top of which, I have to somehow get myself through a depressive slump and get back on track to meet my deadlines and function in the real world again.
So What Is Carousel Gifts All About?
I know what you are thinking... isn't Carousel Gifts just another product of a hypomanic trip? I suspect it might have started out that way. But I have been thinking about and working quietly on this project for a little while now because I didn't want to make a fool of myself again, or waste time and energy on yet another whim leading me off down a rabbit hole. I think this one is going to stick around, so watch this space.
The great thing about it is that I have nothing to live up to. I don't have to show up every day to "open up the shop", I can just pop in when I have something new to show or tell you about. A bit like this blog, which was another project that may have started out as a product of hypomanic self-importance, but that I have kept quiet about for some time until I became certain that it is something meaningful and that I want to develop over the longterm.
Carousel Gifts kind of provides a sense of relevance to my moments of creative madness. I can freely indulge, knowing that I am indeed being productive, and I will have something to show for my hard work and passion... once the passion has subsided.
The shop is looking a little sparse at the moment, but I have a few lovely handmade things in the works, some remnants from old forgotten projects that just need a bit of love before they can make an appearance, and some ongoing bigger projects (ideas and false starts for illustrated children's stories and gift books) that I intend to finally make happen.
Head over to carousel-gifts.com to see some lovely handmade greetings cards, original drawings, and prints of my crazy all-nighter tree drawings. Sign up to my mailing list while you are over there, and I will keep you updated on my various projects!
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Thanks for reading x