Grieving

Grieving -- KittOMalley.com
Geometry art created with iOrnament app.

Grieving, not depressed. No bipolar depression. No depressive thought process. Just grief. Just a deep overwhelming feeling of loss. 

I miss my father. Miss him deeply and dearly.

Going to individual therapy and taking my medications for bipolar disorder, but now may be time for additional support, time for a grief support group, preferrably one led by an excellent licensed mental health professional.

As a licensed clinician, I have a bias. I need a group leader with advanced clinical knowledge of serious mental illness like bipolar disorder, as well as grief. As someone with bipolar disorder and a history of depression, I’m at risk of complicated grief.

Not only did my father recently die, my mother is a stroke survivor living with vascular dementia. She lives in memory care, but wants me to visit more often than I can afford to emotionally.

Squeezed between generations, I cheer my newly adult son as he takes steps to overcome social anxiety and manage his migraines. Until he gets his driver’s license, I chauffeur him to and from specialists appointments.

Rather than spend all my time and energy caring for the needs of others, I must care for myself. My personal boundaries are poor. Groups overwhelm me. I take care of others, not myself. Find myself overstimulated and become mildly hypomanic. Perform, rather than sit, listen and accept help from others.

Always a been performer, love being onstage, enjoy public speaking. Now’s not the time to be the center of attention, to be right, to be smart, to solve problems, to be the hero.

My brain isn’t functioning at its best. Grief-related brain fog. Can’t concentrate. Can’t remember. Simply overwhelmed emotionally. Often, I can’t even come up with a simple word to answer a question my husband asks. Cannot make a yes or no decision.

Today I deleted emails of great content I would usually share as a mental health advocate. I leave that to others for now.

Now, I grieve. Now I cocoon. Now I draw mandalas and patterns using iOrnament. Now I do jigsaw puzzles on my iPad. Now I watch TV.

Now, I cry softly, sometimes gently sob, for the father I love and miss.

Blooming Hope

Monoprints 1 and 2 by Kitt O'Malley
Monoprints 1 and 2 by Kitt O’Malley

The Blooming Hope Nursery is an art exhibit of The Expression Project for NAMIWalks Orange County.  The purpose of this exhibit is to grow seeds of HOPE.

To tell the stories of individuals who struggle with mental illness and their family members we are embarking on a journey of hope. The first leg of this journey is the sharing of stories and works of art by family members and individuals.

Here are my entries and story of hope:

Though I am a minivan-driving wife and mother, unlike most of my suburban neighbors, I live with bipolar disorder. On my blog kittomalley.com, I recount my struggle with mental illness, the two decades it took to get a proper diagnosis, and how my journey has ultimately given me a sense of purpose – and at times, a sense of religious calling. I find creating art and writing a good release for racing thoughts. Coloring, especially, helps to slow down my thoughts and quell anxiety.

When I go on walks, I like to take photos of nature, especially flowers and cloudscapes. The photos I’ve taken over the last two years. Walking outside in nature and taking the time to appreciate beauty helps me with my moods. At the same time, I must be sure to not overexpose myself to the sun, for it triggers hypomania.The monoprints I created almost two decades ago when I lived with a diagnosis of dysthymia, well before I was diagnosed bipolar type II. The doodles I’ve done recently, as I’ve found coloring and doodling helpful in grounding me, in slowing down racing thoughts and overcoming anxiety.

I am not creative in spite of or because of my mental illness. I simply am creative. Even when medicated properly and asymptomatic, I am creative. Medication does not turn my creativity off. Using creativity can help me to manage my symptoms, it can be a release, but it is not dependent on me having a diagnosable mental illness. What I want to get across is the importance of self-care, including medication, if needed, and psychotherapy. Art, photography and writing do not take the place of medication or psychotherapy, they are adjuncts to traditional treatment modalities.

Check out my fellow artists’ hope-inspiring work at The Blooming Hope Nursery.