Not just a cup of coffee

I got a text message from woman I briefly worked with, who wanted to catch up for coffee. Sure, I love a coffee catch up. So we arranged a time and place in our lovely little town. However, I kept wondering why she would bother keeping in touch with me? What did she want to talk about? I felt quite insecure about it to be honest.
When I arrived on my bike, all my concerns dissipated with her friendly wave, smile and a hug. We ordered drinks and sat in the autumn sunshine. Our conversation flowed quite easily from parenting to long weekend traffic. Then somehow quite smoothly we were talking about anxiety, and emotional struggles. It clicked, we clicked.

cup of coffee with cake
Coffee and Cake <3

My openness about my mental illness had given this wonderful women the key to connect, the permission to reach out and ask, the sense of safety to raise an awkward topic.
When things had gotten more stressful in our workplace I had been honest that it was triggering my anxiety. I had said to a couple of colleagues that I had Bipolar Disorder. I hoped by being open about my mental illness it would help alleviate the work stress, and lengthen my period of employment. It sadly didn’t, but that says more about the leaders of the organisation than the employees.
But, and its a Big BUT, it has opened this meaningful connection, this possibility for friendship and mutual support. This is so meaningful and important to me especially as I have only moved to this little town 6months ago and want to make new friends.

Having friends to talk to about everyday life and the harder things in life is necessary. Women often do this instinctively, we chat at the school gate, we meet up and talk over coffee or lunch, we ring distant friends to stay in touch. But when you are struggling with your mental health, when you are feeling anxious or lonely or stressed, we can withdraw or worry that talking about it won’t be well accepted by others. Are we being a Debbie downer? Will we scare others away with our craziness? or She won’t want to be my friend if I talk about that!

My recent experiences have proved to me that when you do talk about your emotions it builds human connections. I was chatting with a school mum who is also new to town and she opened up about her struggle to make friends. So I invited her over for a cuppa while our kids played. Our conversation easily moved from parenting to stress, frustration and anxiety. I shared my mental illness struggles and some supportive advice.

I believe that honesty and truth build our relationships with others. We all need an opportunity to share, to feel connected. So please remember that its not just a cup of coffee, but opportunity to be a good friend.

Some people I know think that I’m CRAZY…..

I know at times I act a little hasty. That’s when I have a surge of energy, and feel like I can get through all my chores and achieve something great with my day. Other days getting up and getting the kids off to school takes monumental effort and a pasted on smile.

I’ve come to accept that yes I am crazy. For almost as long as I can remember I’ve felt different to everyone else. I struggled to feel happy or content in my childhood, and in my teenage years anxiety truly reared its head. But at the time I didn’t understand it and neither did those around me. So I struggled through and somehow I made it to adulthood.

People think I'm CRAZY
People think I’m CRAZY

My kind of crazy has a label – Bipolar type II. I’m not sure that labels really help you to understand who I am or what is going on for me. But labels do help the medical profession to devise the best treatment plan and it has helped me to find lots of helpful resources and connect with other peoples’ experiences.

Bipolar – 2 poles, polar opposites, ups and downs, or in the old days manic depression. Really Bipolar is  mood swings of the extreme variety. From depressed, sad, lonely and overwhelmed by the simplest life tasks, through so-so, happy, present, to energetic, exuberant, extroverted and high achiever.

I recently read another sufferer’s description that so aptly described my experiences and just as the author says, it is what I wish you knew about Bipolar:

Bipolar Disorder is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.”

read the article here on Mamamia

I survived into adulthood and have learnt many lessons in life along the way. I overcame my anxiety to graduate from university twice. Survived numerous bouts of depression with the steadfast support of my loving husband. I have had careers as a Geologist in the mining industry; taught high school science; and lectured in Mining. I have become a mother of 2 adorable energetic boys who have taught me about unconditional love, patience and perseverance. I continue to learn more everyday from my amazing friends about how to accept life is a challenge for all of us in different ways, and to be grateful for my life.

 

So who am I? I am Louisa, a wife, mother of 2 boys, a loyal friend to some truly wonderful people. And I am battling my mental illness everyday.

Who am I? Loupy Lou.
Who am I? Loupy Lou.

 

If this post has brought anything up for you, please reach out for help here:
Lifeline or call 13 11 14
BeyondBlue or call 1300 22 4636