I have still been hypomanic this last week. My energy has subsided a bit, and I have been a little more irritable and ‘flat’ as of late. This is not to say that I am not having racing thoughts or doing about hundred things at once. These days, there are actually moments though where I do want to sit and feel flat again. I really cannot tell at this point though if the medicine increase has really made any impact. I guess all we can hope (what JH and I say to each other every morning) is that it gets better, and that the day turns out positively.
On Friday, an incident triggered something in me and I took 10,000 steps backwards, and that was frustrating. Rewinding all the way back to my childhood, I was the ultimate attention seeker. I had to put on costumes and ‘act’ and ‘dance’ in front of my parents’ friends. I thrived off piano competitions, dance recitals, talent shows, and being ‘gifted’. As I already shared in the last ‘conversation’, I was somehow a really competitive public speaker. I had no fear, and everything had to be about me. It was almost like I was a millennial before millennials even became to be. Somewhere in between moving high schools (after I got into a weird feud with another girl and there was both a buildup and back lash of bullying against me – long story for another day) and university, I became introverted. Until now (despite the hypomania), I still think I am introverted, but I act ‘glorified’ and a bit ‘vain’ through social media. I essentially act like a millennial, except I never really show my face. It is hidden vanity and grandeur.
My best friends always say I was/am never introverted, but the three especially who knew me through high school and university never knew ‘young’ me. ‘Young me’ could have been manic (not even hypomanic – I was literally sometimes too ‘glorified’ and ‘imaginative’). ‘Young me’ just needed a couple of instances for depression to be introduced, like these for example:
- Two cases where two of the most important people in my life as a child left me to pursue their own happinesses. One eventually came back, but the other proclaimed never wanting to come back permanently because there was “nothing here” (I guess I could include myself in that “nothing” statement, and my future children or my brother’s children, etc.). I cannot blame either for leaving because if I got a Singapore offer again, I would not say no this time. Sometimes you have to leave to know what you are missing at home. I would however come back because there are many things here that I love, no matter how much I hate Toronto the city itself.
- Dealing with a “Patty” Hewes toxic environment. (Damages is basically the best show ever written.)
And so we go back to the whole idea of pain and suffering. No, I have not gone through intense situations like abuse, or a war-torn environment, or a fatal disease. I know my life is precious, and I am grateful for it, but what I am trying to do is get to the point of the story – the causations of my downs. I am trying to understand bi-polar depression. I need to talk through everything to understand my own condition. To this day, no matter how many books I read, or doctors I see, I am still not really getting it. And it is frustrating. I am hyper and social one day, and the next day I just want to latch onto a pillow. Everyone has mood swings, but when I am latching onto that pillow, I am crying my face off. I am sobbing so hard that my chest feels like it is going to break. Only people who have been depressed would understand (sorry if I generalize).
Anyways, getting back to the point I was trying to make with being the “centre of attention” – a few years back, I tried out for a reality TV cooking competition. While it is still pretty hard to talk about this even after all this time, the point of this story is that it was probably one of the triggers that lead me to discover that I am bi-polar. There is a chance I would have handled and accepted every moment and experience better and gracefully (and not so regrettably – because all the actual contestants I met (and some of the casting staff) were amazing people; people I might have been friends with) if I was not manic depressive, but this experience lead to one of the darkest periods in my life for a long time. I found it really hard to face any of those people after the experience was over. I am still embarrassed that there are pieces of the experience still out there in the virtual world, so I cannot even hide from the humiliation.
Nobody forced me to audition. Friends and even acquaintances suggested the idea to me (based on what little they could see on social media), and wanted to encourage me through the process, so one day, I said – “ok” to myself (in delusion likely) – and applied. I was very cognizant of the fact that I am not a hard-core cook. I bake, and baking is where I excel. But with cooking, I cook essentially the same things all the time. JH does not complain. I will try savoury things mostly two or three times (i.e. pasta making, etc). I have minimal knife skills. I hate cooking under pressure, since unlike most things in my life, I am actually slow in the kitchen. I have intense social anxieties. I basically failed every checkbox that was necessary to succeed in something like this, except my ability to make things look pretty. After all, my favourite thing now about being in the kitchen is not the actual kitchen experience, but making enough desserts that I can use for photos. I actually love taking photos more. So, photography has become more important to me, and I just use food and styling food as a means of a workable subject. I also like to tell stories, so I knew I had the ability to make my application stand out.
I am not going to go through every detail of the experience because it was painful. It was an experience, but a humiliating one that I knew from day one I could have protected myself from. I could not cook ‘professionally’, so why would I audition? I thought I could wing things. I assumed there would be teachers. I do know kitchen tools fairly well. I wanted to see what could happen. I wanted so badly to leave the Patty Hewes environment I dreaded going to everyday. I was feeling dull and listless, and back then, I did not even know the concept of mental illness could really exist for me. I just thought I was feeling dull and listless. I just needed something to fill the void.
This past Friday, JH and I were walking around town because it was hot and beautiful outside at night. We ended up walking past the restaurant of one of the judges from the show. He was the judge that was the hardest on me – in the initial audition (when he said the colour of my dessert resembled mud water), on the show (where he was the only one to vote against me in the top 40 cut to 25), and finally, the one that got to say I was eliminated. I saw him laughing and smiling as he reveled in the ‘success’ of a fully-booked restaurant on a beautiful night. JH laughed and said we should go say hi.
I…..literally went psychotic. I started sobbing, and I cried so hard that at some point I blacked out (which happens when I have psychotic cries). JH did not know what to do, so he continued to walk me around assuming I would stop. I kept on seeing this guy’s laughing and smiling face fixed in my mind though, and then I would cry harder. At some point, I told JH I needed to go home (it was embarrassing for me to sob all over Toronto), and I was not sure why he would not have taken me home in the first place, but I should have taken myself home the minute my face started crumbling. JH later said that I clinched my fists and would not let go. I do not remember this at all.
I am not sure how one person could be so impactful and powerfully negative to me, but when I got home I ran for my clonazepams. And if JH was not there, I would have shoved more than the six that went down before I continued to cry. Seeing this person that night brought back all my feelings of inadequacies, worthlessness, and the pain of that experience. That year, and the year after, I felt like less than a human. I did not feel like I deserved to live because I had absolutely nothing to offer the world. I felt like nothing from that experience. It is not that I cannot take feedback, but I felt from this one person that I could do nothing; and from this experience, that I was nothing. If I was stronger, maybe I would have laughed him off, or maybe I would have went up and said “hi”. But, I felt so weak and depressed from that experience, especially as I million-flash-back raced through thoughts about when after I left and I was back home wondering about all the “what ifs”. On Friday night, I felt that weakness all over again. I reverted back into full depression. I wanted to hurt myself. I superficially tried to scratch at the “stronger” on my wrist. I felt suicidal. And it was so powerful that one person could do that, to trigger that, to make me feel like I am nothing but completely worthless.
I normally only take one clonazepam at night, so, the six really put me to sleep (for a while anyways, since I can never sleep properly). In the weirdest way, I woke up the next morning, and felt okay and hypomanic again. I went outside and ran 10 km, and thought nothing much about the night before except to tell my three best friends in case depression came back. I have so much to say to my doctors. Obviously, I know he is one of my triggers now. I have three triggers confirmed (it is possible for me to see all three by chance on the street though they have all left my life permanently). I just have to find and figure out all the rest and figure out ultimately how to protect myself from ever feeling this way again – at least on a trigger basis, since depression will just happen and I cannot control it. I am glad though that depression has not returned full force – and I will continue to ride the hypomania until depression actually makes its comeback. It has been a few weeks now.
On a positive note, I am engaging in two activities that have to do with promoting mental health. One, I will figure out more details about in due time (tomorrow) – but I will be volunteering with the Mood Disorder Society of Canada. Two – I am running for youth mental health via the RBC Race for Kids and Sunnybrook Hospital in September. After all that my doctors (and even the meds) have done for me, I just want to give back. I want to work with people to erase stigma – in social circles with friends, in family conversations, in the corporate workplace (more difficult), and just everywhere. If we can talk about diabetes and cancer, etc. openly, we can talk about bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, etc. openly without looking at a person like they are psychotic, or acting uncomfortable (elephant in the room). The worst still is when people do not even ask because they think it is uncomfortable. No, a person with mental health sickness wants to be able to talk and gain understanding from the people they love most.
I cannot wait to rant and rave about all these things I get to work with and prepare for when it comes to supporting mental health. I am already excited for the run, because my amazing family and friends (bless you all – you all know who you are) have come together to sponsor me for over $1.4K already in funds, and one of my best friends is actually running the 15K with me. This all happened in one day, and my mind just felt overwhelmed as people responded to something that makes such a huge difference in my heart. At my first $250 donation, I broke into tears, because of the overwhelming generosity. The run is not for 32 year olds, but there’s a percentage chance that JH and I could have a child with bi-polar disorder, and so doing anything for mental health means something to me. It means so much to me.
So…………and onwards to the awkward part of the story……….
On an even lighter topic, I made some Mille Feuille the other day. These are essentially layers of puff pastry and pastry cream (I use ‘diplomat’ cream). The recipe is below.
At the end of the day, the recipe really only needs a few components:
- Puff pastry x 2 – I either buy pastry from the farmer’s market or I use this recipe.
- Diplomat Cream – The recipe below is adapted from Bouchon Bakery.
- Cherries, pistachios, almonds, chocolate balls, and confectioners’ sugar for decoration.
Necessities & Bumbling:
- 1 gelatin sheet, soaked in cold water for 2 to 3 minutes
- 600 grams pastry cream [link]
- 200 grams whipping cream, whipped to medium peaks
- Heat one-third of the pastry cream on low heat, gently stirring. Add the bloomed gelatin.
- Transfer the remaining pastry cream to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and stir until smooth.
- Strain the warm pastry cream through a sieve. Stir into the remaining pastry cream until smooth.
- Gently fold in the whipped cream.
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F (might be less – depends on your oven).
- Lightly flour your work surface. Roll out the puff pastry into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle.
- Place the rectangle on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Cover the rectangle with parchment paper and stack another cookie sheet on top.
- Do the same with the other roll of puff pastry.
- Bake the rectangles for approximately 20 minutes.
- Allow the pastry to cool.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the rectangles into smaller, even rectangles. Using measuring tape, you can figure out how to evenly divide the rectangles so there are no scraps remaining.
- Pipe the cream evenly along the rectangles using a large circular piping tip. Stack another rectangle on top. Repeat. There should be three puff pastry layers, and two cream layers.
- Using an offset spatula, smooth the sides. I used almonds to cover up the ugly sides.
- Garnish with cherries, almonds, crushed pistachios, chocolate balls, and confectioners’ sugar.