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On bipolar sufferers and their support people—my thoughts.

Being both bipolar and a support person to another bipolar, I’m familiar with both sides of the equation. Therefore I believe I’m in a very good position to share my thoughts and give some insights.

If you’re bipolar, listen up! Cut the crap with the self-pity, the omnipotence and the self-absorption. Admit you have a serious health issue. Stop being a navel gazer, up-your-arse, negative, unbearable and nasty piece of work. Your support people love you. Stop for a fricken second, just a fricken second, to think that you’re wrecking their lives when you insist upon not taking your meds, not changing your lifestyle for the better or not allowing a kind, loving relative or friend to help you manage your screwed-up finances. You can do heaps better than that. I know how much you’re suffering because I’ve suffered that much myself. I’m aware it isn’t pretty. In any case, in the middle of so much pain, you can still find enough self-awareness to make a change. Tell a loved one you love them, apologise for the hurt you cause them and remember that being bipolar doesn’t define you. It’s part of you, not the whole “you”. I know, you’ve got to deal with it, as I deal with it myself, but I’m sure that you can do that and more.

If you’re a support person, you’re not alone. What I found works for me is 1) compassion; 2) compassion; 3) compassion; and last but not least compassion. Not “idiot compassion” – if you don’t know what that means, google it up. Listening, just listening, goes a long way. Now, I’ve got a few little “pearls” for you as well. Sometimes you use hurtful words when you talk to your bipolar loved one, shame on you! Find yourself a sounding board if you need to vent – preferably a counsellor or a support group. Don’t wear your friends out; some of them may even misunderstand your plight and a) give you stupid advice that you must leave your partner; b) throw your son out of the house, c) tell your mother to drop dead. That isn’t the way. Some friends can be very understanding: those are the ones who just listen. Take time out if you need to. Find a safe space where you can refuel. Set clear limits as to how far you can go for your BLO (Bipolar Loved One). Don’t believe that you’re invincible, unbreakable and unflappable, because you are NOT. If your BLO is a family member, don’t forget that bipolar disorder runs in families and you may be bipolar yourself.
If your partner / spouse happens to be bipolar, and you decide you absolutely have to leave them for your safety and sanity, it’s sad and regrettable. But you come first. If there’s no “you”, there’s nothing. Run for your life if you must, but don’t abuse the hell out of someone who at some point must have been very attractive and worth everything in your eyes.

To both: Not all bipolar sufferers are the same. Remember it’s a disease, so considering that all BP patients are the same would equate to considering that all cancer sufferers have the same personality traits. Bipolar disorder isn’t a weakness or a defence mechanism that sufferers “switch on” whenever they feel like it, and on purpose. It’s one hell of a disease.

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Money and a room of one’s own

It’s been a while, guys. That wasn’t the way it was meant to be, but there are a series of unremarkable things that happen in life that can push an author in unintended directions. Case in point: what happens (or doesn’t happen) at work. A vast majority of us indiefolk have to do other kinds of work for a living. Many of us belong to the so-called precariat: we hold casual positions at work which don’t allow us to think in terms of earning so much a month, because there are months in which we don’t earn anything.

Gone are the days in which an academic like me had the chance of being employed full-time. Managing money has become “a thing” in itself and it saps my creative energy. I happened to be discussing this with a dear friend of mine this arvo when she nodded and said something like ‘Yeah, having money and a room of one’s own.’ It was Virginia Woolf who wrote those words in an essay that would become a classic in feminist thinking:

…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved…

I can’t complain about the little room where I do my writing (when my mental state allows me to). Even the local library where I live counts as a “room of my own” with a breathtaking view of the Blue Mountains. We can discuss “the true nature of woman” till the cows come home. In any case, this isn’t what I intend to do here. I guess that what I want to discuss is the role of money in the life of a writer. Yes, that unspeakable monstrosity, that hideous vulgarity. Money, or lack thereof, that can hold back many a creative soul and their creative career.

Every time I want to find an answer to life’s dilemmas, I ask Google. Yeah, effin’ Google and its nerdy relative Google Scholar, my true ally in these days of post-truths. A couple of days ago I came across a very cool website run by Mark McGuinness, poet and coach. In this well worded article he discusses the uneasy relationship that creative people have with money, and he does nail it on most counts. Many authors think that money isn’t important; they don’t know how to get it or don’t know how much they’re worth; they don’t want to sell out or look greedy; not to mention that in countless cases they don’t know how to manage it or spend it.

Money-can't-buy-happiness
Make no mistake, one-hundred dollar notes could put a huge, lasting smile on my face.

If I use the third person singular “they” it’s because I’ve got a very clear idea of the role of money in my life. I’m also painfully aware that the need to have a “day job” will be there for who knows how long because very few creative writers make a living as such. I’m not saying I’ve given up; on the contrary, I believe there could be a future working as a creative writer for me. But in the meantime I have to support myself in a different way, namely through a “day job”. A stable “day job”.

‘These are hard times for dreamers,’ said the porno shop assistant in the movie Amélie.  I’d say they’re hard times for those of us that want to make a living without making a fuss. Of course I want to make a living selling novels and collections of short stories, but in order to write them I need the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my bills are paid.

Must leave you now. I need to continue fighting the bad guys and keeping the wolf from the door. Catcha later 🙂

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Friendship and good wine / Amistad y buen vino

This isn’t just a bottle of great Chilean wine; it’s the symbol of a friendship. A friendship for life. Sadly my friend Valentín’s life came to an end. I still don’t know how or why, and it does matter.

Esto no es solamente una botella de un gran vino chileno; es el símbolo de una amistad. Una amistad de por vida. Lamentablemente la vida de mi amigo Valentín llegó a su fin. Aún no sé cómo o por qué, y realmente me importa.

When wine isn't just wine but a form of connection... Cuando el vino no es solamente vino, sino una forma de conectarse...
When wine isn’t just wine but a form of connection…
Cuando el vino no es solamente vino, sino una forma de conectarse…

Valentín lived an ocean away from me, but we were close anyway. WhatsApp made it possible for us to chat almost on a daily basis, as well as Facebook. He was (bugger, it’s hard to use the past tense) an intelligent man with a vast array of interests, including some shared ones such as music, aikido and cats.

Valentín vivía a un océano de distancia, pero aún así estábamos cerca. WhatsApp nos facilitó la posibilidad de chatear casi todos los días, al igual que Facebook. Él era (la mierda, es duro tener que hablar en pasado) un hombre inteligente con intereses vastamente variados, incluyendo los que compartíamos, tales como la música, el aikido y los gatos.

Together with my other legendary friend Ale “El Turco”, he was a pillar of support and understanding at the time I experienced one of the blackest depressions of my life in the year 1997. We were an inseparable trio that frequented pubs and cafés in Buenos Aires in the ’90’s and early naughties, until I moved to Sydney for good.

Junto con mi otro amigo legendario Ale “El Turco”, fue de gran ayuda y comprensión cuando experimenté una de las depresiones más negras de mi vida en el año 1997. Formábamos un trío inseparable que frecuentaba los pubs y cafés de Buenos Aires en los años ’90 y al inicio del nuevo milenio, hasta que me mudé definitivamente a Sydney.

When I visited family and friends in Buenos Aires in late 2013, I remember that catching up with both Valentín and Ale “El Turco” was very much like “picking it up from where we left it off”. I did see more of Valentín and spoke to him on the phone almost every day during my stay in Buenos Aires. The time difference between Australia (EST) and Argentina is considerable (13 hours that become 14 during DST), and that made it difficult for us to speak on the phone, but WhatsApp made frequent communication possible. SMSing may not be the same thing, but it’s still better than nothing.

Cuando visité a mi familia y amigos en Buenos Aires hacia fines del 2013, recuerdo que el encuentro con Valentín y Ale “El Turco” fue muy como retomar donde habíamos dejado. Lo vi más veces a Valentín y hablé con él por teléfono casi todos los días durante mi estadía en Buenos Aires. La diferencia horaria entre Australia (hora del este) y Argentina es considerable (13 horas que se convierten en 14 durante el verano) y nos hicieron difícil hablar por teléfono, pero WhatsApp hizo posible la comunicación frecuente. Los mensajes de texto no serán lo mismo, pero son mejores que nada.

It’s hard for me to write when I’m overwhelmed by sadness, but I wanted to celebrate Valentín’s life, a savvy pathologist, a wine lover, a foodie, devoted son, former stepdad and a friend. I’ve been happy and lucky to have him in my life for 20 years. Cheers, Primushko!

Es duro para mí escribir cuando me embarga la tristeza, pero quería celebrar la vida de Valentín, un patólogo muy capaz, amante del vino y de la comida, hijo devoto, padrastro cariñoso, y amigo. He tenido el gusto y la buena suerte de que haya sido parte de mi vida durante 20 años. ¡Salud, Primushko!

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A la memoria de mi querida tía María / In the memory of my beloved Aunty Maria

Café y cariño: recordando a mi tía María. Coffee and affection: remembering Aunty María. Image by Andy Rogers, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cobaltfish/. Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
Café y cariño: recordando a mi tía María.
Coffee and affection: remembering Aunty María.
Image by Andy Rogers, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cobaltfish/. Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

 

Es la primera vez que escribo un artículo en castellano y por una muy buena razón: quiero compartir el grato recuerdo de mi tía María, fallecida a los 94 años de edad. Ocupó un lugar especial en mi vida, durante mi infancia, adolescencia y edad adulta.

It’s the first time I write a blog post in Spanish and for a very good reason: I want to share my fond memories of my Aunty María, gone at age 94. She had a very special place in my life, during my childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

María “fue” muchísimas cosas: la tía paciente que nos traía Vascolet con vainillas cuando mis hermanos, mis primos y yo eramos chicos, y lo tomábamos en la pileta de su casa. “Sánguches” de salame también. ¡Gracias a mi prima Laura por recordármelo! Más tarde, en mi adolescencia, de alguna manera influyó para que yo eligiese estudiar el traductorado. “Traduttore, tradittore,” decía María. Una vez me dijo que le hubiese gustado trabajar de intérprete en un barco. Nacida en Italia, aprendió a hablar, leer y escribir en castellano perfectamente cuando emigró a Argentina.

Maria “was” many things: the patient aunty who used to bring us chocolate milk with vanilla sugar biscuits when my brothers, my cousins and I were children, and we used to have them in the swimming pool at her place. Salami sandwiches as well—thanks to my cousin Laura for reminding me! Later, in my adolescence, she was somehow influential in my decision to become a translator. ‘Traduttore, tradittore,” Maria used to say. She once told me that she would’ve loved to work as an interpreter on an ocean liner. Born in Italy, she learned how to speak, read and write in Spanish perfectly when she migrated to Argentina.

En mi edad adulta, María era el ejemplo vivo de la persona que no me juzgaba y que me aceptaba tal y como soy. Me regaló la primera cafetera espresso de mi vida y me enseñó a disfrutar del buen café con bomboncitos Baci. Me cubrió de afecto y compasión cuando llegó el diagnóstico de bipolaridad.

When I became a grown-up, Maria was the living example of the non-judgmental person who accepted me as I was. She gave me my first espresso caffettiera and taught me how to enjoy good coffee with Baci chocolates. She showered me with affection and compassion when I was diagnosed as bipolar.

Daba gusto charlar con ella sobre yoga, meditación y temas espirituales. Me mandó tarjetas de Navidad lindísimas después que me mudé a Sydney.

It was a pleasure to talk to her about yoga, meditation and spiritual topics. She sent me beautiful Christmas cards after I moved to Sydney.

Le tocó vivir pérdidas terribles: su hijo mayor murió en la temprana infancia, y sus otros tres hijos en la edad adulta. María no se merecía un dolor semejante …

She experienced terrible losses: her eldest son died in infancy and her other three sons passed away in adulthood. Maria didn’t deserve such grief and sorrow …

La vida de mi tía María se apagó mientras dormía, a los 94 años de edad. ¡Adiós María! Pero tu recuerdo y mi amor por el café van a seguir intactos para siempre.

Aunty Maria’s life faded in her sleep, at age 94. Goodbye Maria! But your memory and my love of coffee will remain intact forever.

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