I've been working on the manuscript for my second memoir, Bipolar Courage: are you sure you're not autistic?
The book is mainly about an intense online connection with an autistic man, whom I have called Maxwell. Xavier is my son who shares a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome with Maxwell. Leo is Xavier's father. Patricia is a psychologist (she said she's honoured to be in the book, by the way). All names are changed, of course.
I've just written a draft section that might be still be condensed or even have some edited out. I wanted to share the extract here, under 'Maternity Ring.'
For the first time in over 18 years, I made a decision that I wouldn’t wear my maternity ring anymore. The Ceylonese sapphire set in yellow gold, bought when I was pregnant. Leo and I had gone shopping for an eternity ring. I never got the eternity ring, ever. Leo had joked that the ring I was drawn to was a ‘maternity ring’ instead. It was the only piece of jewellery I’d kept from the marriage, worn on my right hand, as it was linked to Xavier.
Without question, there had been a mother-son dynamic in my relationship with Maxwell. In general, Maxwell talked to women who were overseas and were mothers.
‘All beautifully unavailable,’ Patricia had said.
Only, I had an extra vulnerability over my other vulnerabilities. I was still grieving my son. Separated by country by sh!tty circumstances.
One of the reasons I understood Maxwell is that he had some traits similar to Xavier. It was also one of the reasons I was patient with him. Xavier had benefitted from social, assertiveness and self-regulation skills training at a younger age.
Patricia acknowledged that it was mainly me who had put the work in with Xavier when he was younger, even though Leo gets the credit now.
Xavier’s way of dealing with things when he was younger was aggression. Now that he’s older, his way is avoidance, same as me. It hurts but he even avoids me. He has he same kind of hot cold thing as Maxwell. He avoids me for long stretches, then we catch up like old times. Then back to avoidance.
It was very difficult to remove the maternity ring as I hadn’t had it resized with weight gain. I was determined to remove it without having it cut. It hurt more than childbirth to remove that ring, which is now in a treasure box. With the pendants of a red ruby dragon defending the two birds on a branch, in hope that Xavier and I would be reunited. When I was anxious, I would rub the pendants together, on the same chain. I eventually replaced the pendants with a tree of life pendant.
Taking off the maternity ring was symbolic that I was letting go of Xavier, now a young adult. I was also letting go of Maxwell. I felt like Maxwell had matured a lot during our on-again, off-again relationship. To the point where he had mentored me, to avoid the online squabbles and get back to writing. I’m pretty sure he had no idea I would write about him though. Nor did I, until I took off the ring.
I bought a new ring with a gem shaped like a teardrop and a shield on a band of rose gold. I don’t wear it everyday, as I’ve collected inexpensive silver rings with various colours of synthesised stones that I change with my mood. Since I’ve been expressing myself more, with painting and writing, others have described me as ‘colourful.’ Later, I bought a yellow gold ring with five colourful gemstones. I call it ‘Moody Storm,’ the same name as a process painting inspired by it.
Symbolism & processing
The above draft extract is memoir but it's also full of symbolism. I love my metaphors and symbolism. I've done a lot of processing, knitting together a love story. My best effort since my semiautobiographical novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice and hopefully a lot less cringe than my first memoir, Bipolar Cringe.
It's symbolic to me, whether I include it or not. I kind of went off on a tangent here and I need to condense the manuscript. If I don't use this segment in the memoir, I might alter it and put in in the novel, Soar Purpose. My books are linked but have completely different stories.
I don't know how much gossip has gone done in social media circles, so I have taken care to omit explicit content. Although, I left some of the flirting in because I think it's fun.
I skim-read my initial draft chapters last night. No kidding, I wrote 7 draft chapters, stream-of-consciousness style, in a week or so, before the 8th chapter became the foundation for the Chapter 1: Meeting Maxwell. Then taken much longer, as I was still processing, going through selected vlogs, my journals, visual diaries etc to put together the story I wanted to tell.
The early stuff isn't suitable to use, as it jumps around too much for the reader, with processing in elevated mood. Although it has enabled me to identify themes, some of the memoir, some of the novel. Perhaps one day, if I want something to do, I might upload a few raw extracts, which show how I tangent more quickly when elevated.
It's through processing pain, that I have created my original artworks, as paintings, sculptures and writing. One of the big challenges I have, is that my mind is so overloaded with information, like an internet browser with too many tabs open, that I shut down. I can have significant impairments with my short-term memory, yet incredible long-term memory for certain things, when I'm in certain states but then I forget what I've written. It's very, very challenging to write books with cognitive impairments.
I noted that I was writing the book to heal a broken heart. Well, I feel like I have done that. I've cried, I've laughed. This is the most emotionally open book I've written so far. It's vulnerable for me to share my emotions. I have been in therapy for the avoidance and shutdown presentation of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD for over 4 years. Shutting down intense emotion because intense emotion is triggering for me, is part of that. Creative expression (often to music) has been a key part of my healing journey (just thought of a title for this blog post now, so adding it).
All going well, I should be set to publish it within two months. I still have three out of thirty chapters to write/rewrite, cull some more for practicalities of a book, do some more formatting, cover design etc.
Bittersweet but worth it
Maggie, one of the characters in the story had asked me if I had even 5 minutes of joy with Maxwell. I said way more than that. She said, then it was worth it.
Love is bittersweet for me. A rollercoaster or euphoria and pain. I don't fall in love easily but sometimes it's so unexpected.
I hope that after processing the raw stuff, again and again, composting it, so colourful flowers can grow, that it's an entertaining story.
Maxwell meant more to me than he might ever know. This memoir is for him.
I've posted the last painting I've done on canvas, here again, below. I don't paint very often these days, as I've been writing instead. I tend to paint when I don't know what I'm feeling. This painting started off as 'Moody Cow' and changed to 'Moody Storm,' inspired by a colourful ring.
There's some song lyrics in there, from what I had listened to. My childhood nickname, Mandy, is in there several times. My mind also sees 'Manger' from where I've placed 'Mandy' and 'Anger' around the N of 'Mania' which is also an abstracted lightning and an extracted 'Z'. Z in my art usually stands for my son or for wise/wyse when paired with 'YZ'. There are several layers of symbolism in this painting as well as all my paintings.
I changed my full legal name. The semicolon stands for 'my story isn't over yet,' for those struggling with mental health issues, as both Maxwell and I have done so, ostracised by those in their online cliques. We both had (and still have) our struggles. However, I think he's an interesting guy, so that's why I wanted to write about him, our connection, our clashes, personal growth.
Reason I am amused at the 'man-ger' as I think I was working through some of my anger issues with men, as Maxwell was working through some anger issues with women.
It's been a very challenging project, as my mind works better with complex visual formats than in trying to organise words. But we're nearly there. I shed a few healing tears writing this blog post.
Disclaimer: the author of this blog is not an expert by profession and her opinions should not be taken as expert advice.