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Can I handle this?


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I’m sorry, this is long.

A friend of mine is having a joint exhibition in our local art centre and a few days ago she asked me to think about having an exhibition of my own at the same time, in one of the other rooms in the art centre. The idea is that more exhibitions = more people coming through. This would be in October.

Yikes! OMG! Ack! Can I put a SOLO exhibition together??? I’ve only ever sent work to other group exhibitions. Do I have enough? Can I figure out how to set it up? Can I… Do I… Should I… Will I… Do I want to….?

Here is the issue and the reason why I ask:

I am trying to find the balance between setting realistic goals I can achieve and over-reaching which courts failure. I KNOW there are no certainties, but I want to be realistic about this and not just set myself up for more illness.

The thing is with my bipolar being so unstable (as it still is) is that I have NO IDEA how I will be in October. I could be flying high and able to take on the world. I could also be bottom-feeding in the Pit. If the latter, an exhibition will feel insurmountable and I may well have to back out. I HATE committing myself to something and then having to back out because I simply cannot cope with it. It has happened SOOO many times. I’m now afraid to commit to anything more than a few weeks in advance and even a few weeks is dicey.

My pdoc is weaning me off the Efexor. Well I knew that was coming. Efexor is making me rapid-cycle and has probably destabilised me, but I am on it because it’s the only thing that lifts me out of depression. It does this by switching me, which is seriously Not Good. But she says I must come off it as quickly as possible as it's worsening my future. So by October I could be horribly depressed again and back on the agonising hunt for the NEXT drug that will help the depression without making the cycling worse. I don’t even want to think about it.

I cannot project into 3 months time. I cannot know how I’ll be. The rate at which I now cycle and the Efexor-weaning-off would predict a depression looming, unless something else can intervene. And now I don’t know what to do!

1. I could just say no. Certainly the easiest, safest and low-risk-est. But it is an opportunity and I will feel SO sad at having to let ANOTHER one go by, because of the stupid bipolar, which has already robbed my life of so much. I don’t want to say no. But If I DO crash by October I will be very glad I said no. I get horribly incapacitated when depressed.

2. I could say yes. OMG! That makes me feel SO SCARED. Granted, it would be exciting just having a solo, even if I sold nothing. I could carry the cost of an exhibition. I need the money, but I’m not in this for the money. It would be the fulfilment of a very long-held dream. Saying yes could also precipitate the next cycle, most likely will.

But saying yes, brings up this whole issue of goals and over-reaching for me. I have a (pretty much life-long, since it went undetected and untreated for so long) pattern of starting things with great gusto in mania and then having to abandon them in depression when getting out of bed is a major feat. I DON’T want this to be one.

If I say yes, is this a goal I can reach for? Could having that goal spur me on, or could the pressure make me relapse? I’m battling so much with not over-reaching. But I need attainable goals to get my confidence back, about handling pressure, about functioning, about going somewhere in my life. How does one decide something like this, when bipolar is such an issue? Stress does horrible things to me. Seven years of coordinating very stressful clinical drug trials led to my all-fall-down around two years ago. I’m just getting back on my feet. I need to win at something, for my confidence’s sake. Achieving this would mean so much to me. Even if I pay for it afterwards, which I may well do.

I need to strive for something or I fear I will sit around waiting to die. But how I know how much is too much? I wish it wasn’t such a steep gradient. I feel stuck between Yes and No, there isn’t a Maybe and I can’t see a Mid-Way.

Please, I need input. I want to say yes. But it terrifies me. And there is a significant chance the pressure and stress and the fear of having to back out because I simply cannot get even the basics done, could drive me into depression before the exhibition. Do I risk it? How can I insure myself against it? Can I even insure myself against it? It doesn’t help that I’m on the manic side atm and would make a reckless decision because I feel pretty able right now. As I am now, it’d make me anxious for sure (who wouldn’t be?) but I think I could handle it. But I can become a basket-case and struggle to look anyone in the eye, let alone have people looking into my soul in my art.

It’s that I don’t know who I’ll be tomorrow. Or rather what mood state I’ll be in. And I don’t yet have enough control over the stability. Just thinking about it is making my stomach churn. And if I back out after committing it’ll feel like another nail in my bipolar coffin. The exhibition is really a metaphor. I will have to make the same decision over and over again the rest of my life: can I handle this?

How much reaching is too much and how will I know? Can anyone recognise this kind of situation? How do you weigh up what to do, so you can make a decision? What do I do? I would really appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice, viewpoints, comments, any kind of input, please?

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Hi Luna, I can see that this is a really great opportunity for you and I am hoping you take advantage of it.

How about if you look at it logically. How many paintings do you have, how many do you need? Are you going to drive yourself mad with trying to get a millions things done, or is most everything done. Like are the paintings stretched, mounted, framed as they need to be for the exhibition. If there is not a ton of stuff to do between now and October, then does it really matter if you are depressed or not?

I know that the best case scenario is to feel at your best to do this, but the reality is that you live with depression, and life has to go on, including the goal setting and dream realization thing :-) I say that because I live with depression as well, all the time pretty well, and I continue to work, do volunteer work, I try to continue having a life. I put on a face and I get it done the best way I know how.

I would suggest that you make sure that you are clear on what you want to do, what you want to present in the exhibition, within the range of realistic and not nerve wracking, which is usually what sets me off. Make a plan, write it down, know what needs to be done and by when. Make sure you negotiate something that is doable... and know that even if you are down this is something that you will do anyway, because it is important and a lifelong dream, and you're not going to cheat yourself out of it because of fear .... :)

How does that sound to you?

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How much reaching is too much and how will I know? Can anyone recognise this kind of situation? How do you weigh up what to do, so you can make a decision? What do I do? I would really appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice, viewpoints, comments, any kind of input, please?

Yes Luna,

When I was working big events would come up and I worked with bipolar's bottoms and tops to. You cannot tell yourself what tomorrow is going to be like. Do what you have to do to get the event going. I don't know if you felt like me, but if I had something to do, I was more ok than when I had nothing to do. I did the events and was fine. You can tell yourself that when it is over, you can come home and go to bed then, meaning I HAD to do my job and during those time I was there, fully functional for the event. I guess I'm saying that depression and/or bipolar did not occur with me, when I had something to do. So, make your arrangements to do your event full blast, and enjoy. I would because it is something to do to keep my mind occupied in a good way.

I hope this makes sense.

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Symora and MuseMuse, You have given me such brilliant advice. Wait, slow down.... I'm taking notes... :)

Wow, thank you both. :o

(They're not paintings, btw - they're more mixed media, mainly fibre, some are 3D. There are some photos in my album on my profile page; my avatar is another. I do need to make sure all the hanging mechanisms are done, though.)

I can see you have experience with events. Aspects I hadn't thought of - I am hopeless disorganised when it comes to this kind of stuff.) In fact after I read this, Symora, I thought I could go and measure up the space too, so I don't have to figure out placement on the day (you pay per day of use).

And you're both right, I CAN probably put on 'the face' and 'function perfectly' and then go home to bed and cry in my pillow when it's all over (well, hopefully not). My BIG problem is taking on a load that is heavy even for mania - must not, MUST NOT do.

If I can pull this off... yes it will be a cherished dream fulfilled and to go all out for something and then actually achieve it will do me the world of good. I'll have something to hold onto, in the next downturn.

Thank you so much. You pointed out things I hadn't thought of, in my tizz over having to decide... and thanks for saying I should do it, because I really do want to, just not sure if I have the courage. But hey, 'feel the fear and do it anyway', right?

I might come in and make my notes here.

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Your art is great Luna, and it looks like many of the pieces are ready for display, so I am even more convinced that you should just go for it :)

For sure the more you plan, measure space, set out pieces in advance as you would there, all that stuff done over a few months makes it so much easier on the day, relieves stress, and it will in fact feel easy at the end because all the work was done before hand to plan it out.

I put together an event for 350 for supper a few weeks back, with educational programmes for the kids, speeches, gifts for 75 kids, I made 45 flower arrangements, assigned seating, caterer. It took me 2 weeks to plan every detail in advance, and on the day itself it seemed easy, seamless, because every detail had been anticipated and addressed in advance. That's the key, if it's well planned, you will not find it overwhelming. :-)

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I have no way of knowing, for sure, whether you can "handle" a solo show or not. My advice comes in the form of a question, therefore: what's the worst that can happen, if you try?

I agree that your gallery has plenty of interesting and attractive pieces. In fact, my first thought was, even if you couldn't be sure of handling a show at the moment, it would be interesting to gear up so that you would be ready the next time someone asked you. If you had it all ready beforehand, you could just show up, without much stress at all. Now, if it's a once-in-a-lifetime, then the decision is that much harder, but there's an old saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Dear Luna,

I'm looking forward to october and to your joy from the exhibition! :)

Wish you good luck!!!


P.S.: I agree with Mark. Anybody cannot know how it will be. But I hope "the worst that can happen, if you try" will not be too bad :( (and, mainly, will not happen!!! :()

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