My experience with bipolar was an intense but short lived episode in my early 20s that climaxed into a severe psychotic episode which required hospitalisation; but then thankfully never returned again in my life. However, it gave me a new depth and perspective on the power of our minds and an empathy for those suffering ongoing cycles of the illness. My journey to understand my breakdown has caused me to delve deep inside into the etheric, spiritual and emotional sides of life, looking at ancient and shamanic healing principles as well as intensive personal development retreats. Taking the lithium I was prescribed for a year only numbed me, but seemed like a poor bandage solution without looking at the root cause of my distress.

I needed to go delve deeper. What had made me lose touch with reality? How could I go from a normal state of mind to one involving delusions of grandeur and a toxic supreme paranoia feeling everyone and everything was out to get me?

My psychosis was like a volcano

Why did I feel so unsafe? I realised because of my upbringing in a strict Christian Brethren Church I had always had an impending sense of doom; that the world was evil and mankind was going to be destroyed. This belief dwelled deep in the recesses of my heart unsettling me from my earliest memories.

My psychosis was like a volcano erupting and it shook the foundations of my world, my self-esteem and my sense of identity to the core. I never would have thought I would learn to be grateful for that dark time in my life, but I am because I needed it to wake me up and to set me free.

Now I am fully recovered. It was my excommunication from the Brethren Church, a fanatical branch of Christianity, that was the catalyst for my first hypomanic episode. Them finding out I had a non-Christian boyfriend, coupled with the rejection of my music from an esteemed senior peer in the music industry and redundancies being announced at my job all contributed to tipping me into a psychotic episode a year later.

After my episode, I vowed to be the person I wanted to truly be and moved overseas to begin climbing my own personal ‘Mt Everest’ - to record my album and become an entertainer and songwriter. I was fuelled even more to turn my negatives into something positive, to make others happy and to shine a light.

To really turn my life around required financial investment, so I took the deposit I saved for a house and propelled myself on a self-development journey with More To Life, an educational non-profit charity and Soul Voice ® becoming a Certified Practitioner of a radical sound healing method.

It has been art and personal development, including meditation techniques to manage my emotions, that have set me free.

My primary artform of songwriting and poetry has always been a conduit for expressing things I found hard to speak in conversation, but my secondary love became burlesque because it gave me a platform to be bold, invincible and applauded for my sensuality. Almost 10 years ago, I started a dance and event business called Sapphira’s Showgirls to help others experience this wonderful dance style, which I’m so proud to say is still thriving to this day.

I want to encourage anyone going through the same experience as me that there are ways to improve your life drastically, but it does take commitment and work. It might seem scary to unlock the skeletons in your closest, or go back and revisit some prior trauma, but it will set you free and there are wonderful teachers of many different disciplines that can help you.

I personally have had to do a lot of positive reprogramming, sometimes taking on a 21 or 40 day ritual to instil a new belief of thought pattern deep into my core to replace something negative I believed about myself.

What bipolar taught me is..

Your mind is like your body, it needs a healthy diet of nutrition, nourishing thoughts, positive imagery, positive people and above all positive self-talk. I decided to cut out mainstream media and stop watching the news and surround my home and screen saver on my phone with positive affirmations.

To listen to my body

My body is the first indication of what is going on in my mind. What is my heart rate doing? I take a mental health check break several times a day, if I was looking at myself on a traffic light system where am I?

Am I ‘red’, exhausted, depleted and crashing?

Am I ‘amber’ anxious with a racing heart, what caused that, can I amend it?

Am I ‘green’ calm and peaceful?

I have a list of things I can do to move myself from red to amber or amber to green.

-       deep breathing

-       take a walk in nature

-       listen to calming music

-       make a hot drink

Mental training

We all know to run a marathon you need to train and be disciplined with daily exercises. I have realised our minds are same. I have thrown myself into personal development programs to learn simple mental training which I use daily to improve my mental state of mind. It involves looking at the choices I am making and analysing my thoughts and what I am telling myself on a piece of paper. Often what I am fearing turns out to be a false belief if I look at it in black and white; written down I can let it go.

Express my emotions

Like the colour palette has its primary colours of red, blue, green and yellow, our emotions have two base forms, fear or love. The spectrum of other emotions are all variants of these two, joy, ecstasy, peace or anger, jealously, anxiety. I have learnt it is essential to express my rage in a contained way if I feel angry rather than stifle it, I do this in private with a pillow punching and screaming, if I do this for 10 minutes, I feel exhausted but liberated. The same goes for allowing time to truly express joy or grief. I purposefully allocate time for this in my day and week, this has balanced my life and been part of my incredible health and recovery.

Dress up

Make up, costumes, fantasy, fancy dress, whatever it is for you, find your groove and get out there. Use theatrical tricks like accessories and dress ups to be larger than life. My character Sapphira has been a huge gift because I can escape the drudgery of day to day life on the stage.

Music is the answer

Make playlists to enhance your mood, calming piano to relax, uptempo high energy to get you going. For me being a songwriter has helped as I use my songs to express what I cannot otherwise. You can listen to Facing My Demons here:

About the Author

Sapphira is a heart-centred Australian burlesque entrepreneur, singer/songwriter, author and teacher who believes in positivity. Following her recovery from a severe mental illness twenty years ago she founded Sapphira’s Showgirls, an academy that empowers women through self-expression and supports several charities with her fundraiser #BurlesqueAPeel. She is the author of ‘Burlesque or Bust’ (Trigger Publishing), the founder of the Ibiza Burlesque Festival and offers sound healing sessions as a certified Soul Voice Practitioner.

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