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THRIVE by Natasha Rea

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, one of the greatest celebrations of arts and culture on the planet, takes place each August. With over 3,000 shows taking place across the city, there’s a great buzz and lots of excitement.  We’ve reached out to artists who have or will perform in the Fringe to ask if they will share their stories. Our hope is that we can learn from each other and inspire one another to take positive steps to look after our mental health and wellbeing.

Hear from Natasha Rea on Bipolar Brenda, Kundalini Yoga and how creativity saved her life.

If you Google the meaning of the word ‘Thrive’ it says: “The dictionary definition of thrive is ‘to prosper, be fortunate or successful’ and ‘to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.”

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I thrive. Not every day, anyway. It comes in waves. When people look at me and what I’ve achieved, they would say ‘she is thriving’, but to me, most of the time, thriving is simply surviving.

It takes resilience to live with Bipolar Disorder and anxiety. Thriving for me can be something as simple as achieving the daily things that most people take for granted, like brushing your teeth, washing yourself, and taking your child to school.

Everyone in life is on a journey to become better, and really, when you look at other words that have the same meaning, to blossom, grow, improve. In my opinion, thriving is striving to become a little bit better. For me, it means being better with Bipolar; better at being a mother; better at how I treat people. I think I thrive when my creative work positively impacts people and helps them to want to do and be better.

I battle daily with my mind and my intense emotions. Anxiety cripples me to the point that I can’t move, and I have done everything over the years to help myself survive with Bipolar. I did powerlifting for a long time. Lifting heavy weights grounded me and gave me mental strength. It stopped me from being so scared of life and my turbulent thoughts. When you have 90 kilos across your shoulders and you squat down, all you’re thinking about is getting back up again.

My Kundalini Yoga practice has been my most consistent coping mechanism in helping with my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state. Kundalini Yoga is about awareness and creativity. When I can’t leave my house, I always have my mat and my mantras. I found my soul home in Ibiza; the place where I can rebuild myself when Bipolar takes me down. The island soothes me. I go there to do my Kundalini Yoga retreats in forests and by the sea, and that’s where I’m happy and at peace. That to me is thriving.

Creativity has saved my life. I’ve been acting since I was a child which allowed me to express myself, but as I got older it was writing that gave meaning to the chaos in my mind. I found my purpose in life through writing. And I’m dyslexic, so I don’t really know many words. I don’t explain things in a literary or scholarly way; I’m not poetic, or what the norm might class as a creative writer. I simply pour what I feel and think onto a page.

Using what I’ve been through to create a one-woman show, a book and a short film has brought me a lot of success. But, really, what has made me feel that I’m thriving is the knowledge that my words have helped other people to make sense of their own madness and turn it into magic.

Natasha Rea and a group celebrating Kundalini Yoga

I can’t go into a supermarket on my own, but I can stand on a stage or a film set, because I feel safe and secure in creative settings. So, when you think about it, the universe gave me a blessing – although at times it seems like a massive curse, because it’s an illness that consumes you and takes so much from you. Creativity is my gift to help me with my Bipolar struggle, and at times it’s my actual superpower. It’s from my struggles that I’ve found purpose in life, and I hope I can keep making a difference in other peoples’ lives; to keep us all striving to become better. But, most importantly, to give people the reliance to survive, so we can all flourish, grow and blossom. And yes … THRIVE!

‘A Night With Me, Myself and Bipolar Brenda’ is a one-woman show, created by me and inspired by the turbulent, tremendous, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and at times hilarious journey that is my life on the Bipolar Express. It’s the most fun you will ever have learning about Bipolar, so come along for the ride at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Symposium Hall, The Space UK 21st – 25th August.

If you’re in Edinburgh this summer, make sure you go and see this brilliant one-woman show!” Jason Manford