So there are a few reasons that I haven’t blogged in forever, and one of them is practical:
My laptop totally died. It was a little over five years old and we tried to install Windows 10 on it and it just went “nope,” and went to its technical grave. We ended up having to replace our desktop as well (we are now total Apple fanboys with a sacrilegious Samsung TV), and laptop replacement was just not a financial priority. So it’s me and my iPad up in my office and you can see how well that went as far as blogging goes.
I missed blogging a lot, so I tried to think creatively. This is my solution:
A cheap Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon cleared things up and I’m here blogging because I can type like a normal person. Perhaps you can handle the little glass keyboard for long drawn out periods of typing but it drives me nuts.
Reason number two:
Business, depression and the case of “do not wanna.”
I had a fabulous summer of productivity. I gave up some unhealthy habits, reconnected with God, got involved in a couple of Bible studies, changed my work schedule to an earlier shift to have more productive off-time hours, and generally was just succeeding my way through life. I wrote some of the best songs I’ve written thus far and developed some close and wonderful relationships. This is bipolar dream-time. A mania of positivity and light. My ability to focus and “do all the things” at an all time, ramped up, super-human high.
It’s been a rough few years since I have had steady positive manias. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 due to some very uncharacteristic behavior on my part, I had manias over and over and didn’t recognize them for what they were because they were so good. The looked good to me, and they looked good to others. Painting 9 paintings in a month when I was pregnant, when I’d never painted anything before. Unpacking my whole house, pretty much solo, down to paintings hung on the wall, in two days.
These unhealthy manias looked like insomnia, partying, and self-destruction. Things I never would have accepted in my life before I began to seek out voraciously, but nothing satisfied me anyway. Just temporary placation to fill a void that had begun to build up inside of me… Just caving into what I thought I wanted. I mean… that’s kind of the bipolar M.O. Something sounds like a good idea, and you do it. You’re “invincible” and nothing can stop you. Nothing can hurt you. Nothing can touch you. Until it does. Then the crushing guilt, the instability, the fear that next time you could do worse and worse things and hurt more and more people. I think I have written about this enough times that I don’t need to elaborate any further.
What I’m not sure I’ve covered before, and perhaps it doesn’t matter because it’s whirring around in my brain and I think it’s going to come out regardless, is how I now don’t really believe that the things I did at that time in my life were all that “uncharacteristic.” I’m going to tread very lightly here and say that I am not a doctor, nor am I a psychologist, and to say that I speak for the bipolar community at large and that my experience is universal would be ridiculous and grandiose. So please know that I am speaking to my own life and no one else’s.
As I worked my way through the last four years of my life with counseling, self assessment and awareness, and the help of those who love me, I have come to the conclusion that there was a darkness inside of me aching to burst out and that yes, I suffer from mental illness, but it was only the broken padlock to a storage unit full of crap that needed to be dealt with. Do I think that my bipolar broke the seal on that stuff and let it all out? Absolutely. Do I think that part of the equation was beyond my control and “not my fault?” Absolutely. I think that if I were psychologically built “normal,” I would have been able to continue to keep it all inside and had a “normal” life, just like everybody else. Resentments, disappointments, anger, confusion, self involvement, selfishness, self-loathing… how many of us experience those things in life? Pretty much everyone. Those thoughts and attitudes are the cornerstone of unhealthy human behavior, and they need to be dealt with. You have to look those things square in their ugly faces and say, “look, we need to figure this out.” When you don’t, it leaks out instead of being worked out. And that happens to everyone, not just the psychologically atypical.
So I dealt with it. I dealt with my crap, I acknowledged the parts of me that needed fixing. I made a lot of apologies. I made a lot more mistakes. I corrected behaviors and then fell back into them again. I prayed a lot. A lot of other people prayed for me. And I was (am!) blessed enough to be surrounded by people who were and are pulling for me, supporting me, and doing their very best to understand my complications.
This summer I had one final experience, after my baptism, that looked like the old me that I was trying to leave behind. The me that picked temporal satisfaction over lasting and healthy enlightenment. I divorced her that day. I had one final talk with her and said, “I’m clinging to you because you’re safe. I have been okay with you being here because you’re not a challenge, and everyone expects you to not do any better. Heck, a ton of people really enjoy you. Doing better is terrifying because it means you can do worse. Staying in a non elevated position means not disappointing anyone… not disappointing myself. But you’re not me anymore, and I’m leaving you behind. GO. AWAY.” I was free. I just let go (there’s a poem like that floating around the interwebs somewhere).
So then the mania that had flooded my brain and my body again became glorious because it wasn’t tainted. It was full of the grace and majesty of Christ and the blessing of healthy pursuits and the beauty of raw creativity. It was energized and magical. My connection to Holiness was direct and pure. I wanted things that were REAL that the world doesn’t understand to be real but I do. I do.
Now we’re getting to the downward spiral, and honestly, some heartbreak for me personally. Followed by more enlightenment, it gets better, seriously. 😉
My husband was observing me. He was enjoying my mood, my better wife-dom, mom-dom, all-the-things-dom, but he was getting concerned. He came to me and said, “You’re doing too much. You need to slow down and you need to drop something from your schedule.”
Mania me is extremely overconfident and self-righteous. “Um… no I’m not! I’m handling this all amazingly! I’m reading three books right now and studying the Bible with you every night and being a good mom, and praying regularly, and feeling connected with God, and helping counsel friends who are going through hard times, and, and and…”
Look at me. Look what I can do. Look how strong I am. Look how useful I can be. Useful. Useful. Useful.
Oh, to be useful. Dependable. My mom is useful. I never have understood it. She can handle being on several committees at once, and come home and knit stuff, and make some hand-made cards, and then go to her sister’s house for coffee. I don’t get it. This is like her M.O. She’s a behind the scenes, make it come together, never need the spotlight type of gal. And if she says she’s going to do something… she makes it happen.
I always wanted to be like her, you know? When I was a little girl I thought I’d grow up to be this pro-mom type because that’s the type of mom I had. And I never, never did.
Except when I’m manic, and not a self-indulgent, emotionally stunted mess! Hey, that version of myself can get it done, man! But she slowly tapers off. She wanes and waxes, and I can’t depend on her to stick around when I need her to. Manic me writes checks that depressed me, and heck, sometimes even just plain old stable me, cannot begin to cash.
The school year hit me hard because it is an always type of thing. I HATE ALWAYS THINGS. I already have a job, and I already have a family, and I love them to death, but they are ALWAYS things, and I just don’t have enough room in my psyche for more of that, thank you very much. EVERY Monday through Friday my big second grader has to wake up at 7:00 am and take 45 minutes to put one leg in his underwear and perhaps a sock on in the correct direction. EVERY Monday through Friday I have to clock into work by 7:00 and I’m expected to talk to people! (If you ever read this boss, I love and appreciate my job, and know how lucky I am to work for you) The nerve of life to go on with the same level of expectation every day, of every year, for years and years and years.
The first thing that I lost was my direct, energetic connection to God. What had felt like iMessaging a buddy who was always near their phone started to feel like two tin cans and a string. I never doubted God was there at the other end, but I couldn’t hear Him clearly and it felt like betrayal, honestly. It felt like I had the rug pulled under me, just when I thought I was doing well and obeying him and being a good and faithful servant. It almost physically hurt. All I wanted at that point was to sleep.
So I started lacking the energy to go to four nights a week of commitments. I’d miss one here and there and feel that wretched guilt piling up inside me again. Flake. Commitment-phobe. Worthless. Disappointment. Your friends aren’t going to trust you to do what you say you’re going to do. They won’t understand that the thought of putting on pants makes you want to cry. That you aren’t fun and bubbly and talkative right now so they won’t think it’s “you” and you’ll find yet another way to let everybody down.
Finally a week came where I went to nothing. I did nothing, I saw no one. I never changed out of my pajamas. Missed all 4 commitments. I was so ridden with guilt over this that it drained as much of my energy as if I’d gone to all of them! I had to do that horrible things wives do occasionally and look my very loving and wise husband in the eyes and say, “You were right.” And I quit everything.
It was the right choice. This was about a month a go and I have turned around completely again. My mania is back (or is it stability?) I’ve seen friends a few times, started attending church again, and I redecorated my whole first floor (it looks amaze). I permed one of my My Little Ponies’ hair on q-tips. (Yes, yes I did.) And I’ve realized a few things.
- I have stopped looking at my bipolar disorder as a negative and started looking at it as an alternative brain wiring. I will continue to call it bipolar for the benefit of discussing it with other people but internally, I’m comprehending that it’s the way that I am.
- I am seeing the spiritual parts of it, as they may wax and wane, as a gift. With tears in my eyes, the other day it occurred to me that maybe not everyone gets to feel the direct connection to God like I am blessed to a few times a year. Maybe those periods of time are a day, a week, or an entire summer. Maybe I go 4 weeks not feeling that immense joy and light, and maybe I go 8 months. But those times exist and if they are something gifted to me by God then however much time He chooses to bless me with I will celebrate. When we go back to the tin-can phone system, He and I, I’ll try to remember that one day he’ll shoot me an iMessage. And even if He never does again, He did. He did.
- The creative parts are a joy that I cherish. When the muse is flowing I am a powerhouse of song writing, and thoughtful expressions of dynamic thought. When it’s time to be creative, it’s time to be creative. When it’s not time, maybe I should read a book. Or take a class on HTML5. Or do nothing. Maybe I am to learn the art of waiting.
- Not all parts of me are good. Not all parts are bad. I think that true mental and emotional health for any of us is to get to know our faults and positives and figure out which faults are fixable, and which are just those you cope with. For example, if I say it is an excusable part of my character to belittle someone I love for sport, I am an asshole. You can, and probably should fix that. But if I somehow feel like I am at fault for going through periods of depression, of nothingness, and therefore feel like I should be able to “fix” it when I am likely never going to be able to, I am doing myself a disservice. I should instead figure out how to prepare for and deal with those times in a healthy way that causes the least amount of damage to myself and others.
- I will likely never be “dependable.” This means I: will never volunteer for the PTSA; may not be able to show up to your party that I was so excited for, because pants; will do my best to stay in communication with my friends but may drop off the face of the earth for a bit (please don’t take it personally); will probably not be traditionally useful. Around 60% of people with bipolar disorder cannot hold employment and I have been at my job for over 8 years. Around 90% of marriages where one person is bipolar end in divorce and I have been married for almost 13 years. (And I don’t believe in bad luck, so you can hush it with that #13 business.) I have just enough inside of me to overcome the odds and anyone who isn’t okay with that probably has no business being in my life. (For both of our sakes.)
- I AM: creative, thoughtful, passionate, loving, transparent, honest, loyal and diplomatic. In the zombie apocalypse I will probably not be able to help with the horses, or grow the vegetables, but I will be able to entertain. I’ll bring my ukulele and my bad jokes.
- I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have a long queue of people who seem to love me just the way I am.
If you made it through this long-winded post, well, thank you. Thanks for sticking with it. It’s hard to stay in a period of self discovery when you’ve hit the skids. It comes so naturally to “learn about myself” and others when my energy levels are high and buzzing with electricity. The triumph of this entire cycle is that I was able to keep learning through my depression and to not turn back to destructive forms of comfort to cope.
Looking forward to 2016. With thankfulness, Christina.