This post will be a trip into my recent history – I am planning on doing a whole set of posts on the (physical) health journey I am on right now. All of that info is meaningless, however, without my full story. It feels very raw and personal to share this with all of you, but I am ready. Thank you for sharing your time with me by reading this long-winded post, if you choose to do so. If you’re near and dear to me, you’ll know most of this already. If it’s new information to you, please accept my humility in sharing this with you, in order to maybe help someone out there who may need to read this. Love to all.
I am finally at a place I have sought for most of these 30 years. A place of understanding, calm, and balance. I still need more of this. I am still imperfect and broken, but I am mending, rebuilding. I am growing. Most importantly, perhaps, I am shaping the person I want to be for the rest of my days.
November of 2011 began my undoing. I spent a long, long time, being undone. I was living in a new place, with no friends or family within 30 minutes, crippling fear of driving (still haven’t quite fixed that one yet), and a depression like I hadn’t felt in years. I’d felt good for so long, in my immaturity and lack of understanding, I had convinced myself I would never have any more down times. I was “fixed.” After starving myself on an ill-advised diet program for 7 months, I had a (briefly) thin-ish (for me, practically supermodel) weight, healthy (looking) body, a pretty house. My husband and I had good jobs, nice cars. I was, to borrow a term I’ve heard from my sister, an Easter bunny. All lovely chocolate on the outside, but brittle, and hollow on the inside. When I broke, I broke hard.
Broken… In my head, heart, emotions and behavior. On most days I could barely hold it together. I would weep, flung out on my office couch, barely ever getting out of my bathrobe, and hopeless. I finally called a consulting nurse and she said that with my recent, too-rapid weight loss, it was likely that my medication that had worked for so long was now at an imbalance and I should get into the doc immediately.
I did what I always had done, and saw my primary care doctor, who was the biggest sweetheart ever. He kept gently pushing me towards seeing a “real psychiatrist,” and I was resistant. The last one of those I’d seen was not the kindest person and he made me feel like it was my fault that I needed his help. That does not make for a good patient/provider relationship. At all. I let my primary doctor try a new med on me. Disaster. I think we tried once or twice more, and finally, July 23rd of 2012, I went to an intake appointment with one of the most wonderful women I’ve ever had the honor of working with, Dr. L. She has a calming spirit, and a thorough methodology. She suggested a new medication, and we began the process of healing.
Dr. L was my new nudger, this time nudging me towards counseling. You see, as you may already know, MEDS ARE NOT ENOUGH. The world is too big, too vast, too heavy, and too joyous to be contained or held off by a little white tablet. She had to work on me for quite some time before I was willing to go in that direction. I wasn’t ready to be better yet. I was stuck in a world of self-punishment, and I thought I deserved to stay there. I was also bitter, angry, and selfish.
I still floundered. I wasn’t depressed as much, but I became entrenched in Mania Land. I did things and said things and thought things that I never thought possible for me. Prior to “The 2011 Breakdown,” I had been manic before. I realized this after my BPD2 diagnosis. The thing is… my mania was so positive, it was hard to look down on it. I did things like create 9 paintings in one month while I was pregnant, and when we moved to our new home, I had 42 boxes unpacked, pictures hanging on the wall, and shelves decorated… the 3rd day. Things like that. This was different. So many feelings, so much pain.
The worst physical and mental feelings that I’ve ever had, rapid cycling, put me in a constant state of turmoil and imbalance. I never knew when that would hit me, and lived in fear. Mostly, however, there was the mania. Barely sleeping for days, irrational thoughts, damaging and harmful relationships with people who dragged me down further, partying… I didn’t know the person I had become, and I didn’t like her, but I also got really comfortable with my new “do whatever I want” lifestyle. It seemed impossible to get mentally healthy again, so for a while, I didn’t try. I wallowed in my pain, and in the wrong kind of pleasure. I had become a different kind of shell… a hard, candy shell with a bitter filling. I was consumed with my anger, and my anger fueled my ability to keep misusing my life and those around me.
I got sick of it. I got sick of this person I’d become. I decided to become a fighter.
January of 2013, I finally relented and went to counseling. and I met Dr. K. In serendipity that can only be seen as miraculous, I ended up with not ONE but TWO amazing mental health care providers. Dr. K taught me so many things, with the most prominent lessons I’ve learned being:
- Let go of the word “should.” Doing things because you “should” will always leave you out of healthy motivation. Find another reason to do, or not do things.
- Let go of guilt. She described guilt as a belief that you can change the past if you feel badly enough about it or punish yourself enough. No matter how much you sit and marinate in your guilt, you can’t change what has happened before. You can only learn lessons from your mistakes and failures, and work towards being different and new.
- Nothing lasts forever, good or bad, and for a person with bipolar disorder, this is especially true. If I’m feeling really manic, or if I’m feeling very depressed, I can rest assured that pretty soon, a new phase will come in.
- I couldn’t choose how sick I was, but I could choose the person I wanted to be behind the illness.
That last bit was a huge piece of my puzzle. I had to dig into years of pain and frustration and wrong attitudes, and HULK SMASH! It was hard work. It was difficult, hard, soul-shattering work. Building a human is hard enough… rebuilding a human is something else. To rebuild, you have to tear down, and to tear down you have to look at some pretty gross piles of rubble. Anyone who has ever done a home renovation, a two word term that causes shuddering and haunting memories for all involved in such a thing, you know that kind of work isn’t done over night. There are piles of paper, and STUFF, and misplaced items, and you have to step around things, and generally, everything looks like a HOT DAMN MESS.
It’s the same, or worse, inside of a person. I was a HOT DAMN MESS for quite a while, but slowly, almost without my knowledge, I started to get better, but I messed up a few times. BIG things that were hard to get over and get past. Things that needed a lot of forgiveness and grace, from myself, and from those closest to me. I still held on to some of my bitterness like a security blanket; it had been there for years and giving it up felt dangerous. It felt exposed, to let my heart be open, trusting, and free of negativity and old wounds. But I did it.
I did it.
October 2013 I fully committed myself to being the woman I want to be. I forgave. I chose beauty, and love, and grace. I chose daylight, freedom and truth, and gave up the shackles of darkness, concealment, and shadows. I still mess up, but they’re little mistakes.
It’s November 2014, and I’m honoring that girl. All of her. The broken girl who felt like nothing would ever get better. The broken girl with an inkling of hope, who decided to give life a real, honest try. Who cried too deeply and for too long, and who laughed too loudly and unnaturally. Who exposed all the wrong parts of herself and kept the light locked inside the darkness.
The girl who then laid aside her selfishness and chose to try again. Who built, and broke, and built and broke.
She tried. She succeeded.
When I think about the food, health, and physical journey I’m taking on, I know I couldn’t have done it when I was sick. Sometimes I mourn the wasted years, and the damage I did to my body with food, alcohol, and no sleep. But that girl wouldn’t go away, and she wouldn’t be ignored. She had to be helped and healed. As I mentioned in Frozen and Thawed, I had a lot of helpers. I certainly did not, and probably could not have, walked this road on my own.
But I did walk the road.
I owe it to that girl to take care of myself now. She could have given up and become a statistic, but she fought and she didn’t give up. I look back on that girl now and I can love her. I can love her in her brokenness, and I choose to honor her struggle by taking care of the woman I’ve become.