Hope is a thing of the past. I don’t have it anymore. I haven’t for a while, to tell you the truth. I haven’t believed that things would get better. I’ve given up hoping that they will. I don’t have any faith in modern medicine. And if I’m being completely transparent, while I know that God could choose to heal me, I just don’t believe that He will. And, more truth, I’ve stopped asking Him to. I’ve let go of the hope that He will.
That’s where my faith is right now. It’s lacking. Along with everything else, it seems. I feel as though I am unable to do, or keep up with anything. I feel as though there are expectations put upon me that I cannot possibly meet. Maybe I’m putting them on myself. Probably am. Maybe I’m feeling them from others. Maybe not. I don’t know. Either way, I feel these expectations that I’m not meeting, that I can’t possibly meet, that I think I will never be able to meet. Except, I pretend like I can most of the time.
Like, I think it’s expected that I’m going to get better – that I am getting better. It’s expected that I should be gaining more and more independence. It’s expected that I should be able to get through my days – to maneuver life with this beast lurking over my shoulder – no actually, living inside me, threatening to completely take over my being, with less and less help, as I learn to cope with it. You know, just me and my skills. The two of us, like Thelma and Louise. Well, guess what, I don’t think so. I feel like a scared puppy who’s been thrown out to fend for herself in a cat 5 hurricane. I am scared, and lonely. I feel defenseless, and weak. I’m tired and worn down, and I cannot do this on my own – just me and my skills.
Yet, somehow it still feels wrong to reach out. Friends and family still don’t know what to say or do. They try, I get it, but generally I just end up feeling worse. They don’t have the skills or training to know how to handle me. They mean well, but at the end of the day, we both just end up feeling bad that they can’t help me, so what purpose does it serve to go to them? Someone please tell me the answer to that question, because I really want to know. And it’s just not appropriate for me to rely so heavily on my therapist. I know I already do, but it’s still a huge effort to not keep her as #1 on speed dial. But it’s f’ing hard. Asking me not to turn to her when I’m in distress would be like putting me in a room full of people who speak all different languages, and telling me I can only talk to the one other person who speaks english once per week, no matter what. I can talk to the others all I want to, and they can respond in their foreign languages all they want to. But that won’t help me at all.
But here’s the thing – I really want to respect her time. I really do. So I try not to bother her. I know that’s a shock to her. The problem is that I have so. many. issues. that take over, and I have so. many. moments (like my current moment) when I know I need help, and I need it now. And I have lapses in impulse control, and other things that have me, phone in hand…so back to not being able to handle all this on my own. How in the world am I supposed to do that? This cute little disorder of mine is not getting better. It’s not like my medication is making it go away. I don’t get to go in for a PET scan to see if it has shrunken in size. There is no blood test to track my bipolar markers to see if they are going down. No such luck.
Maybe I really am putting this expectation on myself, and no one else really expects me to be able to magically handle this on my own. But I kind of know how these things work. The idea is for me to become less dependent upon therapy – for me to need it less often. The idea is for me to learn the crap I need to learn, and be able to apply it on my own. I mean, that’s the super simplified idea, anyway. So why isn’t that happening? What’s wrong with me that that’s not happening? Why isn’t it getting easier? Why am I not getting better? Why do I feel like I’m getting worse, instead? Why? Will it ever get better?
I have my doubts.
I started reading a new book today. I have this thirst for knowledge when it concerns things that I experience. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes I think maybe it isn’t. This time, I think it’s a mixed bag. I doubt myself a lot – I mean, in case you missed that fact already. Sometimes, I even decide that none of this is even real, and I just need to suck it up, and get over it already. But then, I read things like I read today, and I realize just why I have such a hard time – because I deal with one of the most complicated mental illnesses that a person can deal with. AND, my particular variety is among the most complicated types. So there’s that. And this leads me directly back to my question – how will I ever be able to handle this without all the help?
Because I don’t see how. Medications only help a little bit, and in so many ways they seem to make things worse, if that’s even possible. Life feels out of control. And in order to maintain the illusion that things are under control, I use all the muscles I have to hold it all together. Everyday. All the time. But you know what? I’m tired. My muscles are tired. They are tired of holding everything inside this invisible box that society says I need to be in.
The neat little box that keeps me polite and professional, poised and proper. The box that doesn’t allow for too many emotions. Too many tears is depressing. Too much laughter is maniacal. Can’t be too loud or too mute. Somewhere right in the middle of these is just where I must be. That’s what is expected, right? Gotta make sure I am seen just enough, heard just enough; hair is properly combed and lipstick applied just so. Don’t venture outside the box.
Inside the box, I can’t do anything that would draw too much attention to me. I can’t stand out too much. I can’t speak up about things that might be controversial. I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone. I wouldn’t want to cause a raucous. So I better stay inside the box, right? That’s my place, right?
Well, I’m tired of the box. I don’t belong in the box. I never did. I don’t fit the mold. I never did. I’m different. I always have been. I like being different. I don’t want to be just like everyone else. I don’t care if I am noticed for being different. In fact, I want to be noticed for being different. I want to be different. No wonder I hate the damn box so much. No wonder I am so tired of fighting against it.
The thing that’s in me that seems so awful, and frankly feels so awful, makes up a huge part of who I am. It isn’t as simple as just medicating it away. It doesn’t work that way. Somehow there has to be a way for me to live with it in a functional way. I don’t know what that looks like on a long-term basis. I know I can’t let it run wild, and I know I can’t squash it into a box.
There has to be some middle ground. Maybe there is hope. Maybe you have enough hope for the both of us.
There are things that I don’t understand – like what the hell happened to my life, for one. Once upon a time, I was ok. I had my issues, but they weren’t terrible. I was ok. But now, I wonder if I will ever really be able to say that again. I feel like maybe not. Today is tough. Today, I’m tearful. Anxiety is high, and I’m scared of what the future holds. I can feel my insides shaking as I think about it. I know I have to deal with it, but all I really want to do is ignore it. Can’t I just ignore it? Can’t I just curl up in a ball, hide in the dark, take some pills, sleep it away? Because it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be ok. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to get better. It feels bad. Very bad.
It feels too overwhelming – like everything is spinning out of control. You know in movies when things start coming at the main character faster and faster? It gets louder, blurry, the camera angles start spinning, voices start to overlap more quickly, and before you know it, nothing makes sense? That’s how it feels. Life, hitting me at warp speed – not caring that I don’t do warp speed anymore.
I do slow motion.
So how exactly am I supposed to do this? I tried to sit down and make lists today. I tried to make sense of things. I couldn’t. I didn’t even know where to start. My brain revolted. So, if I can’t even think about the next steps, how can I plan for them, and then how can I actually carry them out? I have no idea. All I know is that I want to run. I want to run away and hide from all of this. And I want to curl up tight and rock back and forth with my eyes closed until it all goes away.
Oh, how I wish that would work.
When did this happen to me? And how? And why? I don’t understand. Didn’t it used to be simple? Just depression. Right? When did it turn into this beast that can’t be tamed? And why, WHY haven’t we found something to make it better?
Maybe I’m just too sensitive to it all. Maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t have enough minutes in any given day when I feel genuinely good or happy to actually tell you that I feel good or happy. And I don’t remember when it was that I did.
And that is sad.
And you know what else is sad? I’m supposed to have all this shit together. I’m the one teaching other people how to get their shit together. I sit in my chair as they all look on from their seat in the circle, and I tell them how to not freak out – just like I am freaking out right now. I am doing just what I teach them not to do. What a crock of crap! I feel like a fraud. Who am I to teach them anything when I am a complete mess behind the scenes? This is insane.
You want to know the truth? I’m tired of all this. I’m burnt out. I want to give up and not care anymore. I’m tired of caring. I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of putting one foot in front of the other, and taking deep breaths, and being mindful. I’m tired of it. That’s the truth.
Things could be so. much. worse. So much worse. I know this. I’ve been there. I know. But this is no picnic, either. I want easy. Where’s my easy button?
I don’t usually just sit down and furiously type as my anger and frustration pours out, but today I decided to just see what would happen. Well, what happened was a whole bunch of rambling, but I’m going to leave it as is, because it’s real. What lies underneath is fear. I’ve spent the last three years trying to pick up the pieces of my life as if they were a puzzle, and put them back together in some new kind of way that makes sense. And just when the picture seems like it might be coming into focus, I realize that I have to pick up the new puzzle and move it to a brand new place.
Have you ever picked up an unfinished puzzle? Do you know what happens? Well, many of the pieces break apart, and you have to spend time putting them back together again. Not only will some of my pieces need to be replaced, but the ones that have yet to be put together will now look completely different. And some of the ones that will fall off will be gone for good, and will have to be replaced with new pieces altogether.
And all of this freaks me out. And I’m just putting all my effort into not panicking.
And today, I think that’s all I can do.
There are times when I feel so incredibly different that I swear I’m not even from the same planet as the rest of society. How could I possibly be? They don’t see things the way I do. They don’t feel things the way I do. They don’t understand things the way I do. They don’t get me at all, and I just don’t belong here. I’m different, and that’s all there is to it.
There are also times when I am offended at being depicted as being some kind of social outcast who is so different from society that I can’t possibly blend in, or function properly. I am offended when “my kind” are portrayed as being crazy and unable to make good decisions, or take care of ourselves. The insinuation that we don’t see reality for what it actually is, is insulting.
So which is it? Am I different, or not?
Well, I’m both, I think. At least, my reality tells me I am both. See, I don’t think I look different. I think, unless you know me, and I let you in, you won’t necessarily know that I am different. I don’t think anyone would ever just pinpoint me as bipolar, or some other kind of different. In other words, I don’t think I look like I am crazy.
But sometimes I feel like I am. And that’s mostly how I’m different. I feel different. I think differently. I see things differently. I have emotions most probably never even think of having. I have creative ideas that rush so in fast and furiously that I can’t keep up with them. Sometimes I forget them as quickly as they come to me – which is really frustrating. And then, I have the opposite extreme. I have lows so low that I can’t imagine taking another breath. I have exhaustion so severe that I sometimes weep at the thought of having to sit up, much less actually having to function as a productive human being. I bounce back and forth between these two extremes constantly. And I feel it – I feel every bit of it. But I can guarantee you this – unless I allow you to see it, or I tell you about it – you will not know. You won’t know because I don’t let it stop me. I don’t let it stop me from seeming ‘normal.’ You will not have any reason to think I am different, or crazy. And you will certainly not think I am unable to care for myself.
I love that Hollywood is bringing awareness to mental health issues. I love that we are attempting to get inside the minds of those of us who deal with these issues on a daily basis. I love that the extreme emotional and functional distress is being portrayed on the big screen. I love these things. But can we also show the side of us that is functional? Can we also show that it’s possible for us to lead normal, productive lives? Can we show that we aren’t to be feared? Can we show that many of us are really just normal people who live with an illness – just like someone else lives with diabetes? Because really, that’s more the reality than what we see in movies. I mean, to me, my life is a chaotic mess much of the time, but it would be a boring movie. It would be boring because I mostly lead a normal life, just like you. And though my brain does feel like it’s on fire most of the time, and my head is spinning out of control, that’s just what I feel. That’s not the reality that plays out for the world to see. I’m not actually out of control. The life that I lead for the world to see is hardly out of the ordinary.
But you know what? For me, ordinary is extraordinary, because somedays ordinary doesn’t even feel possible. For me, ordinary sometimes requires extraordinary effort. To portray me, or ‘someone like me,’ as incapable of achieving normalcy, is entirely unfair. It’s unfair to assume I can’t go through life without everyone looking at me as the poor bipolar girl. The crazy girl. The girl who needs all the help. Yes, I am bipolar. Yes, sometimes I feel crazy. Yes, I need more help than the average person. But none of that means that I am crazy, or that I can’t lead a normal life. I’m just living my life with my brain disorder, just like you live yours with heart disease, or arthritis, or cancer. We do the best we can. Some days are good. Some are not.
But isn’t that true for everyone? We don’t just throw in the towel, and deem someone useless because they have a heart attack, do we? So why would we do that with someone who has a brain disorder? Why would we write them off? Why would we, in the name of bringing awareness, further the stigma? I don’t understand. These illnesses are real, and they are serious, and they are dangerous. Yes. But they don’t have to be a death sentence. They don’t have to mean social annihilation. They shouldn’t make you afraid of me. They shouldn’t keep me from living my life.
I am different. I’m different from you. I’m different than I used to be. But I’m still me, and I still have things to do. And I’m still going to do them. And I’m going to be extraordinarily ordinary in the process.