I’ve never been the patient sort
Have rarely kept my ship in port
I’d rather be out sailing free
You’ll never take that wheel from me
Please don’t tie me to the dock
If stowed away, I’ll pick the lock
And push myself out to the brink
Damn the wind, refuse to sink
I wish I could let loose the sail
Risk the stumble, dare to fail
Alas I can’t control my fate
I guess sometimes you have to wait
Trapped in a body broken
Betrayed by a brain unwired
Stifling fears unspoken
Pondering sins transpired
Trapped in a cage of my making
Betrayed by my own two hands
In the corner cowered and shaking
Dreaming of travel to freer lands
Trapped in an anxious sand pit
Betrayed by the ones I trust
Looking for an ounce of respite
Stomping my dreams to dust
Trapped in this place of delusion
Betrayed by my perception black
For I failed to see in the confusion
There’s an exit there in the back
So a couple of weeks ago I quit my new job. It was scary. I’m not one to diagnose others but I would bet big money that my boss was in the midst of a major manic episode and I just could not be around her. She was spinning me into such a place of unbridled anxiety that I up and quit without another job in place. I know this was a huge financial risk but in this case I prioritized my mental health over all other factors. I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. While I was in the process of taking financial risks I decided to spend the last 11 days at Miraval Resort in Tuscon. This wasn’t for the purposes of taking a “vacation”, although it’s a lovely resort, it was more about learning skills, (meditation, etc.) that will help me better manage my anxiety in ways that enhance my drug therapies. Don’t panic, I’m not giving up any of my meds, they just aren’t always enough.
Miraval has lots of super interesting classes. Everything from sound healing to meditation while swinging in a silk hammock to painting on horses (yes, ON the horse. I did it twice.) That may sound off the wall, and it was to an extent, but as a form of art therapy it’s pretty genius. You are supposed to “paint your story” on the horse, accept the imperfections created by having a moving canvas, and cooperate with another living being. Then when you are done you tell your “story” to the other participants (this is the part where everyone cries, except for me, I’m weird that way) and then you literally wash your story away as a symbol of letting go. The picture attached to this post is a visual representation of the poem “Desert Birth”
I also learned ironic tricks like “having your anxiety but not being anxious about it” That one may take some practice. And the most important and simplest of all…..JUST BREATHE. Granted, there were cheaper ways to learn that one but practicing it daily, in different styles and with the discipline required for it to really work, was worth all the money spent. Assuming I maintain it.
I was also advised to write and create, which I’ve already been doing here, so expect my tone and subject matter to be more on the zen side than before. At least I hope. The poem “Meditation” was written after I did a meditation walk of their famous labyrinth. I had to take a full breath with every step. It was excruciatingly hard to keep focus and it took forever and that’s when I realized all of this was not as easy as it looked.
None of this will be easy. Change is hard, ambiguity is hard, acknowledging when something is wrong to the extent that every cell in your being is screaming is hard. But the decision to make the change seemed clear and obvious. I don’t know what lies ahead but rest assured I will continue breathing in the meantime.
I see you
Insidious slithering thing
I see you boring your holes
You don’t belong
You are not welcome here anymore
I’m already full
Of growth and beauty and light
So fuck you
Get out of my house
It’s Saturday, the end of my first week of “disability”. I put that in quotes because the paperwork is not complete or approved yet. My psychiatrist called me today to ask me some questions she needed help with on filling things out. Something about her tone of voice worried me, like maybe she wasn’t even convinced. I mean, this whole “time off from work” thing came from her. I would have asked about it in that same session anyway (I had already discussed it with my therapist) but she brought it up first and for a moment I was relieved. She could see it too, the trouble I was in. She wanted to help.
But today seemed different. If I were to guess I would think she’s mad I didn’t say anything sooner. That I had been telling her I had “some anxiety” but that’s it. Maybe she’s right to be mad. Nobody can help me if I’m not willing to speak up. Now I’m speaking up but I don’t feel like anyone hears me.
I’m petrified my claim will be denied. What will I do then? I can’t just stroll back into work right now. Just because an insurance company might not buy it doesn’t make me any less sick. I guess I could take it as unpaid personal leave. That would eat pretty harshly into my savings but I can’t go back in there. Not now. I will crack.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Maybe the paperwork will go through and it will all be ok. The next few days will be endless with wait. I just wish this wasn’t so seemingly a game of subjectivity. I suck at games.
In the meantime I will continue to make really awful art (my art is only good when I’m manic), sleep when I can, and get out of the apartment some. I want to see friends but most of them don’t know I’m bipolar, so how do you explain being on disability when you can’t say why? It’s just plain awkward. Maybe I should just come out of the closet altogether. So what, I may lose some friends but the real ones will stick around and this will be one less secret to keep.
So, after 10 years of diligence and dumb luck it finally happened again. I’m off of work because of my illness. Time estimate- 6 weeks. Beyond bipolar depression I’ve also been having severe anxiety. I saw this coming probably 3 months back but I thought I was just having a temporary case of work-based “fraud syndrome”. But no, it’s the real thing. Maybe triggered by the perfect storm of stressors going on in my life, but it likely would have happened anyway. I guess I was just due a meltdown. Also, I’ve been rolling the dice the last couple of years on a relatively low dose of meds.
But here’s the thing. I have this evil superpower of pretending to be ok when I’m clearly not. I can fake a lighthearted mood and (with enough Xanax in me) sort of fake being calm. This is all fine and good until you’ve realized the fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy has painted you into a corner. There are two reasons this was a bad strategy for me.
- I believed my own bullshit. I waited too long to get the help I needed because I thought I would snap out of it and that if I was fooling people maybe I wasn’t “that sick”.
- Everyone who knows about my disorder and several of the ones who don’t know but who know I’m off of work have said the same thing. “Well, you seem fine to me…”
Guess what people, I’m not fine. I will be but I’m not right now and I (plus all of you) need to accept that. I guess we still have a long way to go, myself included, in finally accepting mental illness as illness and treating it as such. I’m as big an offender as anyone else. I cannot cast stones. Until I overcome my own shame and closeted behavior surrounding my disorders I don’t see how I can really blame others for their lack of understanding of the disease.
So this post is as much for me as it is for everyone else. Seeming fine and being fine are not always the same. Try really hard to notice the difference.