You fly past me like a storm
Full of rage and hope
Yet familiar somehow
I know you
Both baby and bathwater
Which will you keep?
Your plight does not concern me
Except where it does
I won’t be there when you fall
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
Remember a few years back when I wrote this post on how I can only make art when I’m manic? Well lo and behold I think I’ve proven myself wrong. I’ve been on a roll over the last couple of months (as you can see) and it’s been like a dam burst. 12 years of artistic silence and the misconception that my creativity was trapped within my disease. It may have changed a bit, and I’m still trying to find my voice among new materials, palettes, and styles, but I feel free again. I know I’m not manic. In fact if you read back a bit you will see I’ve just emerged from a depression. Maybe the beginning of this exploration (which began while I was on disability for depression) is what helped pull me out of it. The side effect has become the treatment. Go figure.
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.
Or otherwise titled “My Coming Out Party”
What a whirlwind it’s been but I made it! 100 pounds down (give or take a few depending on the day). Would I like to be smaller? Sure. Will I be? Probably not. I’ve been hovering within this 5 pound range for quite a while. I’m ok with that. In fact, I’m great with that! I hit my triple digit goal. I feel great and my health has dramatically improved. My photographer friend Jessica came out to visit and took some pictures to commemorate the occasion. (Ok, ok, for the dating sites….which is a whole other nightmare of a blog post) I thought I’d share one even though I’m quite camera shy. I’m in a bit of a “coming out” mood, so sharing this picture is a first step. Along with the pounds I’m ready to shed some of this compartmentalization I’ve been wasting so much energy on. So this is me. Flawed, bipolar, but a lot lighter in more ways than one.
I’m sitting here in the bed with my laptop (I know, bad habit) and something huge just dawned on me. I’m happy. This may not seem like a huge thing to acknowledge but for me it is. I think I’ve always either not noticed because of whatever challenge is consuming me at the moment or been afraid to admit it for fear it will go away. But today I’m here to say it out loud…”I’m happy!”
Another thing that dawned on me is that I don’t usually blog when I am happy. I tend to turn to it when I’m down or full of angst. This can’t be fun for you. Today I change that. Today there will be no complaints about being bipolar, none about work, or my body image. Nothing. I feel so free today and instead of obsessing over how long this will last or whether the other shoe is going to drop I’m just going to enjoy this moment. A moment of peace and lightness; optimism and gratefulness. Thank you universe and thank you all who support me on my less enlightened days.