I have done a great deal of personal work in my life. I’ve had to if i wanted to survive in the real world on its terms. After escaping my abusers (both major and minor), and creating some space for myself to be able to breathe without having to fight for it, i had the unbridled temerity to want more than survival. I wanted to THRIVE.
I started out immersing myself in therapy. Individual, groups, programs, courses… I did it all, reader. I read the books and went to the lectures. I screamed and beat the ground with a bataka and cried in front of other people (that i didn’t know and often didn’t like much) and told them personal things. I spent many hours telling my life story to many MH pros. I invested what little money i had on them, and workbooks and pretty little journals and coloured pens that smelled like apples and grapes and chewing gum.
I have never not wanted to LIVE, even when i sought death.
It took years, but with a Bipolar diagnosis under my belt, i figured out that doing ALL TEH THINGS wasn’t going to work for me. I became a babystepper as a matter of necessity, and then i stuck with it because it suits my personality and produced the best, most long lasting results. And it fits my lifestyle, too. I like a slower pace. I enjoy excitement… for about an hour, and then i fall into overwhelm.
So i have been slowly, carefully, intentionally remaking myself in my own image while renovating and landscaping my surroundings. A long time ago i accepted that that was my life, and that any kind of big milestone was some ways off. I learned to focus on the work and let the results come when they may. I’ve been at this for years. There have been many breaks though, due to life requiring more of my attention. Loved ones need more of my time, or my mental health crashes or explodes, or the world wrests my faculties from what’s directly in front of me to something important that may have nothing much to do with me, but it needs me to care about it.
This last 18mos, the world didn’t take me away from my work – instead it shut down. It did so so completely that i was afforded an opportunity to work almost exclusively on myself, with very few “distractions.”*
I used the time, and despite continuing to work at my snail’s pace, i was able to accomplish a great deal. It’s not like i was going gangbusters or anything, but i was going steadily, and i had known i was close to something big even before the pandemic hit. I had known i was close to a “milestone” for some time. And recently, i hit it.
I feel different. I feel more grown, more capable, more present. The days seem longer and more tiring to get through. It all came over me slowly, like when you get at gardening first thing in the morning. You’re getting so much done and aren’t even aware of your body… until 11 o’clock rolls around and you look down and you’ve soaked through your shirt.
Oh hey, i’m cooking out here, i should get out of the sun and eat some lunch.
I have also become aware that things are piling up and i’m running out of spoons. It wasn’t a sudden thing, like in the past when i would be mostly dissociated and the problem would have to clobber me over the head before i paid it any mind. I have felt the weight of everything pulling me down and down, and my body asking me for rest.
But, you know, i’m still relatively new at this grownup stuff, so i stumbled.
We went into town 2 weekends ago, and for the first time in months and months, i went into a couple of stores to pick up some things we needed. I felt myself pulled down this aisle and that, browsing happily. I’ve missed it and was quickly engrossed. Unfortunately, i got separated from my husband. First i stayed put and waited for him to find me, but he didn’t. I began walking around the store very slowly, up and down each aisle, stopping at the end and casting my eye as far as i could see in each direction. I tried so hard not to panic. I thought of leaving the store and waiting outside, but my arms were laden with things i wanted, and i was suddenly aware of how it might look to all the other patrons if i put everything down and exited. My anxiety rose. I began sweating, and i could feel my eyes, big as saucers. My panic would be obvious, i thought. Everyone looked at me as i passed them and it was getting hard to breathe…
Next thing i know i’m looking at a handsome young man and he’s speaking to me but i can’t hear him. I look around me and my heart sinks.
I’m in an ambulance and he is a paramedic.
My head is full of voices chattering at me, and i can’t shut them up, and i see his lips moving but i’m fading again…
Then i’m back at home, sitting in my chair and my husband is beside me.
I know i took off. I know i was close to home when the ambulance and police found me.
I know my twin took over at some point and was able to change their minds about dragging me to the hospital and convinced them to let me go home.
I told my husband i didn’t want to talk about it yet.
I needed to process it on my terms and in my time. Fortunately, he is not a pushy guy.
My initial inclination was to crap all over myself for losing control and feel like a terrible person and a loser and worry about what i did and who saw and start kicking myself for upsetting my loved ones… But i stopped it immediately and shifted quite easily into a calm and somewhat unemotional review of the day.
This is who i am, and this is how my brain works. It’s neither good nor bad anymore – it simply IS. I understand why i switched. It makes sense why i switched. It happened, but i’m fine, and everyone else is fine, and this is my life. This is okay and i am OKAY. It is okay to be who i am and it is fine that i switched. It really, truly is fine. It’s me and how i work and sometimes it happens and if there’s any fallout afterwards, i’ll clean it up.
I’m not freaked out or drowning in shame. In fact, it was barely a blip on my radar. I’m here and i’m grown and i’m capable.
This is new. I’m heartened by how i handled things after it happened. It didn’t trip me up. I am not spiralling.
This last weekend i went into town and ran a couple of errands that involved going into a store. I was careful to know where my husband was and what he was doing at all times. Not obsessively or even nervously. Just knowing how i work and where i’m at and what could go wrong and taking proper, preemptive steps to avoid a repeat. New issues, new problems will definitely present themselves, and i will handle those as best i can. And hey, if one of them trips me up, i’ll just pick myself up and do whatever i need to to set things right.
I’m not all jangly and anticipating the worst.
I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop, kind of because i know it will.
And that’s okay.
It just is.
And i don’t feel defeated – i feel powerful.
… if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.
~ Jerzy Kosiński, Being There
I hope you’re all doing as best you can.
Love and Peace,
* This is me silverlining the pandemic. I wish with my whole heart that it had not happened.
IMAGE: Annie Spratt