Some Days, Bipolar Wins*
Monday was kind of, in many ways, one of those days for me. Yesterday was also kind of one of those days, though it was exacerbated by the fact that I couldn’t sleep on Monday night, took a sleeping pill at 3 AM, and woke up … um, kinda late.
Today started out feeling like a Bipolar Wins kind of day: I woke up at 8 AM, said, “F*** a bunch of life right now,” and went back to sleep, which is uncharacteristic.
Later (at 9:30, when it was too late to leave on time), I woke up again and berated myself about how I could have and should have gone to Wednesday class, and how I am never going to accomplish anything I am trying to accomplish because I’m apparently constitutionally incapable of being consistent, &c.
And then I read for a while (because that’s one of the things I can do even when I’m depressed) and then I got out of bed and took a bath and read in the bath for a while (because that’s another thing I can do even when I’m depressed) and then I decided to shove myself out the door and finish up the yard work that we started working on this weekend.
That felt like a small victory. When you’re really, really depressed, you can’t even shove yourself out the door. Sometimes, you can’t even shove yourself out of bed.
Anyway, while I was out there in the yard, chopping and bundling bits of the trees that Denis cut down because they were growing too close to the house and feeling sorry for or maybe about myself, something occurred to me:
Some days, Bipolar Wins, and that just kind of how it is, and that’s okay.
Right now, my goals feel a billion miles away. I’m not making it to ballet class on the schedule I “should” be. I’m only writing intermittently (but, on the other hand, wow, have I made some progress in the past month). I’m only sort of on top of the housework, which I guess is progress, actually?
A lot of the time, I wake up and think, “What’s the point?”
A lot of the time, I don’t want to go out into the world because my social persona is so, so very far from who I am right now.
A lot of the time, I’m frustrated by my own lack of forward momentum — or, well, of continuous forward momentum. Like, when I have moment, OMG, do I have momentum … but then when it goes away, it’s gone. For a while.
And then I have these moments of clarity and insight, these moments in which I understand that this is who I am, when I remember that trying to fight my own nature isn’t going to really solve the problem.
I can beat myself about the head with a stick all I want, but it isn’t really going to accomplish anything.
So often, resources written by people without Bipolar treat these moments of clarity as if they should, like, magically solve the problem — and I think that’s because, for a lot of non-Bipolar folks, they do.
Like, often, if you can identify and begin to understand a problem you’re experiencing, you can begin to solve it — but Bipolar Affective Disorder kind of doesn’t work that way.
This is where all that psychobabble about acceptance comes in handy (if not easily, because our minds like to resist things like that, and I think BPD affects cognition in ways that only increase that resistance).
I think that, in the past, I’ve seen acceptance as a synonym for “giving in” — that I’ve seen it as the equivalent of telling someone who’s just had an amputation at the knee, “You can forget about running marathons.”
Yeah, well — it turns out that amputees can run marathons if they darned well please, thank you very much.
I am trying to learn to accept that BPD makes me inconsistent; makes me constitutionally unable to really be consistent in the way that I might have been if I didn’t have BPD, or maybe if medication was a more workable option for me — while also remembering that the inconsistency inherent in my existence doesn’t mean I’ll never do the things I’ve set out to do.
What it does mean is that I’m good at getting back up when I fall down (you guys, I have had a ton of practice at getting back up when I fall down).
What it does mean is that it takes me longer to reach my goals, maybe, than it would take someone else. My Original Life Plan was School => High School => College/University => Write some books and who knows what else?**
It didn’t actually work out quite that way. It was more like:
School => Mental Breakdown => Psychiatric Hospital => Psychiatric Hospital High School => Non-Residential Psychiatric Hospital High School => Arts Magnet High School => Win A Bunch of Scholarships and Walk Away Anyway Because I Just Couldn’t Even => Wander Around In A Haze For A While => Pick Up A Few Community College Credits => Moar Wandering => Computer Networking Certification => Work At One Job I Loved (Playing With Horses And Getting Paid For It!) => Move Another 79 Times => Work At a Few Jobs I Mostly Either Didn’t Like or Hated => University => Well, Here I am.
I’m actually kind of in a better spot than I’ve ever been, in one regard: I have something more closely resembling a long-term vision of What I Want To Do When (If Ever) I Grow Up. Dance-Movement Therapy! Writing! Baking Bread! Ballet! Choreography! Art! Maybe a PhD in Neuroscience! Definitely Travel!
The thing is, it’s probably going to take me longer to get there (wherever There is) than I want it to … and the road might look a lot different than I think it’s going to look.
The hard thing is knowing that, in the darker places, I won’t remember this.
Maybe I should make it into a poster and stick it on the wall, like one of those affirmation things.
Come to think of it, maybe I should make a bunch of those, because (even though I know they work for a lot of people, and I am total not judging) they make me feel really silly, which makes me laugh, and anything that does that is worth keeping in your anti-depression arsenal.
The long and short of that is that accepting the limitations that come with Bipolar disorder means, for me, being willing to countenance the fact that I’m going to have to take different routes than I thought I would; that I’m probably going to have to arrange my work and creative life differently than I expected to (not, to be fair, like I ever had much of a set of expectations about having a traditional work life; that hasn’t really been one of my major goals, to be honest).
The overall output of my creative spark might be smaller in volume than it otherwise would have been. That doesn’t mean it will be less significant (though it feels weird to think of myself as someone whose creative work will harbor any significance at all in the world — but that’s a topic for another time, as I always seem to be saying).
Meanwhile, I need to stop panicking when I fail to make it to class for a week or two. That is the nature of the beast, and it doesn’t mean I’m not eventually going to absorb all the stuff I need to learn. Over the course of ten years, it doesn’t even mean it’s going to take all that much longer (if anything, sometimes I come back from one of these unexpected Mental Health Breaks and discover that something I was struggling with has magically sorted itself in the gap).
I’m not sure how to wind this all up. To some degree, it’s just a reminder to myself; just me thinking out loud, as it were, in this 21st-century-specific way we have of thinking out loud now.
To some degree, there’s something that feels New and Important about these thoughts — not in the sense that they’re New and Important in a universal way, because, like, All of Buddhism has had this down for centuries. It’s just that I feel like I understand this stuff in a way I haven’t really understood it before, which I guess is what Life and Adulting and stuff are all about.
It’s all leaves of the lotus or layers of the onion, depending on whether you prefer boating or cooking, I guess.
So there you have it. Ten years from now, as long as I keep dancing, I will be ten years better at dancing than I am now; ten years from now, as long as I keep existing, I will have ten years’ more experience and wisdom under my belt — and that will be the case even though I am going to take breaks, and fall on my butt, and generally be a screw-up sometimes because that’s how I am; that’s how my Bipolar is.
So there you go.
Some days, bipolar wins — but usually, in short, it’s not the end of the world.