It’s been shitty, hasn’t it? I mean this whole winter has just kind of eaten itself, shat itself out, and left itself out where you could step in it. What a bastard.
This one’s been especially bad thanks to the world out there going to hell in a Cheeto-colored handbasket. People have given themselves permission to be as mean and hateful as they want because why not? Obviously there are no real consequences, and it can even get them into the White House!
But that’s not you, and right now you need to pull your head out of Twitter and take a breath. You’re no good to the world paralyzed by despair, and let’s be honest here, your personality is the kind that runs the edge of empathy-implosion even when things are going great. You take on too many of the world’s sins as if it’s your job to feel the world’s feels, but you’re still just one girl with a brain full of faulty wiring, and if that wiring burns the house down, there’s nowhere for that compassion to live.
You’re doing okay, though. Hey, don’t laugh. You’re still here, aren’t you? And yeah, you used up your sick days and got zero work done for over a month, but…so? In the long term view, what’s the big deal about that? You didn’t hurt anybody. You’ve had to deal with far worse consequences from far less intense depression, so, overall I think you’re doing all right. You’ve reached the point of self-reflection where you’re actually being kind to yourself, so, I take that as a good sign.
Here’s the thing, and it’s a combination of something you don’t want to think about and something really cool, so, let’s just get it out there: This is going to happen again. Always. It’s nice to think about your bipolar going “into remission” or whatever but let’s face it, you’ve spent five years trying a couple dozen different meds and combinations (and that’s after over a decade of doing the same thing when you thought you were “just depressed”) and what have you learned? Nothing “fixed” you. There is no “fixing.” And really, overall, the meds haven’t made that much difference in the way this plays out. Lithium dulled it all down to where you felt like your heart was wrapped in cotton batting, but everything else just offered variations on the theme, with some working better than others at keeping the lows from going as low, which is important and can definitely keep you alive. The cycle itself, however, is the same regardless.
You’ll feel all right for a while, maybe even great, but eventually it’s going to slide – maybe not as far, maybe not as long, but you got dealt a pretty gnarly hand by the mental illness gods and basically you’ll be pushing that boulder up the hill until the day you die.
Yeah. You’re mentally ill for life. That, as Mark Watney would say, is a real dick punch.
You could get angry about it, I guess. The world is full of people who feel nothing deeply enough to be destroyed by it – that’s how we all got in this mess, in my opinion, people thinking everything happens “out there” when the truth is it’s all interdependent and connected and therefore “in here.” There’s no strand of the Web you can yank on without making the whole thing shake, even just a tiny bit. But all those folks walking around with the luxury of not having to care, not having to fight just to get up in the morning, not understanding why you can’t just “think positive” and “snap out of it…” Lucky bastards! You deserve better! It’s not fair!
It’s not fair. Never has been. It’s awful and hard and it sucks that you have to deal with it – you’ve already dealt with enough just from other people hurting you, you shouldn’t have to protect yourself from your own brain. It’s shitty, shitty, shitty, and you don’t have to pretend otherwise. Don’t cheapen the hard work you’ve done by pretending the universe did you a mitzvah here. Any lesson or gift you get from this is the result of struggle and sweat, of nearly drowning and pulling yourself out over and over again.
Besides, yelling at the sky will accomplish exactly nothing, whether because nobody’s listening or because it’s nobody else’s job to deal with your shit. If there’s a God, or a Goddess, or a Whatever, you might get a boost from Her, a door opened, maybe a last-minute save, but it’s your life and your work to live it, not Hers. She ain’t your fairy godmother, babygirl. Granted, you figured that out back when you were a kid.
But there’s a difference between accepting that you’re never going to be “cured” and just giving up altogether. Because yeah, you’ll always slide, but you’ll also always climb out again. This too shall pass – like food poisoning or a kidney stone. Assuming it doesn’t kill you, you’ll see another sunrise.
That’s the cool part…although I understand if you think my definition of “cool” needs some revision.
Every time, you feel the color draining from the world, and you know you’re sliding down, down. And every time you claw desperately at those shreds of happiness as if you could bring them with you, but you can’t. You end up in the pit again, staring up at the night sky wondering why, why, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS? And every time, you think, “Is this it? Is this the one that kills me? Is this the one I can’t beat? Is this going to be the time I can’t climb back up?”
But then you do.
You climb out filthy and battered and exhausted, but you do it.
Can I just say how badass that is?
And you’ve learned, over the years, that there are ways to help make that climb a little less arduous, or to make the pit seem a bit shallower. There are tricks and practices and emergency measures that, when put in place and used properly, really do help.
The slightly grating yet accurate term for this is “self-care.”
I think it’s time we took a closer look at those ideas and figured out what’s worked and what hasn’t. You’ve tried so many things in the last 20 years to alleviate the pain, you’ve amassed a gigantic mental library and arsenal of techniques and philosophies ranging from the reasonable to the ridiculous; your application of these things has been a bit slapdash, I’ll admit, but there are plenty of tools in the box.
Time to start going through the box, getting it organized, maybe coming up with a more cohesive and holistic plan – including some measures to put in place for the next time the pit starts beckoning. I mean sure, often those self-care practices are the first thing to go in hard times – it’s that way for everybody regardless of mental health. In fact entire extremely cynical industries exist to profit on that all too human tendency to fuck up and start over and over and over. TV ads in January are all the proof of that you need.
But don’t beat yourself up for being human. There are definitely worse things to be.
Meet you back here in a bit and we’ll get started. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry…there will be lists.
Knew I’d get you with that one.
Love, always love,
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