How much can I procrastinate writing this… all week apparently.
Unfortunately my award winning strategy for living with bipolar 2 isn’t working very well. (I’ll have to postpone my Oprah show appearance again.)
I thought I was doing really well at this ‘life’ thing. I thought the daily motions that I was working really hard to complete were meeting my goals of giving my kids a decent mother and making my husband’s life less miserable. (Can you feel the self loathing?)
But as this year’s winter depression got worse, my husband and my employer finally ran out of patience (not together but it happened at the same time) and forced me to hear some feedback that I’ve been ignoring for a long time. Not only was I failing at both of my goals, my efforts were aimed in the wrong directions.
The feedback that I finally heard was this:
(I don’t want reassurance. This is true and it’s important that I see it for what it is.)
I am volatile. I am overweight. I am overly critical. I expect perfection from others but rarely provide it. I am judgemental. I am messy. I am lazy. I am not nurturing. I am overly intense. My intensity is not appropriate for the situations.
This list is how they described me. But it’s really how I would have described my mother. Ouch.
I was just working so hard to not cause pain to the people I love. But instead of protecting them, I was actually instilling fear in them. I don’t even know if they were more afraid of my anger or my silence. Are they afraid of pushing me over the edge or of me pushing them down?
The only way I knew to make them less afraid was to stay out of their way but then I learned that wasn’t really what they wanted. Something needed to change. I knew it deep down but I wasn’t sure if it was worth investing more energy in the lost cause of fixing me. I was in a deep hole.
After a lot of crying in the shower and more deep self hatred. I realized that I had to get more and different help to figure out how to take more effective action or I would really lose everything. I learned that I didn’t necessarily need to work harder, I needed to work smarter. And I needed some more tools for that.
So, I called every mood disorder/bipolar organization for help finding services (they were not helpful). Then I called almost every psychologist in the directory (many of them were not helpful). I finally felt empowered to try something new. I felt like I had a bit more agency over my life but I still wasn’t sure what that meant.
When I realized that the routine and rules that I had created and held sacred weren’t actually protecting me from failure after all, I felt a bit more freedom to stray from the prison I had created for myself. I gave myself more permission to check in with my body and mind and consider listening to myself. I had been a prisoner to my own routine.
The new therapist that I’ve started seeing focuses on very intense trauma repair work. It’s very raw and very intense. We work on reintegrating myself with myself. We don’t over-analyse the trauma. I’ve done that already.
I’ve also made huge efforts at work to be punctual and remember that I’m not invisible and am being paid to do a specific job- not just to sit in a chair.
Also, I’ve lost 15 pounds since mid-March. I’m feeling empowered to step away from my routines because they weren’t working. I started overeating to manage anxiety but for a long time, I’ve been over-eating because I was afraid to break the routine. And I’m realizing just how disconnected I have been.
Something is opening inside of me.
When did it close? Was I always so shut down? So reserved?
Around the spring of 2014 two things happened that I think started this shut down. I finally agreed to a request by my dad to visit us for the first time in an entire year and he decided to stay home and fix the dishwasher that day. Then I sent my mom a video of my son singing and her radio silence broke my heart again. I opened and I got burned. I opened and I got burned.
After that, my mind went very wonky for a while (for a variety of reasons #bipolar?). I chased it round and round the mulberry bush until the late fall when I got a wake up call from my psychiatrist. She told me I could benefit from taking a leave from work to participate in an 8 week intensive trauma therapy program. I knew this was asking too much. I knew that I couldn’t tell my husband that I was taking a leave from work to spend more time focusing on myself.
I decided to stop chasing it and just try to go on without my emotional mind.
I skipped my nephew’s bar mitzvah, stopped fantasizing about fixing the relationship with my parents and blocked their phone numbers from my phone. They were dead to me and I dissociated enough to believe it. I forgot what they looked like, sounded like, and avoided any reminders of my past.
“I’m sick of therapy. I’m sick of over-analyzing myself. I’m not that interesting. I’m sick and tired of traipsing around in my crazy mind….I feel okay enough. I’m mostly able to take care of many daily tasks. I just want to stop focusing on my mental state and focus on nurturing my family.” – me, Nov 2014
I shut down the emotional part of me. It was too overwhelming, too all consuming. It felt too selfish to keep indulging and listening to it. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere anyways.
I tried to put my emotional needs aside. I made peace with the idea that I would never truly feeling anything and worked to give my kids and husband the appearance of what they needed. But…now I see that it didn’t exactly work.
I just couldn’t connect in a meaningful way. I eventually stopped talking much. I didn’t think anyone would notice if I spoke or not and every idea I had just seemed like a waste of words. I wasn’t thinking of anything to say anyways. I didn’t trust my thoughts and I was teaching myself to ignore them. I wasn’t totally sure that I was really in the room anyway.
My new therapist said that she admires my skill of dissociation. She said that it was an important tool in my survival. But that now it’s time to move past that and reintegrate myself with myself. She is helping me find/create my inner self.
What my family needed wasn’t for me to seem okay. They needed me to actually be okay. And at that time, without more intensive therapy and more medication roulette, I just couldn’t get there. Honestly, I’m still not sure I ever will be. But I need to try. Not harder, but differently.
I’d like to give them a true me. A thinking, feeling, safe woman and mother. I’d like to give myself that too. Maybe I will always be a wounded person, but I’d like to be a wounded person who can actually feel and be present.