Monday, July 18, 2016

The Story Of (My) Life

Paints and brushes remain untouched.

The books and magazines pile up, waiting to be seen, waiting to be read.

The cursor blinks at me from the blank page of a Word document and I wonder how to move it across the screen to write fiction.

How did I used to do it? Back then it was as though someone dropped the words into my head from the sky above and my fingers just translated them onto the page into a story that meant something to me.

Story means nothing to me right now; at least, not new ones. The ones already written will always mean so much, and each book holds a million little bits of memory as to what my life was like when I was writing it, how I clung to the Story to find my way through the reality of the world outside of Story.

The Story that matters the most to me right now is the one of my daily life.

It doesn’t make for the most interesting reading, at least not to anyone but me, but right now writing the story of my life is the main focus of my attention because fiction just feels empty; like a movie set of an old abandoned Western town with a single tumbleweed blowing down the dirt road.

It’s been a long time since the story of my life mattered to me. Depression does that to you, it beats the desire (and often the ability) to feel anything out of you. Bipolar depression is an entirely different animal altogether, as it often combines a mix of dangerous emotions like anger (at yourself, mostly, and for every imaginable reason and some you can’t imagine) frustration and fear.

I’ve written before that I’ve been sleeping through my life for a long while. I’m almost a week into my latest med change and while I am still exhausted and oversleeping some I feel like maybe, just maybe, I am beginning to wake up, a little.

But as soon as I put pressure on myself to create something, to make something, say something about the sad state of affairs on our planet that will make it make sense somehow, I shut back down and back to bed I go.

I don’t want to sleep through my life anymore. I'm still not sure how to fully wake up.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself, which is not something I am used to doing. Usually I’m hardest on myself of anyone on the planet, but if I’m going to learn to take care of myself and get as good as I can at battling this cursed brain disorder I have to start being kinder to myself. I have to be kind to everyone, of course, but charity, as they say, begins at home.

So as I’m sitting here typing and listening to Rob Thomas sing a song called These Hard Times. I think about the suffering in the world and I am hyper aware that everything can change in a second. I think of how my personal world was thrown into chaos with my husband’s recent hospital stay and recovery and it scares me how dependent I’ve become due to my multiple disabilities.

I used to be, years ago, the one people called when they were in a jam. Now I’m the one who gets confused and disoriented in the grocery store, who can't manage lifting the laundry (or anything else that must be lifted) and can barely clean up after just the cat for a few days when necessity demands it.

I miss being the person others could call on in a crisis. Now, often I am the crisis and I hate that.

But I have to stop beating myself up over it. I burned through my strength in those years helping other people, I burnt the candle not just at both ends… I hit it with a flamethrower. I burned bright and hot and eventually my star—my soul— began to die out.

Still, it has light left to shine in it, I believe this. Somehow beneath all the layers of darkness and despair I still believe there must be light.

Maybe that’s a place to start; by believing there is still light in there, somewhere. A reason to stay awake through the days; with slow, measured steps back toward creative thoughts as I pen the most important Story of all; life.

Maybe if I don’t pressure myself so much the path will become clearer; maybe I’ll finally see my way clear of the trees and find the tranquil forest I so desperately seek.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shut Down

"Anguish" by February Grace, 2014

In July, five years ago, my entire life came crashing down around me in the sharp, shattered, dangerous mess that only the culmination of a long-lasting manic episode can bring about. Only at the time, I didn’t know it.

I didn’t know I was literally losing my mind. I just knew that nothing made sense any more. The things that had previously been my anchor in life were things I felt desperate to be free of; the things that made me feel safe before scared me into wanting to run.

And I did run. I ran far, far from where I started, only to end up running back in a story best left to others to tell, perhaps, one day long after I am dead and gone.

I remember feeling manic as a child and thinking everyone felt that way. Only now can I put words to the panic, anxiety, and Bipolar disorder that I believe have plagued me since I was as small as I can remember. They called me ‘too sensitive’. A ‘worrier’. But back then, we didn’t know what we know now. We didn’t have the understanding, or the words, to describe what I really was. Even if we had, my parents would never have believed it.

I was misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder in my early twenties, and so I was given the wrong treatment for years afterward. Still somehow I managed to channel my manic energy into writing, into working, into raising my child. That was before my physical health got so much worse, before the monster turned to its darkest self, though there was always this voice in the back of my head that tried to convince me everyone would just be better off if I was gone from the planet.

That voice can/could/was/ only silenced by different medications, finally prescribed after my eventual Bipolar 1 diagnosis back in August of 2011. I fought the label at first, though deep down I knew it had to be true.

I was completely broken. I wasn’t myself anymore, and I hoped that medication would bring me back to being someone who recognized their own reflection in the mirror when they saw it. I even blogged about my early days of treatment here on this blog, back then, wondering what life on Lithium would be like (sad that I couldn’t tolerate it physically, it really did help with the disorder) wondering if I’d still be able to write, to paint.

Five years later I know the answer is that these medications exact a huge toll from me for the good that they do in keeping me around. They’ve gagged and bound my muse; for months (a year, maybe longer?) I haven’t been able to write more than a few lines of fiction or poetry. I’m never satisfied by my artwork and painting has become a frustration. I feel I've lost the sense of humor that kept me going for such a long time.

Life stress piled upon life stress until the point where my current med cocktail just isn’t working anymore. My doctor knows this, I know this, my therapist knows this. It’s at least partly because I can’t afford the brand name version of the med that anchors the rest, and the generics just do not work the same for me. That money is a factor in getting effective treatment is sickening in and of itself.

So I’ve retreated into myself in the past several months, withdrawing from everything and everyone until all I do is sleep.

Where have I been? Why haven’t I been active on social media as I used to be, why haven’t I been liking and commenting and posting?

Simple answer: I’ve been asleep. Or fighting to stay awake when I had to, just until I could crash and retreat into sleep again.

My body has shut down in the face of multiple life stresses (including my husband’s recent illness.) I’ve been sleeping 18 hours a day or more. No matter what I try I can’t seem to wake up. I can’t drink coffee any more (for other health reasons) and soda is so bad for me that I try to save it and its caffeinating effects for when I really have to go somewhere, do something, make sense. Though I am easily confused, my memory is suffering, and I feel like my brain is in hibernation and I just can’t wake it up.

I’m counting down the days until my next doctor’s appointment (next week) though I don’t know what she’s going to do for me. We’ve tried almost everything there is to try and I’ve either been allergic to it, or had other serious side effects that couldn’t be tolerated or some such thing that caused discontinuation of more meds than I can recall or even count at this point.

It’s hard when you can’t function... when you can't do the things that you felt made you who you are anymore. I didn’t miss writing for a long time, and in fact still wouldn’t say I 'miss it' but rather I’d say it’s something I need to do to be better; yet my brain won’t cooperate. It’s empty of the character voices that led me in the direction of each story, and without them I can’t write. My physical health is suffering as well, and I’m at a point where I am literally sleeping my life away and wondering how I will ever understand or justify the time I’ve lost to myself should I improve somehow later.

So that’s where I’ve been. And that’s all I can say for now. I’m incredibly tired, feel like I haven’t slept for weeks… I need to rest, just a little while longer, then maybe I’ll finally feel better.

Who am I kidding? Unless they figure out how to fix my meds, I don’t know when things will ever get better.

I miss the person I was once, what feels like so long ago.

I wonder if she can be saved, yet.