Day 12 : Something you never get compliments on.
One of my more recent posts eluded to a crisis in my life. I haven’t revealed it yet, because in all truth, I am rather ashamed of some of the realities of my life. In personal writing lately, a rambling piece entitled “Write it Out, Right it Out“, I went on say:
I’ve always been caught in my own world of the mindf***, you know? And when I’m drunk, I am more susceptible to mindf***ery. I don’t like it. I start to lose grasp on my reality, and sometimes it disappears completely – my grasp, that is.
I have made references to my alcoholism in the past, but never with much detail or emphasis. I neglected to mention that alcoholism is a real part of my present, mainly because I didn’t consider recreational drinking to fall under that category. I was sorely mistaken. I wrote to a friend:
Somewhere along the way, I stopped taking substance abuse seriously, like it wasn’t a fact in my life. I’m going to guess that mania had a little to do with it. Like I was above it all because I had gotten away with it.
And another in the same piece, “Write it Out, Right it Out”:
I don’t think I actually believed myself when I have described the seriousness of my alcoholism in my past. Or maybe I thought that it was somehow different, because this is a different situation. Or maybe I thought I was just too young and immature to handle myself.
The fact of the matter is this. I have been suffering from terrible alcoholism from the age of 19. At the age of 17, I took up drinking as a recreational activity. When life events sent me into a tailspin, I spent the last six months of my 18th year in a state of perpetual intoxication. By the time I was 19, alcohol was a regular fixture in my life, and was a part of every recreational activity. Finally, it progressed the point of functional alcoholism by the time I was 21. I described it to a friend as:
Except, I know that there was two years that I spent drunk every single night. I made excuses, like friends and parties, but I would drink by myself. I remember there were nights I’d drink until 4am, and have my boss call me at 6:30am to ask where the hell I was.
During the two years, I had a solid schedule. Wake up at 2pm, leave for work at 2:30pm, work three to nine, drink and eat nine thirty to four or six in the morning, and do it again. I had even devised strategies to avoid vicious hangovers and physical withdrawal. Occasionally, I would venture out with a bottle in my purse, just in case there wasn’t any alcohol where I was going.
Since my son was born, there have only been a handful of what I consider to be benders, which were periods of time where I would invent a reason to have friends over for drinks. I never intended on getting wasted, and I usually didn’t. But, there were occasions. Some relatively benign, ending with me waking up with a vicious hangover and swearing off alcohol entirely for awhile. Others, they ended disastrously with an altercation, and I would find myself resolving the situation by dumping all of the booze down the drain, with a certain satisfaction at my self-restraint and determination.
Here’s the truth. I never get complimented on my resolve. Because, everyone knows that I will always go back to the same old, same old. No matter how much I appear to change.
I am not always forthcoming about my weaknesses, especially the ones that spark shame. I am embarrassed by my lack of self-control, especially in matters that are extremely frowned upon. There are a lot of bad character traits that I can identify, and openly and honestly admit to. However, lack of self-control is not one of them. I’ve never considered myself as impulsive, and people often view it as immature and juvenile. I have always considered myself to be mature and responsible, with certain exceptions, like during college, because impulsive actions and lack of restraint were commonplace, and socially accepted.
Many can argue that impulsivity is not necessarily a character trait of mine, rather, a feature of Bipolar Disorder. Maybe that is true, because there really was a brief period in my childhood that I recall being very responsible, consistent, and mindful. And yet, there are still incidents that I recall as being not well thought out before execution. A condition of childhood? Maybe. Facet of personality or symptom of psychological disorder, it stands as probably the weakest trait I have.
Day 2: Something you love about yourself.
Following up on the subject of self-love, I embody some admirable qualities.
The Open Mind Policy
“I’ll try anything once.”
Truthfully, that was once my motto. Except, I found myself in too great of a number of undesirable situations that I would have preferred to not experience. We live – we learn.
This is the basis of my Open Mind Policy. It is truth when it is generalized that all humans have certain biases. That is part of the human condition, and not exactly shameful. It functioned as a survival mechanism in primal humans. Hence, we are fearful of unfamiliarity. Unfortunately, this fear typically turns to hate, and that is one emotion I tend to keep at bay.
Throughout my last year at my job, I have noticed different attitudes in the African American community. Much of their community is now highly diverse. These divisions are no longer even regarded as anything. They’ve helped me understand a world and a culture beyond my own. And they’ve really opened my mind.
Through my eyes, people are people. Divisions of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, political orientation, socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, age, and lifestyle do not matter to me. Those differences have no bearing on how I view a person.
A person is who they are, not how they are labelled. Humans have a particular penchant for categorizing everything within their world. While this organization is important for cognitive function and development, it does not function as segregation of people. It is not meant to emphasize differences among peoples, their behaviors, and their cultures.
In recent years, I have noticed that racial tolerance has become the norm. Tolerance is not acceptance, and is by no means synonymous. Acceptance is when those divisions dissolve into an unrecognizable remnants of past prejudices. I have learned that by working in a community of people unlike any I have ever been exposed to. I see children and adults alike regarding people as just another person, another friend. Despite color, culture, heritage, quirkiness, and what-have-you, we act as if we are in a family system.
I am proud to say that I have rid myself of religious biases. I am personally weary of claiming my own religious affiliation, though very interested in the religions of the world. However foreign, and however devout, I am accepting of others who may not share the same sentiments on spirituality. I realize that everyone has their own interpretation. At this point, I refuse to make a statement at this point in time concerning my own spiritual beliefs. There is no better way to lose friends and alienate people. So, I mostly avoid the subject anyhow.
The same goes politics. In past years, I groaned when a person started in on the opposing side of a subject I felt passionately about. This created a serious schism in interpersonal relations. Many friends were lost in the heat of debate.
I’ve learned that it’s not worth it. I may disagree with where another person stands, but I refuse to judge their character by it. Different lifestyles and socioeconomic standings create different opinions. I promote unity and balance, without digging my heels in too much. I’ve never walked a mile in many people’s shoes. I cannot know their journey and where they are coming from.
As for my own journey, I am not one to set my own choices up as the standard in which everyone strives. My own lifestyle choice is likely not fitting for everyone else. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”. People are more content when they don’t feel societal pressure to live a certain way.
Therefore, I am not exclusively friends with the population that is married with children. Marriage and children are not a lifestyle choice for everyone. As a matter of fact, I applaud those that resist the societal pressure, when they know that is not what they want for themselves. Many recognize that they have a preference for living solo. Some have a different sexual orientation, and that’s fine with me. I’m not homosexual (I can’t say I didn’t try in college). But attraction and love are beyond anyone’s control. It’s not up to me to decide. It’s up to the individual.
Individuals have different biology, right down to the molecular level. We are unique, atom by atom. We look uniquely, function uniquely, think uniquely, and behave uniquely. I have a special place in my heart for those that suffer debilitating physical and mental debilitating disease and disorder. I find a certain kinship within the group of people with unique mental health concerns.
This is a preference, and I’m now careful to not reverse a discrimination against those who do not carry a diagnosis, or norms, Non-Dx, as I may refer to them. I sometimes use norm(s) as a derogatory term to refer to people who are especially ignorant to the topic of mental health. Although I am still outraged, I have come to understand that these people are victims. They are victims of widespread ignorance and fear. I cannot wage war when my ultimate goal is to bring education to the general population.
I am also guilty of occasional gender discrimination or man-bashing, as it’s typical referred to in the female community. In all honesty, I do not mean it. I am not a feminist man-hater pushing the female agenda. In fact, quite the opposite. However, I am aware that it perpetuates a stereotype that others could buy into.
The point is, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch. The gender war has been present since the beginning of time. Only now, in the 20th and 21st centuries are we progressing toward equality for both genders. That does not mean that stereotypes and biases are erased from existence, much like that in race.
Everyone has heard about the “crazy bitch” or the “pigheaded jerk”. Women are moody largely in part of a constant cycle of ever changing body chemistry. Men think sexually because testosterone is essentially the hormone responsible for sexual impulses. (It’s also responsible for aggression). That’s fact. Again, because of the extreme individuality that humans have through by nature and nurture, this can be more or less prevalent. Accept the fact that it’s possible. Learn to live together.
And most of all, socioeconomic status. I share in the plight of the working poor. Although I am an avid Occupy supporter, it’s less about the 1% and more about the abuse of power through corruption. That is about justice.
I’m not saying I don’t judge at all. I am human after all. We all judge. However, I will only judge a person when they have proven to commit heinous acts.
I greatly detest people with hate and malice in their heart. With those two emotions, people have waged unnecessary wars (what war is necessary?), committed vile acts such as genocide, and perpetuated more hate and malice through organizations such as the KKK. If these people would stop for one moment, think of The Golden Rule, and open their minds to the possibilities, the world would be a much better place.
“I will be okay. This is not real.”
“This is as real as it gets.”
“No, I know better. This isn’t me. What I think is happening is not actually happening.”
“Just take it then. Take the Xanax and this whole thing can disappear.”
“My emotions are not controlled by a drug.”
“No, they’re not. They’re controlled by four drugs to be exact.”
“Yeah, you knew that. So just take the damned thing and be done with it.”
Here, I am staring down this little, round, blue pill. This one of many, they are the glue of my existence. With them, they grant me the power to condense and contain the … what’s the word? Chaos. But, the container is still me, my head. It pollutes the one place I can recede into for solitude.
Without these pills, I am doomed to living out the chaos in bad cinematography. Sometimes, the shots are grainy, and in low resolution. There are bad angles and lighting. The acting is mediocre at best. That life is a stage and a poorly written screenplay. And in the end, not only are hearts broken, but people are shattered beyond repair.
My chest rises slowly and falls suddenly to exhaust a heavy sigh.
Damned if you do, condemned if you don’t. I will be a good girl. I will devote myself to this struggle. I will reside in this godforsaken place. At any cost, even if my frayed nerves are sparking, and the layers, upon layers of residual emotion cloud my vision to blindness. Here, I accumulate the garbage my psyche and senses excrete.
“This is not depression.”
Is it? Because, I’m not sure I know how to tell anymore. I put my BP monitor and it reads E. One of us is broken. I’ll check the pulse instead.
I am more reactive and in a very intense way. It’s as if I’m conductive, like liquid. It comes as fast as it goes. I am powerless to stop it, because it originates from me.
The idea of socialization annoys me. I’m tired of talking in circles. Hell, I grow weary imagining myself spewing meaningless words in circular logic.
But worse, I don’t want to be alone. I just want something, anything, to have a significant meaning. I am not yet willing to adopt Nihilism, and live an autonomic existence. I am more than the sum of my parts. I am not a body. I am a heart, mind, and soul, no matter how defective and dysfunctional. This existence is more than it’s face value.
I am disinterested in the repetitive, mundane activities that I participate in daily. I am exponentially aggravated by the fact that it now takes me twice the time to complete them. And I’m irreparably infuriated when my body gives up before the day is over.
Worse, I’m nearly in tears because the whole ordeal in my head is so pathetic and petty.
If it’s cyclic, then yesterday’s post is akin to The Grey Season, written two months ago. That would mean that this post is a precursor to a future post that would be synonymous with Confessions of the Pain of Payment.
Did I unlock the pattern? Or can a cause and effect pattern be substantiated?
Even if I found the map, I’m haunted. I know where this road goes and there is no off-ramp.
I listened to a lot of Tori Amos and Nine Inch Nails in my teens. Really, I actually went out on a bus to the music store in the square or center and purchased the CDs. (That might put some of you with Mr. Peabody on the Wayback Machine). Since my bout with pneumonia that came fully equipped with laryngitis, I’ve had problems with my singing voice. I wondered how I trained my voice before I had a teacher. And it took me back to Tori and Trent.
Anima and Animus, feminine and masculine sides of my personality and thus, my art. They weren’t role models in the familiar sense that I looked up to them. Something inside me resonated with these two figures through their music.
I sang Caught a Lite Sneeze in the shower. I know, so cliche, right? I guess I hadn’t put any thought into what the song meant in many years. Seeing it now, through adult eyes, made it mean something different.
She’s describing the push and pull of a relationship and the particulars about the man. Why did it have to be so complicated? I wanted to hear it again, so I started to listen a “Sessions” version on Youtube. And then, I knew who it was about. In the end, it was about two people who were meant to be that never were.
The hazy memories of who I started my life as came into focus. Other than shedding some naïve notions and gaining some cynicism, I have finally come full circle. I am that girl in the woods. The only difference is those woods became my home.
I was a dark blonde, long haired, chubby, short girl with big, dark framed glasses. You could always find me with a pen or an instrument in my hand, a song in my heart, and an ache in my soul. Mostly, I looked brooding or electric. I was quite a character.
“At work, I really let my freak flag fly,” I said proudly to C.S.
Today, I am a bleach-blonde, moderately weighted, short woman with Buddy Holly glasses. You can always find me with a Blackberry or a Pilot G2 pen in hand. There is a strong voice with song that made a nest in my heart for loved ones. My soul sparks and stirs, with both warmth and burns from the fire within.
Why did I have to lose myself, to throw myself away entirely, in order to really find myself?
There is great mystery and confusion that surrounds us when we try to differentiation symptoms and personality. James, who writes the award winning blog James Claims, inspired me to finally write a piece on this subject with his shout out. Which is which? Episodes surely have a profound affect on our cognition and behavior. Then, what about medication? Does medication give or take when we are defining traits and types in studying our own personality?
Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test? If not, take a moment to review the MBTI. It doesn’t matter if you’re having an episode. The results are very reliable on a test-retest reliability scale, regardless. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Anyhow, this subject of personality and the MBTI spawned from a conversation with Brandon who writes The Daily Bipolar. I had mentioned the MBTI and how we can get a more stable idea of ourselves.
I started taking the MBTI in 2007. I have taken it every six months since then. Each time, I scored ENFJ (Extroverted, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging). That is, until the most recent retest. Suddenly, I scored Introverted, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging – INFJ. How could a person go from a well established extrovert to an introvert?
Before I was diagnosed, I was all over the place. When I was hypomanic, I was the life of all of the parties. I could throw down with the best of them. I was always prone to doing things that were strange, dangerous, and / or illegal. And having friends that would be in awe and amazement at my latest stunts only added fuel to thay fire.
But in those days, I didn’t isolate myself when in a depressive state. I really leaned on my friends. I had no other support system. If I lost my friends, I lost everything. In those days, friends would take 3AM crying phone calls. A boyfriend would dedicate his Friday night to talking me through a depressive compulsion, like self-harm, and not think of me differently. Before we were together, C.S. used to insist that I come to his apartment to stay for awhile.
I was already married with a baby when I was diagnosed. I have been in treatment for Bipolar Disorder II for two years. By treatment, I mean several different psychiatrists have shuffled pills at me, and I faithfully swallowed them. I went through a lot of life changes in that time, too. I settled into my domestic life and started a career path.
What’s different now?
Firstly, I am a mother and a wife. Week long benders and non-stop parties are out of the question. In fact, most of my social life crumbled. I have a strong dedication to my family. I will do anything to ensure their health, well-being, and happiness.
I had dedicated myself to school and am beginning my career. I have great enthusiasm for teaching and music. Many of the dreams and ideals that had been trampled in my past have begun to emerge once more. Arts, music, literature, philosophy, politics, and the pureness of real love were all resurrected.
My vast social network dissolved. And do you know what? I don’t really care. After all of it, I’d rather be alone. I much prefer using my time to enjoy family and intellectual pursuits. These activities would be art and literature mainly. That is opposed to wasting time investing in people who will never be a good friend.
Much of this wouldn’t have been possible for me without the medication. I have more control. Having the ability to regulate my emotions has enabled me to have a more solid marriage. It allows me to be the best possible mother I can be. Even on a bad day, I can still pull myself together and responsibly honor my obligations. My judgment is better and I’m more logical than ever.
I regained and retained all of the great things about myself with only a small fee. My short-term memory is shot. It wasn’t great to begin with, but Lamictal completely did it in. Unless I repeatedly write something down, like a name or a phone number, I will immediately forget it. And by getting the bipolar disorder under control, I unearthed a terrible underlying anxiety.
In my adult life, my attention has been focused inward. When I was officially diagnosed, I knew that I couldn’t escape it any longer. It is time to work on myself.
And my E changed to an I.
My husband and I pulled up to the gas station. He said, “If I pump, will you run on and grab the cigarettes?” That is usually the plan, and I hopped to it. When I got inside, I opened my wallet and remembered. This morning, T.D. snatched my debit card out of my purse. I grabbed it off of him, and thought I threw it in the blackhole that is my purse.
I took my bag back to the car and tore through it. C.S. Then informs me that the pump isn’t accepting his card because it’s too worn. My anxiety flaired up, “It’s not here. It has to be at home.”
C.S. huffed, “I guess we have to go back home and get it. Where is it?”
I answered in a panicked voice, “I don’t know. I have to look.”
I ripped through the house in a panic. Not on the table, not on the bookshelf, not in the basket, not anywhere. I dumped my purse on the sofa and still there was no sign of it. C.S. was sitting in the car staring at me. Time and patience was wearing out. I made the last ditch effort and rechecked my wallet. It was there I discovered that my debit card was in another compartment of my wallet. It had been with me the whole time.
I got back in the car and C.S. asked, “Where was it?”
Sometimes, we don’t intentionally lie. It just happens. But then, there are other other times.
I am about the bluntest person you would ever meet. I don’t play games and I don’t manipulate. I don’t out and out lie. In fact, I am pretty much incapable of lying. It actually causes physical and emotional distress.
However, I have been known to drop little white lies. I have lied to avoid a useless argument. I have deceived people to protect myself. And I have lied to save myself from a serious consequence.
How many lies do we tell in a day? To others? To ourselves?
I find myself lying in small ways everyday. For awhile, I lied to myself about my weight gain. I lied to myself when I said that I’d start my diet tomorrow, with every single cookie.
I lie to my husband. Usually about stupid stuff because I didn’t want to start an argument. His is the only opinion in the world that I care about. So I don’t want to tell him that I need that nap in the afternoon. Or tell him anything else that would change his opinion of me. That’s sad, really sad. But it’s the truth.
I have a lot of confessing to do. In private.
Do we all really lie? And what about?