I enter into the Spring of 2013 full of expectant excitement. Big changes are afoot. I am about to enter into another phase of my life and a new incarnation. The transformation process has been jarring at times, but a slow progression. And as long as I stay open, it will never stop, even when I am gone from this plane. After all, transformation and change are really the only things we can be certain of in this world, and perhaps even beyond it.
The metaphorical aspect of spring has never been lost on me and at no time more so than now. The freshness of things new and young, the coming of an abundant Nature, verdant times, new beginnings-all this I feel swirling inside me now. But there is also pain involved in rebirth, a certain effort put forth, all of which is a necessary part of the process. I balk and wince a bit at this aspect of change, but the part of me that used to go into it kicking and screaming has been long gone. Thank God for that! Pain and effort are much worse when you resist them. And one must recognize and acknowledge the necessary losses that go hand in glove with change and transformation. Something dies only to be reborn in another form. We must lose to gain, give up to acquire.
So what have I lost or given up? Perhaps the biggest things are a limited view of myself and a deep-seeded fear that I don’ deserve the most out of my life; that I can’t have what I want. Of course what I want changes too and I have had to go into this particular change with more clarity than I have in the past. And I have. Something else I have lost is the notion that I am “less than”-less than other people, less than I could be. I have come to the long awaited conclusion that I am the best I can be right now. I am my best self. A sacred revelation. And it took me a long time and a lot of work to get here. I have earned it with blood, sweat, and lots of tears. I have faced me square on and looked hard. I have embraced the flaws as well as the assets. I have become, and I am still becoming. I am redefining myself by quality and not quantity, by abstracts not concretes. And it is not as easy to live in our current climate by doing that. The world recognizes us by the things we do, the way we look, the possessions we have. That is a part of what we are surely, but it is not who we are.
I finally understand this. And I am full of gratitude.
I was born on a Wednesday and you know the poem about the days of the week? Well, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” It was my mother who told me that when I was a kid. And growing up I was. Full of woe. No one was more woeful than I. I felt like an alien on this planet and didn’t know where to turn. My parents just thought I was a drama queen-my mother actually believed I was just a good actress and phony-and so they didn’t “get” me and were no help at all. In fact their attitudes made things worse for me. The one place a child expects to find solace and safety is in one’s parents and I never had that. I felt abandoned from a very early age. And like an oddball. Children desperately want to belong somewhere-anywhere-and I never fit in. In later life I came to appreciate all those qualities in me that made me unique, but as a child they were an impediment. So feelings of isolation and depression descended upon me very young.
I spent a lot of time in solitude and had a rich fantasy life. I called it “pretending” and I thought there was absolutely something wrong with me for my need for it. It was my first addiction and I needed a fix several times a day. My fantasies were mostly scenarios where I got a lot of attention from older people and felt very safe. I always felt exposed and in danger, but in my fantasies I was taken care of and loved unconditionally. I could trust. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I felt joy in my pretending. I never felt it in my life. That is woe. And I had it in spades.
Years later, when I was in my 40’s, I saw what great parents my sister and her husband were and I so envied their children. They could trust that they were supported emotionally and when they got scared there was a place to go. When I got scared as a kid, I was always sent back to my room, always dismissed, left to sit alone in my fears. It took me a very long time to trust anyone and I learned very well how to keep secrets. My mental illness was a secret for a very long time. I am still learning how to trust. I was taught that to survive one must hide one’s truth. Being authentic is now another lesson for me to learn. But I am learning. And I am no longer stuck in Wednesdays.
I have more medications in my medicine cabinet than are on the shelves at Walgreens. Okay, not true, but I do take a lot of crap. I call it crap, but much of it has saved my life. My psychiatric meds have kept me from killing myself in anguish and given me a productive existence. I am able to laugh and love and live. But to do that I have to take two anti-depressants, an anti-psychotic, and an anti-anxiety medication. My medical medications lower my blood pressure and cholesterol, make up for a malfunctioning thyroid, and keep my angina attacks at bay. Yes, I have some side-effects here and there, but for me they are a good trade-off. I realize there is a school of thought out there that believes any medication is the work of Satan and to be avoided, but if that’s true I can honestly say I will happily go to hell. Yes, I detest the pharmaceutical companies as much as any consumer rights activist. I think they are in the business of keeping people unhealthy so they can continue to make gobs of money. However, so is our entire approach to healthcare in this country. Keeping people sick is big business. That’s why the US may never have universal health care like the rest of the first world countries do.
Doubtless if I had been more conscientious earlier on, I would probably not be taking as many meds as I do. But much of what ails me is genetic, including my mental illness, and might have happened no matter how well I took care of myself. Of course I’ll never know for sure. My current state of health is what it is and I deal with it. I know I could do better-like exercising more often and consistently and eating more vegetables. And perhaps I will soon. I feel a big change coming and maybe that will be part of it. But for now, I count myself among the fortunate that I do have medications that help me and that I have insurance that allows me to get it cheaply. Maybe one day I will be medication free. And maybe not.
So, you know my diagnosis, but you don’t know what that means. Basically it is a BOGO. Ha! Two for the price of one. A bit of schizophrenia with a mood disorder as well. In my case the mood disorder is Bipolar II, which means that I have more depressive episodes than manic ones. For me it’s the “schizo” aspect of the illness that is the scariest. I get paranoid and delusional and, like I said, ordinary things can become terrorizing. I can’t trust anyone, including myself, and I doubt everything in my reality. It’s very enervating.
Lately I have been having impulse control issues. You know the way people with Tourette’s blurt out all manner of vulgarity? Well, lately I have found myself thinking really nasty things and had to exercise an enormous amount of control to not say them. I told my psychiatrist about it yesterday. It happened for a while a couple of months ago and he increased my dosage of anti-psychotic medication. But this time he didn’t seem concerned. It’s not happening every day and I, so far, have been easily able to control myself. But it’s still scary to have nasty thoughts pop into my head seemingly all by themselves. It’s one thing to yell “You fucking cunt!” while I am driving alone in my car, but quite another to have the impulse to say it to a dear friend for no reason.
Consequently(I think), I have been having trouble allowing myself to fall asleep at night. The necessity to let go and be “taken” by sleep is making me very edgy and when my head hits the pillow, the lights go on in my brain and I can’t relax enough to go with the flow. Last night I lay there for over an hour with a Harry Potter film playing(as it always does at nighttime), until I finally fell asleep. Before my father started going downhill rapidly, about 2 months ago, my head would hit the pillow and I’d be out cold. Not recently though. It’s a control issue to be sure. But when your brain feels out of control you tend to try your hardest to be in control when you can be. It’s a horrible game to play with yourself. You can’t win.
Having a mental illness is a trip. I mean it. It can be a roller coaster, or an ocean liner. Some days I wake up perfectly fine, only to totally lose it by noon. The most common place things can suddenly become demonic and frightening. People I love and trust can, in an instant, seem to be trying to kill me. Like I said…it’s a trip.
Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar Type II is my diagnosis. A mouthful to be sure. And with it comes a catalogue of symptoms that could scare the Hulk. I have lived with this illness for all of my adult life but was undiagnosed until I turned 42. That’s a long time to suffer: think about it. So I lived most of my life in secret. I kept the secret from friends and family alike and it was exhausting. When symptoms beset me I would hide in my room or apartment until they passed, which they almost always did with time. But also, during that time I was trying to carve out a career as an actor/singer both in the US and in England. I was a juggler with chainsaws, pure and simple. A precarious existence, don’t you think?
Today is a good day. So far. Wish me luck and keep me in your thoughts. I have shit I have to do today and can’t afford a trip down the hole into the dark pit. Stay tuned, folks.