Okay. So I spent the weekend at this very ritzy hotel in Miami for my niece’s wedding. Two hundred people attended. Two HUNDRED! Now, in the past, I might have retreated so far into myself as to be completely unreachable by anyone, or not gone to begin with. Just the thought of being around that many different energies, the noise, the music and dancing, would have had me locked in my bedroom at home. And, interestingly, my family would have understood. In fact, they might have preferred that I not be there. But when you work hard at your recovery and learn how to manage your mental illness, people expect more of you and hiding is no longer an option. Scary stuff!
I’m not going to say there weren’t times during the weekend that I didn’t wish for home and security, ’cause there were. And after each event-the rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, and then the reception- I felt I felt a wave of relief after feeling rushes of panic. I slept the sleep of one emotionally exhausted, meaning I slept like a toddler after temper tantrum. Best sleep ever. But even with all this nonsense going on in my head, I was able to enjoy myself, feel the loving warmth of those close to me , and even mingle a bit. And dance! Yes, I danced with the hyped-up throng of folk on the dance floor and had a good time. I talked with people, even spoke a bit about myself which I ordinarily don’t do, and, for me, I had fun. Staying in a hotel even made me reminisce about a life I left years ago-an actor’s life. But that’s for another post. Bottom line? I did just fine and came out of it unscathed and intact. And I made others happy by being there. That feels good.
Facing my fears and walking through them without falling apart makes me stronger every time I do it. Sometimes, before the fact, I have to remind myself of this so that I won’t balk and not take risks. I have to remind myself that I am always a happier, better person, after taking chances and doing things that scare me. This weekend was another exercise in facing demons. And I did it and am here now to talk about it. Living among humans is some scary shit, especially for someone with the volume turned way up. But working at becoming adaptable, has enabled me to have a life, and for that I am ever grateful.
When you have a mental illness, it is as if the volume were turned up really loud with all your senses. Everything is heightened and intensified. Lights are brighter, sounds louder, energy vibrating very fast-or slow perhaps. Bottom line…it’s all too much.
For me this manifests in a variety of ways and I must hasten to say that I am very much better than I was even five years ago. There was a time when I could run hysterically from the supermarket in extreme sensory overload. But now, it’s mostly being in crowds of people that does me in. More than five or six folks at a time and I need a day or two of recovery. I used to need a week to recover from parties or shopping. For a very long time I wouldn’t do any of that. I found excuses for not doing just about everything that would place me at risk. I disappointed a l0t of friends time and time again. All because life was too loud.
Today I have come to a Miami hotel for the weekend for my oldest niece’s wedding. There is a very busy itinerary and people all over the place. I have had diarrhea for two days, taken an extra klonopin yesterday, and been completely bound up today. Yikes! Thankfully there will be plenty of champagne to float on, and family I love to be with. I will miss my baby-dog, Chloe, and our roomie, Kim. And I will be totally worn out by Sunday. But this is a worthy exercise for me in being sociable, something I do with hesitation always, but need to play at more often.
I know I wrote a post about change and how, right now I am not only embracing change as it occurs, but also making change. But today I am having a bad day and change is the furthest thing from my mind.
When you have a mental illness, sameness, the familiar, ritual and routine all make you feel safe in the presence of an unreliable brain. You don’t do change gracefully. Today I am longing for something I recognize, people from the past, things long gone. I myself have become unrecognizable as my evolution has been sped up in recent months. And change has had me on a high of sorts for quite a while. So it isn’t out of the ordinary for me that I would crash a bit, feel lost and unknown. And today is the day. I have lost all motivation-which has been copious of late-and I feel quite despondent. I miss my sweet Dulcibella, the cat that was more of a mother to me than my actual mother. I want her nurturing and her safe love. I want her to let me know that it is okay that I am less than myself today, that it is okay that all I want to do is watch Harry Potter films and vegetate. Everything else is threatening and scary.
When I get like this I feel empty inside and it is no wonder, as I have felt so full of positive energy lately. There is still a part of me that makes feeble attempts at self-sabotage when things get too good. My brain plays tricks on me and tells me that I am still the crazy sister and daughter, the one of whom little can be expected. And then I crave the familiar, things that increase my sense of security, things I know I know. A self that I recognize and feel comfortable with. Nothing unknown. No changes. Nothing unexpected.
I hate days like today. They are like F Scott Fitzgerald’s “Lost Weekend”. A day gone right down the toilet, with nothing to show for it but angst and darkness. Days like today tell me that my illness is “managed” and not cured, that that is an integral part of who I am and that may never change. Days like today remind me that I have to take medication-something I usually do without thinking-and that there are certain things upon which I am dependent in order to function. And days like today remind me that I will have days like today from time to time, when change is undesirable and sameness is a necessary thing for safety’s sake. When I think about it though, am I so different from you? Doesn’t everyone have “days like today”? What do you depend on to get you through? Drink? Weed? Drugs? Food? Sex? Sleep? Work? Think about it. And they say I’m the nutcase!
My therapist’s name is Lance. Sounds like a sixties Hollywood heart throb, right? Well he’s anything but-not that he’s ugly or anything. But he’s not Tab Hunter. And he’s probably a lot smarter than old Tab. But when I first met Lance I thought he was a moron and that I was going to be able to walk all over him. He was so chirpy and cheery. But how wrong I was.
I must have been ready for Lance because finally someone challenged me to be better than I was, to get well, and I did. He challenged my intelligence, he side-stepped my manipulativeness, he championed my growth. He sat with me soothingly when I was off the wall and agitated, and listened to me when I didn’t make sense. And as I began to make more sense, he encouraged me to keep moving forward. He was skilled in his craft, and as I began to thrive his smile grew-right alongside mine. I had been an actor in a former incarnation, and when I decided to perform again, he cheered me on and even came to my performances. He told me he thought I was really good, and that meant the world to me as he had a theatre background also. And when I was well, he let me go. He loved me in the truest sense of the word.
I still see Lance from time to time, and recently regularly, as I had a rather lengthy “episode” when my symptoms flared up and I was good for very little for a few months. I think his method of therapy is no longer for me and that now I need someone a bit more metaphysical. But Lance gave me the tools to get through the tough times and I really owe him for that. In his own way he was creative and adaptable and I appreciate that more than I can say. Thinking his chirpiness betrayed stupidity was my folly. Lance got me when I thought no one could, and I am in his debt. And I believe they way I can best honour him is to live joyfully and well. I have put that intention into the hands of the Universe and it is my new mission statement.
Today I finished the last 5 of 10 blog posts for an online blogging company. It was a paid trial and I worked very hard on them and found out more about eye care and dentistry than I ever thought I would want to know. With everything that goes on with me mentally, I thought I dealt with the pressure of a deadline very well and finished all 10 posts in a timely fashion. But I have to admit that there is a part of me that absolutely HATES having to do anything on time. I like to feel free. That is why I don’t do well with 8 hours a day jobs. It’s the having to that gets me and I kick and scream internally and balk at every imperative.
If I am really going to do this for a living I am going to have to learn how to pace myself and budget my time better so I get to fit into the day all that I want to do. As it was, after 2 days of straight blogging, I was exhausted and my brain felt like it was crammed with cotton wool and I couldn’t think anymore. All I could do was veg in front of the TV and drink Cabernet. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I don’t want all my “off” time to be sitting and vegging. I am writing a book and need to make time for that and exercise and reading as well. This is going to be another kind of juggling act and it is going to take me some time to find a rhythm that works for me. But I need to let up on myself and allow myself the time to get used to a new schedule. If this company hires me full time I am going to be writing for at least 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, as well as spending a couple of hours each day doing research.
Being truly free doesn’t mean having freedom all the time. Being free is laden with responsibility. Being free is something each of us must earn. I have worked hard to be truly free. I have earned my stripes. This is MY time. I am taking it and running with it. No. Flying.
Today I met my new Primary Care Physician. I left my last one because at my last visit she preached Jesus to me and told me if I didn’t believe he was the messiah I would go to hell. She also told me she prayed for the Jews-my people. She never examined me or asked why I was there. The “sermon” went on for almost 20 minutes and I was so stunned all I could say to her was that I am very comfortable with my beliefs. I left there in a daze and changed primaries that day. It was a shot in the dark as I am on medicare but I chose someone and today I met her.
Her name is almost Dr. Archangel and she is a sweetie. And she got on me about my weight, which was wholly appropriate and very timely as I have struggled with obesity for the last several years. She spent at least 20 minutes with me, perhaps more than that, and was very thorough. She even expressed sorrow at my broken ankle from 3 years ago. Very sympathetic. I liked her and feel good about my choice.
I have to say, however, that I don’t really think much of the medical profession. They are very ignorant of alternative modalities and more in the business of keeping you sick than preventive medicine. Not that they are all evil and I think if you are you ill should go to the doctor. But finding someone who takes time and seems to care, like Dr. Archangel, is a matter of trial and error and you shouldn’t be afraid of “auditioning” your doctor and making changes if you don’t feel in sync with him/her. I admit that, for the most part, I have been lucky with my doctors. The Universe appears to be looking out for me. But I have had first-hand accounts of horror stories from close friends and so I know I am not the rule but the exception.
Dr. Archangel wants me to exercise every day and lose at least a pound between our visits. Aaaaaaargh! I have been carrying around this bulk for so long it is almost like armour and there is a part of me that is afraid to lose it. But the time is now and now is the time, and with all the changes I am making in my life, this one seems like a necessary compliment. If I really want to be free, I have to go for broke. So today I rode the stationary bike and lifted weights. I broke a sweat for the first time in a long time. I’m on a new path and this is all part of my journey now. It was once long ago, so I shouldn’t feel strange about it. But I do. Armour becomes familiar and comforting. I’m scared. But…off I go!
A wise woman once said that change is the only certainty in life. We are born anew every day, in fact from minute to minute. Nothing stays the same. No thing.
I have taken the changes in my life in interesting ways. At times I went into change kicking and screaming and other times I actually created the changes-and big ones. But the bottom line for me is that change is thrilling. Every change I have been through has brought me fresh self-awareness, new insights, and with each ending there was a beginning. And more often than not the new beginning was better than what was before. Change is growth, and growth can hurt, but in the end it is always worth it. That has been my experience.
Now, in the latter part of my life I am still making big changes and with the planning of them comes excitement, new hope, and a feeling that possibilities are limitless. I am limitless. It is a grand feeling. I feel as a butterfly on the first day out of the cocoon. Everything is new and strange and wonderful. The sun is blinding. I am new and strange and wonderful. I can do anything, be anything. I can rearrange my priorities, give myself something I have never had…freedom. And freedom is some scary shit! But I am ready.
Everything I have been through has brought me to this moment, and this moment I am on a precipice getting ready to jump, fly-god knows what. I am terrified, yet at the same time I have never felt so buoyant, so happy. For the first time in a long time, I know what I want and I know what I must do to get it. And I am doing it. Changing, becoming, being in the flow. Okay with being afraid. Doing it anyway. Birthing my self. And you know what? The wise woman who said that change is the only certainty in life, was me.