Living with mental illness can do many things. One of which is tending to think of your life in two halves: BI and AI. Before Illness and After Illness. I totally know I’m guilty of this. I’ll admit it.
Don’t get me wrong. There are changes in lifestyle that can happen. I see them. They suck! It absolutely bites. That’s as nicely as I can put it. Personally, some examples are: Traveling less due to it messing with my OCD and Anxiety something major, not being able to listen to some songs because they trigger a memory from an episode and I end up feeling miserable on the couch… Those are just two examples. I can go on.
There are things we have to give up. Things that we use to define ourselves. Things that make us who we are. I worked hard in school so that I could go to any college I wanted. I got early acceptance to The Ohio State University- ATI as a Horticulture Science major. I ended up having to leave OSU-ATI. I switched majors, but had to give up school completely when crowds became too much to handle. My schooling.. my education was something I was always proud of; and I… Yeah, you get the picture. I don’t sketch anymore. The thought of a mistake when I look at the blank paper freezes me. Erase marks make me cringe and my fingers clench.
You think about the changes and the things you can’t do… It isn’t fun. It can feel as though your illness becomes who you are. It’s all you can do right. “I am really good at being Bipolar.” “Depression is all that suits me.” “Anxiety is just a way of life.” I am totally guilty of this. I know it.
There’s an important lesson that I need to address before moving on in this post: We are not good at these. We are not these things.
At least for me, my mind is rarely quiet. This time of year it screams at me whenever I think about going out of my house. There’s more people out and about when I have to go through downtown or into stores (which I hate anyways), lights and music that, together, are overwhelming. Family get togethers that should be fun and happy times are often too much to handle and I spend the next three days coping. Not recovering, but coping.
Then, there’s the new year. We just entered into 2018 yesterday. The reason I am doing this post today is I wanted to attempt not to do the whole traditional New Years thing, but I think it may sound something like it.
As I said, we often forget ourselves among the illness and labels that we are given. This year, I learned something major. I FINALLY learned, myself, the the lesson I told you up top. We are not good at being our Illness. That’s.. ridiculous. Have you seen those shirts that say “I hate being Bipolar. It’s awesome!” that are advertised sometimes? Yeah. I hate those. I know it’s supposed to be funny and if we can’t laugh at ourself then who can we laugh at. Those shirts makes light of what we have and what we have to go through. What we become good at in having to live with our own minds is: We are good at being strong (even in our weakest moments). We are good at coping- all the curveballs that get thrown our way, we have to be. We are good at living the best we can. No matter what that best is.
Choosing to leave my job this year was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I started there as a volunteer in 2003 and was hired as an employee in 2011. I had literally spent my entire adult life there. I could never imagine leaving, but it was the best thing for me. I had never allowed any other options to come before me because I had blinders on. This. This was where I was meant to be. After all, it was where I had strived to be for so long. Now, I have found, in NAMI, a place to build my self-confidence and passion beyond what I could have had before.
Choosing to apply for SSDI was something that I have fought against for five years. Both my doctor and therapist felt it would be the best thing for me. I spoke with my dad and he agreed. Now, when going back to work, I won’t have to have that fear of getting sick in the back of my mind. SSDI is not a label. It isn’t something I needed to be afraid of. Or ashamed of.
These two events have given me a few things. All of which lead to one cumulative: I can BREATHE. I can breathe. One more time. I CAN BREATHE! Over the past four and a half months I have been able to focus on me without fear. Without remorse. Without unwanted input that I always placed above what I thought and felt. It has been quite enlightening.
I guess this would be when I would go into New Year’s resolutions. I hate that word. Resolutions. I like the word “goals.” I love goals. In being able to breathe, I have found things that I want to do for myself. Things that I did not see as possible before. There are things that I would like to accomplish this year: riding Zoe more and getting into a parade or what we call Lot 5, agility and obedience classes with Bennett, going back to school, and continuing to volunteer with NAMI. I don’t know that I want to list those as goals though.
I have ONE goal this year. One that I think is important. I don’t want to stop breathing again. I want to continue and breathe easier and easier. I know (even if it is somewhere deep in the back of my mind) that I am capable of deep, cleansing breaths. They will come with learning who and where I am, with the building of self-confidence… Those deep breaths will take effort. I know this. We shouldn’t be afraid of effort. The word makes it sound so rough, ha ha. Again, it’s all about wording. STRIVE FOR or WORK TOWARDS doesn’t sound as harsh, right?
This year, all I want to do is: