This illness has been my single most defining force, whether I wanted it to be or not. It has destroyed the last decade of my life, aged me beyond my years, worn me out and separated me from people I loved and from people who might’ve loved me back. It has always chosen the hard path, the path of most resistance, the quick escapes and easy ways out. It has shrunken my brain, widened my body, sagged my cheeks and dulled my eyes. It has stolen me from myself, stolen my time here on earth. It has been cruel. It has been unforgiving.
I sit here today, one hot mess.
I have been on medication now for two years, a.k.a. “managing my illness.” Progress has been slow. Before I finally admitted my illness and accepted help for it, I spent 10 years sequestered in my apartment. I’d go weeks without leaving or talking to anyone other than my husband. He was my only friend and my only family. Everyone else had abandoned me, some of them for a good reason. I simply did not feel like I deserved to be alive. I felt like I had failed as a human, and it was important to keep myself away from people so that I wouldn’t hurt them, and so they wouldn’t hurt me. Isolation was my self-medication. It was my truth, my life, and my slow, tortured attempt at suicide.
Things have changed in the last two years. I am not constantly in the grip of my illness and medication has created a window of opportunity to think before I react, a skill impossible for people with bipolar to master without help and practice. I have done a lot of healing and learning. I am starting to want things for myself, and sometimes I even feel *gasp* hope.
I am better now, but here is the thing I need to share with you: I am full of fear, and in spite of help and medication, I am continuing to punish myself through isolation. I recognize that I am at the stage in my recovery where I need to forgive myself, and rejoining the world is part of that process. But, group, my heart still believes that I don’t deserve life, friends, family, or a chance at some kind of self-fulfillment. I am paralyzed by the notion that I am unlikable, that I won’t be accepted, and that I have nothing to offer the world or myself.
It’s been so long since I’ve had relationships with other people. I am afraid that I will manipulate and hurt and sabotage them like I did so long ago. I am afraid to connect to people, feel close to them, go through the good and bad of what relationships have to offer. I am afraid to find out that, even with the illness managed, I am simply not a worthwhile person. That I am too needy to be a good friend. So far, I have not found a way to forgive myself, and I’m afraid I will never be able to figure out how to do so. It’s an infuriating and willful place to be.
That’s where I am, group. I’m lonely, I’m scared, I don’t really know who I am without the grip of mental illness defining my personality.
Thanks for listening,
Amy June 12, 2012
(found while cleaning my desk)
*Photo Credit: Porsche Linn