There’s a woman my age at work who has lived most of her life with one kidney. A transplanted kidney. Now its old and failing her. She’s been on the transplant list and on dialysis for more than 6 years. Over time she’s fallen ill, been in and out of hospital and come close to death. Yet to look at her you’d never say she was sick. She still works. She is always cheerful. I’ve never heard her complain. Never bemoaned her fate. She’s active, pursues a physically challenging hobby. She lives and loves without restraint.
I walked past her today, and overheard a piece of conversation. She said “I don’t want them resuscitating me, you know, you put your life into their hands”. This was said within the context of – she doesn’t want to die. She doesn’t want events to deteriorate to such a point where she would have to be resuscitated. She wants the surgery to run smoothly. Kidney failure or no kidney failure, she wants to live.
My immediate thought was one of jealousy, envious of her close proximity to death. Because I don’t want to live anymore. And so I became ashamed. Thoroughly disgusted by myself. While she fights to stay alive, I dream, plot and scheme about my own death. My thoughts roam hour by hour in an endless loop from hanging to drowning to guns.
So I told myself I was a terrible person for entertaining suicide as much as I do. For being selfish. For being ungrateful. For being lazy. For being a poor, useless excuse of a human being. But then I thought – while there is dialysis or an organ transplant for failing kidneys, there are no such options for my brain. While her blood is cleansed, there is no way to clean my mind of these suicide-thoughts. Thoughts that are purely symptoms. I have a brain that’s sick, with no way to be fixed. We are both ill. There should be no comparison. We just suffer in different ways. And there is no shame in that.
My mother killed herself when I was 19 years old. Today would have been her 74th birthday. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you xx
I wish I was a professional artist who had enough time to indulge words and senses all day long. To feel fulfilled. To feel passionate. To feel satisfied. To express, unrestricted and unrestrained. To be dark or expansive without excuse. To feel I’m living a purpose. To be true. Unapologetically true. To feel alive. Because this, this is not what I had planned.
Change, they say. Get a new job. New friends. Move house. Move town. Get a hobby. Get a life coach, a personal trainer, a financial adviser, a lover, a husband. You are your own change, they say. Follow your dreams, they say. Live a life you have designed….. Live simply, dream big…… Live with no regrets…..
They? The ones that make it sound so simple? They are the ones who live free. Myself? My reality is I am forced to live within the limits of my illness to survive. Bipolar a heavy weight of confinement and commitment to my personal management plan – avoiding triggers and over-stimulation, keeping to a strict sleep pattern and predictable daily routine to maintain stability. My world is stunted, narrowed. Every, single, day. Whittled away piece by piece with each year I age. My soul inked with sadness. My mind stolen by mania. My body raked by fatigue. Bipolar is my dominatrix. So here I rot. Deceived by hope. Dreams far from my grasp. This is not what I had planned.
Twenty One Pilots (Forrest)
Coping with bipolar at work is difficult. Rage, memory loss, fatigue and tears are my downfall in others’ eyes. Because I have a problem with rage I try to not talk at all. I’ve had many complaints and sat in the manager’s office far too often. So, if my mouth is closed maybe nothing will slip out. I won’t have the chance to offend or confuse. If I want to stay out of trouble, if I want to keep my job, I need to keep my mouth shut.
Keep your mouth shut
Keep your mouth shut
Keep your mouth shut
… is my daily mantra to avoid exhibitions of rage.
Crying is seen as a ‘weakness’ so I cannot let the tears slip out. I cannot go to the bathroom and cry. The reaction to red eyes and nose would draw a collective eye-rolling and I’m ignored for the remainder of the day. So I lock the sorrow in my throat, where it seeps and brews until the drive home. I often wonder what other drivers must think of me, sobbing and snivelling in peak hour traffic.
Memory loss is humiliating and costly. I make big mistakes that result in financial loss. It could one day cost me my job. I have to keep a diary of my day to day, minute by minute work output, not only to cover my back, but to act as a reminder of what I have and haven’t done. I have a checklist taped to my desk, ticking off the tasks one by one. There is also a white board to one side. This white board is a graphic representation of my check list. I have to draw pictures, like a child, of the elements of my workload. And I have to tick off this check ‘list’ too. Despite all this, I still forget. Then I want to cry. But I can’t. Then I feel angry, but I can’t afford to.
I live in constant fear of losing my job, suppressing every emotion along the way. Constant restraint. It’s exhausting. Not a comfortable way to spend 8 hours daily. Its not healthy either. But I have bipolar and this is how I have to behave at work in order to keep my job to keep a roof over my head, a medical aid, medications, and a full tummy. I wish I could be myself. Just for a while. With no apologies. Just for a while.
-3 Doors Down (Let Me Be Myself)
“I don’t want anyone to be sad when I die – I want them to be glad that I lived” – Johnna Stahl
I never expected to lose you so soon. It came as such a shock. I certainly am glad that you lived. And that we shared a parcel of time together. I am sad. You meant so much to me. Oh how I will miss you. And so I cry. For the loss of my dear friend. But I do rejoice in you having finally found peace and a release from your never-ending pain.
You gave so much of yourself to us. Always at the ready to offer comfort, support, encouragement. During my personal struggles you shared a remedy of music specific to my distress, or a funny video clip, many words of wisdom delivered with your wicked dose of wit. And while I would bemoan my own illness, you never ever complained about your pain! You never judged me – a rare occurrence in a bipolar’s life. In fact, you asked questions with a keen intent to learn and understand. What a generous gift! You challenged me to look at things differently. And I want you to know… your ‘BlueBird’ has applied these lessons. Your wisdom has made an imprint on my life.
I admired your diligent, passionate advocacy for the chronic pain community. I loved your photography and enjoyed sharing your cyber-walks. I will always remember you in the beauty of details, of blue skies and clouds passing by, of the smell of yeast as a loaf of bread bakes. Butter, butter and more butter…. with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. And how will I ever forget you…. each time I scrub (or don’t scrub) my toilet.
I’m glad that you lived, because I am a better person for having known you, my friend. I took this photo for you from my room with a view, half a world away in South Africa. While the sun may have set on your life, your memory will shine bright in my heart.
Durban, South Africa
And of course, as music lovers, I have to end with one of your songs
A family tribute to Johnna Stahl
I want to be inspired to live. To be motivated. Find focus. To find the beauty in details, sift through the grunge and pull out a positive. To hear a song that seems to have been written just for me, for where I’m at – whether it’s happy, sad, lonely, angry. To laugh, to smile, to love and to be brave. Big or small, to touch joy and the satisfaction of achievement. Even for only a moment. I want to take stock of my efforts and achievements and revel in the victories. I’m paving my way in an attempt to be joyful and at peace with my life. And here is where I document my travels – every Thursday. Come along for the ride.
Sometimes its not just about medication. Sometimes I have to work, I mean really work hard at living. I really enjoyed this Nina Simone songs about butterflies, sunshine, breezes driftin’ and new beginnings. It lifted my heart up one beat.
It’s a new dawn,
it’s a new day,
it’s a new life for me
– Nina Simone
During a depression, the small everyday chores become a daily challenge. I finally washed my dishes that had been lying in the sink for several days. A great personal achievement
Dirty dishes wait patiently to be cleaned
Lo and behold, I actually got round to washing those filthy things. What a triumph
Although dismal, grey and dreary, rain during a countrywide drought is always welcome.
My previous post [here] about how I sometimes feel like a monster, was an attempt to try to change my own perception of myself. Its part of my skill set. Logically I realise what I feel isn’t necessarily true, so I try to look at things from another angle, and in writing that, hopefully I process that logic and transform it into an emotional reality. And in posting it, maybe change someone else’s perception of themselves.
At the time I wrote it, I did feel like a monster. I still do a bit. My plan is a work in progress. Thank you for all your affirming comments. I have read them and re-read them and I want you to know they are making a difference in my outlook during this extended depressed episode.
Painkills2 shared a song which is so amazing I just had to share it. It shows me I try too hard to be what others want to see and reaffirms the original intent with my ‘monster’ post – that I’m no monster, just another extraordinary human being with faults and beautiful attributes. Some things I can’t change. But despite that, I like the me I am growing into. I don’t have to try so hard. All I need is to get up and try to like the best of me.
Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?
– Colbie Caillat
And maybe being brave and accepting yourself …. can be fun….
Sometimes I do turn into a monster. Sometimes I do feel like a monster. Sometimes I feel consumed by monstrous thoughts and tidal waves of emotion.
But I am not a monster. I don’t accept that. I am a beautiful empath. The intensity of my emotions make me passionate in everything I do. My sensitivity makes me able to walk in another’s shoes. I am the keeper of secrets when people confide in me. I am creative and caring. I am kind and reliable. I am incapable of lying. There is never an agenda in any thought or action. I have a sense of humour and am the first to laugh at myself. I am strong and brave. I have a beautiful heart and a deep, insightful soul. I am intelligent and interestingly imperfect. I fiercely feel every ounce that life has to offer. I’m no monster.
As much as bipolar is a curse, it is also a blessing. Without its depths I would feel hollow and dull. I can’t imagine living a life like that doesn’t gleam with intensity. Mood swings? With inconsistency every day brings a new surprise. From those dark days comes wisdom. I am proudly bipolar. So stigma can kiss my ass, along with all the ordinary folk that fuel its existence. I am me, and I love me just the way I am.
It’s now my 5th week battling sciatica. It has proven to be debilitating, narrowing my access to the real world and destabilising my already unstable mental health. So my body and mind are not very happy places to be in right now.
Pain (any pain–emotional, physical, mental) has a message. The information it has about our life can be remarkably specific, but it usually falls into one of two categories: “We would be more alive if we did more of this,” and, “Life would be more lovely if we did less of that.” Once we get the pain’s message, and follow its advice, the pain goes away
– Peter McWilliams
I’ve always believed in the tie between the physical and the emotional. So I searched for the metaphysical meaning of sciatica:
Lower Back; The Lower Back represents support; financial support, emotional support of family and friends, and support of God or the Universe. The Kidneys are located in this area and Kidney dysfunction results in Fear/Fright/Phobias. A sore lower back may indicate that we have taken on more than we think we can handle. This is a dysfunction, only if it is not the Truth. If we have indeed taken on too much, that would be indicated by a physical trauma to the back and all we need to do is lighten the load [source]
These past 12 months have been traumatic for this bipolar who feels everything so intensely. I need to lighten my load, my expectations and demands on myself. I need to stop, relax, let go, and learn to trust that I will always be safe and everything will be okay. I want to become unshackled from the past to make way for a better future. I have no plan except to gently roll with the punches. I suppose I’m going to let life happen, instead of always reacting and trying to control it. That’s the intent anyway.
In the words of our beloved Ulla – Healing is a long term investment in feeling good
I want to feel good! And when I feel weighed down by Life’s challenges, I’m going to let Mr Buble remind me – its a full world and I feel goooooood.
Its a new dawn
its a new day
its a new life
and I’m feelin’ good
– Michael Buble