Burden or Blessing?

I have a chronic illness. Mine happens to be bipolar. Regardless of the condition the emotional toll can be extraordinary on everyone involved and although there are “blessing” moments this a burden kind of day. Like my emotions are just a big huge pile of heavy blankets waiting to fall on the unlucky person who walks underneath and is expected to carry it all. It’s not at all how I want to be. Do you want to know some of how it feels for me? I’ll tell you the less fun parts later but first I want to share a bit of positive.

How I want to feel:

Playful in a way that lets me be free to have fun without worrying about the “next shoe”.

Content with the way my life is at every moment to remember living in the *now*.

Free to live in a way that honors my truth.

Joyful at the world around me when I see beauty around me.

Confident in my own ability to become a more positive person.

Creative in the kind of way where I might actually *come up* with my own ideas.

Loving towards those around me whenever I might be able to.

Hopeful about the world and my life path.

Inspired to learn and be curious, about myself and the world I live in.

Excited to begin new things and even better, to accomplish them.

These are the emotions I sincerely wish I had more often or even at all. Occasionally I get to feel them, fleeting as they visit for an unknown length of time before leaving my mind (and people or things around me) in the dust of “new damage” following yet another mood swing. I struggle with feeling positive, a lot. I keep trying to slog my way through the work of “getting there” wherever “there” is and I AM making progress, it’s just maddeningly slow. I’m hopeful that there is improvement following all my effort because this is how I usually feel and it’s definitely no fun for me or anyone nearby.

How I mostly feel:

Helpless to cure my condition. 

Frightened of what is to come and how many friends or family will leave because of me.

Inadequate as a woman, a mother, and a wife.

Worthless when it comes to contributing to my family and the larger world around me.

Exposed because of my openness regarding my condition – I’m open but it still worries me.

Betrayed by my brain chemistry.

Furious at the impact this condition has on so many areas of my life

Embarrassed that I even have a mental illness – imagine bringing that up in conversation.

Disappointed my degree that I fought so hard for is going unused

Ashamed I’m unable to contribute more to my home, family, life.

Powerless to change substantially within a short enough period of time to get better “enough”.

Fragile when discussing the damage I’ve caused and hearing reflection on those times.

Isolated from friends and family when I am struggling because I don’t want to be a burden, emotionally or otherwise.

Numb.

Those are just some of the feelings that I deal with and they push people away. They overwhelm me sometimes to the point I need more help than I’d like to ask for. They are paralyzing at times and then I am useless. These are the demons I fight daily. We all have them, I’m just more willing and able than some to share. Keep fighting folks. I’ve been told it’s worth it.

So, burden or blessing? I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder, as the phrase goes.

This Bipolar Life: Silence is Golden?

Silence can be come in many forms and mean a lot of things. Years ago it used to mean my kids were up to something they shouldn’t be (imagine crayons on walls or flour all over the floor as the five-year-old tries to make pancakes, etc). Now, sometimes it’s a chance for me to intently focus on a project or it gives me a chance to be introspective and sit quietly in the space around myself and contemplate my navel.

But, there are times it is used as a tool, for better and worse. Yes, I’m talking about the “silent treatment”, something I’m guilty of doing on occasion. Why? Well for me it’s usually one of the following reasons:

  1. Because I feel hurt and need to withdraw out of fear of being hurt again, words can be painful and I am sensitive to them, perhaps more so than others.
  2. To prevent myself from saying something painful to someone so I don’t make a situation worse by hurting another with my own words. My dad used to say that I was at my most dangerous when I opened my mouth in anger, something I now understand to be true.
  3. To hurt someone on purpose. Yes, I have done this sometimes. It’s juvenile and petty but sometimes my inner 8-year-old comes out and I just want to make sure they know I’m angry. Of course this option really mainly hurts myself as the saying goes, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s something I have worked diligently to diminish as a coping mechanism and I suppose because it was such a default for so long it will be an ongoing battle for me.
  4. Sometimes though it’s to push people away because I’m depressed. This is called “isolating” and is very common among those with mental illnesses. It’s because I just don’t want to have to deal with the real world which can be exhausting so I retreat into silence and solitude. This is not always healthy although occasionally it can be necessary to recharge.

So why is a silent response so common? Sometimes it’s easier to shut out a situation rather than being honest with others, something that requires me to open myself up to criticism and injury. Even though I may be hopeful that my feelings and thoughts will be accepted the reality is sometimes they aren’t and other times they are misinterpreted. Sometimes it’s just easier to avoid possible conflict or injury and silence is an easy way to do that.

However the reality is that I, and others like me, need to learn to push through the urge for silence and be willing to expose our hearts to those around us. In my opinion, that is truly the way to acceptance. So how do we do that? By speaking up when we are hurt or by sharing that we are feeling like saying hurtful words and need to walk away. Other times it’s by reaching out and letting someone know that we are beginning to shut out the world and perhaps just need a guiding hand or a hug to help us move through that space to get back to a healthy space in our lives.

Share your soul. Share your pain. Share your joy. All of you. Just give it a chance. Those who truly care about you will accept you as you are. Perhaps they will not accept your behavior (and they don’t have to in order to care for you) but they will likely reassure you that they are still there for you when you are able to interact in a healthy way. This might be all you need to return to a healthy space of loving kindness, for both yourself and those around you.