My Biggest Lie – to Myself

You know those times when some realization hits you like a quarterback from the side, completely out of nowhere?  It takes the wind out of your lungs and if it’s good it makes you light headed, if it’s bad, it makes you heavy-hearted.

After the past weekend I’ve had the wind knocked out of me really hard.  Like, “big deal life-changing” hard and it has left me very heavy-hearted.

I’m a woman.  I have bipolar brain chemistry (neurodiversity is my word of choice).  I have been suicidal before and I have lived without medication.  I am currently, and have been, medicated and I’m terrified (TERRIFIED) to go off of medications.  I absolutely love the feeling of control that I have when I’m successfully medicated.  When you’ve been unmedicated with bipolar for a large portion of your life and you finally exist for a full year as a relatively happy and productive person – with only “normal” hiccups like other “normal” people – I imagine it feels like someone who’s been struggling against a rip tide for that whole time finally being free of it and into calm waters – you DO NOT want to give that up.

I have a personal habit of pretending I’m fine with things.  I actually convince MYSELF I’m ok.  When my dad died five years ago I did zero processing for the first 3 years afterward and instead covered all of those feelings with what I call “hyper-appreciation”.  I still do this, seeing as how I’ve only really talked about his death once.  (side note, I really ought to find a therapist to call me out on this ish)  Another tactic I like to use is that I build walls to keep others out. It took my best friend many years to actually get to KNOW me.  That entire time I was sarcastic, mean at times, distant, and would only talk about surface things.  I remember when I realized that I had to convince her I was being genuine when I said nice things to her, because I had been so damn sarcastic all the time she thought I was just joking when I was being sincerely kind.  I act tough, but I’m really not – the weird thing is that I have lied to myself enough that most of the time, I believe the hard exterior is the true one.

All of this builds to perhaps the biggest lie that I have been telling myself.  I’ve never really been around little kids much.  I have a very small family, I never did the baby sitting thing, and I’m not really sure – it’s just not been a thing in my life.  My friends have had kids.  The oldest child is 3 now.  I held her once as a baby – it was awkward and scary.  I don’t know how to change diapers.  I’ve acted as though babies were completely foreign objects that I had no interest in learning about.  If I’m being honest now, babies DO scare me – they make me so nervous because they’re so fragile and tiny and they squirm and puke and poop and I have no idea what their needs are.  I’ve been acting too cool for kids because I’m scared of them.  When my friends talk about having kids I’m the one saying “I don’t even think I HAVE a biological clock! Hahahah!”

Which brings me to. . .

This. . . is my lie:  I have been convincing myself that I do not want to have (actually birth) children because of several reasons that I’ve created as a list in no particular order:

  • They ruin a marriage
  • They ruin your social life/happiness
  • I wouldn’t even know what to do with a baby
  • My partner wouldn’t be supportive enough to raise it successfully together
  • I would ruin its life
  • Just like the animal activists view of “adopt, don’t shop” – people should be adopting babies and not making them because there are kids already out there who don’t have homes and need them
  • Overpopulation
  • It’s a shitty world out there, why would I bring a tiny life into that?
  • And other reasons I’ve spouted out that have apparently been just the “tip of the iceberg” with the real reason hidden deep below

 

I very recently dated a guy very briefly but I’ve had a crush on him from a distance for like 3 years now.  That probably sounds creepy/high school-ish, but I promise it’s not (ok, high school-ish probably).  I didn’t actually talk to him much in those three years, because you know, I can talk to anyone EXCEPT the person I ACTUALLY like, but I ran into him all the time thanks to mutual friends and his place of employment.  Everyone who knows him, EVERYONE, when they hear his name says “Oh!  He’s such a good guy!”  That’s why I liked him.  The point of all of that is just to set up so you can try to understand how excited I was to finally be getting to know this dude.  I was super excited and it was fun and adorable and you know what?  He really IS such a GOOD GUY!  But. . . he wants to have biological kids.  This conversation came up randomly early on but then became a discussion because, well, we’re not in our 20’s anymore and why date someone if your endgame goals don’t align (unless it’s just for funsies, but I didn’t want that with him)?  My first response was the “adopt don’t shop” answer – I really, really do want to foster kids, having worked with kids from that system I know that I can do some good in that world.  But the more we talked I finally said “it”.  I said the truth.

I don’t feel safe actually birthing a baby while I have fucked up brain chemistry.  I don’t think I can handle the terror of the potential birth defects or miscarriages if I stay on medication.  I don’t think I can handle the awful, awful mood swings if I stop taking them.  I don’t think I could find a partner who would stay with me during that potential shit show.  Ugh, if you saw me in previous relationships while I wasn’t medicated – without factoring in the insane roller coaster that a woman’s bodily chemistry goes through with a tiny, unborn human in it – you would be telling any potential partner of mine to run for the hills.

I realized that this lie was something I was covering up during our discussion and it started a little rip in a seam of my heart.  I know that analogy sounds super-duper cheesy, but you just deal with it.  I pulled my typical “toughen up, buttercup” routine and decided to just break things off ASAP so that I didn’t develop further feelings for the guy.  That SUCKED.  Three years of crushing, one month of dating, and you know that feeling you get when you just start a relationship that you think is going to be around for a bit?  Yeah, I had all of that and rather than waiting it out (sounds like I could’ve used some Wu Wei, huh?  Hindsight’s 20/20, and even then I need glasses) I panicked and called it off – because that’s what I could handle.  All of the warm fuzzies got squashed down by my need to save emotional face with myself.  I didn’t want to confront myself on anything.

Now, I said I have friends with kids – I don’t actually see them that much.  It just so happens that this last weekend I went to a baby shower for one of the friends.  This will be her second baby, a girl, and it was a zombie princess theme (because I have awesome friends).  Later that same day I had dinner with another friend, her super awesome husband, and their two kids (ages 3 years and < 6 months).  The tiny baby slept the entire time and the 3-year-old was completely ridiculous and funny.  My mom was with me and the three year old liked my mom better, probably because I’m just awkward around kids – but I was still a little sad when she gave my mom a hug goodbye and not me.  I was ok after these two events – I pushed them back in the vaults to be suppressed with the rest.

Monday I texted the guy I broke things off with to clarify that the only reason I ended it was because I couldn’t give him what he wanted.  That sucks.

Later on Monday I went to dinner with my family at a restaurant where we were next to a table full of kids.  Some weird combination of overhearing the large family next to us and talking to my mom about when I was a kid and how she raised me, it just hit me.  I want that.

Today I am admitting that I am terrified of having children because I also have bipolar.  And fuck.  Today I am admitting that I think I might actually want to have one someday.  And shit.  That’s really fucking sad.

This whole time I’ve been running around, tough as nails, acting like I’m too cool for this.  And actually, I want all of it.

And there goes the quarterback, running away after he’s completely annihilated me, knocked me head-first onto the ground, any sign of air gone from my lungs.

 

This sucks.

The Tao of Jessie

Hello internets!

I started this blog on one of my war paths toward a forced life goal where I was determined to succeed at something I wasn’t even sure about.  I wanted to become a life coach.  I still kind of maybe do.  But I wrote posts under the guise of educating the masses on business, money, life, and mental health through the stumblings of my life.  I did that, it was cool, I tried to force content out of myself and I didn’t like it, and then I stopped writing – a lot of the time.

I recently read the book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff and although I got lost at times while reading it, the book’s messages struck a chord with me.  My favorite concept was Wu Wei.  According to the first thing that pops up in my Google search, I found this on the term:

 

Wu Wei (Chinese, literally “non-doing”) is an important concept of Taoism and means natural action, or in other words, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort. Wu wei is the cultivation of a mental state in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the flow of life.

In the book, Benjamin uses water as a metaphor for explaining the concept by saying that water doesn’t try to push over rocks in a stream as it goes about its path, it simply flows around them.

I read that part of the book, while laying on a beach in the early morning, half distracted because I was also trying to figure out 5 different “life things” in my head at the same time, and I just had that moment of “Well, shit.  That’s a new concept I could probably use in my life.”  It’s completely obvious in hindsight, but having grown up stubborn, strong-willed, and often analytical to the point of either destruction or inaction, this was news to me.

This was about 3 weeks ago.  I’ve applied the shit out of it since then (after a minor ((read: major)) hiccup that I had to analyze into destruction) and it’s been really quite nice.  I have tried to shove nearly everything in my life into nice, neat boxes.  I have tried to put aspects of my life on planned-out trajectories that are often completely arbitrary but “I MUST know where I’m going!  How will I ever get to XYZ if I don’t know where/what/who that is??”  None of this has worked for me.

This Wu Wei concept in life is fantastic.  I now am keeping an open mind about EVERYTHING.  I actually had a titanic self-discovery yesterday that I’ll be writing about next (read: I use “titanic” because it’s actually not fun or good and involves a lot of bad acting on my part).

I’m writing now because I want to announce that as of today, the direction of this blog is in fact, directionless!  From here on out, I’m going to treat it like it’s just my medium to tell anyone on the internets that life is weird and this is how it plays out on MY adventure.  There might be business-y things, or mental health discussions, or postings of my own personal failures – who knows??  I don’t, yet!  I realized that there already are TONS of blogs on how to do business-y life things successfully.  Or stuff about this or that.  You know what’s NOT already on the internets???  MY take on life as I stumble through it, one adventure at a time.

There you have it, Jessie Does Life through Tao.  I hope you stick around!

The Allure of Awareness Months – May was Mental Health (sorry, it’s June now)

I feel silly admitting this, but a couple days ago, right after the month of May ended and the month of June began, I actually thought to myself “Geez, Jessie, you didn’t write about mental health OR lupus in May!”.  How arbitrary is that thought???  Just because the internet and some national associations decided that certain “causes” should be brought to the public attention as a reminder in assigned months each year, I somehow felt limited by that. . .

I understand that these months create an opportunity to start conversations and they perhaps do give sometimes under-recognized issues some space in the public forums, but maybe. . . just maybe. . . by giving them that finite space of time each year, we’re actually limiting them.

I think mental health should be a topic every damn day.  When I ask a friend how they’re doing, I want to know how their mental health is doing, their physical health, and their general life happenings.  I’ll often ask friends a few times in conversation how they are – because the first response is usually what everyone gives – the knee-jerk “I’m good” so that the conversation can stay at the surface level.  Eff that jazz.  I would absolutely love to see a world where people really spoke to each other about more than just the surface, step outside of our weird habits of isolation and self-inflicted loneliness and talk about mental health.  Open up about the highs and the lows.  My friend recently sent an email to a group of our close friends because she recently moved far away and she’s having a rough time and just needed to get it out.  This friend is tough as nails and stubborn to no end, I know how much it took her to write this email.  The thing is, her and I talk semi-regularly on the phone and via text and I would ask how things are – but this never came up.  Perhaps it’s guarding oneself, not wanting to be vulnerable, or the weird difference between how discussing physical health vs. mental health is perceived.

Why is it so uncomfortable for me to say that I’ve been hospitalized for attempted suicide?  But had I been hospitalized for pneumonia I wouldn’t think twice about saying that out loud?  Why are we more comfortable posting on Facebook asking for recommendations of dentists than we are for therapists?  Why is it gossiped about if a coworker goes off to substance abuse rehab, then the same gossipers treat that coworker differently when they return as if that coworker is somehow defective?

Receiving treatment for mental health – therapy, rehab, medication, alternative options (I don’t really know these options but I imagine there are some) – is the important part here.  Just like diabetics, no one shames them.  They have a condition that affects their health and so they treat it.  They know that if they don’t pay attention to their body there can be deadly consequences.  Same with anyone who has to monitor their mental health.  I know that if I don’t take my 6 pills a day (3 different Rxs) regularly, avoid drinking for the most part, and get out in the world, I can very easily fall into my cycle of depression and hypomania.  So. . . that’s why I DO take my medication!

It’s so upsetting to think that there are millions of people not talking about their mental health.  People with anxiety, loneliness, mania, psychosis, depression, eating disorders, fear of rejection, you name it – anything that has to do with our emotions – and they’re just not talking about it.  I never really had an emotionally supportive family growing up – we just sort of ignored that part of ourselves (which definitely contributed to the suicide attempt, not a blaming thing, just a statement).  I wasn’t abused and I knew I was loved, I felt safe.  But I didn’t ever feel like I could openly address my feelings.  I imagine this is how a lot of adults feel without significant others or close friends who they can share their deeper (not surface level) thoughts with.  Fortunately for me, I “came of age” in the time of live journal and myspace and oh man, I typed the sh*t outta my feelings!  I wrote (I don’t think there was the term “blog” yet) all of my angst out at my computer and it was the most cathartic thing any middle class teenager who didn’t drink or do drugs could experience.  I miss those days, when only your good friends cared enough to look at what you wrote (when you actually made it public) and employers had no idea what myspace was to do a pre-employment screen.  It now takes restraint to not turn this blog into a mere online diary (I feel as though this post borders on that line, though my goal is to help others more than get any chips off of my shoulders).

What avenues do we have now to address our mental health?  I’m incredibly fortunate to have awesome health benefits through my job.  I’ve got to get my act together and find a new therapist, but I do have a psychiatrist I like so I’m good there.  But for people without health insurance. .  I’ve been to free/low cost clinics and they can be depressing/scary places.  The good therapists cost money.  And most people don’t know that a lot of therapists offer their rates on a sliding scale for cash patients – I had no idea until I interned at counseling office in college.  Of course a therapist isn’t going to go shouting that out to everyone, “Hey!  If you ask, I’ll talk to you about a lower rate!” but it’s an option few people know of.  For people with substance abuse issues, there’s the AA/NA programs, I can’t speak from experience with those but I’ve heard good things.  The part that I like most about those (that I know of) is the sponsor – you have someone, SOMEONE, to talk to – someone who is in the same boat and can relate on a very human level.  There are other support groups as well however that’s intimidating as well.  Admitting you have a problem to a close friend is tough, but a group of strangers??  Or that may be more your comfort level – whatever works for you.  There are even online support groups these days!  Though I would be wary of online trolls. . .

Admitting the problem to others can be even more difficult if you’re one of those people who avoids recognizing that they themselves have a problem.  I just got out of a relationship where I recognized all the signs of mental health issues in my partner so I tried to help, I tried so incredibly hard.  This person even came around to recognize their mental health issue and admit that they wanted help.  However, it took months of instability to finally recognize, then several months more to decide they wanted to get help, and then many months more of continuing to say they were going to get help until finally that never happened and neither of us were going to be happy in the dynamic.  I can completely 100% relate though so although I’m hurt and not happy with them, I’ve been through it and I know it takes time.  I’ve been bipolar for something like 19 years, I didn’t actually get diagnosed until about 8 years ago, I didn’t start taking medication until about 5 years ago, and I haven’t perfected that “cocktail” of pills until about a year and a half ago.  It takes time.  The first step is recognizing there’s something that’s not working right.

I clearly remember when I told my good friend and college roommate that I was diagnosed bipolar some years after we had graduated and settled into adulthood.  I was sitting on her porch and this was something I felt I had to “admit”.  I said, “Hey, umm. . . so I’m bipolar.” and she said “Well yeah, I could have told you that.”  I just stared at her for a minute, she’s always been super blunt and just says whatever is in her mouth at the moment so I was hoping for some sort of follow up.  She explained that when we lived together it would make sense for me to be bipolar because I would spend a couple months napping every minute between classes and forced social activities then every so often there would be a couple weeks of intense activity and poor decision making.  I looked at her in silence for a minute longer then rather loudly said “WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING?????”  If she saw it, and I didn’t, why the hell didn’t she just say something like “Hey, Jess, I think you should see the school psychologist.  You know, just to talk.”  It could have saved me years of anguish.  But, that’s our society.  There’s stigma around mental health.  We can easily say “Hey, your cough doesn’t sound so good, you should get it checked.” but heaven forbid we tell a friend “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve been really avoiding everything for a few months now, is everything ok? Can we talk about anything?  I’m here for you and will always listen.”  That’s nuts.

So though it’s June, I wanted to take a minute to address mental health, a few dates late of its assigned month.  If you haven’t checked in with yourself, take a few minutes to take stock of where your mental hygiene is.  Could you use some freshening up in the mental health department?  Maybe you could reach out to a friend and have a real conversation. Or check out one of those online support groups for whatever has you concerned.  Do you have a friend that you may be worried about?  Check in with them!  Let them know there’s no stigma with mental health for you and that you’re there to listen.  If we all start talking about mental health it won’t be so shrouded in secrets.

 

New Moon in Gemini, and Other Hippie Things

For my best friend’s 30th birthday last year we trekked to Cassadaga, somewhere between Orlando and Daytona, for a fun day at a spiritualist camp.  Since high school I’ve been interested in studies of astrology, chakras, spiritualism, and general hippie ramblings mostly thanks to 90’s classic, The Craft.  I also happened to go to high school directly across from my town’s super awesome “store for conscious living” which was my haven.  I read about astrology, auras, crystals, and how to find my one true love based on this or that crazy idea (I was a teenager, you judgers) and I smelled like 10 different kinds of incense by the time I came home.  I loved it.

While in Cassadaga I visited a spiritualist medium just for funsies who talked to my dad and told me a bunch of stuff that’s partially general and partially really weirdly specific and related directly to my dad (he mentioned a Rick and a speed boat which made no sense to me at the time then when I asked my mom she said he and his buddy Rick – before I was alive – did indeed go out on a speed boat, among other super weirdly specific things) and he said I had a strong spiritual connection that I should explore, even going so far as to say I should look into joining a spiritualist community local to where I am.  I did indeed go to a spiritualist church after that, once.  It was horrible.  Never again.

That was a long intro for a very short actual point.  I have a friend who is big into this kind of thing and I saw her post an article on the new moon in Gemini and how it’s bringing us out of the retrograde that’s been stirring up the past and releasing it.  I read it and it was one of those times where you’re talking to the article all “Yeah!  That DID happen!  Yeah!  I totally DO feel that way!” whether it’s just a general article everyone can relate to or it’s really spelled out in the stars, I will leave that up to you.

With a new moon you have an opportunity to see what doors you want to open after the ones that have just shut.  I read about rituals where you can set intentions for the time to come (there’s all kinds of moon and star cycles that I can’t keep track of) so that you move forward with focus.  Gemini is the sign of self-expression so according to the internets, now is the time to tell the universe what you want.

I took about an hour to do this tonight because I’ve had this gut feeling lately that my previous relationship fell apart because it was impeding so many things, not just my heart but my path to find my purpose and my HAPPINESS.  The past couple of weeks I’ve spent some time focusing on what I want for myself and I don’t feel so lost any more.  I don’t know 100% who I am or who I want to be, but I feel in my gut that I’m starting on the right path.  I wrote down my intentions, one focusing on giving me the wisdom and the strength to walk away from the WRONG paths (read: I stayed in the wrong relationship for too long, let’s not do that again) and avoid the distractions.

My favorite one that I want to share is this:

To seek, speak, practice, and become my most honest, kind, and genuine self.

To balance the three of those will be a challenge.  I got into a very bad habit of negative thinking and that is a very tough habit to break.  I’m determined and with my intentions set (and written down, FISH BRAIN) I feel confident that the next few months will be awesomely clarifying.

As my mom likes to say:  Everything will be alright in the end.  If it is not alright, it is not the end.