So, I decided to take a little break from work around 9am…I worked through the night to prepare materials for a workshop I’m teaching on Tuesday, and then again in Mexico (twice…and in Spanish). I need to get back to grading term papers and exams, because grades are due tomorrow. I got a random inspiration to read my blog, starting from the beginning. Four hours later…
Holy FUCK. What a shit show.
My heart is literally breaking…for myself, which is something that has never happened before. Reading my old posts was like reading another person’s story. I mean, I had the memories, but didn’t share in the deep, debilitating emotions I described. By the end, I found that I was mourning for myself. And the magnitude of suffering that I went through hit me, and forced me to realize how awful of a period it was and that I need to remain active about caring for myself and healing. I’ve been so busy over the last academic year…even though I have made some great strides, I think I could really use some self-love and attention. I still have healing to do. And building, and improving, and thriving.
While I recognized that my thoughts and feelings were enshrouded in depression, I couldn’t help but notice how awful I was…to myself. How many times did I say I was an asshole, or made of suck? Or how engulfed I was in self-hatred and loss and confusion and suffering…and the very real, very serious intent to hurt myself and the sincere wish for death that would have been a relief to the pain I was experiencing. I can’t identify with those feelings now. So much has changed.
Really, the most significant (or, perhaps, noticeable?) changes and improvements have occurred in just the last 3 or 4 months. That’s crazy when I think about it. Although my mood improved substantially in October, I was so overwhelmed with work that it was all consuming, leaving little time for myself. This semester has been better, but not by a whole lot. I suppose I succeeded in one goal last fall: finding confidence that I can accomplish things again. When I think back to last summer, and the cognitive deficits that plagued me, I shudder. I remember the fear I felt that I wouldn’t recover. That I would have to change all of my life goals because my brain had simply shut down.
I think the benefits and changes I’ve experienced recently have a lot to do with a conscious decision to focus on myself and creating a healthy life. I realized that going out and partying until the wee hours didn’t serve me well, neither the amount of alcohol consumed, nor the recovery period that prevented me from achieving other goals. I’ve done very little of that in the last few months, instead electing to stay in and do things that are more substantive or have longer term benefits. It’s can be as simple as taking care of my home and my animals, and giving myself space and time to pursue personal interests. I’ve also been connecting, meaningfully, with friends. Interestingly, I have even found enjoyment living in this city, which is something I never thought would happen.
I signed myself off of online dating. Honestly, I got bored with the whole thing, and I also realized that I don’t want to find people to date. I’m perfectly okay being on my own and focusing on myself. In fact, I prefer it. For a long time, that preference arose out of a feeling of repulsion about relationships, largely due to my last experience (good GOD!). Now, I’m not repulsed by the idea. I’m more focused on creating a healthier, happier self that is prepared to accept something more substantive. When it comes, it will come. Meanwhile, I have a life to live.
I’ve come to a place of acceptance, but not complacency, about my body and fitness, and am working toward lifestyle changes, like eating healthier in general and being active. My expectations for weight loss have changed, so that I will work at it in moderation, which I think will go a long way toward facilitating my success.
I discovered, in therapy, how my expectations of myself lead me to self-destruct in many cases. In fact, reflecting on the past year or two, I can clearly identify some of the self-imposed expectations I didn’t meet and link them to my extreme mood and behavior fluctuations. I’ve had to think very carefully about setting appropriate expectations so that I don’t set myself up to fail because that failure leads me to lash out against myself, disregarding or even destroying personal goals I’m trying to achieve.
I’m pleased to have gotten a lot of my life back in order and that I’m still making progress. I still have a box full of unopened mail from 2011-2012, but I’m slowly sorting through it. It’s painful. Not only was the emotional turmoil costly psychologically, but it was literally costly, financially too. I have worked hard to fix my financial situation with a lot of success, and I was even able to save enough money so that I could leave this summer and stay with my aunt in Washington. I am so looking forward to a restorative summer experience in a beautiful, abundant place.
I am in a place of peace with my family, for the most part, although hearing stories of my sister stealing from my grandma, or claiming she’s still sick but treating herself with LSD, ecstasy, and a host of other drugs, still upsets me. I vent about it. And then I try to move on. I can’t fix it. My mother flips out about how awful her boyfriend is (pfft), so I let her vent and listen. It makes me sad. But I have to let it go. I can’t fix it.
I’ve found a comfortable distance from people in my life, whether it be from work or elsewhere, who have inflicted emotional pain on me in the past but who I still need to interact with for one reason or another. For the first time since I moved here, I am not in conflict with, being bullied or threatened by, or feeling afraid or anxious about anyone. Those people with whom I’ve had excruciatingly painful experiences exist only as an incidental part of my life…not as an integral part, as they once were.
I cannot believe how far I’ve come, especially after reading my own blog. The truth is, I still have a ways to go. The beautiful part about that, though, is that I am open to it, and welcoming it. I actually find the possibilities exciting.
I turned 30 this month. I hear that some women cry about this. Not me. I don’t understand what’s worth crying about. I’ve been so happy because I believe that the second third of my life will be what I make of it, rather than being tied up in other people’s problems, or wrapping myself so tightly around other people that I experience my own problems as a result.
I’ve noticed that steadily, my priorities have shifted toward things that will help me grow and be a better person, and away from things that will hurt me or not serve me well. I’ve been setting healthy boundaries for myself, although I could stand to do a better job with my teaching responsibilities. :)
I am able to look to the future with optimism and a deep sense of satisfaction about what will come. I will be focusing on my dissertation beginning in July, and hope to be able to graduate in a year. The post-doctorate possibilities keep coming my way, and I’ve been offered opportunities to take various jobs in Italy, Mexico, Sweden, and various places in the U.S. The greatest realization, though, is that I am going to choose the one that is best for me, in accordance with my values and life goals. I don’t know which option that is yet, or if I’ve even conceived of it. I am in a place where my decisions are based on multiple dimensions and, rather than revolving solely around career opportunities, include things like love, connection, quality of life, hobbies and recreation, and friendship.
I am thankful for who I am, even though I am pained to see the full magnitude of self-criticism and self-defeating behavior that I am capable of. I am satisfied, impressed even, with my recovery and my life choices these days. I still struggle, but I have actively sought out skills to deal with those moments when shame, self-criticism, and self-destruction try to take over. It’s rewarding to observe myself practicing those skills and to see them be effective. It gives me hope for what is to come, for the healing and happiness I may permit myself in my life.
As for being bipolar…honestly, I haven’t thought about it in a while. I suppose I decided to forget about it for now, because I likely won’t get any answers any time soon. My life has been improving so much that I thought maybe I’m not bipolar at all. I question that conclusion now though, after reading my blog. The difference is that I’m not experiencing the resistance, anger, pain, and despair in response to the possibility. It’s a factor that I need to consider when making decisions, but it has lost its centrality in my thinking and in its role in my life as a whole.
Looking at my blog categories, I see that there is not one positively-valenced category. I’m glad to say, this post will have the first. :)