What do you do when….?
You have an okay Sunday. You call on your inner adult enough to help a friend out. You have a great weights workout to help with your sense of inner/outer strength and self-efficacy. When even tiny silly things work out okay like your favorite team winning its game and the weather is reasonably comfortable. When you sleep eight hours and use your C-Pap machine and don’t need extra medication to sleep. What do you do when all of this happens and then Monday…
You struggle to get out of bed. You’re not thinking of anything sad. You’re not re-playing traumas in your head. But you’re dragging anyway. You tell yourself that you are going to get out there and go for a jog. You drink your glass of whey protein only to realize that you’re going to have to downgrade the jog to a brisk walk. And then you realize you have to downgrade again. You tell yourself kindly, “It’s okay buddy, we can have a stroll today. Think of it as movement not a workout.” Then half a block into your stroll you realize that you’re dizzy. That you’re so sleepy that you can’t take another step. You downgrade again. You tell yourself “Hey, it’s okay–you’re working earlier hours today and you can try again at 6.” You go back to your apartment.
Maybe I did what I was supposed to do. Or I did my best anyway. For the past 2 1/2 days I have been doing my best to have the adult lead the way. And it’s working in one sense: I have not felt like disintegrating. But the part that’s disappointing is that I’m also not feeling….alive. I’m not numb but I’m not excited about anything. My heart is there but it doesn’t feel quite as big. It’s not as raw but it’s not as sensitive. My senses don’t overwhelm me but neither does anything taste, smell or look that remarkable. I don’t feel suicidal but I don’t feel fun or playful. I feel more black-and-white than color. I realize that lately I tend to live in bright colorful rainbows or, conversely and more frequently, in dark, silent rooms.
Though I’m not bipolar I think I understand it as well as one can without having it. In some ways what I experience internally is a rapidly shifting cycle of ups and downs: moments where I feel thrilled and full of love and then moments when I feel deep shame and detachment and fear. Even though it can feel awful and create a sense of chaos for myself and those around me, I understand the resistance to treatment. The person with bipolar gets the medication and finds themselves living in the middle. I’ve seen it in patients. They are living more within the norms of society (doing well at work, doing okay with their spouse, little to no suicidal ideation) and yet they are missing something. They consciously miss the highs and–maybe more unconsciously–miss the lows. They frequently refer to feeling less alive. Maybe they simply need to grow accustomed to seeing life as something that does indeed occur more in that middle. Kind off like a person in recovery needs to learn that life is often quite…boring. They have to learn to see the beauty of a sunset because compared to the rush of heroin a sunset is nothing.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it. Perhaps all that is occurring is a realization that my adult is also really struggling as well. And now that his energy is focused on placing boundaries on the kid he is…tired. Kind of like a new parent tending to their crying infant in the middle of the night. You put the infant back to sleep in the crib but you are exhausted and perhaps slightly resentful. So, I try to be kind. I try to say sweet things to the kid. But there is a small part of me that is bummed that I’m too tired to exercise. Too tired to talk.
I’m not excited by anything right now. I’m not numb but I’m not excited either. I’m sad and tired but I’m not….suicidal. I still feel the physical sensation of emotional pain in my chest but it’s not telling me I’m going to die. I’m not laughing or feeling joy but my tears aren’t the kind that make me feel like I’m disintegrating. I don’t feel much like reaching out but I don’t feel like doing so threatens my existence. It’s the middle. Or rather, below the middle but not the bottom. It’s almost as if putting the kid to sleep in his crib finally gave me enough peace to realize…I’m kinda depressed. When the drama gets removed I’m still left with a sort of low-grade depression. Tired. Lethargic. I think it felt cozy the last couple of days because I could go with it. Rest. Read. Live slowly. And today I have to go back to work. Hopefully find a way to exercise later if I can lose my dizziness.
My sister and my father asked me yesterday if I was okay. It’s funny because I have been suffering so greatly for months and they never noticed it. Now that I’m sort of “meh” they noticed something. Why? Maybe because I pet the dog nicely but didn’t use my sweet excited child voice with him (I couldn’t find it). Maybe because I looked a bit like I was going through the motions but was still talking and responding. Maybe because they’re used to me being all the way silent or chatty. Full of life or half-dead. I don’t think they recognize “middle-me” either.
I want to find something positive in this so far….I haven’t created any drama for myself or others for a couple of days. I have been able to get cozy and rest and read. Not because I need to numb but because…it’s mildly enjoyable. Things don’t feel out-of-control. Even this exhaustion, though it sucks, doesn’t feel like dissociation. Perhaps slight detachment but not dissociation. Maybe I just have to get used to this. Maybe there is a way to harness that beautiful child joy and love and innocence in a way that adds color to my life. But for right now…I still don’t exactly know how to do that. So, for right now, I guess I’ll kind of just fake-it-til-I-make-it (as they say).
And if there is a better way…well then has to be put aside as much as the exercise because…I can barely keep my eyelids open.