Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

Previously published on my Tumblr page,

When I was looking at my Pandora, it told me that I hadn’t listened to a particular station in 2 weeks. With that, I had something to write about on here.

Sometimes, the passage of time amazes me. Sometimes my childhood seems like just yesterday. I can remember playing outside with my younger brothers in the northern state where we used to live. I can remember the sweet smell of the great outdoors in spring, the dry heat of summer, the buzzing bees that we were so scared of, the rustling wind of fall, and the snowy chill of winter. I was so carefree back then.

Sure, I cried easily and hard about many things, earning me the reproachable nickname “crybaby” by one of my younger brothers, but I don’t remember feeling the deep hurt inside that I would harbor inwardly only a few years later.

Now that I think about it, the onset of my childhood depression started when we left the place where my best friend had taught me to rollerblade, where we’d play with the inedible apples that fell from the tree in the front yard, and where I watched my younger sister be born into the world. That uprooting would result in me being more sheltered and isolated than I’d ever been.

When I look back, though, my depression really can’t be solely blamed on any one thing. Bipolar was already a part of my brain chemistry, it was just waiting for the right conditions under which to reveal itself. There were so many subtle signs of trouble though, all misunderstood or ignored.

Anyway, let’s get back on to how strangely time seems to pass by. It’s hard for me to believe that around 8 years have passed since I lost my brother, that I spent almost 5 years in and out of mental institutions, that I lived in a recovery residence for 3 years, and that I’ve already been at my current job for a little over a year. I’ve paid rent in my “new” apartment since December 2015.

It’s hard to imagine that despite the fact that I can hardly stand to be unoccupied for any length of time now, that before I used to literally spend hours staring at the walls, feeling and thinking nothing. I used to just gaze at the clock, watching time tick by, waiting for predictable events like dinner being served. After dinner I would hurry back upstairs and continue my inactivity. Next, would be the family Bible study where I would just mechanically go through the rituals. Finally, bed, where I would toss and turn for half of the night before falling asleep. (It wasn’t like I’d been doing anything that would make me tired enough to enjoy slumber.)

When I wasn’t a zombie, I was erratic, absurd; an unnatural flurry of speech and activity. Of course, it made no sense, but that’s what bipolar is- meteoric highs and devastating lows. That was my life.

I never thought I would get out. To their credit, my parents tried everything to help me, but none of their actions seemed to have any effect on either one of my extreme states. It would take me moving out entirely before I was able to get the right footing.

Even when I moved out, I really didn’t expect too much positive to happen. I was empty of any goals or dreams, I was really just into the act of survival. I was very emotionally flat and pretty much just did what I could to follow the rules at the recovery residence. Slowly though, as I became more active I was able to come out of the shell that I had formed for myself. I started laughing, feeling feelings, and being more comfortable around people.

Of course, all good things must come to the end. Now that I’ve moved, in some ways, it feels like I was never there. No more “financial consequences” no more “signing in and out” no more “meetings”. My introverted self quickly felt quite at home with my solitude. I’ve managed to maintain some relationships that I had from before, but I really don’t feel a strong connection to the place anymore.

i still see a caseworker because of how high-risk I’d been before, and she’s absolutely fantastic. In many ways, though, I feel like I’m really starting to become a lot more independent. I’m “on my hustle” trying to stretch my resources as far as they’ll go. I’m working hard at class and making a lot of sacrifices so I can devote as much time as possible to it. I’m sticking to my job and trying to give it 100%.

On top of that, I’m just trying to realize who I am. I’ve fully accepted my illness; I’m not going to let anyone convince me not to be med-compliant, especially not if it’s for religious reasons. I know what my body needs and I’m trying to nourish it. I’m trying to eat better and I do yoga stretches multiple times a week.

Sure, sometimes being all about work and school can cause someone to be very lonely. Also, since most of my social outlets have to do with church, and I’m becoming quite “unchurched” I have to summon the courage to check out new groups and whatnot (still working on it). I do have people though that I can reach out and talk to. I’m learning to value the friendships that I do have, and my family (siblings especially, and my nephew). I really do have a great support network.

I guess what the “weird” passage of time has taught me is that my parents were actually right about something- no situation is permanent. A friend from Al-Anon also told me, “You won’t stay on the mountaintop forever, and you won’t be forever in the valley. Everything changes.” I think that’s the most encouraging thing that I really have to hold unto. It’s the thing that’s made the most difference in my life. I might spend literal years in a certain situation, and then what seems like overnight it just changes.

It’s taken a lot to get used to. Just like the happy reminiscences, I have “flashbacks” about some particularly depressing incidents that have occurred in my life. I’ll think of things I’ve done that seemed so totally foreign to my core identity, and I’ll wonder how or why that could’ve happened to me. Sometimes I forget that I’m safe right now, that the past is behind me, that I have a much better handle on my negative impulses than I’ve ever had before.

I think some of the best moments are when I just take it for granted, that I just live life as though I’ve never had any constraints. Those are the moments when I’m just totally focused and enjoying what I do.

So yeah, I think I am “out of the woods” but we’ll just have to see what happens next.


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