In the last couple of weeks, and strangely my life usually revolves around events that are tied closely together, I have been given a rare opportunity to see how those that I would call my “inner circle” feel about my being mentally ill. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe any of them are out to hurt me or have me committed to a hospital where I can’t get out. It simply feels like as one person started talking about this disease others have either agreed with other comments or begun feeling more confident to tell me their thoughts on the matter.
I don’t always mind people talking to me about mental illness, even my own. It can be an exercise in learning one’s own effect on their loved ones, or it can be an interesting discussion regarding the many thoughts and opinions those closest to me often are too wary to speak about. I freely admit that there are times when the words of those I love most in this world don’t go to my brain for processing but rather seem to be absorbed by my brain so I can obsess about the opinions of others for days, weeks, months. It’s a hit or miss kind of situation; sometimes what they say makes me think and sometimes what they say make it impossible to think. And if I am truthful with myself, I don’t always know how to react, how I am going to react, and the damage I am going to make up in my mind because I don’t want to hear anything about this disease I am suffering.
Despite the ability that presents itself for me to learn and grow using the comments of others, I am not that sophisticated. Instead I will often turn the words of my love ones into time bombs that literally blow me off course and hurt those I love with the shrapnel from my reaction. And less you believe that this is a normal reaction to someone hearing anything negative about their own selves, let me disabuse you of that notion immediately. My reactions to the comments of others is not healthy and it rarely if ever, fair; not fair to me and most definitely not fair to the ones I love. Some call it constructive criticism; I call it a loss of gravity from the normality of my life that I am trying to obtain.
But those I love are often forced to speak to me in a manner that is uncomfortable, that is savage in my own mind, and often leaves my relationship with the designated whistle-blower in tatters. And while I will admit that my actions and reactions are often completely over the top, it doesn’t give me the right to destroy someone who honestly is trying to point out to me who I am and what I am being. Telling me how I am behaving, the outside looking in point of view, the color of my emotions can’t be easy for anyone especially if they have ever tried to do so in the past.
I wish that I could sit here and type about my resolve to stop hurting others because I don’t want to hear what they are saying. And I really wish, in my reaction – which often lasts weeks or months – I didn’t feel a need not only to prove that whistle-blower wrong but show them they are wrong in the most visceral and oftentimes smug way that I can find. Rather than learning from other’s comments, I will go one of two ways – I will internalize it or I will explode into action like a superhero to prove some point no one needed me to make.
This time the discussions surrounding me were laid down before me to show that for the last couple of years I have been running on empty (my words). This time those that I love are fed up with the constant complaining, the constant need to find any excuse to avoid gifting someone with what they want instead of focusing solely on myself. They are tired of my being sick. They are tired of watching me sit around and wasting what is this period of my life. Even this afternoon my son asked me what was wrong in a way that made me wonder how many times he was forced to ask this question and wait patiently while I either lie to him or simply fold down within myself. My son sees what my husband, my best friend, my mom and even my self-centered father sees. And if that doesn’t bother you, don’t become a parent.
By my nature, I am a selfish person. I like being alone; I like having to answer only to myself, and I like engaging the world only through the screen of my television. I like to eat only a few different foods, I only wear one or two styles of dress, and I am most comfortable in the yesterday’s memories. I am not a social being. I am a selfish being.
My first thought when my posse (I like that word) told me that I needed to change some things in my life because I wasn’t living only seemingly surviving, and that the last two years had been particularly difficult, my first thought was to stand up and scream about how they had no idea what my life is really like. But I didn’t do that. When they were talking about my complaining and not seeming to find any joy, I wanted to scream that I should just leave and save everyone the hassle (think petulant child). I wanted to lash out at every one of them that they didn’t understand, couldn’t understand what I have been going through and where I am. But the truth remains, they may not be able to see what I am dealing with internally but they very much can see and be affected by what I am doing externally.
I didn’t go and rant at those I love. Instead in the last two days I have chosen that other path. The path where I work to show them how wrong they are. And while this will backfire in some way, I have a real desire to at least prove to all of them that I got this; that I am not that poor little diseased girl I imagine they see. I have a need to take all of their thoughts, their suggestions, their plans and fill my life with it all day every day just to prove a point. But what I have learned from past experience is that my plan simply won’t work. I will cause my loved ones pain because they can’t or won’t tell me to get a grip, and I will cause pain to my own self because I can’t sustain any plan for very long.
My inner circle, my posse, would like me to eat better, exercise and basically take better care of myself. Find ways in the day to practice meditation and yoga. To get outside on nice days and walk around my neighborhood. To eat omega-3s because some research shows that these foods will help stabilize my brain (I don’t know where they got this idea so do research before you jump in and change). They literally want me to be healthy because they think ultimately my bi-polar riddled brain will find some surcease.
My first two days of this plan have shown me clearly that I tend to overreact to even the easiest of things. (Maybe that omega stuff is really working) I am skipping meals because I can’t find any omega-3 in corn flakes. I am walking not just once around my neighborhood but over and over again until I have heartburn and just want to throw up. I didn’t just do five yoga poses, I tried to do a thousand. And the meditation didn’t even have a chance of working; not when my brain was drowning out everything but the words, “see I am doing it”. I am conquering what you have said. I am handling it.
But the great truth is I am not handling it. I need to step back and have a plan, put limits on myself, find ways to do what those I love asked without destroying my own path through this. And while it is easy to say this, and even easier to type it, somehow this time I am going to have to find a way to truly find my own peace with my loved one’s words. Because in a month school is out, and there is no way I will take my kids down with me. Not again. I honestly have to try so I don’t hurt my children again. And again.