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IIdiko NeerI have spent the last few days swallowing the old mantra, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.” I have sang it, spelled it, written it, and tried so damn hard to follow it. I have sat in my favorite chair, laid in my favorite spot on my bed, and sat for hours watching the world outside my windows trying to find a way to keep from finally and completely breaking down. I am working to not buckle under the stress. I am trying not to give in to the thousands fears, depressions, lost hopes, and loathing that comes from buckling under the stress. I am trying to be stronger just one more time.

I often write about stress. Mostly because stress in my little bipolar world can create more problems than can be cured by cute sayings like, “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.” Stress in the world of the mentally ill is as dynamic as the diseases themselves and often more robust than a layman can understand. Stress in the ordinary world is unhealthy, unhelpful, and mostly lingers around moments, days. Stress in the world of mental illness is devastating, illness producing, and ultimately will bring more destruction than one can even articulate. Those of us lucky enough to have a mental illness are intimately familiar with stress; it’s our almost constant companion.

It’s hard to describe stress and all its components in a mentally ill patient to someone who does not have a mental illness. Like almost every aspect of these horrible diseases if you don’t have the damaged brain you can’t understand a dissertation on the subject. It isn’t possible and while I would love to give all you doctors out there a sense of hope that you will one day be able to move enough mountains to see the truth of these diseases, the real truth is that you, and all those around you, will never quite know what it all means. A person walking down the sidewalk, a professor sitting in a classroom, a artist feeling the sun on her face, can’t adequately understand mental illness. Until you have breathed it, felt it, known it, heard it, seen it, feared it, you can’t know. You can’t know.

And because you can’t know the whole, the pieces are even more elusive; if such a thing could be. I sit here day after day trying to explain what I am going through in the hopes that there are those out there desperately trying to figure out how to help someone they love who has these diseases. I keep painting pictures, taking photos, writing books, living my life to help, in the vain hope that there is a cure somewhere down the road. However, the truth that must be acknowledged is there is no cure for mental illness; no one pill, no one shot, no one treatment that will give surcease to the horror that lives within me.

So if I can’t explain my mental illness to you, how am I supposed to explain the intricate and insidious parts of this disease? How am I supposed to convince you that when I talk about stress, I am not talking about the stress that most people feel? How am I supposed to convince you of the fears that live and breathe right in front of my eyes so it sometimes seems that those fears are the only thing alive?  How am I supposed to describe to you the ups and downs, the moments and the seconds, the days and the nights? How do I find someway to talk about this stress not only so you can understand but so I can find a path through it?

This week, although I should say this moment, my stress is a ball of dread about a trip I am about to take that I really don’t want to take, my health and all that my body is not doing right now that it is supposed to, the cleaning, the fun time I am supposed to be having with my children, the new changes such as letting go of some of the people in my life, and probably a hundred other things I will remember the moment I shut down this computer. I don’t know how to describe all that is happening and ultimately I won’t find that path I need through it. How do you describe misery?

To break some of the pieces out, I could talk about my upcoming trip. For me traveling, even to somewhere I really want to go, is like a horror movie that would make Stephen King cringe. I don’t eat much food, mostly because the things that I can easily digest and keep me from being nauseous, aren’t available. I don’t go to the bathroom – I mean I don’t go to the bathroom at all – which leads to devastating stomach aches and trips to the bathroom that last for hours. I once got stuck in a Macy’s bathroom for two and half hours. I am always cold, no matter the weather, so I always look somewhat ridiculous. My husband rarely goes so there is no one to watch me, make sure I don’t say something I am not supposed to, or am doing too much without taking care of myself. Imagine a pleaser, who gets sick just thinking about traveling, actually being in the care of people who don’t know what I am doing by ignoring my own health. And despite the fact the trip coming up is one week, it will take me over a month to recover from the mental and physical damage that I am going to do to the person that I am. “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

My children are out of school but between the stress before this trip and the recovery after this trip, I am going to miss out on so much. My children have been conditioned after this many years with me to understand that I can’t travel well (among other things they have had to learn). My children will completely understand that I need recovery time. My children will give up what they wish to do in the twilight moments of this summer because they know of my misery. I would gladly stop hoping for help with this disease if only my children could be spared any part of it. I would happily give up the rest of my year if somehow my children didn’t have to be “ok” with the world they have been given through me. I would thankfully walk away from it all if I thought that I could live through it. Just to see them know normal. Just to see them know carefree. Just to see them know that their mother was going to be fine. If I could only give them a lasting picture of a healthy, happy mom there isn’t much I wouldn’t give in exchange.

Since I have spent the previous posts talking about the toxic people I am walking away from, or at least attempting to, I won’t talk about it here. But it adds to the stress.

Instead I will sit here, with my music playing, and continue to try and find ways to be healthy and ready for the upcoming upheaval. Instead I am going to get lost in the music of the beautifully lost and searching, and try to find a way to look at the next days not as something to dread but something to enjoy (this won’t actually happen but I believe in positive thinking). Instead of talking about the rest of this stress, I suppose I will instead sit here and hope that I don’t cry.

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