Hello, Sweden!

Well, shit. I took a lengthy hiatus from this blog for the last few weeks and I feel kinda rotten about it. I’ve been really sick. I had what I suspect was the flu that turned into laryngitis causing me to lose my voice for 4 days. That was not comfortable. I like to talk. I talk a lot. The first day was annoying. The second day was frustrating. The third day became mildly psychedelic because I was completely trapped in my own head and my brain doesn’t like to be bored so she started thinking up wacky things for me to focus on so I wouldn’t go bananas. Things got weird. By the fourth day, I started to like it a little. I was in this Laura bubble and it was kinda turning into a playground. I stated hearing things. When you can’t make any noise, you start to notice that things around you are kind of melodious. I heard the tinkling of piano keys in the sound of rushing water. I heard the percussive textures of my footfalls. When I listened to music, I added my own notes. Bizarre stuff. Had I not been ill, I might’ve enjoyed it more. I have a nice relationship with hallucinogens.

So, I’m pretty much better now and I’m back in the world doing worldly things, which, for me, generally includes politics because the political theatre of my country is basically a show that never stops. I’m inclined to tune in even when shit gets tiresome. For those of you who don’t follow American politics, we’re at the beginning stages of selecting our next president. The campaigns will be going on, ever growing in fervor and diced into soundbites and mini-scandals for approximately the next 19 months. I anticipate weirdness and sometimes with glee.

So, Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont has thrown his hat into the ring, hoping to win the democratic primaries. I’m not gonna get too into my political ideologies, but it’s probably worth mentioning where I lean. My values tie me most closely to socialism but I’m not registered as a member of any party, though I almost always vote Democrat. The Democratic party in the U.S. is not liberal or progressive enough to enact a lot of the changes I’d like to see in my country, but, realistically, it’s probably the best I can hope for.

Recently, Bernie Sanders made some very direct comments about what he thinks the United States can learn from Scandinavian countries in regards to social and fiscal programs that affect the overall wellbeing of the people who live in there. I find myself agreeing with him for the most part. Probably because, over the years, I’ve put Sweden on this pedestal, believing it to be a socialist haven where I could see myself being comfortable and happy. It occurs to me that I may have some serious blind spots here, because Sweden is not a utopia and I know that. But in a society where Creationists head my congress’ science committee and where political discourse boils down to: pick a team or forfeit your voice, a life in a well-oiled, left-leaning country looks pretty rosy. (Any Swedes out there who want to school me on their county’s political system are welcome and encouraged to do so. Those blind spots gotta get fixed somehow.)

So, yeah, dreaming of a life in Sweden. There are about 90 things that would potentially prevent me from moving to another part of the world even if I really wanted to. Maybe in 10 years. Maybe in 20. I don’t know. But the thing that does truly frighten me about emigrating is my worry that I might not be able to maintain stability concerning my mental health. This is a little counterintuitive considering how many countries, including Sweden, have healthcare systems that make the one in my country look like the joke that it is. But it plays out like this:

How do I get my meds? How do I make sure I stay on the same meds I’m on now which seem to be working? How do I find a psychiatrist who can truly help me? How do I find a therapist who will keep me on track? How hard will it be to start over with a new therapist after having made close to 8 years of progress with my current doctor? What does mental health stigma look like in other parts of the world? How long of a gap in treatment will I have to endure during a massive life change? What will that gap do to me? Do I have it in me to deal with the inevitable stressors of an international move? 

Some of these questions are just stupid worries I have because I tend to worry stupidly. They have psych meds in Sweden. They’re probably not super hard to get if I really need them, which I do. They also have therapists and doctors. I wouldn’t hold a country in such high esteem if I thought its healthcare system was too inadequate to deal with me. Theoretically, my experience there could actually be better than the one I’m having here, but the reason my American healthcare is so precious to me is partly because I’ve learned how to work it and partly because I can afford to pay for things that are genuinely effective.

I’m afraid of change, but I’m more afraid of stagnation. That’s a tricky one. But bipolar disorder is not an illness with borders. I knew that before I started this blog, but I’ve been able to see it firsthand, as so many of you who share your experiences with me and who come here to read what I have to say don’t live in the U.S. You’re not dead. That’s a good sign. People with bipolar can and do move all over the globe.

So, I’m sitting here thinking about this and realizing more and more that the shit that’s preventing me from having the confidence to make a leap all the way across the pond is coming from me, not from my destination. But after having worked so many years to get myself to the place I’m at today, I feel sort of bound to stay the course. Sometimes I feel almost literally chained to my own wellness, which, in turn, is chained to a system that I can navigate, even though I know it’s flawed very deeply. I’m entertaining concrete fears about a true hypothetical. What does that say about my self-confidence?

It says that it’s shitty. When I was younger, I did do some globe trotting and it didn’t kill me. It was actually pretty great. That should be an encouraging sign, even if it only replicates my worries in miniature. I don’t wanna live here forever. I don’t wanna settle all the way down. I don’t want my creature comforts to overshadow my sense of adventure but it’s so fucking easy to let that happen.

At any rate, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m looking forward to the coming year and a half of campaign insanity that will surely yield some entertaining and face palm inducing rhetoric. It’s gonna be a hilarious nightmare, it always it. It’s nice to have something to depend on.

-LB

Tagged: America, Bernie Sanders, bipolar disorder, change, emigration, flu, healthcare, meds, politics, public health, self-confidence, socialism, stress, Sweden, therapy

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