A very good friend, who knows me so well, texted me a link to an article earlier. It really spoke to me. All I could text back was that little sobbing emoji.
The article was this and if you are familiar with Glennon Doyle Melton, you are blessed, and also, you are smart (for reading her words).
What stabbed me in my heart when I read it, was this…
“So often, people’s lives are presented to us as before and after stories. It’s always: “Look! My mess is fine because I’m ALL BETTER NOW! Ten steps to FREEDOM! Look at me, I’m FREE!” Sometimes it feels like it’s only okay to talk about your Cinderella story when you’re at the ball. When the tough, ugly parts are over. When everything is shiny and happily ever after, promise!!
But there is no ball. There is no point in which you stop working and just brush your long pretty hair and flit around, untouchable.”
And she’s so right. We want there to be a distinct before and after. I really want this to be the AFTER where I’ve got my act together and I feel great and wonderful all the time. But no.
So I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t been around much for a while. It’s been about a year and a half since the shit hit the fan. It hasn’t been 100% bad ever since then, so don’t misunderstand, but it’s been harder than it’s been in a while. And because I’ve kept it so private, I now remember what it was like before I came out of the bipolar closet. The secrets, having to make excuses, the false sense of shame–but having done nothing wrong.
I was hospitalized shortly after New Year’s Day last year. First time in probably a decade.
Since then, I’ve had to scale back some things in my life that aren’t number one priorities and doing so with out giving much of an explanation…well some people can be real jerks. Which is funny, because I’m sure if I’d been honest it could have been received with an understanding heart. Maybe.
I really wish this was the AFTER. But it’s not. And that’s ok. Because that’s not how it works.
The same friend who sent me the article told me sometimes it’s hard to be brave. And she asked me “What would Glennon do?”
So here I am. Continuing to tell you my story. (Because that’s what Glennon would do).
A couple weeks before Christmas 2013, rats got in my car. Rats. I’m so serious. Like, my car was parked in the garage and overnight they went into the interior of my car and ate the shit out of everything. It was a nightmare. It was disgusting, and you should have seen how upset the guy was at the carwash who had to detail my car. My children ride in this car (it’s a minivan for crying out loud) and there was just a family of rats in there partying and living it up and destroying it. It was disgusting and a total nightmare.
I was already nearing the edge of instability after two deaths in my family, as well as two family friends committing suicide–it was a rough year–and the stress and extremely strong emotions of rats, dirty filthy rats, in my space, just shoved me closer to the brink.
Around the same time as the rats, our six month old puppy, who we thought was a Catahoula-mixed breed, turned a little nasty. Well, quite nasty. He became really aggressive, snapping and snarling, trying to lunge at kids playing in the street when we’d take him on walks. In the end, he tried to go after one of my sons and that was it.
The puppy, who was at least 55 pounds by then, was also showing signs of illness. Just days before New Year’s Eve he had started to lose hair in one section of his back, and had large growths on his front paws. Something was not right. It was all happening so fast, everything was spiraling out of control.
I want to give a disclaimer here when I say: I DID ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I COULD FOR MY ONCE VERY SWEET DOG. So have mercy when you read what happened next.
I researched, called and spoke with many people about options for him. But no one would take him. Apparently no one wants to TAKE a dog. Not when he’s aggressive, and sick. And my husband and I felt it would be irresponsible to give him to a friend or even a stranger, because of his clearly aggressive behavior. I had made an appointment, as a last resort, to take him to the SPCA but they couldn’t take him for ten days. Then, after the incident with my son, the doggy ran out of chances and something had to happen immediately. All answers pointed to one specific shelter, a large, well known shelter here in Houston.
I took him there, he lunged and growled at all the other people and the other dogs. Something that was unlike him just days, barely even weeks earlier.
I loved him, he was mine.
Once it was our turn, the representative told me, in a very dull and matter-of-fact manner, that “He is aggressive, he is sick, he will be euthanized, it’s $50.”
Just like that.
It was devastating. After fighting with the shelter staff, speaking to supervisors, and trying to do right by my dog and right by myself, I knew it was the only option, but more importantly it was (and I still believe it was) the right choice. I cried some real tears that day. The look on that puppy’s face when I left him in the kennel stays with me.
It was definitely a turning point. I remember a little bit about that night, New Year’s Eve, spending time at home with my darling husband. We watched a movie and ate Chinese food. The kids went to bed early. I know I talked to my doctor twice over the next couple of days about the depression that was caving in on me and he sent me to the hospital.
But really, I don’t remember much of anything until January 5th.
I remember I was in a group session, in the hospital, and it was my turn and all I could do was cry about the guilt and how terrible I felt about the boys having a mother in the hospital. (The guilt really sucks).
I hate the hospital, but it’s a good, concentrated time to get my meds right. To get my mood right. And it helped. I was only there for about fours days and could notice a difference and was feeling better, which is amazing–and quick.
Getting out is hard. In my experience, the first day you’re out can be (in it’s own way) as hard as the first day you’re in. (Think about that). My first day out was a disappointingly rough day, mentally. It’s like, you’re feeling some level of “good” but then you get out, and you don’t feel so great all of the sudden. You’ve been in this controlled, secluded environment with priorities and responsibilities directly surrounding your mental health. And now you’re out and the world smacks you in the face. It’s just an adjustment. And that’s ok. Life and mental illness are not solved by a trip to the hospital. Getting out is hard, but oh so good. My husband and children are so beautiful and I loved seeing their perfect faces and hugging their precious necks.
Life moves on. With or with out you, it keeps going. And it was time to re-adjust and take better care of myself. So I had several triggers and shitty things happen, that’s life. Time to adjust, recoup and move on and to be healthy doing it.
I know drinking alcohol is bad for me. Drinking alcohol, especially on a regular basis is about as useful as not taking my meds. (So basically, it’s not useful AT ALL). So I spent every single day of 2014 alcohol free. Much to the surprise, amusement, curiosity and concern of my peers. Hardly anyone knew I was hospitalized, and I kept almost all of these related details private also. Most of my friends didn’t know it had been a wine-and-beer-free-year until the year was already over. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I recommend it.
People sometimes want to know what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. It’s more than depression. It’s more than mania. It’s a lot of things. It’s the little things. It’s the day-to-day things that no one knows about. It’s frustrating at the very least. It’s incredibly inconvenient at the very, very least. It really sucks to be feeling okay and to be loading the groceries into the back of the minivan at Costco and all the sudden feel an overwhelming depression wash over me. And wanting to leave everything I just bought in the shopping cart and drive away as quickly as possible.
But of course I don’t. I trudge on. A lot of days are good, though. No trudging. Some days are joyful and happy and I truly love life. And then, some days, I’m trudging on through the daily task that someone with out bipolar also does, it’s just that I’m doing it with this extra weight.
Some days I feel steady, sturdy, stable. Not up, not down. Just right. And that’s the truth. There’s a lot of days like that, thankfully. Sometimes I don’t even think about it. I’m a person. I’m a woman. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend. I’m me.
It’s hard it is to admit I’m not in a permanent state of AFTER. That everything’s not sunshine and daisies and Cinderella’s happily-ever-after-kind-of-feeling. I wish I could say the world’s most encouraging words, but I don’t have that. What I have is truth and reality. What I do have is the ability to share my story and to have compassion for others and perspective on life and people. I know some days are good and some days are not. I believe that by talking about dark secrets, bad times and by talking about my less than AFTER type of days, I can take away it’s power over me, leaving me victorious.