I don’t think any one enjoys getting older after a certain age. You realize that “adulting” is hard and it really sucks at times, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it.
I recently turned 35. It feels so strange to say (write) that. I don’t know where time went. That “wasted time” fear is a topic for another day though.
I was thinking about who I “used to be” when I was younger. In two ways. Firstly as the person I was who was often the victim of bullying and struggled to socialize and fit in and then as the person who couldn’t get enough of socializing and clubbing and drinking.
I am neither of these people now though.
The first person, that scared kid/pre-teen/teenager – who let everyone walk all over her and was a people pleaser and so shy? I am a much stronger person now and I vocalize my feelings (as best as I can or I write them out) and I am no door mat. I am not shy about having anxiety and depression and bipolar disorder and my experiences with these illnesses. I stand up for myself and I have backbone. I have come a long way since then.
I don’t feel like I am a “loser” who did not feel like life was worth living sometimes. I don’t think I ever really told anyone how I first experienced depression when I was 13 and again 16 and 17 and then tried to shut it off for a couple more years (until it turned into a vicious anxiety). I hated myself so much. I didn’t want to exist. I never wanted to tell my parents this as I never wanted to worry them (and I still don’t) and I don’t often think about those dark times but for some reason lately I just started thinking about the distant past (because I am hardly ever able to stay in the present).
There are people who say they loved high school. I say it was one of the hardest periods of my life. I went to two different high schools and was bullied at each one. I was bullied in elementary school too (two of them). I just attracted bullies with my red frizzy hair, freckles, pale skin and shy disposition. I was an easy target because I did not know how to fight back. I’ve been thinking about how I survived all those bad days at school and I found my people (who are still in my life now). How did I even get through all of that?
Honestly, some of it is a blur. I remember many many pep talks from my Dad and advice from my parents on how to deal with bullies. I remember feeling I was different but never knowing why or understanding how. It didn’t make sense until many years later.
Flash forward to first year university and the me who wanted to party and socialize and drink and go clubbing and dance all the time. What happened to that version of me? I developed anxiety and was medicated briefly but I still wanted to go out and be fun. I don’t know when that changed. I think probably mid-twenties around my bipolar diagnosis. I was enjoying hypomania without realizing what was happening to me. I was not a pleasant person to be around when drinking per se (I was a bit belligerent and not cooperative when it came to leaving places) and I was very flirtatious and knew how to flaunt what I had (when I felt good about myself). Overall, I think I was fun though, and more carefree and spontaneous and easygoing. I miss that part of me.
I was talking to my best friend, Elana yesterday while listening to music and had an urge to go out to a club and dance. I expressed this and she asked me if I was being serious or was it the hypomania talking. I said I was being serious, which I was. I feel like I need to do something to burn off this energy. I want to have an “epic” girls night like we used to. I want to feel fun again.
I explained this and I said “When did I become so conservative?” She responded, “You are not conservative. You’re just conserving your energy.” Brilliant! The perfect response, and I know she is being truthful too because she is always brutally honest with me even if I don’t like it.
I often speak about the “spoon theory” and saving spoons and I tell people to “save their spoons” but I don’t save enough spoons for myself. Elana is right, I am conserving my energy, so that I have at least the minimal spoons I need to function. It’s easy for people to forget I have bipolar disorder when I go to work full-time and have my side business to run. It takes a lot of effort on my part though to do what I do. To be able to function at work and at home. I cook, I bake, I do “normal” household tasks like do the laundry and empty the dishwasher and whatnot.
It takes effort to fight with your brain. It can be your enemy. It can be your friend.
My experience with bipolar disorder is that I sometimes feel too much, I sometimes feel too little. Sometimes I feel nothing at all. Sometimes I just want to feel again. Sometimes I want to scream at everyone to leave me the f*** alone. Sometimes I don’t want to be left alone. Sometimes I feel so loved and wanted. Sometimes I feel useless, like a burden and worthless. Sometimes I know why I am here and what my purpose is. Sometimes I question why I am here at all. And that’s just a glimpse of what goes on in my very busy brain.
One song that really seems to calm me and soothe me is Alex Ebert’s “Truth”. My sister introduced me to this song. If you have never listened to it, listen to it, trust me. It may not be your taste in music but the lyrics are powerful. I’ll share the ones that really get to me:
The truth is that I never shook my shadow
And every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle
Calling out “faker” only get me rattled
Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle
Building your lenses
Digging your trenches
Put me on the front line
Leave me with a dumb mind
With no defenses
But your defenseless
If you can’t stand to feel the pain then you are senselessSince this
I’ve grown up some
Different kind of fighter
And when the darkness come let it inside you
Your darkness is shining
My darkness is shining
Have faith in myself
Every day I am doing battle with my mind. I have really good days, heck I even can have great days, but I admit I always have a “baseline” low level anxiety that lingers. Anxiety can make you forgetful, fearful, feel shocked, feel stunned, feel helpless. But I’m not helpless. Not if I’m able to write this blog and tell all of you about my journey.
I choose to stand to face my anxiety and my depression and hypomania and whatever else bipolar disorder brings with it. I am a different kind of fighter. I let the darkness of depression inside, yes, because I know it will pass, and because the more I fight it off, the worse it will be. I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve come really far. My “darkness” makes me shine because it makes me fight and it makes me strong. I do have faith in myself, and that my friends, is my truth.
Mental health advocate. Blogger. Writer. Creative being. Sensitive soul.
(Also wife, law clerk, social media writer/marketer and book worm).