"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalm 18.2

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Bottom End of the Seesaw

Or: My Brain Has A Mind Of Its Own…
Truth in blogging disclaimer: This is a long, rambling post about fun times on the bipolar playground.
Okay, so the voice perched in one ear says, “Retreat! Retreat!” Or, to quote Monty Python, “Run away! Run Away!” This voice warns, “Keep it inside. No one cares and they certainly don’t want to hear about it. Don’t be a bore.”
The other ear is hearing, “It’s okay, you’re just having one of ‘those’ days. All right, maybe a few of ‘those’ days… But this is where you are right now. Allow yourself to experience this time at the bottom end of the seesaw. Writing about it may have cathartic value. Who knows, someone else on the ground end of the seesaw may read this and be comforted in knowing it’s not just them.”
I did warn you.
“Don’t rest on your laurels.” Once upon a time I had laurels. Lots of laurels. There was no time to rest on them because I was always so busy earning new ones, bigger ones, better ones, more impressive ones. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Then one day I realized my laurel-earning days were simply gone. Vanished. Hold on! So what happened to “The sky’s the limit!”, “Of course I can!”,  “Aint no mountain high enough…” sorry, a little Motown slipped in here somehow…
A few days ago I sat in a staff meeting with a room full of movers and shakers, real get-it-doners, and I don’t remember when I have felt so out of place. Their comments and ideas were about what we need to do to bring our church into this millennium. They shared visions for the future and strategies for getting there, and all I could think of was just getting through the meeting without bursting into tears and wailing like a baby. Fortunately I was able to get home before the crying began. And it lasted all afternoon. And all night. All the next day and evening…  Just one of the many pleasures of bipolar disorder.
Please understand, this is not a pity party – trust me, you’d know! I’m just wrestling with this feeling of having been put on the bench, while everyone else is out on the field playing with all their strength and energy and enthusiasm. I used to play. I enjoyed playing. But these days I can’t. (BTW, I am the Queen of Analogies)
Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Ouch! This haunts me. I remember in my glory days judging others because they didn’t strive for perfection. One guy I knew aimed for making “C”s in his college classes. His reasoning was that once he had his degree, it wouldn’t really matter whether he had a 4.0 or a 3.0, so why stress? I was truly horrified; it made me feel physically ill. How could he settle for less than all he could possibly be?
And it made my head spin when someone couldn’t handle more than one appointment per day, and in some cases, only one or two per week! What on earth was their problem?!?!? As shameful as it is to admit, I judged them harshly and dismissed them as silly and inferior. So, in the way that things have of coming back and biting you in the butt, I expect that others are judging me that way now, although I suspect most are kinder than I was. To all the people over the years whom I have judged harshly without knowing the facts of your life, I’m sorry. I know better now.
So this former Martha is now a Mary. (In case you’re not familiar with the reference, read Luke 10:38-41.) I must admit it is taking some getting used to. It’s just natural for me to say, “Sure, I can take care of that,” only to realize later that I can’t. Very frustrating, but I’m now learning to say, “I would love to, however, I’m just not able.” Now that’s a real pride-crusher. It’s much more impressive to step in and save the day, and don’t we love to impress?
How did I move from being SuperWoman to SeclusionWoman? (My friend Tom says that when I’m staying in with blinds closed, not answering the door or the phone, then I’m “in seclusion”. Sounds better than “hiding from the world”.) It could be worse. At least I’m not in the corner of the closet, curled into a fetal position, although I’ve been there. Not a nice place to visit.
Back to how did this happen. My mother warned me many times, “If you keep burning your candle at both ends, eventually you’ll get to the middle. Then what will you do?” I didn’t believe her: I would be SuperWoman forever! Funny how moms have a knack for being right – not sure if I like that or not.
Looking back, now that I know I have bipolar disorder, I can see that I was at the top of the seesaw in those years, in full manic mode. But you know what they say, what goes up must come down? Yeah.
It didn’t happen overnight. I started running out of steam much sooner than I expected to. Then the aches and pains began. BTW, it’s really hard to be SuperWoman when it is soooo painful to fly! Oh yes, let’s not forget the Black Hole. Not the one in outer space. This is the one that the Bible refers to as the “miry clay”. The more you try to drag, crawl, climb your way out, the deeper you sink in. Is it the chronic pain that leads to the chronic depression? Or does the chronic depression cause the chronic pain? Well, either way, it hurts. A lot. And so began the age of The Pit of Despair. Sounds a bit melodramatic, but it is not an exaggeration, I promise.
Fast forward a decade or so: when I got to the point where I couldn’t stop crying for hours, maybe even days on end, I knew I had to have some professional help. Then came the diagnosis. Let me just state for the record: it is freak-out time when you find out that you have a mental illness and that your brain doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. I’ve always thought I had a pretty awesome brain, and I still think that most of the time. It’s just when it doesn’t want to play nice – that’s a problem.
So I’m now about 8 months into drug therapy and psycho-therapy (or maybe I’m just psycho – that’s a joke, you can laugh) and life is good. Until I find myself in a staff meeting surrounded by normal people who can run and play the game and score points for the team… then the seesaw begins to tip downward again. Therapy is great, therapy helps, but the bottom line is this: my brain has a mind of its own.

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