Where do I start with this new venture?
Blogging for A Canvas of the Minds is a new venture for me, one of many, but there’s always something new in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way – anything else would get boring, and I can’t stand to be bored. I’m still new to blogging, although I’ve been writing for what seems like forever. I’m still new to bipolar disorder, although I’ve lived with it for probably half of my life or more. I’m still new to being an invited speaker, which is happening more and more with increasing recognition of my research work.
All of these new ventures are exciting, stressful, and slightly bewildering. I’m doing well enough with all of them, but every time I take on something new, there’s a fear of failure to overcome. I have more new beginnings coming up very soon: the transformation from lowly PhD Candidate into validated, graduated Dr. Chickadee; a change in jobs from Research Assistant to Postdoctoral Fellow; a shift in workplaces from my living room to a cubicle in a modern office building set in the middle of a nature sanctuary working with an awesome organization that I’m very excited to be joining.
It’s simultaneously terrifying and thrilling to look forward to these changes. I can’t run away from them, so I embrace them. I don’t do anything halfway.
Where were my beginnings?
We’re taught to start a story at the beginning. Much of my mental health history has already been documented. It doesn’t begin to answer the question, though.
I was born in Detroit, so I’m afraid of nothing but myself. I spent my youth in Michigan, a place I dearly love and finally made my peace with having left. I had a wonderful childhood, but then things fell apart, the way they do. As I got older, they fell apart even more. Catholic school led to public school, and public school led to college. At each step, things got better, and they got worse. Middle school was a train wreck, and while high school was a little better in some respects, it was also a continual downward spiral in terms of mental health.
In college, everything got much, much worse. I had an inkling of what was wrong – in fact, both of my self-diagnoses were correct – but for many reasons, I slipped through the cracks and continued to slide. And then someone wonderful came along and helped me pick up the pieces. I married him ten years ago next month, and haven’t regretted it for a moment. Most of me has since been mended, but I now understand that my life will always be strained at the seams. I live larger than life, by choice, and that has its consequences.
I now live in The Great State of New York, far away from The City, in a place not so different from my native state. I work and play in an ivory tower, well insulated by snow and hills and academia. Importantly, I’m also close enough to mountains that I can easily escape when the zombie apocalypse begins. Better yet, I can flee to the wilderness when everything else closes in, which is important to me.
What else can I say about where I came from? Oh yeah. My family is totally nuts, through and through. Not just in terms of drama, but also genetically. I didn’t realize how weird they were until I met my husband’s salt-of-the-earth family. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
Where does my condition end, and I begin?
This is a pretty philosophical question. It’s along the lines of “do I have bipolar disorder, or am I bipolar?” and people get pretty bi-polarized over that topic. Pun intended, of course. It’s the topic of this month’s Let’s Talk About discussion on Labels are for Jelly Jars. I’ve already posted on that topic over on my own blog, and I guess I swing both ways on that question.
I began long before the bipolar did, and depression preceded bipolar as well. So there was a me before there was a bipolar me. I didn’t even make it out of my teens before mania rang my doorbell and blew the roof off. Before long, the “normal” years will be just 1/3 of my lifespan, and continually shrinking. I do remember what things were like before then, but mourning the loss of that version of me would be like mourning the childhood that we all have to release eventually: pointless.
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how my condition affects me, my thinking, and my life. I think that’s only natural at this point, since I’ve only been living with the bipolar diagnosis for only a few months at this point. Just months? Really? It feels like years or decades already. Coming to understand myself through this lens has been so consuming.
So I’m still learning about the line between me and bipolar, how fine or fuzzy or hard it is, whether I have to toe it, walk it, or cross it. I’ve come to grips with the fact that it’s a bottom line but also a line in the sand, constantly shifting and blurring. Bipolar disorder is teaching me to accept uncertainty. I’m a better person for that.
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