It’s been awhile since I last wrote to you about some serious stuff.
The seasons have changed, as they do. And so too: my mental health. I’ve begun to expect (or accept) that there will always be ebbs and flows in my life.
In March after a whirlwind of activities, I went on vacation with your daddy. And just when I was supposed to unwind, I started having recurring panic attacks.
There are small tells that give away the condition of my mental health—things I should pay better attention to—but panic attacks are my big tell, my end-of-the-rope-can-no-longer-cope-on-the-path-to-dysfunction tell.
And in the midst of all that, we proceeded with packing up and moving out of our house to put it on the market. I’ll spare you the details of all of this, which we are still sorting through while we live with Lola and Lolopop. Suffice it to say, it’s not been an easy Spring.
I didn’t write about all this at the time, because it’s become the same old story: mania, depression, panic—all forcing me to finally (however late) take care of myself as I should have been doing all along. Reminding me that I have to HAVE TO have to put on my oxygen mask first or else I end up barricaded in my parents’ guest bedroom unable to care for myself or for you kiddos.
Always, new awareness emerges, equipping me to better deal with it next time. And I’m accepting that there will always be a next time—not because I’m complacent or because I’m fatalistic (which I am) but because I’m a perfectionist and until now I wanted so badly to be “cured,” to be done with all that Stuff, to be Fine once again.
But I’m finding that loving and caring for myself is a daily process. I have to wake up every morning and do it all over again or else the tomorrows just get worse and worse (see above: huddling mass in the guest bedroom).
Here are three things I’ve been working on:
Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission (and girl, am I working on this) to rest. Not just at night when you sleep, but as much as you need and however you need. This is no small task for someone like me who is always running my body or my mouth. In my mind, I would rise with the sun and spend the first moments of my day in peaceful meditation. But for me right now, this has involved a lot of HGTV watching. It helps my body and brain to hold still at the very least.
I’ve been keeping a small daily journal where I list in one column the things that have depleted my energies. In the other column I list things that renew my energy. I start my list the night before, looking to the day ahead and what To Do sorts of things are on my agenda. Then I try to plan for something that will recharge me: watching TV, talking a bath, taking a run or a walk. I revisit this list at the end of the day. I add or cross things out based on how the day actually panned out. Did I stick to my plan? Usually not—usually I’ve skimped on the self-care side of the list. And I make a little note about my mood that day. So, I know going into my next day how much recharging I should do and how much draining stuff I shouldn’t do going forward. Sometimes this means the groceries won't get bought, but that's why they make packaged ramen.
My list-making in my little journal helps me to look back on my day and think carefully about the moments in my day that brought me joy, comfort or even just pause—when Danielle forced me to cuddle, but it was so pleasant after all; when I went shopping with my mom which was a taxing activity, but when we reminisced about my crazy grandma, a smile spread across my face. Reframing, I begin to think about what I am grateful for—which always helps one to put one's life into perspective. Making a gratitude list won’t cure my bipolar disorder. I’m always going to be sensitive, a deep-thinker and mostly negative in nature, but this practice helps me to notice the fulfilling parts of my day that I wouldn’t have otherwise acknowledged. Typically, as your daddy gets home from work, I note that “nothing” happened today, even though a million and a half good and bad and neutral things crossed my path.
Am I better? No.
Am I better than last week? Yes.
Will things stay the same? Do they ever?
Do I love you no matter what? Yes!