Saturday, October 9, 2010
Stop Living the Stigma - My Story
It's time I face facts. I am mean to myself. Really mean. I have been my whole life. I hate to say it because I do love my mother dearly, but I know a lot of it comes from my upbringing. She was pretty unstable, and very nasty. I grew up feeling like the scum on the bottom of the scum on the bottom of the Earth - sometimes worse.
I never felt like I did anything right. Or just when I thought I did something right, some how it was just wrong enough that it warranted a tongue lashing. I never understood. Even to this day, at 31 years of age, I get tongue lashings over things I do or have done. It's unbearably frustrating.
So that's what I learned. And that's what I have accepted in my life - until now. Because let's be honest, deep down, despite those nagging voices and negative thoughts, I know in my soul that I am doing well. I know I'm not always wrong. I can't always be wrong, right? No. "No, Carrie, you need to give yourself more credit."
Even now as I write this, I feel uneasy. I do not like giving myself credit for good things, or progress, or success. I don't feel worthy. But I'm working really hard to recognize when I do accomplish something. Right now, I'm accomplishing this post, this wide-open-heart post; I'm bearing my soul.
Enter Bipolar Disorder. I was angry at first. Then I thought I accepted it and had it all figured out. Then it took me for a ride. Doctors, endless medication combinations, lost jobs, and a hospitalization. Just for fun, let's throw a relationship in there to see if it can get any more exciting… er, challenging! (Insert sarcasm.)
I still was bringing in money to the household through unemployment, but I was not prepared for the guilt I would feel of not working. Then Disability comes in and I'm ecstatic! But more guilt sets in. Because I'm not a poster child for someone who stays home all day. I don't do the dishes all the time. I'm slow to do laundry. I do not clean. My lifeline is my computer and my friends on Facebook. TV helps sometimes, music also, but I do not leave the house except to go to the corner store for soda. Going to the doctor or counselor is a huge feat for me. It means leaving the house (with real clothes on, not pjs), catching the bus, then catching the train, then walking a few blocks, then waiting in an uncomfortable waiting room, then pouring my heart out to a practical stranger, then leaving feeling wilted and bruised only to have to catch a train and and then a bus home. Then I have to face the rest of the guilty day at home.
I beat myself up something fierce! Oh man. I may have inadvertently been brought up to think the worst of myself, but I was also brought up to be a competent, independent, responsible adult. Leaning on others was not acceptable. Asking for help was unheard of. So to have to accept that I am "unable" to work? Wow, that's a doozy. I still struggle with it after a year of not working. I know the reality of it. I know that the stress becomes too much for me, I fall into a depression or mixed episode and am unreliable and very edgy. But why? Why can't I work? And if I'm not working, shouldn't I be taking care of the house?
My fiance (bless him) finally confessed to me recently that he is jealous that I get to spend my days at home - that he would give anything to have 5 minutes of the peace he sees on my face sometimes. It broke my heart. I feel guilty every minute of every day for being home and not being a functioning member of society. I feel guilty every minute of every day for sitting on my fat ass not cleaning the house, not trying HARDER to get out and make something of myself. Only, I know when I do try harder, I get overwhelmed and fall into an episode again. But I still feel guilty. Something should be different here. Something is not right.
I have no idea how to balance it all. I just don't. I'm trying, and every time I think I'm getting somewhere, another rock hits me in the side of the head and I have to figure out that bump in the road. "That's life?" I don't entirely believe that. I do believe that life can be better than this. I refuse to accept that this is my "fate." I will continue to work on it. I will continue to try to learn what's going to be best for me and all others involved.
But this is why this "movement" is so dear to my heart. I have endless compassion for other people. I can see strength and beauty in them where they cannot. So why can I not extend the same love and compassion to myself? Is it society's demands? Is it a lack of understanding on the part of those who are dear to my heart? Maybe. But I think it also needs to exist within. If we cannot give love to ourselves, who is going to give us love? If we do not find ourselves deserving of the best? How can we ask others to give it to us? How do we know they are giving us what we need, if we ourselves do not know what we need?
I suppose that's my point in the whole matter. I am learning to love myself for who I am. I am learning to love myself despite my illness. I am not bipolar disorder. I am not a weakling. I am strong, and I am capable. I know this at the depths of my being. I can feel it. It is time. It is time to eliminate all the negativity that has plagued me my whole life. What better time than the present to start? What better time than when I'm feeling at my weakest, my most vulnerable? There is only one person in this world who can truly make a difference in my life - and that's me. From where I stand, I have nothing to lose.