The Seven Deadly Sins (ca. 1620) - Envy
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People tend to pick watchwords/words-to-go-by, a word or two to describe the coming year in December/January. I decided on honesty; to be honest to/about myself; and to be honest to/with other people (within reason, of course, sometimes true honesty will get you in trouble, alienate folks, and weaken friendships). And, I will warn you this is a bamble; I’m not sure my self-editor can make this less long and laborious to read.

For example, I have decided to choose my family without regard to marriage and bloodlines. Of my many in-laws, there are 2.5 I will continue to have some sort of relationship with. (.5 is because this individual has lost most of my respect, but circumstances are such that I need to continue to be civil, even if that’s not being completely honest). I’m keeping one cousin and one cousin-law; the rest of the blood-line relatives can go. Of course, I want and would love to keep my cyberverse family, if they’ll have me. I now can honestly say I have a family in a way that was impossible before.

I am honestly honoured by the blog rewards I have received such as the recent the candle lighter award, or the versatile blogger award. But, in my effort to be honest to myself and to others, I need to talk about what happened to me today. I never expected to be nominated for a WEGO blogger award: in 2011, my blog, like my life was in meltdown – virtual manic episodes of blogging to go with the real manic episodes – and health issues weren’t always the focus. As I traveled the cyberverse, I was happier to see how just many of the bloggers I follow were receiving at least one, if not multiple nominations. I was so glad that someone had written their nomination the way the nomination committee wanted them, and they were put on the list of winners. Today, I went to the nomination site, to check and see if all the names I hoped to see where there – and they were. Congratulations to all and I was glad that each blogger’s blog was going to get the respect, traffic, and honours deserved for humor, for information, for inspiration, for honesty, for advocating for others. You are all truly winners!

I know I’ve written about the evil gene that runs in my father’s family; how the gene breeds contempt and smugness, lying, cheating, and stealing. I don’t think I’ve written that in the helix of that DNA is pettiness, envy, and jealously. Today, perhaps feeling vulnerable after my first session with a psychiatrist, I let the gene whisper envy; became the lonely little girl who wasn’t asked to play jump rope and was always picked last for a team; remembered the envy towards those who were always included; who always were part of the game. Once you let part of the evil gene’s helix wrap itself around your thinking, it’s much easier for the darker demons to whisper “Remember, you’ve never been good enough at anything.” Don’t worry; I’ve gotten over the envy and am back to the original emotions of joy, happiness and satisfaction that such special people received the honours they deserved. It always takes a little longer to get over the “never quite good enough” part.

I’ve been reading blogs I wrote earlier this month, blogs about possibilities, taos of crossroads, of new directions, new paths. Yet, as much as I said I would, wearing the proper footgear, with a map and a language guide, take the well-light path; my new journey; my new direction; my new purpose, I’m still sitting on the rock at the crossroads; legs drawn up to my chest; arms holding my legs and myself together. I can see all the paths spread out: the brambly ones where I try to lose old demons and lonely little girl; the sun-dappled one, a bit overgrown, but with the potential for fairy lights. The well-worn, brightly lit path that curves gently and with promise towards a meadow full of wildflowers. Then there’s the dark path, with dead trees and overhanging branches, pools of deep dark water, with only tiny bits of light from a full moon to show the way. There’s another path now too, one that is only a blurry, vague trail, the stumbles over tree roots, the hills to climb shrouded in fog and cold mist; a path with many off-shots and possible dead ends. This path has no easy way back, no map, no trail of breadcrumbs to follow, no landforms to recognize and mark progress by.

You see I realized on Friday (reconfirmed today) that honestly I have only 2 choices right now (no matter how my battle with bipolar 2 goes). I either learn to accept that I’ll never be quite good enough “it” — for the job, the scholarship, the promotion, the team, whatever “it” is. Learn to accept this as part of who I am. Not to embrace it; but to face the fact without the usual crumbling into tears and recriminations. That these feelings of regret, guilt, and failure have always been and will continue to mark my life; are big part of who I am. Accept it this in the same way I accept I will always have chronic pain; I will always have chronic illness. To learn to live with never being quite good enough like I have with my physical (and I hope same day my mental) health issues.

My other option – fight it; to somehow let go what has been my life for 54 years. How do you let go of 54 years of not being quite good enough? How do you become good enough? What do I lack that others, the ones chosen for the team, the ones who get the promotions, who win the scholarships have? How do it get it? I’ve asked folks what it is, what I lack, but the answers vary and I become confused; but often the answer is if you’d been good enough “it” would have happened the way I wanted.

I send pixie dust to folks who I think need some magic and whimsy in their lives. Perhaps I’m hoping that will put some in mine. The trouble is, to fight 54 years of feeling you’re not good enough, you need to be strong; to be stable; to be willing to learn a whole new way of thinking, of being honest with yourself. You have to send a lot of pixie dust (sorry to the folks I owe a package of magic and whimsy; I will get my interest in doing things back.)

Folks with bipolar 2 are chronically depressed, and their manic episodes are often mixed meaning that they are depressed, irritable, and mad at the same time, but there is never the high of bipolar 1; never the feeling of power, of happiness, or control. The depression gets worse (ironically, antidepressants often don’t work for bipolar 2 folks). There are some shopping hazards (luckily mine is mostly limited to going slightly over budget with craft supplies and jewelry from dollar and discount stores being the worst culprits (4 boxes craft supplies I am donating to an art therapy program at a local woman’s shelter), but not to the level that bipolar 1 can reach. There are mental health issues on both sides of my family; uncles in my Dad’s family who were considered “off” before diagnosis like bipolar were made; my mother’s chronic depression (never acknowledged) made worse by the aftermath of the stroke and her deepening dementia.

I don’t know yet how much of my chronic depression is tied to being bipolar 2 (official mental health professional diagnosis yesterday, in case you’ve been following my trying to navigate the mental health care system). We (the doctor and I) are going to try the medication route for a month and see how I feel – will I feel less depressed (I’m pretty much rock bottom now, but antidepressants don’t work well with bipolar 2 folks). Will I feel stable; stronger; less vulnerable and always on the verge of breaking into tears? Will finally being treated for the bipolar 2 “disease” (not just the chronic depression) that has haunted my life give me the strength to do battle with the “not quite good enough?”

Trouble is, my next appointment is in a month – to see how the meds are doing, although I can call her office and leave a message, or call her cell if the meds are troublesome. We’re increasing my day meds (which might help with the depression) and changing up my night meds (so sleeping and tiredness will probably become an issue again. The stuff I was on would knock me out for 5 hours at a time, though my body slowly adjusted to it, and I did walk up during the night. I tended to have a 2 hour+ nap between hubby leaving between 7:30 and 8:00 and at least 10 o’clock (or later).

I had written that I would no longer go down that dark path; that I would leave the evil genes and evil spirits behind. That the dark side was something folks didn’t want to hear about. Not that I believe blogs always have to be upbeat, inspirational, creative, informative or funny – they can be true to the situation, especially when you are dealing with chronic illness(es) and chronic pain – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But even in the sometimes bitter, sometimes hard truth about fibromyalgia, ME, chronic pain, and other chronic illnesses, there is information, inspiration, laughter and gentle hugs.

But, if I’m going to be honest, blogging about my struggles with bipolar 2, how it explains the past and the present, means I will have to journey down that dark road at times. In addition, there is the foggy one; the one I think that will help me chose resistance or acceptance – I know something awaits me, though I can’t be sure of what.

I don’t know if or when I’ll have another manic episode. If it will be a mini-meltdown that a few tears and a determined trip to the trendy town I do my grocery shopping in will resolve, or if it will be a major one, landing me in a facility with a psychiatric ER and intake ward. Maybe the meds will do it? So, what direction do I take? Acceptance or resistance? Am I strong enough and stable enough to resist? Will I ever be? Is acceptance the easy way that will help me deal with the stresses of my mental illness, of finding a purpose, of moving on? I have no answers for these questions.

I will continue to give out the candle lighter awards; I still have several people in mind; it makes me feel good to pass it along; I hope it makes the people who receives it feel good too. These are inspiring bloggers; bloggers who, despite whatever chronic illness/chronic pain is part of their lives, still put humour, sense of possibility and perseverance; of creativity and passion into their blogs. They have lit many candles that have shone on the path, like fairy lights, others with these diseases travel.

There was a project I wanted to start: to show case the writing, the creativity, the artistic talent, the inspiration of folks with chronic illnesses/chronic pain display in their blogs. I didn’t know if it would be a website; a multi-author blog with photographs and videos. I thought it would be great if the artists illustrated the writers, and the writers added to the artistic side of things. Prose, poetry, drawings, paintings, masks, collages. Photographs, audio and video, songs, stories, and inspiration sayings. Maybe it would become an e-book, a published book, a DVD, a site that drew together the various folks who blog in the area of chronic illness(es) and chronic pain. So that with one click, you could see the art work of someone like Wendy and Judy; the realistic approach to their illnesses like Mo or sunshine and chaos, the incredible writing of Laurie; the heart-felt poems and blog entries of Tammy. (Not to leave anyone out – just using first samples that come to mind.) That’s just it: the project would make a place where creativity and inspiration overlap in so many different ways and forms. Now I know that it’s not a new idea, it’s been and being done well by sites like Chronic Babe, or the PFAM carnivals. I just thought that there are so many health-based bloggers who have so much to contribute on their own, and in conjunction, partnership, collaboration with other folks facing similar or different challenges. I seems to be the possibilities of collaboration are so many and so powerful.

I would still love to see such a project evolve. But, right now I don’t have the stability or strength to journey down that path, although I can see if faily clearly from my rock. I can’t ask anyone to follow me if I don’t have a map, let alone a plan. I hope perhaps by mentioning what my project idea was (not well described, but I wanted to get it out) that someone else will see it (or some version) as a worthwhile way to further unite the chronic illness(es)/chronic pain communities. I hope that this community will include those with mental health issues, too.

As to my path; I truly don’t know. And that is my honest (to myself and to others) answer. This crossroad is about more that finding a purpose, a path for blogging. It’s about finding a purpose and a path for my life.