The transition from hacking bed-lump to fully engaged routine-aphile is a long, slow process. There comes a point about two weeks into a typical bout of bronchitis where I lose all good humor and go limp with despair. The “I’ll never get well—I’m cursed with putrid lungs—Kill me now” kind of despair. All my clothes are sweat through, all my dishes dirty in the sink, and all I want from the grocery store is junk that makes me even more comatose. I’m convinced everyone I know has forgotten I even exist. Even the cats slink away from me and hide in the closet. It’s not a pretty picture. The pity-pot is glued to my ass.
But I knew that phase was coming and watched for it. I knew the chances were good that being sick would trigger bipolar symptoms, which just compounds the fun. I’ve noticed fluttery spasms of anxiety and waves of depression that drift like clouds across the sun. They catch me up short, a completely different experience than the sick-too-long slump. But, so far, I’ve been able to just breathe through all these mental discomforts. As soon as I could, I drove out to the little lake south of town and walked in the warm October sun. Everything looks better with that jewel-blue sky above and the golden slant of light blazing against the wildflowers.
This week I returned to my water aerobics class. The water welcomed me back, as did the folks in class, and even though I’m slow and still hacking, I’m not nearly as weak as I thought I’d be. Then, I sat at the HyVee cafe with my Starbucks skinny latte and wrote. The brain is rusty, and I’m exhausted when I go home, but pulling part of my routine back on feels right, necessary, and as cozy as pulling on my winter fleece.
We all carry unfortunate baggage. I happen to have asthma, allergies and bipolar disorder. They cause disruption. I can guard against infection and monitor my thoughts, but they will still show up. The only real defense I have is in how I respond to their effects. Health lies in how I push against my old reactions and chose something else. Something positive. Something loving. Recovery depends on unloading as much weight from those bags as possible.
So, tomorrow (my birthday!), I’ll greet my friends in the water. I’ll climb into my truck, plug in my earbuds, and head for Des Moines where good coffee, a good movie, and time with my meditation buddies will fill my creative well. The baggage is still there, but I’m carrying it a little easier these days.