Cancelled Until Further Notice

handmade card, collage artI know it’s bad when I start canceling.

Responsibility.  Dependability.  Steadfastness.  These are qualities my illness took away.  I’ve never had them, really, just wanted them.  I remember trying to be dependable, trying to be that person others could count on, call on, lean on.  That desire made me sign up, volunteer, make promises, reschedule, say yes, push push push.  But, eventually, the illness cancels everything.

Ask any of my friends.  Ask my family.  Ask the bosses of all the jobs I’ve quit.  Or the clubs, classes, and meetings I’ve missed.  It’s gotten to a point now that even a hint of obligation makes me nervous.  I hold my breath when I write a date in my little day planner.  To be required to be someplace at a specific time on a regular basis is the same as strapping on a vest bomb.  It will go off, I just don’t know when.

When the illness is at its worst, it hits the eject button.  The blast doors open and the vacuum of space sucks everything out of the cargo bay.  Out went my meditation group last night.  And watching Criminal Minds with my friends.  Out went the TOPS Christmas party today.  And out will go anything having to do with other people.

By the time the illness jettisons everything, people have become completely alien.  I can’t speak the language or decipher the signals.  Every encounter feels threatening, dangerous.  I’m exposed, unable to find an acceptable face to wear or words skillful enough to keep a safe distance.

I know these are people I’ve said yes to, made plans with, even fought hard to win back their confidence.  These are people I care about.  It doesn’t matter.  When bipolar disorder seizes the ship, it dumps ballast indiscriminately.  Everything and everyone goes.

What’s left is the cool dark of space.  Unencumbered, weightless, the relief feels vast and soothing.

What I’ve learned over the past few years is that my illness won’t tolerate stress.  I used to think my unreliability was a character defect.  But I see now that it is extreme stress management.  Half measures don’t work.  Socially acceptable techniques fail.  Bipolar disorder demands that I turn off all the lights and shut all the doors.  And if I don’t do it, the illness will do it for me.

So, I cancel.  And I wait.  And if I’m very lucky, the people in my life will wait, too.

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 07:52:11

    I can really relate to this. I swing back and forth — Sometimes I am over-committing, saying yes to everything, showing up on time …. and then others, I literally cancel everything. I don’t know why I ever said yes to things to begin with, I can’t do anything. Luckily, the people in my life do tend to tolerate it most of the time (save for a few snarky commets).


    • Sandy Sue
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 17:04:36

      I understand the snarky comments, and I don’t blame people for being disappointed and let down. I’ve lost friends because of this, and I get it.


  2. Evelyn Atholl Moir
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 08:14:49

    I share your feelings and know too well how confidence can evaporate in an instant. I am always impressed by the many things you achieve and things you do…for me the stress of trying and committing is too much so I do very little, but I have a physical disability to very much slow me down.
    Rest assured Sandy Sue, what ever your fears, you are doing a wonderful job in sharing and educating us with your exceptional skills in understanding your self, and but letting us read your excellent words, we gain so much from you, even when we read about your insecurities. Thank you for being here, and especially being who you are, PRECIOUS & LOVED x


  3. docrob50
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 09:59:55

    I’ll wait.


  4. Kitty
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 10:13:09

    I still have one of the birthday cards you made me up in my kitchen. It’s a quote of Dorothy Parker that says, “Constant use had not worn ragged the fabric of their friendship.” I’m still here. I’ve always been here and I’m not going anywhere. And strangely, I don’t remember you the way you remember you. I remember all the years before we learned the word bipolar… when we worked and played together all the time… and it was so good. I remember trying hard, over-and-over, to find a “shallow” movie and realizing there aren’t any… because we aren’t shallow!

    Remember the time we planned that weekend workshop, sent out our beautiful flyer (complete with pictures of us) and then forgot to put our contact information on the flyer, so nobody signed up. Oops. And then we were so glad, because we had the whole weekend to ourselves and it was good. I really like you. I know from my own experience of depression that you might not be able to hear that right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    Right this moment, I’m doing something you taught me… I’m holding the Space… I’m holding you in love, which you may not be able to feel right now, but it is there just the same. And when you come out of the darkness, which you will, I will still be here. That Dorothy Parker was one smart cookie.

    I hope this doesn’t make you cry. On second thought, maybe I hope it does make you cry… For me, sometimes, when I can finally cry, I start to feel better.


    • Sandy Sue
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 17:01:59

      Thank God for you. I don’t remember anything about that workshop we planned (what a good idea). And did I really tell you about Holding Space? All that is lost from ECT. But you keep those memories for me and remember me back into existence. My magician/sorceress/super Kitty.


  5. bravingbipolar
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 12:37:30

    How true. Beautiful.


  6. pegoleg
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 14:46:46

    Aw, Sandy, keep doing what you can do – your friends know that nobody can ever do better than that.


  7. littlesundog
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 20:20:29

    I am sticking around too.


  8. Jeanne
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 13:08:58

    I completely understand because I’m the same way. About 7 years ago I stopped making social dates because so often I had to cancel them. Social isolation ensued.

    I’ll wait. Never you mind us. Take care of yourself.


  9. ManicMuses
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 04:51:49

    I can completely relate. The day I joined my latest book club, my first thought was, “I wonder how many of these books I won’t read or how many meetings I will miss?” I know drawing the drapes is the only thing you can do sometimes. I’m standing right beside you, pulling on my own blind cord.


  10. piracetam
    Dec 17, 2012 @ 06:47:36

    I love that when we push push push, we expand our comfort zone. Things that used to feel intimidating now are as comfortable as home.


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