Treasuring the Rope

Rope 1In a bipolar life, there are days, weeks, sometimes months, where the illness never lets up.  Most of the time, I can ride those long spells.  They’re a fact of my life.  I understand that.  But, I suppose like anyone with a chronic illness, the relentlessness of it sometimes swamps me.  The despair of dealing with the illness combines with the despair it creates.  The extra weight guarantees sinking to the bottom and makes it that much harder to fight my way back to the surface.

I’ve been going through one of those spells—a long season of black.  It’s been a different kind of hard this time without my two water wings of compulsive eating and compulsive spending.  Oh, the compulsions are still there.  I still pace my kitchen like a caged bobcat, opening all the cupboards, the fridge, the pantry, hoping I slipped and brought home something, anything, that will dull the wild scrabbling in my brain.  And even when I’ve budgeted a trip to Des Moines, have cash to pay for a movie and gas, the urge to keep spending is a fish hook under my sternum.  Pulling, pulling always pulling.

This past week my Start With One Serving mantra saved me from getting lost in food, but I still gained a couple of pounds.  Compared to other similar seasons, though, that’s nothing.  And while I’m on the edge of nothing in my checking account, I have enough in my piggy bank at home to get through the month.  Since I paid all my bills, put money in my car fund, and made my planned Visa payment, this, too, is far from the disaster such seasons usually bring.

I’m sure the tension of fighting these old behaviors contributes to the illness itself, but the fight is required if I’m ever to find any freedom.  I know how lucky I am to even have the option of fighting.  I’ve met others like me who don’t, who don’t have an inkling of insight, who are utterly lost in the illness itself.  I understand them.  I am them.  But, I’m also this.

There was one day last week where I thought about surrendering to being lost.  What if I quit fighting and just turned into the crazy cat lady on the corner?  Would that be so bad?  There’s a siren song to mental illness that can be so seductive.  Go to sleep, it says.  I’ll take care of everything.

Emmet AlertBut, after all this time, I recognize that purring song.   It’s part of me, but not all of me.  So, I start looking for joy.  Tiny moments.  Gentle kindnesses.  Things that make me close my eyes in appreciation.  The light on Emmet as he watches the birds.  The silky slide of the water as I swim.  A song on my Pandora station.  A kind note from an almost-friend.  The perfect taste of a vanilla latte with one squirt of raspberry.  The ballet-like fight scenes in Captain America’s new movie.  The wonder of creating an exquisite background paper for a card.  The smell of rain.  A deep breath.  An old feeling of lightness that comes while driving through town in the orange light of dusk.  A chance to listen so someone else in pain.

My friend, Lily, once told me something that has soothed me for years.  Sometimes, all you can do is hang on.  This is true.  Hang on until the season turns.  Hang on because this—whatever it is—won’t last.  Grip the rope and wait.  Most of my life I’ve focused on the tension of waiting, the feeling of not being able to hang on much longer, the sense of fingernails ripping away.  What I’m finding is that it’s even more important to notice how beautiful the rope is and to treasure it.

from my Pandora station

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 08:43:29

    Gosh, I have been in that place, where I’ve pondered just letting go. I’ve been there too often. Sometimes it just feels like to much. However, indeed, hang on, my friend. Please, hang on!

    Love and hugs from Ecuador,


  2. pegoleg
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 09:49:54

    How wonderful that you can make yourself appreciate those little blessings. I think the secret is for all of us to realize that those moments ARE life. That it isn’t possible to be totally happy in life, unless, perhaps, we’re heavily medicated. What we get is moments.

    Keep hanging on to that rope, kiddo. It sounds so very hard, but you’re doing great work.


  3. Littlesundog
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 11:26:27

    You have helped me realize that I cannot be the lady yelling out to you, “Hang on! I’m coming to the rescue!”. Instead, I understand it is more about sounding out, “Hang on!! You have scaled this rope before and clawed your way out – you can do it again!”.

    Animals are great! I’m that “deer lady” at the feed store, and gosh knows when I adopted all of these rescue dogs people gave me the “crazy dog lady” look. Who cares? They soothe my soul… and that’s their gift to me.


  4. Michelle at The Green Study
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 15:46:46

    I’m lost in my own sort of muddle, but hanging on as well – I’ll meet you somewhere in the middle for coffee.


  5. Maggie Wilson
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 06:24:48

    Sandy, I do so appreciate you for what you write here today and in previous posts. It helps me gain insight into the issues that were between me and my ex-husband, who was trying to hang on, too.


    • Sandy Sue
      Apr 21, 2014 @ 13:32:08

      I had no idea, Maggie. Being the spouse of someone with a mental illness has to be the hardest job on earth. I’m sure my ex-husband would agree.


      • Maggie Wilson
        Apr 21, 2014 @ 13:46:45

        Thanks, Sandy. It was tough, especially since I thought that if I held on tight enough, (i.e. love him enough) I could endure the ride. I was not equipped emotionally or intellectually to manage. I brought my own “stuff” and baggage to the mix which did not help matters.

      • Sandy Sue
        Apr 21, 2014 @ 21:13:17

        I think everyone has a steamer trunk they cart around with them.

  6. radiatingblossom
    Apr 21, 2014 @ 17:25:27

    You are an amazing writer Sandy Sue…thank you for sharing, so eloquently, the days of your life.


  7. TamrahJo
    Jun 01, 2014 @ 10:57:59

    Hang on is my second-favorite coping mechanism – my first is, “Well, Yellowstone is going to blow at some point – until that blessed release, find something to keep you entertained…”


    • Sandy Sue
      Jun 01, 2014 @ 13:44:07

      “Blessed Release.” I like that on SOOOO many levels.


      • TamrahJo
        Jun 01, 2014 @ 13:46:22

        I thought you might – there are those who argue my “Yellowstone Coping Mechanism” a dark and ugly thing – I figure, what the Fek? just another way to cheaply get through the day – – my thoughts are free – – LOL

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