IntegrationTwo weeks since I returned from my cross-country sojourn, and I still can’t find the words.  But, that’s never stopped me.  Words come.  They tumble down the nerve bundles from brain to fingertip and hit the keyboard all by their lonesome.  My mistake is in thinking I have to go looking for them.

A small part of taking this trip was curiosity.  ArtFest, my destination of record, was a gathering of art journalers.  I’ve tried art journaling in the past, even made my own journals, but it never stuck.  I journal—a fast, Artists Way kind of brain dump that vomits everything onto the page as fast as possible—and I make collage art—a multi-step process that can take days or months.

Could I find a way to combine the two forms?  I went to Port Townsend without a need to make it happen, just a willingness to keep an open mind and play with fun toys.

The question followed me from that creative crucible, down through the Redwoods, and into a conversation with my friend, Robert.  That’s the thing about people of a Buddhist persuasion—if there’s a question lurking in the back of your psyche, they’ll winkle it out of you, one way or the other.

So, in the course of our conversation, I blurted out that my real Work was to Be Me—to be in the world as mindfully as I could, to use all my parts (nefarious, broken or skilled), to accept them all, and just show up.

I almost looked around the coffee shop to see who was talking.  Words tumbled out of my mouth, prompted by nerve bundles attached to a question tucked in my gray matter.  Words I obviously had no control over.  Words that made absolute sense.

Travel Journal CoverI was talking about integration.  And I could feel it happening, like a broken bone knitting together or a spider spinning a fragile web across space.  And as I left Durango, the sensation continued.  I talked to it, held it gently, never pushing or setting expectations.  I wanted to see what it would do, not me.

So, I continued to work in the journal we made at ArtFest, pulling everything about my trip into it, creating something new, something more.  At the same time, I dug out the journals I’d made years ago and wondered what might happen in them.  And I pulled out my SoulCollage© materials, because they were another piece of this emerging creative process.

In a few days, the severe depression that usually peaks this time of year arrived—another part of me accepted and welcomed.  Not that the despair and hopelessness are any easier to ride.  I felt them drain my energy and confidence.  I heard all the old fears and horrors settle into their usual corners.  And as I sobbed with my therapist on Thursday, I also knew the pain and darkness as a valuable part of me.  This, too, Tara Brach might say.

Robin & Albert

I’m comfortable being the brave, battling, Bipolar Bad-Ass.  Proud, even.  But it’s much harder to let others see my seriously brain-sick self.  I feel too vulnerable, too liable to hurt myself or others with my pain, too out of control.  It’s part of the illness to want to hide, to keep the truth of it on a leash, to just wait until the cycle shifts and I can present as more-normal.  Instead, I joined my spiritual study group on Thursday—exhausted, incoherent, weeping—and felt the truth of integration even then.

My showing up touched each of them in different ways.  Etta called it a gift.  Martha said, “We want you with us, no matter what state you’re in.”  Chuck, whose daughter also struggles with BP, wishes what I have for her.

This is the path, then.  To use it all—in the world and in my creative efforts.  No need to look for words or have a plan.  I’ve got everything I need.

28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 13:33:16

    I love that you are figuring out how to just “be” with your different states. I will dance a jig when I start to figure that out! You go you Bipolar Bad-Ass!


  2. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 13:54:36

    🙏🏼❤️👊🏼👍🏼😘 xoxo


  3. Catherine Cheng, MD
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 14:06:31

    Susan Boyle, “Who I Was Born to Be”


  4. Karen
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 15:23:48

    Love you, Sandy!


  5. David Kanigan
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 15:45:02

    You are something special. All this – nefarious, broken or skilled – and so much more.


  6. LindaNoel
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 15:58:29

    THAT is the word for your collage / card creations. They are Integrated within the “picture” itself and they have like little vibrational tendrils that gather unto them/shimmer out of them Stuff that is in me/is me. I am so happy for you, am so lucky to not only have the Etsy/fb connection, but I got to Hug you and eat with you and laugh. So Marvelous!


  7. Carina
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 18:01:49

    Indeed, rest assured in the realization that you have everything you need.


  8. Alice
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 18:06:15

    Integration, whew. My best desired dance partner too!

    (That self-portrait, btw? Is totally fancy, bawdy, fun, and fanciful. L O V E !)


    • Sandy Sue
      May 01, 2016 @ 07:31:32

      Amen, sister.
      That image came out of one of the ArtFest classes. We were told to bring pictures of ourselves, then we made ourselves into Superheroes. I’ve got three more up my sleeve. 🙂


  9. Cheryl LaVille
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 18:18:11

    You have amazed and touched my heart for decades…and continue to do so. Che


  10. Littlesundog
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 21:09:53

    I am your friend for the long haul… stuck like glue to you. 😉


  11. Carolyn Page
    Apr 30, 2016 @ 21:18:32

    Indeed, I agree. Acceptance is the key; for anything! We stop ‘fighting’ then, and in so doing the fear looses its power. So glad you’ve had that break through. And so pleased others understand this, too. We all have our ups and our downs; may be less than a BP Bad-Ass, but, if you can do it that gives a lot of non BP Bad-Asses hope…
    BTW – I love your writing style.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 01, 2016 @ 07:29:24

      Thank you, Carolyn.
      Yes, everyone has ups and downs. And I know it’s difficult for neuro-normals to imagine the difference between that and clinical mental illness. One big difference is anosognosia—the formal medical term for lack of insight. Those of us with severe mental illness can’t see that we’re sick. It’s a biological barrier that most of us can’t break through–or only when symptoms lessen. So, acceptance can be practically impossible. I’m lucky. And I’ve worked hard. And still, that knowing is elusive.


      • Carolyn Page
        May 01, 2016 @ 07:36:20

        Yes, I appreciate what you are saying, Sandy. I knew a woman who, when in the Manic (is that still the correct term?) stage would give away whatever she owned. It would only be later, as she came out of that stage, she would appreciate what she’d done. Whilst in that stage it was difficult to get through to her. Well done to you. It must take absolute vigilance on your behalf.

      • Sandy Sue
        May 01, 2016 @ 07:42:53

        I’ve been that woman! Golly, during one manic phase (gold stars on vocabulary!) I gave away all my art supplies–every scrap.
        Thank you for your kindness and willingness to engage. Your comments are a gift.

  12. pegoleg
    May 05, 2016 @ 14:33:51

    Yeah, yeah, yeah! Here’s to all of you, fractured and integrated – it’s a hell of a package, kiddo. 🙂


  13. donnaanddiablo
    May 09, 2016 @ 08:09:37

    You made me smile, cheer and swallow a tear, all in the scope of one blog post, Sandy. You are a *remarkable*, creative, talented individual and I’m so tickled to have found you here in the ether. Many cheering for you, my dear, and wishing you well on your journey. All the best….


  14. Ellen Hawley
    May 15, 2016 @ 11:45:47



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