Frail and Exotic Flower

Frail & Exotic Flower

⊂  ⊃

This is one of the flavors of my depression, feeling translucent and fragile, a melancholy scrim of gossamer floating untethered in the sharp October air.  This is when I yearn for deliverance, rescue, capture by warm and gentle hands.  My weepy mind slides into fantasy to protect itself from the hard edges of the world.  It pulls Heroes around itself like cashmere.  And it tries to sleep.

I am here, now, in this place of soft sorrow.  One eye on the Hero, one eye on the rhythm of the Real.  Train whistles in the distance mourn and warn traffic.  The pumpkin colored oak tree across the street paints across gray canvas and readies for winter.  I am both hibernating in the safe corners of my mind and stepping out to do laundry, meet a friend, have a birthday meal with my sister.  I am both insulated and exposed, denying and tolerating this phase of my bifurcated moon.

But, duality is home to me, my nature, and this season will pass to the next.  All I must do is wait.  In the cashmere and in the banging drum.  Both.  Always both.

Talking to Myself

handmade greeting card, collage artCycling again, and trying to experience it differently (My endless mantra—”Let’s try this…”).  Working with the practices in Radical Acceptance, I breathe and notice how the despair and sorrow feel in my body.  I try to give all that pain room and accept that this is my experience for now.

I’ve done this work before, realized that I feel nothing in the belly when depression is deep, constriction in my chest, constant pressure of tears trying to escape.  The new piece is acceptance and compassion for the whole of my experience—being kind to it all.

It’s too hard to do alone, so I’ll ask my new therapist to help me when I see her on Monday.  I want to run from the pain, numb it however I can, find diversion to keep from noticing it.  And that’s standard psychological practice—when symptoms are too overwhelming, find healthy diversion.  So, I wonder if I’m going too deep, trying to offer space when I should be sitting at the movies being distracted.  I’ve done both this week.

One thing Tara talks about in her book, is compassionate self-talk—telling yourself that you care about the suffering that’s happening.  When I read that passage yesterday, I realized that’s something I’ve done all my life through my stories.

I’ve always been a little embarrassed by my fan fiction.  It’s not considered “real” prose by literary types, just obsessive verbal stalking by lonely fan-girls.  To counteract my shame, I try to write well and develop a solid plot.  I do research and all the other things “real” writers do.  But they still feel like dirty secrets.  I’ve often wondered if my fantasies are pathological, even though every therapist I’ve ever seen says they’re good for me.  I go there, the place in me that holds and generates my stories, when my symptoms swamp me.  I feel ill and desperate when I go to that Haven, so I question whether it’s healthy.

But the stories that spin out are always loving, kind, supportive and validating.  The characters who show up tell me the things I can’t tell myself.  They are the friends who always  have time for me, the lovers who “see all my light, and love my dark.”  They take care of me, which reminds me of what I need to do to take care of myself.

Take the story that followed me around all day yesterday:

Tom HiddlestonI was at a party at Tom Hiddleston’s house with my boyfriend, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Tom hosted the party because Chris Hemsworth and his family were back in town (London) as were Anthony Hopkins and his wife (he lives in the US now).  David Tennant and his wife, and Simon Pegg and his wife, were also there.

These are all characters than have inhabited my Haven before.  It’s an ongoing stream, like real life, where people come and go.  Acquaintances become friends, friends become lovers.  We meet, part, meet again in different circumstances.  What we share and learn about each other carries over to the next scenario.  Sometimes these streams become solid enough to write.  Mostly they just live in my Haven and wait for the next development.

David Tennent, Simon PeggAt this particular party, Tom asked if I would sing for them (I sing a lot in these stories—always beautifully and with stunning effect).  I didn’t want to.  In the story I was sliding into depression and didn’t know some of the people there.  But I agreed anyway.  After singing the Alanis Morissette song “Everything” (which happened to be playing on my iPod), David and Simon wanted to set me up with a music producer they knew.  Their insistence was too much, their enthusiasm pushed me too hard.  I escaped out the front door to the street.  I was overwhelmed, embarrassed, worried that I’d ruined the party, worried that I’d wear out these new friends like I’d worn out everyone else in my life, worried that Benedict would leave me now, and basically felt wretched.

Anthony HopkinsSir Anthony came after me.  I’d never met him before that night, but enjoyed his company at dinner.  He brought a jacket—I’d run out without one—and asked if he could walk with me.  He asked what happened, and I told him.  He asked gentle questions that gave me space.  He talked about his own struggle with alcoholism and depression.  He understood.  He reminded me that my friends’ enthusiasm was just their way of loving me.  We talked about acting, and music, and living fully with mental illness.  He’d seen work I’d done (of course, I act in these stories, too), and said he had a script at home that he wanted to send me. He thought we’d be brilliant in this piece together.

Benedict CumberbatchWhen we went back into the house, Benedict was waiting.  Not worried, just present, ready to provide whatever I needed—comfort, acceptance, steadfastness.  Tom was worried that he’d caused me distress (because I think that’s what Tom Hiddleston would really do).  The rest of the party didn’t pay much attention to Tony and me going out—they had moved on to other conversation and high-energy story-telling.  And I was fine in my vulnerability, cocooned in love.

This story played out all day yesterday.  I was in a lot of distress, and when journaling and movies quit distracting me, the Story would come back and a new piece of comfort and space opened up.

I think I’m done being embarrassed by my stories.  I think I finally understand how important they are to my mental health.  When I need love and acceptance the most, I give it to myself through them.  And, really, I think that’s pretty cool.

I Choose Life

handmade greeting card, collage artComing down from a stretch of mania—that feeling of a greasy rope flying through my hands.  Later I’ll feel the burn, the skin of my palms flayed.  Now it’s just the rope.  Too fast.  No grip.  And the foreknowledge of when the frayed end finally comes—and goes—I’m done.  Then, it’s the limp fall.  Out of control.

I couldn’t go to the hospital today, or yesterday.  I spent all day Friday there, finally realizing I couldn’t help my mom.  She won’t or can’t choose life, says no to food, to therapy, to any action that will move her toward living.  A stubborn non-choosing. I counted off all the ways I’d done what was expected—held vigil for three weeks, cajoled and pleaded, coordinated with my sister, planned to provide care if and when she goes home—trying to be something I’m not, trying one more time to be good enough and worthy.  I was ready with my bag of distractions today, ready to camp out once again after working out at the Y and after meditation group.  But as I fast-walked around the Y track, sliding from mania to depression with the rope smoking my hands, I chose life.

Today, I sucked in the cool air.  I lifted my eyes to the white, cumulus clouds rowing a jewel-blue sky.  I saw a movie, sat journaling at the Hy-Vee cafe with soothing chai tea and kept choosing life.  I’m not done with Mom.  I’ll never be done with Mom.  But I won’t sacrifice myself for her anymore.  No more.

These past few nights, waking up at 2AM, I tried something new.  I laid a quilt under my bedroom window, piled pillows—a poor girl’s zafu—and sat meditation.  I tried to find a different rhythm, tried to let it speak to me instead of chasing or forcing it.  And when the discomfort got too big, when it gripped the place under my left breast, when my brain sighed in sorrow and begged for mercy, then I rested in the Fantasy Man.

He stands in the near distance, his back to me, looking ahead.  Jeans, dark blue dress shirt, dark hair.  Relaxed, but alert.  Hands in his pockets.  Long grass waves against his legs in a silent breeze.  The sky is overcast.  I walk toward him, and that’s enough—to know I will reach him, to see the comfort coming.

Friday night, I dreamed Hugh Jackman was wildly in love with me.  He was ready to leave his wife for me.  And it broke my heart, because what I admire most about him is his devotion to her and his children.  “You can’t do that,” I told him.  “That’s not who you are.”

Broken-hearted.  The core of my bipolar-ness.  I feel the shards rubbing against each other under my breast and fantasize about a heart that is worthy and more than enough.  As my mood shifts this time, I do more than manage, I choose.  On the bed this afternoon with Henry and Emmet close, a breeze slid through the open window.  It slid over my skin like smoke.  It slid me into a place of hearts whole and beating life.

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