There is no “right” road to recovery, and my recovery is not a perfect process. Because I have the propensity to hold myself to impossibly high standards, I always expect that “this” time will be seamless, will not be marred by the potholes and divots of past attempts to get well. Perhaps what I need to rethink is my naïve idealism that there is some “well” to get to—some stable, static destination that equals (for all perpetuity) “better.” That recovery is something to accomplish—as if I’ll be given the gold star of approval if I hold myself to rigid rules and expectations. The achievement-driven part of me wants an A on my Report Card for Mental Health, wants to win the match, sweep all games and sets, 3-Love, wants the accolades and approval that “better” surely promises--Now, Kerry, you are deserving of our love and affection and compassion.
There is no "well," just well-being.
What I need to come to terms with is the plain and honest fact that I will never reach “well.” I am Bipolar; I suffer from cycles of debilitating depression—both of which are being better managed through ECT and therapy and medication. But my brain misfires, is often misaligned, and for better or for worse, this is part and parcel of me. I am tilted at a peculiar angle to the universe, but this angle is what has allowed me to have that slanted double-vision necessary for a writer. No easy surfaces or comforting false sentiment for me. I am wary, suspicious of false fronts, of shallow happiness. Because I am well-practiced at hiding and concealing and adapting, I know not to take the lives of others at face value. Love and happiness require more than the pat, singsong, rhyming Hallmark card consolations and buttressings. Peace and contentment require more than perfect Zen, cross-legged, chai-sipping meditation. A rich, complex life is ultimately one of bipolarity—I move back and forth across the spectrum, from rage to joy, despair to hope. That seesaw reminds me that I am capable of feeling ALL. As Walt Whitman wrote in “Song of Myself,” “I am large. I contain multitudes.”
As my psychiatrist has counseled, I need to start speaking to myself in positive terms, transform negative assumptions into positive, motivating encouragement. My recovery isn’t perfect? I’ve had false starts, haven’t been ready yet to embrace change and hope. How could I, after all, when despair and instability and self-deprecation and self-sneering have been my dogged adversarial companions these 38 years? Change, particularly change that seizes and rests upon hope, that necessitates a new vision for the self, is terrifying. The self is under revision. Re-vision: a new way of seeing myself, of defining myself to myself. Neither crazy nor sane, but compellingly complicated, and worth the time and effort needed to stay alive, to see my life through to its natural end.
And what matters most, right now? That I don’t revert to what is safe, what is comfortable—which are positions of self-blame and self-loathing. Instead, I take a deep breath, steel myself, and take heart—take up my heart which I have for so long left abandoned in the ditch. Take up my heart and take care of myself.