Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Coming Out

So here I am, Self and the Blank Page, fingers nervously typing this: I think it's time to write this down, to deal with the shame and the self-loathing, and turn it around into self-affirming gratitude. This is the story of IT: "IT" is my abstract pronoun, the catch-all for my variety of afflictions. It inhabits capital letters, an impassive, unfeeling monolith. In contrast, "I," or for your sake, "me," which lives in love, in forgiveness, in the shrieks of pleasure coming from my kids right now.

Here it is: I am 37 years old, the Momma of 2, the wife of 1, and I have Bipolar Disorder and an Eating Disorder. Oh yes, and the nasty habit of cutting myself. This is something I've lived with for years and years, and now something my husband and children also live with, though I am happily therapied with the wonderful Dr. B. and on mood stabilizers, atypical anti-psychotics, and sleep inducers. (And am not yet catatonic or the walking zombified.) It has been an agonizing balance for all of us--trying to stay on this side of reason and simultaneously feeling the pull of unreasonability, irrationality, and that cunning vixen, Madness. But this is what I must accept: Life on Life's Terms. An easy cliche, part of the 12 Step Movement, but doesn't it also contain practical truth? I've been running myself ragged and frayed and scattered all these years, trying to "be" part of Normal, wearing the mask, trying to cover all the fractures and splinters with achievement, productivity, and insane, frenetic energy.

There is a price to pay for this madness. It happened the year my son was born, the year I breastfed around the clock (meaning no sleep--very bad for Bipolar), the year I stopped eating and started running 6 miles a day, the year cuts traveled my arms from wrists to elbows. The cost? I wound up in an inpatient psych ward. "You? You?" the shocked, disbelievers asked. "Me, me, me, me," I answered, getting smaller and smaller, embarrassed and ashamed.

What didn't work:

The "Oh Fucking Get a Grip" route (aka pull yourself up by your Saner Sister's Bootstraps).
The "Hide IT and Put On a Brave Face Route" (i.e., snazzy new haircut and fancy stash of Clinique makeup).
The "Get It Over With and Kill Yourself" route (luckily, and I'm learning to say gratefully, I'm still here).
The "Try All the Medications There Are" route (Lithium keeps the freewheeling crazies in check, but not the voice that says die or cut or starve or purge).
The "Rotating Psych Hospital" route (Each had a different philosophy; each failed in its own well-meaning way).

So here I am, trying the "Lay IT on the Line" route. Be honest. Free yourself from shame. Give your kids a Momma they can be proud of. Honest. Deliberate. Not afraid to look IT in the eye.

So I intend to write about what it feels like to be Mad, and in spite of this madness (here you can start singing this to the tune of "Free to Be You and Me,") to also be Momma, to be Me on the Route to Recovery.