Strong, Sober, and Sane. These are the three words that I want to define my path in 2014. Words I’ve been working my way towards—separately—for the past few years, but have been too small of vision, too timid to put them all together into one big AND for myself. I can be all three, all at once. I don’t have to do strong or sober or sane one at a time, piecemeal. That’s for wobbly-kneed wimps.Take today. I signed up for my first Half-Marathon ever. 13.1 miles. Sure, I’ve run 10 miles before, so another 3 miles more doesn’t seem like it should kill me. But I’ve always been pretty tired at the end of 10 miles—on the point of giving up—and the self-talk has been desperate (“Please, please just another fifteen, ten, five feet and I won’t ever make you do this again? Well, maybe in another week, but it’ll be easier next time. I promise!”) But here’s the thing: the fact that I can ever sign up for this race means I’m a radically different person than I was two years ago. I’m strong—and by this I mean my body is come-back-from-the-dead-strong. Once upon a time, I was only living to become weak and weaker still, starving and purging in an attempt to disappear. I wouldn’t feed my body, so my body ate itself. People looked at me and were afraid that I was going to collapse. I was strong then, but strong-willed, stubborn, and irrational. Now, when people look at me, they’re no longer afraid that I’m going to blow over or pass out at the track—except maybe when my face turns bright red from exertion, which I can’t help. I love the feeling when I’m working out with free weights and lifting them over my head, doing barbell curls, and crazy kettlebell, twisty sit-ups, how something hard and tough and unbreakable is growing inside of me. And every now and then that Eating Disordered Self pipes in and says, “You know that weightlifting will increase body weight, don’t you?” And to that I say, “Fuck you!” Because I’d rather be strong than weak, here than dead.
Sober. I’m trying to extend this one beyond just alcohol to a more expansive understanding of the word sobriety. To be sober means to be thoughtful. And this is what I would like to be: a more forward-thinking, more reflective, more thoughtful person. I don’t know if it’s the nature of being Bipolar, but my anger can be volcanic, my emotions run riot—at least when I’m alone or at home. Out in public, I try to keep myself together. I want to be like the women in those commercials that you always see standing in some doorway wearing a long white, flowy gown, hair blowing off their backs, holding onto a mug of tea. They always look calm and content--one foot in the house, the other out on the beach. And it’s early morning, too! That’s what I’d like to aim for—an unruffled demeanor, a quietude, an ability to be present in myself without the need to rush around yapping at everyone else.Sane. What’s the expression? The proof is in the pudding? For the first time, well, in ever, I’m going on a solo vacation! I am finally stable enough in my Bipolar Disorder to be able to venture out on my own for a solo adventure. No overseers. Ahem. Caretakers. Ahem. Companions. Just me on a mini-immersion in February for few days at a Yoga Ashram in the Caribbean. Granted, nobody in the family would have been willing for mandatory 5:30am chanting and yoga classes and vegetarian food (not to mention ixnay on the caffeine and tent sleeping), but to me, this will be heaven! And the only reason I get to do this is because I’ve maintained stability, kept my bearings together, fought IT off, been proactive in seeking out help when I’ve needed it, and kept my recovery front and center. There are weeks when I forget that I was once the women located in an isolation room in the psych unit sleeping on a mattress on the floor, where I once wandered the psych unit so overmedicated I could barely tell you my name, where I was told by a psychiatrist that I was a hopeless case. That was just three years ago. You can read about that woman if you go back to the beginning of this blog—she’s there, and desperate and angry and scared. But I’m not there anymore.
Strong and Sober and Sane. That’s how far I’ve come and it keeps getting better.