Present Day, November 26, 2017

‘Tis the season.

No time of year is probably more defining of my plunge into mental illness than the holidays. There was a time in my life when I lived for November 1st. When the day after Halloween launched two months of thanksgiving, joy, celebration, and happiness. Don’t get me wrong, there were still the challenges, arguments, and stresses that come with any two month period of life…but they were tempered by decorations, music, and those glorious days off of work.

Now I would describe it as being marked by a huge unknown. The unknown of what emotions will hit me, when they will hit me, and what they will do to my overall psyche.

For example, today was to be decorating day. You know, haul out the holly…deck the halls…stringing up the lights. And it still is. There is a box sitting to my left and three more hours of daylight with which I am to get the outside lights hung. But I simply don’t have it in me. Haven’t all day. Tried Christmas carols playing in the shower. Tried moving around the pieces of a Dickens-like miniature village. Tried looking over wish lists and contemplating Christmas gifts for those I love. None of it works.

Why? I don’t know. I have enjoyed a four-day Thanksgiving break which included quality family time, visits with my out of town children, and lots and lots and lots of rest. The weather is nearly ideal for this time of year. Sunny. 50s. Perfect for walks, taking in fresh air, and avoiding the sedentary indoor trap that can come with the tryptophan coma. Two date nights with my wife in the past week. And the prospects of just four more weeks until a 10 and a half day…yep, 10 and a half day Christmas break!

But still the darkness. The sadness. The loneliness.

I worry about the direction my life is going. The trajectory. On a scale of 1 to 10, the existence of medications has given me a fairly steady and consistent year, but one that I had always described as being about a 4. The last few months, it feels more like a 3.5…maybe a 3. My environment has improved (employment, home life, relationships, etc.), but my emotions seem to continue to slide downhill. Depression has gone from simply the norm, to a deeper and darker daily hole that I have to climb out of each morning simply to manage a shower and climb in my truck in time to arrive at work.

A medication change has been prescribed to attempt to counter this direction, and we will see if it does. Ironically enough, the next 30 days may make it hard to tell. They can be filled with so much happiness while simultaneously serving as such a period of struggle for so many people. Myself included. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while simultaneously being one of the least predictable. Especially with a mind that can do its own thing and turn left right when you are longing for it to turn right.

‘Tis the season. The season of the unknown.

Present Day – Christmas Day, 2016

I don’t want to live this day.

Not…I don’t want to LIVE this day.

I don’t want to live THIS day.

I have almost been out of the hospital for 120 days. Almost four months of medications, therapy, piecing together broken fragments, sleep logs, mood journals, and trying to live a “normal” life. Probably the greatest emphasis of my therapy time and coaching has been learning to live authentically.

My life pattern is not that different than most of the worlds in my opinion. Bury your problems. Cover them up. For many people who do so the embers slowly die out. For others, they eat away in the form of an ulcer, stress, or social dysfunction. For myself, with Bipolar, they simmer. Stir. Await an eruption. A volcano if lucky. A nuclear meltdown if not so much.

So I have been attempting to live authentically. What you see is what you get (within the confines of adult maturity). Keeping it real…as they say.

Christmas is not about that. At least, not in my life. Not where I come from. Not today.

If I were to “keep it real” today, I would stay in bed. Manage periodical trips to the bathroom free of the gaze of others. Pretend that I don’t exist so that I didn’t have to spend too much time dwelling on the reality of truly wishing I didn’t exist. That would be keeping it real.

I don’t want to fake smile my way through greetings and “how are you”s? (Well…not bad for a guy who was hospitalized a few months ago with a full mental breakdown in a land far away)

I don’t want to eat larger quantities of higher quality food than I will feed myself for another 365 days. (sans Thanksgiving and possibly my birthday)

I don’t want to act over the top enthusiastic about the gifts I open as others look on so as to be sure not to hurt the feelings of the ones who gave them. (nevermind the fact that I probably love them but simply don’t succeed at expressing it in the manner they are looking for)

I don’t want to listen to another carol that talks about how much it looks like Christmas (I grew up in the midwest where 60 and sunny as forecast tomorrow does not look like Christmas) or how 2017 will be free of troubles. (which they sang a year ago regarding 2016 and look what a fucked up mess this turned out to be)

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m perfectly fine with the fact that the other handful of adults in the room are making no effort to pick up the wrapping paper, bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen, stop talking over each other, or leave me sitting on the most uncomfortable chair in the house rather than my own damn couch.

And I definitely don’t want to pretend this day can in any way be complete without my birth son and daughter.

Seriously. Honestly. No one wants me to be authentic today! No one wants to deal with the large, white Bipolar elephant man in the room. They want me to be “normal”. Which, ironically enough, means we want the same thing.

But I didn’t get that for Christmas. Maybe next year when rumor has it “all our troubles will be out of sight.”

For some reason, I’m thinking not. Nor wanting to live THIS day.