Since I busted my way into the nuthouse in early April, I've been determined to lead with gratitude that I made it out of my latest mental health crisis alive (as well as the many that came before!) & that I have the resources & support system to continue to make it, (hopefully) recover, (hopefully) thrive. I'm meeting with my therapist TT (on video call, of course!) once a week & I'm eating dinner with my parents every other night. I'm pouring the majority of my emotional energy into writing & collages, thinking & tinkering & as often as needed, I'm pointing my face forward--in meditation, in reading, in hope. Here's another silly-headed attempt to take back #blessed.
But even as I put my shoulder into it, this leaning forward is weighed down; piling on top of normal life is the shock & confusion of my new diagnosis, the daily management of my treatment plan, the heartache of my wife leaving me because of my mental illness, & the stress of the divorce transition, all wrapped in the suffocating bow of life in the days of COVID-19. The symptoms of my disorder, quite frankly, are bleeding into my emotional pain--hallucinations of better times, paranoia with what's left behind, stressful delusions of the reality I'm currently in.
Like the days following my latest (& one of my worst) episodes, I often find myself shutting down, worried that if I do anything I'll have another outburst & be destructive. The energy I should be reserving for growing within my disorder & processing my pain is being utilized instead in worry, confusion, & other clutter.
During my marriage, my spells would send me into this panic, a fear that I am broken, not made for this world; I held the belief we'd all be better off if I just removed myself, living homeless & alone. In my mind, I was the problem, but as my therapist & I parsed it out today, it is the disorder & the habits that allowed it to fester & multiply that are the real problems.
I would have these fantasies of running off & living in my van, coming north for the summers. I imagined me lugging a small stack of books around, a leash in the other hand, spending the days with my nose in a book, my hands petting my dog, & not a single person being hurt by this monster, me. I had daydreams of getting shot by the police, crashing into ditches, mysterious tumors pulled from neatly cut holes. I had nightmares you won't care much to hear.
This feeling of leaving is an instinct telling me I need to reboot. This feeling of not being built for this world shows the necessity for searching out alternative lifestyles. But as I learned from Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, before I can piece together the right, sustainable lifestyle, I must tear it, my life--its habits & its hopes, its values & its evaluations--down to its core.
The life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia is a decade or two less than average, with similar variants for bipolar diagnoses (9 to 20 years). Sometimes I worry I know too much about the self / my self to be a normal functioning person in this world. I've been lucky enough to guide myself away from suicide, but I'm also aware enough to know I have a battle ahead of me.
If I'm going to find a more sustainable path through life, I must become a new, more focused person on the other side of the mourning, both for the loss of a relationship & the addition of the diagnosis. In order to become this new, more focused person, I must clear the space for myself to grow, to avoid falling back into bad habits--chiefly, my incessant need to control, to plan, to not be alone, to be constantly known.
In therapy today, TT & I formulated a plan for a bit of a sabbatical, stripping responsibility & "storyline fever" (to borrow from David Berman), to clear way for healing & eventual growth. I am taking a month to focus purely on my treatment, focusing on coping skills that heal & nurture--meditating, reading, writing, therapy, exercise, walking, low-stress projects (like yardwork & cooking), rest. I am never going to get better if I keep the same habits, same self as before, & this is our best plan for doing that.
I was behaving like a runner who had suffered an injury, & instead of healing properly, training to return, & implementing new skills, I just got bandaged up & hopped right back into the race. I need to give the meds more time to kick-in. I need to create better habits, prove to myself I can reach some goals, & sew up some gaping wounds. I need to learn to be alone with, connect with, this version of myself, once I build him up again.