I mopped my kitchen floor yesterday morning while the kids were at preschool. The chore has literally been on my to-do list since before Christmas, but I have been too up-and-down and stressed just thinking about getting the mop out. Lately I am feeling “caught up” and calm in my mind and guess what? Mopping suddenly doesn’t seem like such a daunting task.
Mopping the kitchen floor emerged as a metaphor to me as I went back and forth, back and forth with the mop over the slate floor. In my life, now that I am accepting and treating my bipolar disorder, I am noticing the “dirt” in my mind with a clear scope. I realize now that I have to “clean up the messes” that I have lived in for years because of mental illness. The dirt and messes in my head and the dirt and messes in my relationships with other people could use a good cleaning, too.
I am on the road to recovery, and cleaning my living space is suddenly running in tandem with all the work I have done in my head lately. And gosh it feels good. My to-dos don’t seem overwhelming, household chores are coming easier, my kids are less irritating, I am more in-tune with my husband, offering help to others is like gift-giving, and taking care of myself and making good choices in terms of my mental health trumps all.
Next week I am going away for four nights to rest. I am flying to Florida to stay with my aunt and uncle who invited me to come down. Of course, they’d love for the entire family to come, but I know my nerves can’t take flying with two small children at this stage. It’s funny though — in the past, I would have hammered through the stress just to make everyone happy and then ultimately I would have suffered mentally because I took on more than I was capable of handling.
But nope, I am not doing that.
My husband supports my need to take this trip, and I have made arrangements for my kids. I am going alone. My therapist told me a few weeks ago, it’s not my job to make sure everyone understands my every move. No one other than my immediate family and myself need to know the details and reasoning behind this trip.
I was very close to a severe manic episode after coming out of a depression around Christmas. Luckily my doctors and family helped me prevent it from happening and I escaped an episode that could have turned psychotic. In many ways it even forced me to come out of “hiding” about living with bipolar. All of this has been positive. But I am worn out.
So that’s it — my number one goal for going to Florida is: REST.
I am looking forward to spending time with my aunt and uncle, in their 70’s, and who are my Godparents. We’ll play games, I’ll sit on their sun porch, and I’ll go to bed early like they do. I hope to lay on the beach in the sun at least once. I plan to play Bingo with my 93 year-old grandpa who lives in the area during winter months. In addition to resting, spending time with him is important to me. Other than that I simply want to unwind in a place that has a much nicer appeal than a psych ward.
Before I leave for Florida, and now that I have finally mopped my kitchen floor clean, I want to mop up a little more of the madness, that is bipolar, in my life. I have so much to learn as this illness becomes more part of me – as I learn to live with bipolar openly, even if that means it might be triggering until I am comfortable with people knowing. Until I am comfortable answering questions and addressing erratic behaviors of the past when my brain was malfunctioning beyond my control. I need to protect myself as I move forward, especially when others who do not understand mental illness suggest I “suck it up.”
Before my trip, I want to finish reading A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic-Depressive Illness by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman. I want to check-in on some of the bipolar blogs that I’ve become interested in. Then, I want to focus less on all things that pertain to mental illness so I can truly rest and process this new season of my life.
Since I know I won’t entirely be able to sit still in FL, I have a few creative projects, unrelated to mental illness, that I want to immerse myself in for enjoyment. I want to start another book, unrelated to mental illness. I want to put all the submission ideas for my writing on hold in hopes of returning from this trip with a clean slate to organize my thoughts on.
I completely realize that I’ll never entirely mop up all the madness and messes in my life due to mental illness. I’ll never be able to package all that I have been through in a nice, neat box or ever be able to put it on a shelf somewhere outside of myself. Day-by-day I am learning to live with it as part of me.
I won’t live continuously with a clean slate, but I have a new kind of power. By accepting my diagnosis and understanding my triggers and receiving treatment will give me the tools I need so I don’t fall apart in the future at every turn of the corner. The diagnosis is forever and the treatment will be ongoing, but I am stronger knowing this.
I also know: MY MEDICATION IS WORKING.
My writing mentor said to me the last time we met that the farther along I get in living openly with a mental illness, I need to start looking at myself as a survivor instead of a victim. I like that way of thinking. Sadly too many people don’t come out on the other side. In the future, I want to advocate for others struggling with a mental illness.
As I am surviving, the “flight of ideas” aren’t constantly causing racing thoughts in my mind. I am less irritable and feel calmer and am operating with a less sense of urgency about everything in my life. I don’t feel so overwhelmed at even the smallest tasks like going to the grocery store. I had no idea life could take on this kind of pace. Even mopping the kitchen floor doesn’t seem chaotic.
When I get back from my trip, I will resume my regularly scheduled life with my wonderful hubby and super cool kids. At the end of the month, I’ll see my psychiatrist, go to therapy, have a procedure done at the dentist that was most likely anxiety induced, get a massage, keep running, and start a new yoga class.
No doubt, the floors will get dirty again, but I know I can handle it in a way that I wasn’t capable of doing in the past.
Thank goodness I finally picked up the mop yesterday.