Part of my daydreams and thought-processes involve scripts in my head. Movie-type scripts. I am always the central character, though I often mold and change into different personas, usually desirable ones. People in my life are the characters that I converse with and are part of the action. These made-up scripts revolve around me saying all the right things and having the upper-hand and proving a point. These scripts are also do-overs after conversations and social situations that didn’t go well.
The further along I progress on my path to healing and recovery, I wonder — is it normal to cast roles and scripts and have scenarios play out in your brain that always work in your favor? I’ve never really dissected the scripts in my head because “writing” them was commonplace. I guess it’s some sort of coping mechanism. Now that I am aware of it, I decided to write one of the scripts down and tinker with it.
I wrote publicly about living with mental illness last month. My authentic story created a huge splash among my family, friends, acquaintances, and once-removed acquaintances. I felt a huge RELIEF, though I was very nervous about opening myself up for judgement. Since publishing my story, I realize it’s all part of the process. I started slow and talked about mental illness with my family, and now I have sort of just put it out there for the public. No more secrets here.
Being open about living with bipolar is teaching me many things. First, it doesn’t have to define me. I was scared about putting myself out there because I was afraid I would jeopardize my high-functioning, upbeat reputation. Or worse — my competency as a mother would be in question. Neither of those fears came to fruition, and I feel a huge sense of peace inside myself. More confidant about who I am — all of me, not just part of me. More accomplished in terms of personal growth.
Creatively I am still twisting in turning inside myself (better than wrestling with myself, but still uncertain). I am curious to see what this new openness will do to my writing. Which brings me back around to scripts. I think I “wrote” these scripts in my head to deal with the upset feelings I had when conversations didn’t go my way, or I felt like I could have said something differently, or when someone I was in conversation with didn’t respond the way I wanted them to.
Instead of going back and trying to re-talk out my feelings with people, I would just create a script in my head that patched everything up nicely. Particularly these scripts were a product of poor communication with my family. I suppose mostly with my Dad and brothers off the top of my head. And further, with men in general. By creating the scripts in my head I didn’t feel so small and so voiceless as I did when I was overpowered, ill-intentioned or not.
So last week, there I was washing my hair in the shower and I started writing a script between one of my brothers and me. I sort of burned my bra a little. This script made me realize that I’ve carried some resentment about his responses to me over the years, or the way he treated me over the years. The script unfolded with no particular trigger other than his lack of personal response to my public story. Was I let-down that he didn’t call or text me? Was I angry that he wasn’t celebratory with me? Or maybe — did I simply not care?
When I got out of the shower I quickly ran to my computer and wrote the script in a document. It’s the first time I really remember putting an imaginary script to paper. Mostly because I assumed these scripts in my head were all part of normal thought-processes and not a make-believe game I played with myself.
I pounded out the story furiously, but I did something interesting along the way. I changed the details. I made creative decisions about what originally came to mind. The outline of the story and my point was the same. But I made-up a new scenario, names, ages, jobs, time-lapse, etc. It was such a weird thing because the story evolved in a way that didn’t lend itself to anger toward my present-day brother at all. I leant itself to former anger that I never expressed a lonnnnnng time ago.
I later read the “fictitious” story to my husband. He was like, whoa I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t tell him the story was inspired by negative feelings I’ve carried toward my brother.
The story is different from anything I have ever written. Based on a true story? Not really. The story is simply made up of fabrications in my mind based on unexpressed emotions. What a fun realization to have! And what a great way to move forward in a healthy relationship with my brother now that I no longer need to script our conversations ahead of time!
My Dad stopped by yesterday afternoon. It’s the third time I have seen him since I broke down in front of him. I feel strong and empowered around him, though there is a silence between us now. Not an uncomfotable silence. A relaxed silence. A new-found silence that seems strange, but healthy.
I am no longer holding him responsible for his past actions. The past is in the past. My resentment is no longer part of our current relationship. (At least I don’t think it is, hence the weirdness of a new relationship that’s forming).
I am no longer expecting him to speak the scripts I write for him before and after I see him. He never will. He never will.
I am no longer basing my emotional well-being on him. I am a strong person on my way to continued wellness, and though I love that he is in my life and my kids lives and I love him, I don’t need to base so much of my self-worth on his approval.
The kids were watching a show when he arrived, and I was dozing/reading on the couch. I didn’t comb my hair or clean up the kitchen before he got there. I didn’t get off the couch to greet him. I simply smiled and said, “Hey Dad” when he came in. He exchanged pleasantries with the kids and laid down on the other couch and promptly fell asleep until their show was over.
Afterward we went outside and watched the kids ride their scooters. I could see how much joy my Dad got from watching them. My daughter asked for some water, so I went inside and got her some. I got some for my Dad, too. He smiled appreciatively though neither of us said anything.
We engaged in small talk, but I didn’t feel like I was trying to have a scripted conversation with him. I was deeply aware of all of this, and it felt weird not expecting him to follow my script. It felt weird simply saying what I wanted to and not what I thought he wanted me to say. It felt different, this whole not expecting anything from him. I was curious about what he’d say next and interested to hear what he said, but I wasn’t banking on his words to mean anything life-changing.
I didn’t have a dinner plan other than hamburgers. Turns out he brought me a filet minion. I puttered around in the kitchen and let him grill, my kids meandering around us both. I didn’t feel all strung out and crazy as I got out some plates, made a salad and buttered some bread. It was easy. Unscripted. With little effort I wiped off the patio table, got us all drinks and we sat down together. I ate every single bite of that delicious steak he cooked me. Every last bite. And then I sat there with my strange internal feelings, and I smiled to myself.
The night before when he told me he was coming for dinner, I started coaching myself, Be calm, don’t expect him to say anything deep or emotional, be normal, don’t go out of your way to accommodate him, enjoy the kids, be polite but not a doormat.
There were no script for his visit. There was steak.