In case you missed it, this was the #1 Bipolar Mama post of 2014 . . .
1a: full of cracks or flaws: unsound (they were very crazy, wretched cabins— Charles Dickens) b:crooked, askew
2a: mad, insane (yelling like a crazy man) b(1):impractical (a crazy plan) (2): erratic (crazy drivers) c:being out of the ordinary: unusual (a taste for crazy hats)
3a: distracted with desire or excitement (a thrill-crazy mob) b:absurdly fond:infatuated (he’s crazy about the girl)
c: passionately preoccupied: obsessed (crazy about boats): to an extreme degree
Crazy is as crazy does. Hmmm. This title, this definition, this LABEL adheres with superglue: the kind that rips skin clean off when you try to rid yourself of it. It hurts, hurts so badly that the memory of the last time I tried to pull crazy off my own skin makes me wince, makes me rethink every decision I’m about to make. Why? Because when I stand up for myself, when I branch out, when I muster up the gumption to voice an opinion, chase down a dream, or take a risk, I always—first—must jump off the “what if they label me crazy for this?” ledge. With every step I take, I worry that what would be brave or honorable or just plain cool on a “normal” looks crazy on me.
I have spent a lot of time trying to distance myself from crazy. Crazy can decimate a career, social standing, and relationships faster than any other label. Nothing else puts into question a person’s ability to make sound decisions more than “crazy.” People can sin, earn titles of “drunk,” “addict,” “adulterer,” and still come back. They can make amends for their mistakes, attend AA meetings, attend marriage counseling. But Crazy? Crazy is worse than sin. Crazy stains.
So is it possible to remove this stain? I don’t know. I think small people–the same people who use other labels to dismiss anyone they don’t want to have to listen to– will always be small. There will always be gallons of crazy stain to spread around. And, if continuing to see a psychiatrist and staying on my meds and owning my diagnosis means I must keep this crazy label, then so be it.
But, just because someone can sling crazy at me doesn’t make me so. In fact, I think the great thing about having a mental illness is that I have spent years in therapy learning how not to be crazy. I can’t change my brain chemistry, but I can make sane choices to help my situation. These choices are:
I choose to own my illness, and to seek treatment in every form available to me in order to live as sane a life as possible.
I choose to accept that my illness requires daily attention. There is not a day that I don’t take my medication and my supplements. There is not a day that I am not aware of where my mood is at. There is not a day when I stop paying attention to the thoughts and patterns occurring within my brain. There is not a day when I do not self-examine.
I choose to eat a gluten free diet. Ugh! I cried when I gave up gluten for good! Even though I did not test positive for a gluten allergy, I cannot believe what being completely rid of gluten for the past several years has done for me. I have more energy, more mental clarity, less depressive episodes, than I have ever had. And I also crave sugar much less, even though I didn’t intentionally try to do away with it.
I choose to be as fit as possible while not draining my energy reserves. I have always been more pro-cake than pro-yoga. But I am trying to spend a half an hour a day doing low-impact, low interval exercising. I would love to do an hour of zumba, spinning, or weight training a day. But then I can’t get out of bed! So, I walk, do yoga, do low-impact, light-weight workouts. It’s not macho, but it’s something. And I feel better when I’m done, which is the whole point.
I choose to protect myself from overstimulation. This is a hard one, because I say no to a lot of people and a lot of events in my life. I carefully choose with whom I spend my time, understanding that certain people and groups exact more energy and will leave me feeling depleted. I do not often—if ever—schedule a weekend with more than two social activities. I rarely even schedule a day with more than two events. If I am writing in the afternoons,or having people over for dinner, I keep my mornings simple.
I choose to set aside a day a week to rest. Sundays, as I outlined in my post , Trust Enough to Sabbath, are our rest days. We go to church if I am in a good place and not too tired. We sleep in, take naps, and lounge around the house. I try to avoid cooking elaborate meals or doing chores on Sunday.
I choose to let A LOT go in order to get the rest I need to stay healthy. It is more important for me to be rested than for the house to be clean. Ugh. I take a nap on the weekends and let the back garden go wild. Ugh. It’s more important to not use every last drop of my adrenaline in getting the kids to school on time. We’re late almost every day. Ugh.
I choose to not be a last minute person. I plan a season ahead for birthdays, trips, holidays. I can volunteer for almost anything, help almost anyone, but last minute doesn’t work for me most of the time.
I choose to not engage in issues, groups, and relationships in which the boundaries are not clearly laid out. Being bipolar, I need a lot of boundaries to feel safe. I feel very insecure when I cannot make out clear boundaries. I succeed when I can agree to a black-and-white commitment for a specific time on a specific date. Ongoing commitments with an unknown amount of work and commitment are extremely difficult for me. I usually end up looking like a flaky jerk in these situations, and I hate feeling like a flaky jerk.
I choose to vet people for a long time before I allow them to be close to me. I try to remind myself that if I were my own best friend, I would be protective of my heart. So, I am trying to protect myself by drawing stricter boundaries around myself. It is crazy to show your underwear to a stranger, right? I’m working on keeping my proverbial panties firmly under wraps, something that is unusually difficult for me. Not everyone is meant to be my friend. Ugh.
I choose to protect myself by looking for patterns in my loved ones’ behavior. When I can see a pattern playing out in someone’s life, it is much easier for me to not be bowled over by it. For example, if someone I love always lashes out in a given set of circumstances, I watch for those circumstances to present themselves. If they do, I try to avoid that person while they’re lashing out, attempting to side-step what could be an incredibly hurtful situation for me. If I do get caught up in the drama, it’s easier for me to process if I can see a pattern. I can’t help but feel more deeply than the average girl; I’ve been trying to be less sensitive my whole life to no avail. What would sting a “normal,” stabs me. A girl can only sustain so many stab wounds in a lifetime.
The funny thing about all these choices I make? They’re all healthy, based on reason and good judgment, rational, sensible . . . aren’t they? Funny; that’s the definition of sanity.
Choose to live a good life. Choose to live sane, even if it’s one choice every day, or every other day, or as often as you can.
From one crazy to another,