A Bipolar Vacation

IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO HANDLE REAL TALK ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS FROM SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS, THIS MAY NOT BE THE BLOG POST FOR YOU. 

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I have not taken a vacation that wasn’t study leave or during a time in which I was still working at Xavier or in the mix of doctoral work for over a year. My vacation began on Christmas Day; we have spent some very nice time with Mimi’s family, both her mother and father’s side, and we’re doing my side’s Christmas celebration tomorrow. I have a wedding on Saturday, but that’s been planned for months and the couple was willing to pay extra, so that was an easy decision. I offer this information to show that I have been trying all I can to step away from working.

I woke up this morning having a panic attack. Last time I had such an attack I didn’t wake up; in fact, I calmed myself down in my sleep and crowed about it when I was conscious. I saw it as a pretty major step forward in living with my condition. Alas, this morning, not asleep but not fully awake, I had another one. Am having another one. Not all panic attacks are the same. This is one that is not triggering the most extreme physical responses, but the sense of dread and anxiety is constant, vacillating from tolerable to sweet-Jesus-there-do-not-exist-enough-blankets-to-pull-over-my-head.

And now our wi-fi is down. This is the proving to be more of a metaphysical issue than it should be, but such is the life of a person with bipolar.

My suite of symptoms is calculatingly complicated. (It includes needing alliteration in my writing, or all will not be well. Seriously. I had to write that first sentence; I hate it, but it has to be there or…well, it just has to be there.) I’ll feel like there’s an itch inside of me I can’t scratch, and no matter how long I spend telling myself that everything is fine, everything most certainly is not fine in the nonconsensual reality in which I often live. Bipolar fucking sucks. What makes it even more maddening is that some of the more disturbing symptoms—a developing palsy; involuntary shudders my grandpa described as “someone walking over your grave”; tactile issues are advancing and are similar to those on the autism spectrum—could easily be from medication. Or it could be something else. Something much more daunting. The weight keeps piling on, and yet I find myself pretty much unable to exercise. I’m trying to work on that, but despite listening to Miss Jackson If You’re Nasty on repeat, I can’t exert control. Is it medication or is it bipolar? Welcome to my chicken and egg.

As of the writing, not the posting obviously, the wi-fi is down, which means that I cannot do the things I need to do in order…wait, the wi-fi is up. Be right back.

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Okay, I’m back and a bit better. I just had to pay some bills–not due for two more days–and make an appointment with a new doctor who specializes is helping manage mental illness-related medications; the appointment was already made with another doctor who is on leave, so I would have been contacted anyway to express a preference, but no. It had to be done now or the itch would just continue to burn and taunt. I also had to send an email apologizing for not emailing back weeks ago, yet this was a professional email that didn’t really require a response. I know this rationally. But the itch is demanding to be scratched. I’ve had to cancel personal plans I was very much looking forward to doing because I fear a more intense panic attack if I do not do what the urges demand.

I’m not addicted to work. I’m really not, but so often what needs to be done in order for me not to feel that I’m trying to cram my big ole body into a onesie made for Peter Dinklage (he may be small, but good God is he gorgeous and a great actor) is work-related. If I don’t just give in and do it, I will not be able to relax. Other things that would usually bring joy suddenly seem like ominous requirements for which I am woefully insufficient to complete. I have fretted for 36 hours over a routine phone call, but have no problem speaking in front of hundreds of people on very short notice.

Let’s take a break, shall we:

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I’d like a vacation from bipolar disorder, but that will not happen. So I try to walk the thin line between living with my condition and letting my condition live for me. Posts like this have caused me to be labeled as “erratic and irresponsible,” and frankly I don’t give a flying fuck. I can’t; until someone actually inhabits the mental space I inhabit, and is able to function at a fairly high level as most often do I, I can’t stop talking about my reality. It is part of the itch.

There is just as much art as there is science to living with a mental illness.

I feel another itch beginning to build, like a storm rolling in across a Kansas plain; it is at a fair distance. There’s still a piece to journey before it hits town, so I am going to step away from the computer and see if I can batten down the hatches and be a bit more in control of the response this time around.

Alas, I am still so very grateful for this time. My body is warm and my belly full, or at least it will be after I eat my lunch from Tom’s Market. I have access to potable water and do not live in a war zone; no one in my family has died recently. I am surrounded by love and care. What more can you ask for on a vacation?

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