What does well look like for you?
I have painted many pictures of myself when a Bipolar episode knocks me out of my life for a while.
But what about my well times?
I don’t identify with the cartoonish cliché of Bipolar Disorder. I don’t spend each day either drowning in depression or being supersized by mania. This depiction of the illness lacks nuance. It’s a stereotype wheeled out for memes or lazy reporting.
I can only speak about the fingerprint of my own experience. Severe, but well managed.
Sure – when I am unwell, I tend towards very unwell. I won’t sugar coat that.
But, for me…for me – when I am well, I am well…well.
In my well times my life is not a daily struggle. If anything, I struggle less than many ‘mentally healthy’ people. Thanks to my Bipolar Disorder, my box of psychological tools to deal not only with my illness but life in general – is full. But before it thundered into my life, my toolbox contained the equivalent of a pair of tweezers and some toenail clippers.
I am well now.
And it looks a little like this…
It is settling into myself. It is being alert to all I am capable of. It is a beautiful, clear, hard-won self-knowledge
It can be simple things – being able to read and drive and go to the shops, immerse myself in my family.
But it is more than the simple things.
It is actively pursuing my edge, courting the possibility of foundering, because I know the feeling of foundering will be fleeting compared to the dull ache of regret which could plague me for years.
A couple of weeks ago an interesting job opportunity dropped into my direct messages. Both it and I were great on paper. Veterinary qualifications and experience. Writing qualifications and experience. Listed as the first requirements.
It lit the spark I needed to update my CV, which had been languishing back in 2015.
I applied for it. I was invited to interview.
And perhaps for the first time I thought about what I wanted, rather than blindly throwing whatever I needed at it to get the job.
And so, I clicked ‘join meeting’ with all the skills and experience I could bring (for example writing well) and all that I couldn’t (for example managing stakeholders).
I came away thinking – I could do this, but do I want to? If offered the position I think my ego may have convinced me to squash myself into a shape I didn’t naturally fill, just to prove I could.
Thankfully, being authentic in the interview paid off.
Having a way with words was more important to me, and stakeholder management was more important to them.
And when I got the email thanking me for my time but telling me that I wouldn’t be progressing further in the application process, I felt – a sharp little sting and then… relief, because I really didn’t want to squash myself into someone I wasn’t.
There is always a danger in well times.
It is the fear of what may happen in the unwell times.
There are times, even when perfectly well, I have to resist the pull to sit in a metaphorical corner rocking with my hands over my eyes doing nothing, because I know what has happened to me, could happen again.
I’ve felt that pull many times. I have resisted it many times. Over time I’ve gathered proof that resisting is the only way to have the life I want, even if it is a life lived with this illness. Without that resistance I would lack a lot. My second child and my self-worth top a long list.
Most recently that resistance has gifted me an updated CV and a stronger sense of who I am and what I want.
I know in the last couple of years, mental unease has crept into many people’s lives and distorted their thoughts, feelings, and view of life. It’s a foreign and frightening landscape to find yourself in. And finding your way back to the well times can feel impossible.
For me, the first steps back to wellness always start with a couple of questions:
What does well look like for you?
Does your toolbox contain more than a pair of tweezers and some toenail clippers?
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