Dyane L. Harwood
I had great aspirations to write a high-quality bipolar-themed blog post last weekend. I envisioned typing a few paragraphs filled with a pearl of wisdom or two that I’ve learned since I started recovering from bipolar depression.
It ain't gonna happen. I've given up. I realized that I need a levity break. Summer is in the air and in my brain, and it's going to be over 90 degrees where I live today!
When I read my fellow International Bipolar Foundation bloggers' posts I don't require each and every creation to be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. I love the variety of writing that I encounter in their blogs. I bet you do too. So I remind myself that even though I've tackled biggie bipolar-related topics in the past, there's welcome room for the seemingly mundane moments and subjects as well.
This weekend it has been just me and my six-year-old Marilla and of course Lucy, who is now an eleven-week-old feisty, furry, adorable American Collie pup. My husband and older daughter flew to San Diego so that he could receive an award from the Save Our Heritage Organization. He was honored with this award for his acclaimed book Quest for Flight - John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. This was the first time we've been apart since my last hospitalization for bipolar depression a year ago. While I felt steady about our brief separation, some anxiety came up for me all the same. (I'm already a VERY anxious person!)
Yesterday I planned for Marilla to spend the afternoon at her friend's house. I had met the parents a few times before, and I really liked them. But my social anxiety got in the way during each of our interactions. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007, I used to be a very social person. I was even selected for jobs because of how I interacted with all kinds of people face-to-face. Now that I'm anxiety-medication free and alcohol-free, I'm 100% present with this angst that I loathe so much. Lo and behold, my puppy has already been helping me to reduce those feelings. While I've brought her with me almost everywhere, my sweet Lucy can't "fix" me.
When I dropped off Marilla at her buddy's house, it was a quick "Hi there, thanks for having her!" chit-chat that lasted less than five minutes. I wore my new sunglasses so I could feel more incognito. (I took them off at the last minute, though, because I felt it was rude to wear them when speaking with this parent!)
A few hours later when I went to pick her up it was different story. I planned on a slightly longer interaction since picking up your child always takes longer than you think! I held Lucy in my arms as my talisman although damn, at seventeen pounds she is getting HEAVY! Then I heard the dreaded words:
"Come on in!"
Ooooooh no, I thought, and then I gave up. I'm not going to try to come up with a feeble excuse. Yes, I could go back home with Rilla and Lucy, and then stay glued to the computer the rest of the afternoon. Or I could give this a chance. I'll wait and see how uncomfortable and panicked I get!
To make a long story short, we left six hours later.
This couple had a lovely backyard with a pool and hot tub. They were friendly with their neighboring families, so much so that halfway through my social soiree, some of their neighbors stopped by to hang out and chat with us. I live surrounded by recluses for the most part. This easygoing, delightful scene would NEVER happen on my street. They have block parties there too - of course they do!
Their three kids and mine were having a complete blast in their pool. I felt more at ease than I had in a long time with "strangers". Plus the parents already knew about my bipolar disorder for I had disclosed it to them briefly in a previous conversation. (That was something that I regretted at first. Later on I was relieved that I did it because I felt I could be myself and not worry about accidentally uttering the "b" word.)
To top it off, I left with some beautiful clothes that the mom no longer needed, and which I sorely did. It was a one-stop socializing and shopping experience.
Lucy loved being there as well, and received plenty of appreciative pats.
I wish I could have had a few glasses of wine or even better, a few strong Patron margaritas...I still had that anxious feeling lurking the whole time which alcohol can smooth out so well. But I hope, as in weight training, that the more I do this kind of thing, the more confident I’ll feel in social settings.
I doubt I'll return to how I used to be in terms of social events, but then again, if you told me that I'd be spending a whopping six hours at my daughter's friend's house with people I didn't know well, I would have guffawed.
I hope that whatever challenge you're grappling with, you'll make a positive breakthrough with it very soon, be it big or small. We all have been through horrendous times. It's time for a little joy, don't you think? I'd love for you to comment about what challenges you are presently facing with in your life, aside from bipolar disorder, even if it's just a "little thing". I find it all pretty fascinating.
Thanks for reading as always!
DyaneDyane Leshin-Harwood is on the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Council. Dyane is a freelance writer and an editor at Stigmama.com, a cutting-edge website focusing on mother’s mental health and stigma. Dyane is working on her book “Birth of a New Brain – Healing From Postpartum Bipolar Disorder” with her eleven-week-old puppy Lucy snoozing by her side. She blogs at www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com.