Wow, how things do change. I mean really, completely, 180 degree change. So much of me, who I am, what I do on a day-to-day basis, who I love, what I tolerate and don’t, what I strive for and what I brush to the side, what is important and what can wait…it has all changed. None of it has changed overnight, but I would say that I am a very different person than I was in, say, 2012, when I had to give up on my last job and start the arduous process of re-inventing myself.
And again, in 2014, when a relationship had laid me out, broken in pieces on the floor, and it was necessary to re-invent. Finally again over the course of the last two years, more re-inventing, and now, more knowing who I really am. Finding yourself and finding recovery, finding things you never thought possible about yourself, coming to different conclusions about the same issues that had tripped you up over the years, coming to grips with various events (traumas, even) with the use of radical acceptance and direct pleas to a power above and hour upon hour of therapy and quiet introspection.
The most basic thing that has changed, with all of this reinvention and acceptance and coming-to-grips-business, is that I have destigmatized my mental illness, at least TO MYSELF. I don’t see myself as bipolar Rosa anymore. I see Rosa, who happens to deal with x, y, and z mental illnesses. In my own head, over the years (many, many years), I had become my illness in my head, to myself. I had boxed myself in, and put packing tape round and created this tiny little space that I thought I needed to live in. It is only very recently that I realize that I can live in the world, and not just in the box, and it is even more recently that I can put words on it.
Three wise women (Thank you, Mom, Goddess of Mindfulness, and Marilyn) in my life have consistently reminded me that everything I go through is not due to a direct cause of bipolar disorder, or BPD, or PTSD, or any other label. Much of what I go through, the hard times and the good times and most-of-the-times is just LIFE, and everyone else is also going through LIFE. Sure, the disorders I deal with may affect my outlook on life, or may color my reactions to life, but a lot of the bad things that happen are happening, because life is happening, not because there is a certain label on my file.
I have more positive things going on, since I have accepted that I am not just a label, than ever before. I have started my custom jewelry business, and am working hard at getting it off the ground, my symptoms are better controlled, I take better care of myself, I am a better girlfriend, and a better daughter and sister, I am exercising and I stay busy. I am teaching myself from the ground up how to set boundaries with others, and while it can be altogether confusing, I am changing what behavior I will and won’t tolerate from other people. I am reaching out.
There is a part of me that can’t believe that I am just now “getting this.” There is a very small part of me that doesn’t understand why it took so long, or how I could have flailed for so long, but I try hard not to beat myself up about that part of it. The point is that there is progress and there is moving forward.
This is all 34 years in the making, of course, and I’m fully aware that if I am not vigilant about doing the things every day that I must do in order to feel decent, that this could just derail and fly off the tracks. Every day is a new challenge, every situation that comes about I am treating as new, teaching my mind and my heart how to do this life thing, and how to do it well.
I finally feel like I have some freedom, have some breathing room, and can be completely and totally and authentically Rosa, without feeling the need for a “yes, but…” That is a big feeling, a huge feeling, a hard-to-describe feeling. A punched-in-the-gut-and-can’t-breathe-feeling. I finally see, life is strange, but it is also, so very beautiful, so very fragile, and so very worth-the-wait.