Flying in Formation

Even after 49 years, I can still take surprisingly long time to recognize when a manic episode is starting. It’s not telling every person in town I’ll be happy to come over and answer that computer question after work or even right now. It’s not acceding to all of Thing1’s needs and wants for college and groceries. Nor is it when I’m googling every graduate program and trying to turn the lemons of a stable but unsatisfying day job reality into a Tom Collins of academic and professional success by planning a succession of degrees at schools I could never afford and which would have dubious value for a middle age Hausfrau who already has too many responsibilities and dreams.

No, usually it’s about the time I look at my bank balance and say, “Oh shit,” that I realize mania may be in full swing.

Today I was in the shower when I realized I my flight was ending, sending me knocking at the door at the back of my mind. That door is the place I go when the world becomes my demon, often made worse by maniacal flights of fancy. It’s a gateway to a vast, rich fantasy world as layered and complex as the ‘real’ one everyone else lives in. Sometimes I crash through it as I fall out of the stratosphere, other times, I slink through it.

There’s usually no logical reason for the flights and falls. The wrong screw is loosened, and then up and down and up I go until I find a way to pound my octagonal peg of a personality into a round hole of life.

Over the last few years as I’ve become better at managing mania and depression, a few cobwebs have grown over the door. I may peek through but don’t really go inside. That morning in the shower I rinsed the soap from my eyes and found myself fully on the inside, peeking out, but realizing the kids, my husband and my job require active participation in that outside world.

The lifeline back to the other side, this time, came from an unusual source — common sense. It took the form of a small, almost unrecognizable voice in my head.

“Let go,” it whispered.

Those two words were so simple and clear, more meaningful than just saying no to the drug of trying to do everything because it sounds good. Don’t just fly after every idea. Learn to fly with one or two dreams in a single direction.

So the next morning, I looked at all the creative projects I’ve started over the last year.

The words ‘I have an idea’ can strike fear into the hearts of husbands and resignation into mentors. My sun-singed ideas languish in half-filled notebooks and devices. An almost-finished children’s book marinates on my iPad as I view yet another video on how to write children’s books. Another waits to move from the rough sketch book to the painting table. The pages of still another non-fiction book have started forming. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to explode into the sky and catch every idea for a novel or comic book that flutters chaotically over the fields and mountains, often following their trajectory until I’m blinded.

And then, “Let Go” echoed again.

It reminded me that chasing every dream, soaring towards the sun, may make it hard to tell the difference between the glow of opportunity and a goal going up in flames. Letting go means nurturing a few meaningful the ideas that may already be getting off the ground.

So I’m letting go of the degree research and lining up the writing projects so that I can more easily follow one at a time and stay on course. I hope it means I’m learning to fly in formation.

Food, Glorious Drug

Food and I go way back. Almost fifty years now. We’ve had a great relationship. I mean, don’t all great friendships include an all-controlling dominant half (food) and a sycophantic lickspittle (me) or, in my case lick-whatever’s-left-on-the-plate?

I have started to question that relationship in the last few years. I’ve tried to take the upper hand by counting calories, cutting out certain kinds of food colored chocolate with labels like ‘Abandon all self-control here, ye of little self-respect’. A few years ago, I started to dominate the relationship to the point where I’d lost fifty pounds, which helped my five foot three frame look more like a short pear than a cantaloupe.

I controlled intake. I exercised. It lasted a few months.

A broken foot knocked me off my fitness routine, and soon I was back on the Bernaise sauce. And the steak and asparagus. And don’t forget the garlic mashed potatoes. Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff..

Last week I had an inkling a depressive phase might be setting in when the mental call of the country store round table took on a decidedly fried sound. My day of work and deep-fried self-medication wasn’t the first over-indulgence, but as I got home feeling sick from over-eating and somehow still willing to eat more to feel ‘better’, I realized, my relationship to food was more like an addict’s to a pusher.

Yesterday, online, I caught the headline of an article in the Guardian about not just changing the relationship with food, but breaking up with it for a few weeks. By taking it out of the equation.

After read the first few paragraphs (always a good idea when making a healthcare decision) about using traditional meal-replacement shakes that have been around since the 60s and 70s to turn food from emotional balm into pure function, I knew what I have to do. I headed out the door to our favorite British-style diner for a last supper.

Okay, maybe today will be the real last supper.

But I didn’t have to read the rest of the article to know that this sounded right. I need to break up with food. I need to get the upper hand and find another, more constructive emotional outlet like writing or painting (I hear some people swear by it).

So today, like the dozens (maybe hundreds) of Sundays before every diet I’ve ever broken, might be a free-for-all (okay, it will be), but tomorrow, we’re breaking up. I’ll make sure the calorie count is sane and that a bottle of multivitamins is handy, but for the next eight weeks, food won’t be what’s for dinner or for celebration or inebriation.

Food, I’ll call you in a couple months, and if you want to be friends, things are going to have to change.

Not Depressed

The Big Guy has been fasting after lunch each day, so I text him early in the day to see if he wanted to break his fast to go to hibachi for dinner to celebrate two kids with honor roll and a full week of no hospital visits. He texted back ‘Zes’, in the mangled affirmative that had emerged with Thing1’s first words 16 years ago.

It was my last day off during the kids’ spring break (the term Spring is used very loosely in Vermont to describe a mythical concept based on the absence of snow). While the Big Guy got done with work, I played Monopoly with Thing2 so Thing1 could drive himself for the first time since his anemia was diagnosed and treated over a week ago to see SuperGal.

The morning felt normal, but normal doesn’t mean permanent.

I was still recovering from a bad property trade with Thing2 when Thing1 got home. He was pale and weak and complaining of pain that had all the hallmarks of a resurgent flare up. The Big Guy had arrived, and we debated staying home, but Thing1 insisted we carry on with our dinner plans.

“I have to eat,” he said. It was true, but his earlier excitement for a meal of celebration had devolved into determination to not surrender a favorite meal to his condition. The Big Guy and I voiced our concerns about his endurance, but he answered, “I just don’t care anymore.”

I have no doubt that’s true on a lot of recent days, and when he’s too tired to care, we know it’s our job to account for the deficit to get him through. As we packed everyone into the car and headed to the restaurant, however, in the rear-view mirror I could see his eyes close as he rested his head against the top of the door frame.

A worried crease appeared between his eyebrows, and I knew I was seeing a kid that is losing hope. I’ve seen that expression before. Usually I promise him we’ll keep searching until we find the right drug, but last night, as we drove, all I could do is promise him a delicious meal where we would all have fun.

We did have fun, and, for two hours it was a good drug.

When we got home, Thing1 had enough energy to crawl into bed. I went to the bottom of the stairs to his room several times during the night to make sure his breathing was normal, wishing I could give him my healthy organ.

It’s 6am as I write this, and we’ll head down to the hospital shortly for blood draws and more phone calls.

A lot of days I look for the silver lining. Thing1 has grown wise beyond his years. We have all gained empathy for people with long-term illnesses and appreciation for the privilege we enjoy in being able to seek out treatment option. This morning, however, I am focused on the lessons.

I’ve written a number of times about my own issues with mental illness and about the depression that invades life independent of any events, but what I’m feeling — what Thing1 has expressed he is feeling — is not that. There is an ongoing event.

This is not depression. This is understanding the new normal and its impact now and on the future. This is sadness. Last night, even when we were celebrating, it was grief.

There have been many times over the years when the only things keeping me from literally throwing away my life were Thing1 and Thing2. You can convince yourself that the adults in your life would survive and even thrive if you died, but no one can honestly tell themselves that a child would be better off with the knowledge that a mother willingly abandoned them.

So I’ve picked my battles with life, even when I didn’t really want to, and, even when life was awash with depression, it was worth it.

As I’m learning to understand the gulf between sadness and depression, I’m also learning that even if Thing1’s battle has to be fought indefinitely, I will fight it for him for as long he needs us to because he gives my life meaning.

So much is written about happiness these days. There are the happiest countries and the best paths to happiness. Life doesn’t have to be filled with happiness all the time to be worthwhile, however. As I’m slowly learning, filling it with meaning may be more sustaining in the long term.


 I about 15 or 16 the first time I realized that everyone else in the world did not walk around thinking about suicide at least once a day. The revelation came after a school assembly on the subject when our class was herded into separate rooms where intimate groups of 50 or so giggling, super-sensitive teenagers were invited to play a quiet game of True Confession.

The assembly leaders asked us if any of us had ever contemplated taking her own life, and I raised my hand. I was only one dumb enough to do it.  My candor earned me a private session with one of the leaders who assured me I wasn’t normal and offered me a pamphlet to a nearby church. I decided not to tell him about the coupon for the box of sleeping pills that I carried in my backpack every day. I decided not to tell anyone because I already had a few labels at that school – ugly, strange – and I wasn’t excited about adding loony tunes to the list.

A few years and suicide attempts later a shrink helped me pin the manic-depressive (as bi-polar disorder was more commonly called back then) label on myself, but it wasn’t something I wore around in public.  I was worried about being able to get a job. I was worried if I ever had kids, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep them. And I worried I’d be put on some kind of government list.

Now the State of Vermont is getting ready to do just that to people with mental illness.  Under the guise of gun safety and protecting people from themselves, they have pushed a law through the senate that will put people with mental illness who have been deemed (by a court) to be a danger to themselves or others on a special FBI ‘pre-crime’ watch list of people who are not allowed to own guns , even though mentally ill people are rarely violent and many may never actually go to buy a gun.

I got a little nervous when I read this.

I’ve been out about my bi-polar situation for many years. It was harder to hide it than be honest about it, but as anyone whose stood at the kitchen counter, gripping a knife during a manic episode and seeing visions of their own amputated wrist can tell you, being a danger to oneself kind of goes with the manic-depressive territory.  I called a shrink the last time that happened, knowing I would find help and a medication adjustment.  I do know that one thing, however, that would keep me from walking into his office and talking openly about an urge to hurt anyone (myself or anyone else) is the fear of getting on some government list.  It might keep me from going at all.

Now, I’m not saying that if I walk into my shrink’s office next week and tell him that voices from the planet Crapulon have told me to kill everybody whose name ends in ’s’ that he shouldn’t report me and take steps to prevent a clear and present danger to someone else (which, by the way is already the law).  He should probably help me get into an institution at that point which would certainly keep me from getting a gun.

I don’t think, however, someone who has never actually committed a crime should be put into some national pre-crime database simply because they are mentally ill and because they might one day buy a gun.

You can call me paranoid to worry about a government that has never passed a law  data to prevent crime or terrorism that ended up drag-netting the private communications and records of thousands of innocent citizens into databases that kept them from getting on planes or had them erroneously detained without counsel before, if they want off the government watch list, requiring them to prove their innocence (and nobody is innocent) because they’ve been assumed guilty, but in my addle-pated mind, nothing says stigma like putting a mentally ill person into a national FBI database.

Never mind that this doesn’t keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people living with mentally healthy people – unless we want to add them to the list. It also doesn’t keep hands out of the hands of mentally ill people who don’t seek help because they don’t trust shrinks – unless we just want to add a random 5.3 million people to the list to be on the safe side (Do you feel safer?).  But it does do something.  By creating a special database just for mentally ill people at the nation’s largest crime investigation organization, it is taking the first step toward classifying them (us) as criminals.   Excuse me, pre-criminals.  I’m not sure if that’s much better.



What Goes Up

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Sometimes it isn’t a crash.

Sometimes everything just recedes.

You go from feeling everything to feeling nothing. To wondering why you’re here.

To wishing you believed in a higher being that had a purpose for your life and being fine with not knowing what it is because knowing it exists is enough.

To realizing every battle can’t be fought and others can’t be fought at all without ammunition.  To picking the fights of getting up for the job and the kids each day and retreating from the others until the arsenal is stocked with little pills that still need a glowing fuse to work.

How I Explain It


When we heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I hoped we would google it and learn it was just a new, creepy urban legend.  But it wasn’t.

We were mostly without internet at the time, so I just caught snippets of reactions from the electronic consciousness.  One snippet seemed to echo frequently.  It was the idea that Williams hadn’t focused on the good in his life or that, unlike the pontificating pundit of the moment who had also been through really hard times, he had simply chosen to wallow in his misery.

I’ve heard variations of that sentiment my entire life because while I can’t say I know what it was like to ride a mile in Williams’ roller coaster car, we are in the same amusement park.  I don’t know how all the rides work, this is how I explain my experience at the fair.
I had a fresh ticket in my back pocket a few weeks ago when I bounced into my shrink’s office, plopped down on the couch, and, without taking more than one breath, chattered non-stop for 45 minutes.

I chattered about a book I’m wrapping up, an idea for a play I’m going to write in September, an idea for a novel I’m already fantasizing about writing in October and had spent the previous half hour drafting a 20 page synopsis of.  I chattered about reorganizing the linen closet. I walked to my car, still dictating a dozen to-do’s into my to-do-a-maphone.

You could say I was up.  I was real up.

I have a family I adore, a great job, and a growing creative life, but there was a lot on my mind that week.  I’d learned of a friend’s recent death and a serious illness of another. There was a mountain of work that wasn’t getting smaller, a world panicking about Ebola, Russia and the Middle East, a fresh diagnosis of a degenerative eye disorder (I’m blaming that for any drawings that appear subpar) and more than a few bills marked ‘Freakin’ Urgent – Pay UP Loser’ waiting in the mailbox.  

I, however, was helicoptering over the planet, suspended by a thread-thin seatbelt over a world that looked technicolor perfect and sparkling with possibility (it could have been the algae blooms in Lake Erie).  

I would have been up if you had told me I had a special type of cancer that made my butt look even fatter when viewed from outer space with the naked eye.
I can admit the flying is fun when it’s not scaring the shit out of me, but it does scare me.  I become SuperWoman, taking on too many obligations in a single phone call and exercising the purchasing power of a regional big-box store, leading to a crash whose destructive force would make Michael Bay drool with envy.

I’ve been doing this part of the roller coaster ride since I could talk.

I’ve tried working with my brain’s air traffic controllers, but the littlest things (medications, for example) can inspire strikes and and even walk-outs.  My current shrink has been helping me find new ways of negotiating with the control tower.  We haven’t ruled out new and improved pills to pop, but my brain, like my diet, is a work in progress.

But like my diet, if there were an easy way to be ‘normal’  (or thin – the ultimate fantasy) by just ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘deciding to be well’ without having to medicate and journal and snap rubber bands on my wrist and sit with a shrink once a week for many of the last 30 years, I would jump at it – even if I had to jump for “it”  from a plane without a parachute to grab it out of the sky with a pair of tweezers.

Because I know that in a few months, even if I found out I’d sold a zillion copies of my soon-to-be-imagined bestseller “How to Not Dust a House for 365 Days or More”, Santa was real, both kids had landed scholarships to Harvard and Yale, and peace on earth prevailed, I would still feel like closing my eyes on a deserted highway so that the Big Guy and the kids could call my death an accident and not know that I had intentionally left them forever. 

I know this because I’ve been doing that part of the roller coaster ride in one form or another since before I could talk – long before I was old enough to understand the words, “snap out of it”.

Safe Spaces

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Last week after work the Big Guy came home from work and soberly announced that the son of a neighbor had taken his own life.  It took me a moment to start breathing again, and, out loud, I wondered what the rest of the town was wondering that day. “What was he thinking?” 

Privately, I had a pretty good idea of what he’d been thinking.  Only earlier that day had I been wrestling with those urges as I hugged my mother goodbye and had the irrational thought that I would never be happy again once she was gone. A vision of achieving perfect permanent peace flashed through my mind as I smiled at her and my father as they left. It was so strong and so clear that if I had not been having these urges and images since I was 10, I might not have chased it away.

My guess was that this kid, who, for as long as I had known of him, had exhibited self-destructive behavior, had been living with those urges for a long time.

My morning vision and the afternoon news brought me back to a high school assembly on suicide. After a movie and lecture, the hosts separated us into groups. I remember them asking us if any of us had ever contemplated taking our own lives. I was the only one in my group raised my hand. 

One of the adults took me aside and asked me how often I thought about it. I answered, “I don’t know, every day. Doesn’t everybody?”  The counselor  shook his head no and gave me a pamphlet for nearby church. 

Back then I don’t think I had even heard the word bipolar disorder. Manic Depression was just the title of the Jimi Hendrix song.  I did know that just getting out of the house – even out of bed – was often an enormous task when depression hit. When mania was pushing me to outer limits, I was the life of the party.  People thought (and still do) I was a drama queen.  I was told to snap out of “it” but wondered why I couldn’t.  I did know I couldn’t tell anyone about the places and pictures in my head.  I could barely explain them to myself, and trying to describe them to other kids – or any of our teachers – would have added just one more oddity to my already odd personality.    

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that I might not just have the blues.

I was lucky.  When my own bipolar disorder was diagnosed, my family was overwhelmingly supportive, and our home, at least, was a safe place to talk about mental illness.  The rest of the world is not so safe, and not everyone is so lucky.

I don’t know if this boy had a safe place to talk about the suicidal tendencies he had been exhibiting for as long as I had known of him. I do know that we still live in a world that makes opening up about mental illness – or even its symptomatic emotions – is like baring your throat to the wolves.  There is still stigma where there needs to be safe spaces.

Our very small town of 300+ people has talked of it regularly since it happened.  I hope we all continue talking about it. Mostly I hope we start talking about giving other kids like him a safe place to talk about their visions before they become reality.

Magic Pills, Ills, and Long Forgotten Cures


As I’m lying down with my little one for his bedtime snuggle, I’m realizing that I haven’t retreated to the fantasy world that gets me through depressions lately.  At first I though it was the magic pill I’ve been taking, but I think something better is happening.

When I first started taking the pills, I tried to get in and I couldn’t.  Something was blocking the door.  It wasn’t me, it was the pill.  But in the last few weeks I’ve begun taking care of my physical health, and while that switch took a herculean effort to move to the on position, it’s like watching a compact fluorescent’s power grow as it absorbs powers.  At first it’s only little successes, but then a sense of physical well being takes over, charging the mercury until all the rooms in my head are bright, and my vision is clear.

Now running about a mile or mile 1/2 a day, hoping to get up to three so I can run with my sister in August, I’m starting to feel the effect of a natural magic pill.  As I was lying next to my beautiful sleeping boy, I noticed I still couldn’t get into the room, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t need or want to.  Some of that need may have been quashed by pharma, but it’s nice to know that at least some of that lack of desire may be my own doing.

The Cure

The hairy edge

A week ago I got the prescription. Two days later I picked it up. I’m not functioning. These magic pills feel like my last straws, but I still can’t bring myself to open the bottle.

It’s been twenty-odd years since I last turned to Prozac.  The drug and the disease it’s meant to treat are both better understood, and I understand I’m at that place where I need help that can’t come from myself or another human.  I’ve tried other magic pills and management methods. Some of them get me out of the cave for a while, but, as the characters on my favorite guilty pleasure show ‘Once Upon a Time’ are fond of saying, All magic comes with a price.

Managing the big “D” with tricks means getting through it, but it also means experiencing every throb of worry and pain in every nerve. It means that tears are always waiting in the wings for the weak moments as over-analysis of very interaction keeps the psyche in a constant state of almost-adolescent angst. The magic pills dull that pain, but they do have a price.

Some cause weight gain (pretty depressing). Others lead to all nighters for nights on end.  But all of them, while evening the keel and pulling my attention from the depths back to the horizon, wrap themselves around the soul like a neoprene wetsuit.  It’s not a straight jacket, but the thick, impenetrable insulation does inhibit sensation.  It’s a price, and the question I ask of every bottle of magic pills is how much?

The last year has been the most creatively-productive one I’ve ever known.  Stimulated by new friendships forged at a writer’s workshop at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, NY, I’ve written and drawn more and more regularly than ever before.  Before the workshop, I was a dabbler, trying to choose between two crafts and vacillating between them as the mood struck me.  A year of unprecedented encouragement offered a more rewarding search for authenticity in our work.  The workshop which started with a focus on rural and small town life ultimately became the search for the stories and meanings in all of our lives.  

That search meant opening my eyes and my soul.  It meant discovering beauty and meaning in my very ordinary life.  It meant living life and recognizing the ways I had kept it out.  

Depression doesn’t keep life out.  It keeps me withdrawn from life, watching it from my cave, but I’m never quite sure if the pills are a way out of the cave or just a way to be less aware of it.  It’s that uncertain but sometimes strong anesthetic effect that makes me fear the cure as much as the disease.

But there’s another uncomfortable reality.  The deeper I go, the less I write.  Not ironically, and the less I write, the deeper I go.

There’s a romantic picture of the tortured artist.  It isn’t entirely unfounded.  There is an frighteningly long list of authors and artists whose lives were upended and prematurely ended by mental illness.  

However, as I struggle to work at the one occupation that truly gives me satisfaction, I’ve begun to wonder how much of their ability to express their creativity was actually hamstrung by their cranial chemical imbalances.   Mania may produce periods of intense productivity, but, as I study the lives of the luminaries, it seems that the despair at other end of the spectrum often coincided with a withdrawal from life and work.  

By contrast, the few people I’ve met in ‘real life’ who are working as artists or writers, are the ones who have managed their moods to allows themselves to ‘show up for work’ everyday.  There is no drama in the work.  There is only the work, as there is with any other job.

Right now, I feel constantly in jeopardy of failing the day job and the parenting job  – forget achieving the dream job of writing.  I know only fear of the unknown keeps the pills in their bottle, but int this moment the pursuit of the authentic is yielding one other invaluable lesson.  It is that fear can be as crippling and counterproductive as any mental illness, and, while the debate over the link between creativity and mental illness thrives, my small hope is that conquering my fear of what might happen will be the stimulating cure to any analgesic effects of the curative I’m about to swallow.

Darkness Crowded

I’m currently working on a book that started as a collection of short stories based on Picking My Battles. One of the things I love about the blog, however, is that each successive post not only provides an opportunity to improve skills and build friendships, it is a chance to think about the projects it’s inspiring.

The working title of my current project is called Fable. My recent decision to be candid about my own lifelong struggle with depression and mania has begun to shape it from a collection of short stories or posts into a longer piece. As I write, however, I’ve also begun to read more about other people’s experiences with these disorders.

Marbles, a graphic memoir by Ellen Forney, prompted my first first piece on the subject. The author is about my age, and many of her experiences with bipolar disorder reflected my own. Last night I continued my exploration with William Styron’s Darkness Visible. A chronicle of a major depressive episode when the author was in his 60s, it held up a different kind of mirror.

Written before the clinical language of depression had permeated our popular culture, Styron’s account of his decline and brush with suicide is unvarnished and sometimes raw. However, it is also informed by a lifetime of extensive reading and personal familiarity with other authors who suffered the same affliction and by his re-examination of his own work post-depression.

Darkness Visible isn’t the first book to look at the debated link between mental illness and creativity, and Styron didn’t restrict his anecdotes only to authors. This book about inner darkness, however, did illuminate for me how fortunate my experience has been.

My first depressive episode happened when I was two, although it was only in retrospect that my parents or I realized that was what was happening. I had another major, nearly fatal episode when I was sixteen. Now, having lived through numerous swings up and down, some with disastrous consequences, I count myself lucky even when I’m rocking at the back of my mental cave. I don’t look forward to the insomnia and anxiety and the constant contemplation of death, but, even at the very depths, there is a part of me that is always reasonably sure it will end.

This is not to say that I don’t struggle and am never tempted to fall asleep and not wake up. But, reading the account of Styron’s first major episode late in his life – the first one of which he was keenly aware – I knew I was lucky to have discovered early in life that the key to survival was the understanding that the darkness does break.

The darkness is long, and you don’t find your way out. You wait for the night to end. And, as terrifying as the beginning of Styron’s book was, with its histories of authors and housewives who had lost their battles, he closed this tiny tome by throwing out the lifeline of his own experience and survival to others who might be struggling.

My night has begun to break in the last few weeks. This one has been different, however. I still have my own lifelines. As the dawn begins to reflect off the mirrors I’ve recently acquired, however, I see a crowd through the darkness, and I’ve begun to think about how, in the light of a day not defined by fear and stigma, I can cast some of those lifelines to others.

The Night Owl and the Early Bird

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I have been night owl for as long as I can remember.  Worry and obsession often follow me to bed, and, as they are not anesthetics, I often take flight to escape them.  Over the last few months, I’ve been working to become an early bird, but there are times when the night owl threatens to eviscerate her before she feathers out.

Friday night I had willingly made the mistake of reading a few news items shortly before bed.  Having invited the news of the world into my nighttime consciousness like a vampire over my threshold, I knew the only recourse was to let the night owl take flight.  I needed sleep – even wanted it, but activity is often the only antidote to worry.   So I went to my desk and closed the door, securing my sanity with pencils and paper and paint.

The alarm was set for five – I had intended to write – but by the time the night owl had driven the shadows from my mind, the early bird was trying to rise.  The night owl was keenly aware of this, and, for a moment, seemed prepared to consume her as she began to flutter.  But something – wisdom – perhaps overtook the night owl, and she let the fledgling alone to do her work as the sun rose, warming them both.

Saturday evening I again let myself be seduced by the news of the world.  The previous night’s flight and the morning work, however, had built a wall around my worry.   That wall may crumble –  my walls usually do.  But as the night owl learns to live with the early bird, I’m hoping whatever balance they find will permeate the other parts of my life.


What This Blog Is


A few weeks ago, my frustration with a writer’s block born of the down side of my Bipolar life led me to write about it. It was the first time in my life I had ever written about it overtly. Not knowing how it would be received, I purposely picked a post day when I thought no one would be on their computers. I worried about losing readers, but I was desperate to get past depression and back to writing, so I took a chance. The response to my gamble was overwhelming and, for me, completely unexpected.

Even then, however, freed from the fear of letting the world know that somethin’ ain’t exactly right, I was adamant that this would not become a bipolar blog. But a recent email exchange made me realize that, while I didn’t know exactly what this site was, in many ways it has always been a a bipolar blog -even if I couldn’t see it.

When it began last summer, I thought it was a mommy blog (for extremely disorganized mommies). I thought it might also be a rural mommy blog. For a while I thought it was an illustration blog. It was a cartoon platform and a poetry outlet. And, of course, it was a blog about family.

For months it was all of these things because I was. I was flying, and the blog and I were keeping each other aloft in the stratosphere. When my flight ended, however, the crash came, and the blog became part of my lifeline. It, like the other part of my lifeline – my family – needed me to get out of bed each day and nurture it. Like my kids, it needed care and feeding, even on the many days that I wonder if it and they would be better off with someone more competent or stable. And as my self-soothing visits to my fantasy work became more frequent, my blog became a depression blog, interweaving itself with the only other blog theme I could and needed to sustain – my family.

Now as I continue to cling to the “This Too Shall Pass” mantra that helps me manage my stay in Melancholia, I realize that this has always been a blog about mania and depression. It has always been about the simulataneously intoxicating but precarious highs and the sometimes crippling lows. But it is also a blog about how the journey between those places affect the family I chose to join and build – for good or ill – and how they have come to affect it by saving me every day of my life. Even on the days I don’t think I need it.