47 Juneau, Alaska May 2015      “So, do you think it was impulsive?”

The question wasn’t unexpected. I sat in a chair facing my psychiatrist, looking at the grey mist outside. I had confessed why I was so torn up; that I had, in the course of the last month, been involved in a brief, intense, but ultimately disastrous romantic relationship. It had left me drifting, demoralized, unsure of myself. I had pushed away all the warnings from my conscious mind. I had silenced all my misgivings, and dove head-first into a whirlpool of emotional turmoil that left me stranded, heartsick, and wounded. Unmoored, I sank back in the chair, and sighed deeply.

Of course it was impulsive. Impulsiveness is the hallmark of my life.

Everything I have done of any import has been impulsive. Everything.  It’s the thread running through my life; my standing joke among friends (though it isn’t particularly amusing) has always been, “It seemed like a good idea at the time…”

There’s added weight to her question now, though. My diagnosis (and treatment) has changed in the last few months, from simple depression to bipolar disorder. So now I have begun to wonder about the root causes of my impulsiveness. How much is personality, and how much pathology? How much is demeanor and how much disease? The line has proved elusive.

In the process of unpacking this new diagnosis, and beginning new medications, I have wondered how much of myself I will recognize when I come out the other side. In a way, it feels like having a stranger come over and clean out my closets. I don’t know what they might throw away, and if it’s something that I really wanted to keep, how I might get it back. There’s a sense of violation and panic that is almost indescribable when I think about it. I see the folly in the thoughts, have heard others say similar things when they don’t want to treat their mood disorder. I comply with my medications and therapy, and perform self-care as diligently as possible, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am filled with fear.

I fear that my periods of creativity are driven by my episodes of hypomania. I fear that by smoothing those out, that it’s possible I won’t be a creative person anymore. The thought of this terrifies me. I don’t know who that person would be, but she wouldn’t be me.

I fear that all my highs will go away, and all I will have left will be the lows. The only thing that makes a low mood bearable is knowing that the upswing will be coming. I don’t think I could survive being in a continuous state of depression, and that makes this the most frightening thought of all.

I fear that the things that end up in the discard pile might be the things I love about myself, the things that I think define me. That the parts of me that my friends and family love might go away, and left in their place will be blank spaces, or worse, something nasty and vindictive. That they will leave me for good, not because I’ve chased them away this time, but because I’m just not compelling enough to hang on to anymore. That one morning, I might wake up and not know who the fuck I am anymore.

Ultimately, I am willing to take the chance. I am adrift, unsure of where I will eventually land, but I know I can’t stay here. I need some control back in my life. I need to rewrite my story. I need some self-respect, so I can love people better, myself included.

So, I sank back in my chair, and I sighed. I took hold of my grief, and my panic; I settled them on the floor for a minute, so I could sit with her question. I searched for the honest answer. I let my objective brain take the wheel, though fear was biting me, hard. I looked at her, and answered, “Yes, I guess it was. I need a better handle on things. So what do we do now?”

I don’t know when I will come to safe harbor. What I do know is that I will get there. I was made for rough seas. I will probably lose some of the crew along the way, but the best of them will stay on board. Together, we can weather the storm.







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