The Funhouse Mirror

I referenced the mirror in a previous poem and it is with regret I admit I continue to be harassed by it. Certainly progress has been made, but I still suffer the endless committee meeting in my head discussing all the things wrong with my body.

Strangely (or perhaps not) aging while bringing its own difficulties has lessened the battle somewhat. I am nearing 40 and I have 2 teenagers. I workout 5 days a week and walk my 10000 steps everyday. I eat generally whole, clean foods with mostly balanced macros for my activity level. There’s really nothing more I can do that does not fall into eating disorder land. It is easier to accept my imperfections as I’m not supposed to look 20 anymore – not without plastic surgery anyway. So, acceptance is the answer to my problems today. Courage to accept what I cannot change.

The mental battle is fatiguing though, I will admit. I do slip into old patterns particularly when I’m very stressed but very quickly my cognitive functioning is impacted and it makes working difficult. As a therapist, I cannot be mentally tuned out during session. It’s very interesting indeed how important nutrition is to cognitive functioning. Consider that the next time you skip breakfast ☺️

Today I dye my hair purple

Yes indeed the last few days’ posts have been a reflection of my mental state. We call this a mixed state here in Bipolar land and it seems to have eased. It’s more than a little exhausting. I was reflecting yesterday how before therapy and medication this last week might have ended quite differently. This time, I dyed my hair purple. Big deal. Some years ago, however…

Any number of things might have punctuated the week. All unhealthy and destructive. Some perhaps devastating. I have wandered the wreckage before without knowledge or support, descending into the blackness of depression, the irritability and anxiousness of mixed states and the euphoria of hypomania. How in the world did I survive? I’ve mentioned previously it is likely due to intellect. (This is what my therapist says at any rate). Even locked in the savagery of my mind, I was able to grasp some semblance of insight. Not enough to look for therapy, mind you. But enough to have some healthy conversations in my head as well as a deep commitment to personal growth.

I did not know these things, I followed (some) of my instincts. I couldn’t have told you I was working on personal development, nothing so eloquent as that. Truthfully, it was more a result of assessing my surroundings and attempting to match the status quo (via harsh self criticism) than any conscious effort on my part to grow into a better person. This creative adjustment (as we call it in Gestalt therapy) began in childhood as a means to not break the rules (which were forever changing so you can see my childhood predicament – big job for a kiddo).

Enter adulthood and this survival technique became less useful in that I didn’t have a general whole sense of self (aside from striving toward perfection) and that brought its own difficulties. Cue hypomania when I sometimes believed I was awesome and made less than insightful decisions – ultimately leading me back to self hatred in the wake of embarrassment.

And thus the cycle continued. More on that another time. Today I dye my hair purple because I have attended to my self care in a very intentional way – an adaptive adjustment brought to you by the letter T. (For therapy – cheesy, I know).

Anxiety

I started this blog to chronicle my journey of mental wellness and the trials along the way and those who held me up during the struggle. Of course the last two days I have woken up with an elephant on my chest. Her name is anxiety. Often there’s a specific trigger and I work it out and sometimes – like now – it is purely somatic (body related) with no specific cause. Then it becomes management, hanging on, and knowing it will pass at some point.

In the interest of transparency, it sucks. My anxiety triggers hyper self criticism. The old “I’m not good enough” and “I’m too much” have joined the party. I’ve had meetings with these two many times, it’s always the same old story – can’t you come up with something new? (No don’t – predictability is good). So at least I know the story already. And I know the ending – I’ll go on my merry little way at some point – but I don’t know when that end comes. It’s always a surprise.

One breath at a time.