I Don’t Care If I Date Anymore

Those who lament romantic loneliness may be familiar with the following notion:

You need to be happy within yourself first.  Only then, will you truly attract a worthy person towards yourself.

I admit… I’ve always been on the receiving end of that statement.  From my first, unrequited yearnings from middle school, to my current self, as a thirty-year-old, I have attempted to wrap my head around that statement, and to no avail.  Thoughts abounded within me:

Happy with myself?  Did every person in a successful relationship now start off as “happy within him/herself?  What about all these people who want children, looking feverishly for partners?  I don’t even want frickin’ children!

I have to give this statement credit, as an explanation for my own singledom.  I was  a miserable singleton for a very long time, and certainly not happy within myself.  I could never escape this misery either… in fact, it has officially been given a name: Schizoaffective disorder.  Boo-yah.  This condition is schizophrenia, depression, mania and anxiety all rolled up into a nice neat package.  Colorful like sushi, but not so tasty.  I’ve had it since childhood too.

I really do take insult though.  Is my reason for being single, simply because “I’m not happy within myself?”  Really… did I choose to have my mental illness?  Did I choose to be born with a cloud of rain over my head?  I seriously believe this to be true… that paranoia and depression that I always assumed was “just me,” or “my personality,” magically vanished when I started taking Clozapine three years ago.

You could say that, with Clozapine, I finally started taking steps towards being “happy within myself.”  But not entirely due to personal effort… it all started with a chemical adjustment.

I don’t like how people point fingers.  A person, happily paired with a wonderful husband, then offers that anemic advice to a single friend.  Or perhaps another frustrating statement:

When you stop looking, you’ll see.  You’ll all of a sudden find someone!

Is this true?  I’ve not lived long enough to really tell.  I’ll get back to you when I die, hopefully a hundred years from now when I’m ripe and old.  You’ll be dead too, so we’ll have a ball.  [NOT SUPPORTING SUICIDE.  Just being humorous, and acknowledging the fact that everyone dies some day.  We’re not immortal, for chrissake.]

Although… I actually have gotten to the point that I’ve stopped looking.  I’ve found four things, all of which when added up completely fulfill me:

  1. Mental health work and advocacy
  2. Writing essays, poetry and fiction
  3. FITNESS!
  4. The people in my life: friends, family and medical/psychiatric professionals

The thing is… now that I’m fulfilled, I don’t want a freaking boyfriend in the middle of it, getting all in the way!  SERIOUSLY.  I know damned well that I do not want children… never have.  I also just have… goals, and dreams and hopes for my life.  I lost the first twenty-seven years of my life to mental illness, and only since Clozapine has life been well.  I’d like to enjoy the next twenty-seven years of my life living the life I should have always had… unfettered and free.

I don’t want to gaze into a man’s eyes.  I’d rather plunge my face into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia with a snorkel and get a look at the Great Barrier Reef.  I’d rather run a race in the Amazon.  I’d rather learn Tai Chi to calm myself.  I’d rather forge thousands of friendships with people, instead of devoting my time to a significant other… sitting on a couch watching TV?  YouTube after a fuck?

I am just… happy.  Happy, that I have found my purpose in life.  I’m happy that I’ve carved a comfortable niche for myself on the internet.  I’m happy that I have a great mother and brother (as far as brothers go).  I’m happy to live in New York.  I’m happy that I can speak German.  (That’s probably #5, speaking German.)

This happiness… I suppose I’ve fulfilled that statement of advice: You need to be happy within yourself first.  And maybe I will attract that special someone into my life.  But would I accept any invitation for such?  I’m not sure.  I’d rather become as physically strong as a beast, and develop my mind by joining in the fight against mental illness stigma.  Forge friendships, write essays, and get hugs from my mother on the weekends.

Maybe that is what spares me… a great mom.  Who knows.

The Value of Sharing Ourselves Online

I’ve had a difficult time lately.  I’ve been sacked with various sources of stress.  A bum therapist for the last six months… I suppose he is very skilled, but not in a way that is compatible with me.  I guess that is why I stayed for so long.  I still have yet to cut the tie.  Our appointment is on Friday, so I can procrastinate a bit further.

There are other sources of stress as well.  In light of the above situation, I attempted to remain mum about this situation online.  I initially told my story to my friends on Facebook, but then got cold feet and withdrew the post.  A non-mental-health friend of mine warned me of being accused of slander and whatnot, and so I succumbed.

It is a common sentiment that people express to me, that I share too much of my personal life online.

“You don’t know who’s reading your stuff.”

“I don’t want you telling my life to all of your friends!”  That one’s my mother.  I make my best effort to say nothing about her, other than that I love her to bits.  Her unconditional love towards me is what allows me to live with the comforts that I do now.

Regarding my own thoughts and experiences, I normally tell as much as I can to all online, within safety and reason.  But with this past experience, as I explained above… I didn’t tell anyone.  And then… something within me just started to wither.  After a few days… I stopped reaching out to my friends altogether.  I stopped trusting people, and became more defensive.  And then I became withdrawn.  And then I felt like the world was too much for me.

Seven days ago, I became so overwhelmed with these feelings, that I signed myself into a respite center.  I’m still here now, and I’m hoping to stay for another seven days.  This place is really great.  This is my second time here; I went last September, during another rough patch.  When I went in, I was scared that I wasn’t going to make it.  Mind you, I wasn’t suicidal.  But I was just… falling apart.  I felt like I was spiraling downward, and if I hadn’t done anything, I would have ended up in the hospital.

But I didn’t.  I went to respite instead.

Known as a “Crisis Respite Center,” there are seven of these in New York City.  It is part of the new Parachute NYC mental health initiative in the city.  It is an alternative to hospitalization.  You sign yourself in, and you get your own room.  You are free to come and go as you like, and there is an industrial kitchen where you can bring your own food.  They have food here as well, if you need.  The place is staffed by peer specialists: mental health professionals who have mental illness themselves.  I am a peer too.  It’s a wonderful career.  And not a cakewalk, I’ll tell you.

I’m starting to feel better.  I’m starting to write again, and I’m reaching out to my friends online again.  And for me… there are a lot of people to reach out to!  I run a small-but-tight-knit mental health discussion group on Facebook… for over a year now.  We have really stimulated one another’s minds by sharing our woes, interests, inspirations and dreams.

People really value the group, and I’m realizing that I’m lost without it myself.  When I share myself there, I then open myself up to receiving positivity and wisdom from the other members.  When I try and hide myself… then I become completely cut off from this vital wellspring of healing support.

Perhaps this is a microcosm of the world… how it should be.  We are open.  We are accepting.  We are insightful as we share ourselves, and so we invite insightful people into our lives.

Anxiety is a Darkened, Inescapable Tunnel

Lately, my mind has been floundering a bit.  My psychiatrists told me that this is a common occurrence for those with bipolar disorder, to experience anxiety and discomfort during the spring and fall.  Those “transitional seasons,” if you will.

And while knowing this helps me realize that “this too shall pass,” it never gets any easier.  Always, the panic introduces itself to me in a way it never has before.  I sometimes fear, “I have gotten this far, but this is it.  I’ve reached the end.  I am now approaching the beginning of the end.”

Of course, this is my worst nightmare.  I am already grateful beyond anything, that I finally came through that tunnel of insanity.  A tunnel with no light, thousands of miles long, buried deep underground, and more akin to a maze.  I’d go down a path, feeling the walls, hopeful that the upward incline implied that I was getting closer. And then I’d fall through a hole, back to square one. Or maybe a year of tunneling led to a dead end, and I’d have to go back where I came from.

It gets to a certain point also, when you forget you’re in a tunnel.  After years and years of never seeing light, you start to forget that it exists.  You give up.  You’ll maybe find a nice patch of dirt to sit on, making yourself comfortable, fall asleep…

I digress.  With this anecdote, I strive to convey the impossibility of mental illness.  Typically, we problem-solve and move forward by using our minds to deduce answers and move forward in life. But mental illness serves to attack a person’s mind.  And so, a person’s ability to rationalize and calculate is impaired.

A tragedy.

Of course, people find solace in many ways.  There are various coping mechanisms that circumvent the need for logic.  Options abound.  There is deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, the adoption of a religion or spiritual practice, as well as more clinical therapeutic solutions such as CBT or DBT… It’s important for a person to figure and explore to see what works for himself.

One can even find healing and solace via the pursuit of hobbies.  My personal venture into writing have proved incredibly therapeutic for me.  I have a mind that is constantly filled with words, so to get them out provides me with an outlet to channel this.  It used to be that I had not a hobby like this, and so my brain was “backed up,” and always in a state of hypothetical panic.

And of course, there is medication.  Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it is a life saver.  I used to feel ashamed that I needed it, because so many people told me that it was a bad thing to be on them.  That I could heal myself “naturally” by eating vegan or whatnot.  I’ve tried it for myself, and it doesn’t work.  Don’t get me wrong… Iwork out  several times a week, and eat mostly organic now… But that only enhances my wellness.  It is not enough to cure me.

I just wish the seasonal panic attacks would go away.  You would think that I could simply talk myself out of them.  “This happens with the changing of seasons.  You’ll be alright.”  Only it’s not so easy.  I’ll tell you why:

No two panic attacks are alike.  At least for me.

Sure, I had my panic attacks last fall, as the cold made its entrance.  Along with my anxieties, I felt physical discomforts in my body.  Perhaps a pang in one specific part of my head, or maybe my brain feels like it’s tilting on a certain angle.  A lot of times, the thoughts themselves are repetitive and the same… I’m Beethoven, I’m the Antichrist… But the event that triggers the thought is always different.

That is why it always feels like each panic attack will be my final, permanent descent into insanity.  A panic attack always serves to poke me at a specific angle where I am defenseless.  And once I get stronger, panic finds another way to knock me down.

The only thing at this point, that gets me through, is my power of reason.  FINALLY, I am able to access it.  My medications work, I have good people around me, and I have hobbies.  As I said above.

These days, I take pride in this curse.  Although my illness causes my brain to act like it is a personality that wants to destroy me, I will not be deterred.  I will not be beaten.  Instead, I consider this to be a journey, or a quest.  An adventure, filled with many challenges.  And as I complete them, I grow stronger and more experienced.

Sounds like a video game.

It is important though.  We need to experience adversity, in order to have opportunities to apply ourselves and learn lessons from life.  The reward?  We develop in character.

Whether we realize it or not, we all desire drama in our lives.  And in reaction to such, we want to feel heroic and important.  A lot of people vicariously live adventurous lives by watching TV, and they experience thrills by emphasizing with protagonists.  Or whatever you want to call it.

I think others create adventure in their lives via political advocacy.  They see injustices, and then get loud and vocal about it.  I applaud people for standing up for what they believe in, but I think sometimes, these people exaggerate and take themselves too seriously.

As I write this, I actually am starting to feel better.  I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m very glad I can see it.