I've noticed recently that I've slipped deep into the isolation hole. I am often house sitting, and get to spend the bulk of my time alone. When it comes to having to leave the house to do something, I am less and less able to do it, especially if it's not absolutely necessary.
Church is an absolutely necessary part of my life. Living and walking in vulnerability with my church community is one of the reasons I have survived thus far in my journey toward (hopefully) sanity. Yet I find myself withdrawing, not wanting to go to events...rather wanting desperately to go but having no energy or willpower to get myself to.
Swing dancing is another thing I love, but it is incredibly social. I haven't had the energy for that either. So I've tried picking martial arts back up, and hopefully it will stick. I'll have to give it yet another go tomorrow as it's been a week since I showed up due to unexpectedly getting sick. Thankfully nothing serious.
So often once I notice something like this isolation going on in my life, it's farther along than I care to admit, which makes it harder to remedy. So I write, and claim victory over this. I write and spread awareness about how sometimes we disappear into ourselves, and that we need to be honest and get help from friends and loved ones to get us up and out.
There's a lot of talk online, especially in the world of chronic and mental illnesses, about this concept of spoons. My stripped down explanation of the concept is that everyone has so many spoonfuls of energy every day, and every task takes so many spoons to complete. Once you run out of spoons you are kind of stuck until you can regain some more spoons. I have a lot to say on that, but my words have yet to be collected. What I can say is that lately I only have one or two spoons a day, and it is so much easier to hide behind a computer screen than to engage in community. I want to be selfish with my spoons, and hoard them so that on those extremely busy days I can survive. Except it doesn't work that way, your spoons only last their given day, unfortunately. Still I try.
All this to say, I must get out more. I know what I need to start feeling better, and I need to find a source of energy to bust through this rut. It's time to press into God, and trust that He'll get me through this season, one way or another.
This past week has been one headache after another due to my health insurance. The headaches are unfortunately not at an end, and won't likely be for another month or so. Though, today has been the most taxing in this roller coaster thus far.
I take many medications to manage the variety of mood disorders that I have, and I do my best to follow the directions exactly. I made a promise to those that care most for me to never go off of them for any reason, but today I got a bit of a glimpse at how it would be possible to break that promise. Out of pocket, one of my prescriptions generic brands cost $500. I am on six or so medications at a time, and they are all that expensive or more. When you are out of medication, and your pharmacy is telling you your insurance is rejecting your prescription, you're...rather I... feel at a loss for how to proceed. Dropping $500 on a medication is not what I want to do with my day. Nor is arguing with my insurance and pharmacy all day.
But you do what you have to do, and you advocate for yourself even when you're tired and discouraged because going off of meds isn't an option. For now, I have enough meds to get by, but come Monday I'll get to spend my day on the phone trying to get my insurance to cover the medications I'm due, and with my primary care clinic since they don't want to get me in to see a doctor until mine is back from vacation. But, unless I get in now, come September I will have no insurance, and will be in trouble with medication again, that is unless I can convince them to see me now so I can figure out disability.
As a side note, the decision to pursue disability has been difficult, but because of how my last job ended up, I am frustrated and don't see myself succeeding much in the workforce until I have my list of medications under control (because who wants to take 6+ pills a day??). I want to set myself up for success, and to steward this body God has given me well, and that doesn't seem possible while struggling at work every day. I need to give myself permission to not only self advocate for my health needs, but to rest and be in the emotional and mental space that I am in. It doesn't do me any good to pretend to be in a season I'm not in, as frustrating as it is.
I'm thankful for family and friends who pray for me and give an ear when I'm freaking out about health insurance, which is a frequent occurrence. I'm also thankful for the people who remind me and encourage me to stay on medications even when it's this difficult to get them.
This path of learning how to advocate for my own mental health is often frustrating and exhausting, but I have to remember it's worth it. It's worth it because in the long run hopefully there will be systemic changes we can push for.
Please know if you are facing this type of issue, you are absolutely not alone, and that it is worth the fight. Even if you have to give yourself emotional timeouts between phone calls, or to vent to your friends in the midst, it is worth the effort to push forward. Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9), for you are never alone in this journey.
I'm a Christian and I have generalized anxiety disorder.
I'm a Christian and I have panic disorder with agoraphobia.
I'm a Christian and I might have Bipolar Disorder Type 2, major depression, or borderline personality disorder (because the doctor's can't tell which).
There. I said it straight. Another lesson of "let your yes be yes and your no be no," in the books. I'm a Christian and I have never lived without mental illness, and it took me twenty four years to realize it. It took somebody forcing me to face the reality that these issues would never be going anywhere, especially if my tactic was going to be hiding, gritting my teeth, and pretending they didn't exist.
I keep looking for the perfect article that sums up this past summer and how I feel (even though I don’t have words for that feeling) moving forward. Maybe I’m the one with the words that need to be shaped into the clay in the potter’s hands.
After this summer the future feels fuzzy. I can't tell where I'm headed, or why I'm headed there. I can't always tell if there's a purpose anymore. Most of the time my energy is spent in the here and now just trying to claw my way through one day at a time, and feeling trapped inside this kind of moment by moment life with nothing to look forward to.
I wish I could say before this summer things were bright and cheery. No. That's not so. Before this summer I couldn't be bothered to crawl forward anymore. The forward motion is a step in the right direction, even if a sad one.
I'm still on the roller coaster, and have no idea when it will end. Although yesterday I heard a comparison made on the radio between a baby being upset by being on her dad's shoulders for the first time and us being in a particularly difficult season of life with God right there with us. This comparison was sharp to me, cutting through some of the fog to see God's word for me once again, "Hey, Alex, I'm right here! I've never once left you. I created this season in your life, and know exactly what's going on. Will you trust me?"
As I move forward in this season where I never know when my body is going to rebel against existing, am I willing to trust that no matter how unsettled I feel, I am assuredly in the arms of God? Sometimes I don't know the answer to that question, but even in those moments I must look outside of myself for a solution. Maybe there isn't a solution to begin with. It could be that God is pointing me toward trust despite the thorns in my side. As much as I would love mental illness to not be my particular thorn, it is. If mental illness is my thorn, then what is the rose attached to it?
A Short Story
He stared out of the window of the car wondering how he became who he was that moment. He stared out, seeing nothing but poorly constructed buildings always halfway between looking finished and looking demolished. He stared out, seeing nothing but the ugliness caused by the fallen nature of this world.
It was midnight, but the quiet had yet to fall upon the city where he waited. The cars honking as they pass no one by never cease to get under his skin. Why do they do that? What problems does honking at no one and everyone and yourself solve? None, or so he thought.
He stared with sadness, unable to look up like that song told him to. There are no stars to see, only what is left to the imagination from other spaces and other places and other times. He had no stars to watch, no way to calm himself down in the midst of the madness called life.
“What do I do?” He thought, as he continued to stare. “What do I do?”
For half an hour, those four words replayed themselves in his mind, a broken record beyond his control. He does this often, sitting, and staring out windows. He asks of himself the world. He asks, “Who am I?”, “Why am I?”, “What is this life?”, “What do I do?”. Still, he doesn’t know. So, he continues to stare. Out. Out. Out of his own mind and at the world around him.
He wondered what his environment said about him. Does the clogged and dusty air say to the world that he is as an old family car that no one wants to sell or scrap simply because of sentimental value? Does the clogged and dusty air say to the world that he cannot breathe, and that’s why he’s drowning in a place he chose to be? Does the clogged and dusty air say to the world that he has run out of words, cold? No more words. None. What remains is the clogged and dusty air swarming his heart refusing to let him believe that he has any worth. What remains is the clogged and dusty air in his lungs that refuse to circulate. What remains is the clogged and dusty air in his brain that refuse to be washed out with water and new thought.
Does anything remain?
“What do I do?”
He clutches the steering wheel, letting the feel of the cracked plastic casing rotate in his cupped palms. He leans his head back against the head rest, hoping that he will be able to fall into a permanent sleep while the world continues to roll around him. He scrunches his legs up from the floor boards and rests them on the passenger seat; no one has sat there in years, why should he be polite with where his mud covered shoes go? He feels like a child as he stares at his repulsive frame in the reflection of the window.
“How did I get here?”
How is a good question, better than what. He still can’t answer it. He begins to think that maybe there is no answer. Maybe there is no reason behind where he is sitting at that precise moment. Maybe there is only chance.
He knows that’s not true. Just as he knows the stars still blink on in the distance about the light pollution that ruins the nights here. Just as he knows that he is not just a sentimental memory to his family and friends. Just as he knows that he can still think; there are plenty of words wrapped in his head if he only took the time to move on.
“Move on. Humph. Nope.” He’s still sitting and staring, wondering if there were any other way to get on with life. Does he have to forgive and forget? Is it a requirement?
He remembers something his mom used to tell him. Hate hurts the person who carries the emotion, not the one it is directed toward. Ah. So this is why. This is what I can do. But can I?
His thoughts roll into each other, and he begins mouthing words as he thinks them in order to regain clarity in the midst of chaos. He sits back up in his seat, brushing off any dirt residue from the passenger seat out of deference to a person who is no longer there. He opens the glove compartment, and rummages around for the pill bottle.
Ah, there it is. Once he maneuvers past the child safety lid, he slips out a single pill. Relief washes over him almost instantly. He fixes the collar on his shirt, runs his fingers through his hair, and gets out of the car. He walks to the dilapidated building and sits on what used to be the door frame. The building creeks. His eyes begin to water. He remembers what happened here.
The answer to his question, what do I do, is feel. Feel the memories. Let them wash over you. Sleep there, in that broken door frame, of that old building. Wake up, straighten your clothes, get back in your car, and go home.
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