Reflections on letting loose — from 2013

I wrote this in 2013 and am finding parts of it still true & parts of it I feel new ways about // I decided to share this in the spirit of letting my thinking evolve

Mom and I drove to WalMart when I was home visiting in March. I put on the Avett Brothers “I and Love and You” CD and felt like Garden State telling her she just had to listen to this one song, it would change her life, I swear.

I’d been singing and dancing to the Avett Brothers at 5am for the last three weeks. Pop up out of bed before my alarm, put on my headphones, dance party while making lunch, race out the door and catch the train to work. Repeat.

I serenaded Mom in the car, wiggling in my seat waiting for my favorite part. At 2:31 in “The Perfect Space,” there’s a bit of a tempo change that I’m fond of. When it occurred, though, Mom seemed not as impressed as I always am. “What!” I yelled, “How are you so calm? This is the BEST THING EVER.” I danced it out as much as a seat belt allows. Mom laughed at me and we pulled into the parking lot.

Later at home, she looked at me with a teary, happy smile. “I feel like I finally have my daughter back.” I smiled but didn’t know what to say. I knew what she was referring to—the many years of angst and depression and eating disorders and secrets and lies and worrying and hospitals. Your cheerful, happy, dancing daughter is back! Everything is back to normal!

The winter of seventh grade—ten years prior—we attended a play together. During intermission, she told me she thought I had changed. I didn’t seem happy lately, I didn’t make jokes, I wasn’t smiling. I did not look at her while she said this; I couldn’t explain what was going on either. I think we both assumed it was just puberty at that point. And while there have been many good moments since that winter conversation, those years are overwhelmingly marked by mental illness and the chaos that stemmed from it all.

Standing in the kitchen with Mom in March, I felt like this was the opposite conversation. I was me again. I was making her so happy because I was goofy, easy going, laughing, dancing, singing. My dad, on the other hand, had been more astutely observing me that weekend and let me know that he thought my mood was too high. Which it was—but much closer to baseline than it had been in the weeks prior. As it turned out, it took another two and a half months for my mood to even out and get my lithium level figured out. I’m not dancing a whole lot right now.

I am a reserved person. I am rarely one to sing and dance in public, let alone in the car with my mom or while making a PBJ in my kitchen before sunrise. Hypomania is a gift — I do things I wouldn’t normally let myself do; I am trying to be less self-conscious in my everyday life, but hypomania is a force that makes it happen effortlessly. But I know—as do many—that it doesn’t stay. Hypomania explodes and turns into its own chaos.

Honestly, I’m lucky to not have been fired in the winter.

In one breath people who love me most are concerned and scared when my mood is not stable while in the same breath telling me they love me when I’m hypomanic. I love me when I’m hypomanic, too. I hate taking lithium but I do it (almost) every day because I know that hypomania never ends well. But there is a tradeoff that I miss. I feel like I have been cycling through the stages of grief for the last couple years. Acceptance is elusive; every time I think I have accepted it I ultimately get tripped up and am angry, denying again. I love my life, my job, my friends—I know that doing everything in my power to be healthy is the only way my life can stay this way. Yet…

I’m sad and frustrated that so few people in my life understand it and I am grateful beyond words for those that do.

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