Fear encompasses a huge part of my life. A lot of people could describe me as brave for enduring the hardships that I have had in my life so fearlessly. But I live my life to spite fear; to stick it to the man and not let anything as silly as fear to hold me back from living my best life.
I think there is a great (false) sense of bravery that comes with bipolar disorder. Some of us with the disorder (I can’t speak for all), even encourage the thought of running into pain or agony in order to conquer something. It’s why many appear brave when they self harm or attempt or even succeed with suicide. As far as self harm goes, and as dangerous as that can be, we look past the pain, look past the potential repercussions in order to gain temporary asylum in our minds.
Temporary asylum is crucial to a person who is depressed or manic. It’s why my old therapist always said I need a positive outlet to find peace in my mind and heart. I am at the point in my bipolar recovery process that I still need to seek distractions from my mind in order to not think about whatever was ailing me. Sure… in order to distract yourself you can smoke, drink, gamble, have sex, etc. but no matter what, your pain and issues will boomerang right back to you after or even halfway during any of those acts. In my opinion, I have never regretted making a shitty painting or writing a poorly worded blog post, and because I don’t feel bad about those sort of positive outlets, it also allows me to cope and process my feelings and emotions in a safe way.
I think bravery is an important part of life. When in doubt, apply for that job you think you won’t get, tell that person you like how you truly feel, make new friends, think outside the box, create that piece of art. What’s the worst that could happen?
But with bravery, comes false bravery. False bravery is something where you feel brave about doing or saying something when you really shouldn’t. An example of this for me was last Monday when I was seriously contemplating suicide. I had no fear of ruining my brand new car and drowning in the middle of Puget Sound. I had no fear of what others might say or think when they read my story in the news. I had no fear of death or the repercussions as to killing myself and what that means for a follower of Christ.
In a “normal” mindset, this would scare anyone straight. But when you are in so much physical and emotional pain, nothing would feel better than to make that pain just cease in any way we have the means of doing. That isn’t something that we should have to be brave about. We should talk to anyone we can when we feel like this, we should write about it, we should run for it. It’s hard to think about our clear goals that we have in our lives when our mindset is a deep spiral of singular thoughts of wanting the pain to end.
I made a self portrait of this sort of persona that I have about a year ago. In the painting, I paint the details of my face. One side of my head has long, flowing, brown hair while the other side is a pixie cut and my persona is holding a pair of scissors. Above the persona is a tornado spiral and on the outside of that spiral are the words I thought negatively about myself.
In a severe depression, I am the persona who holds the scissors. My mind is a tornado spiral of singular thoughts that contradict themselves and leave me believing I am a good person, that I don’t deserve to be happy. I made this painting because that’s how I truly felt when making it.
In my “normal” state of mind, I finished the painting by crossing out the negative things I wrote about myself. In the center of the spiral I paint the positive statement, “You are worthy.” I left that statement without crossing it out.
If I were experiencing a false sense of bravery when making this painting, I could have slashed my arms rather than slash the words I wrote about myself on canvas. I could have ceased my life last Monday, but instead I reached out to my best friend. I wouldn’t be here otherwise had I listened to my own intuition. That’s some pretty heavy stuff to contemplate.
I think it’s almost fascinating what the mind can make itself believe in order to change your perspective or think about things a certain way. I am fearful of a lot of things in life, but I am most fearful of myself and what I am truly capable of. There is no planning for my next depressive or manic episode. All I can do is take my medication, keep trying to find a therapist, and utilize my coping mechanisms.
I can’t change the adversity that I face, but I can control how I face my adversity. I can’t change how my bipolar mind perceives these hardships, but I do have autonomy over my own body and what I do with it.
If you are struggling today or whenever you are reading this, know that you are worthy, a badass, cherished, you are loved and adored. If no one has told you today that they love you and care about you, let this be my message to you.
Stay brave and resilient, my friends.