Self-love

I have spent five decades of life denying my needs. I was raised to believe it was selfish to take care of me. As an active alcoholic, I practiced a great deal of self-hatred. Being gay in the family and society and time I was taught me self-loathing. I had little chance to learn to love me.

I have often heard it said that we each have to take care of us. In early sobriety, I was told this was not true for me. I was told I had spent many years drinking in a selfish way. Loving and appreciating my strengths was denied me. It now appears to me this was another Puritanical way to get me to practice more self-hate.

Today, I embrace the idea that I must love me first. I have to open my eyes and recognize my beauty and be happy about it. Anything less than loving me first is a disservice to me and my family and friends.

A long friendship of mine ended recently. Learning to love me first played a role in my realization that this relationship was unhealthy for me. It was a relationship born between two people who were unequal. One was the superior and the other the inferior. Over the years, we made changes to try to equalize us, but I was never able to release my inferiority. The fault of that lay strictly with me.

As I have grown over the last several years beginning to love me, I grew uncomfortable in my inferior role. Recently, I witnessed myself being abused by passive-aggressive behavior and manipulation. For the first time ever, I spoke up and stated firmly that I recognized this abuse and that I rejected it. My friend was misusing me.

I reject abuse. I am worthy of respect. I am lovable.

Those simple words have been foreign to me my whole life. I was acculturated early in life to believe I was vile and subhuman, because I was gay. I turned for solace to alcohol and became its slave. After the psychiatrist told me I had bipolar disorder, I felt the natural shame that accompanies a diagnosis with mental illness.

I lived my whole life hating me.

As I sit writing these words, I turn away from self-hate. I embrace self-love. I give me permission to love me first. My hope is by loving me I will be able to love others more freely and completely.

It has been a week since the end of my long friendship that was based in an old way of self-hate. In this time, I have spent hours ruminating over my part of our relationship and its end. I can say I feel free now. I walk taller. I am lighter.

It’s funny. With my new decision to try life loving me first, I find I look at others differently. I care more. I wish to cause less pain. I want to give love.

It’s Time

I am opening up and moving into the future. This was my status today on a social network:

2013 was a momentous year for me. I participated in intensive training to become a Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, which led to a 3-month internship at the state-run East Hawaii Community Mental Health Center. All this culminated this fall in receiving full certification in the field from the state.

What most people don’t seem to fully grasp is the word “peer”. It means an equal. What I want to announce for the first time to all who care to listen is that I am an equal to the people I work with. I have a mental illness, too.

Mental illness is surrounded by stigma all over the world, and I have allowed that shadow to keep myself in the dark to everyone but a very few close friends and family members. I’ve been in hiding, and it is a burden I have carried since I was diagnosed 12 years ago.

Today, I choose to lift that shadow from my life. I have a mental illness. I am very lucky to live in the time and place that I do. I receive excellent medical attention, I have a medication regimen that enables me to live a fulfilling life, and I have support from many who know me.

Here at the end of 2013, I leave behind the shame that accompanies so many people diagnosed with mental illness. I march forward into 2014 with a clean slate ready to write a new future. I am happy, and I am loved.

I am opening up on this blog, too. I have been anonymous here for almost four years. It’s time to leave the fear and the shame behind. My name is Jake, and I live in Hawaii.

A String of Losses

It’s been rough for about two months since changing medication. I’ve experienced what I can only describe as a string of losses, and my daily routine has suffered, making me at times sad and at others feeling free.

The first loss was my daily activity on a website I enjoyed. I was a regular contributor to a forum on mental illness on a loosely moderated site. I asked a question one day that was viciously attacked. I was a member of that forum for over three years, and to have the other members turn angrily on a simple question hurt. It’s been two months now since the incident, and I do not remember what I asked that was so roundly despised. I deleted my account, and I have not been back since. I honestly never think about the place. I’m free of it.

Co-directing a play occupied much of my time in the past couple of months. I really enjoyed it. I dove fully into each of the characters I was coaching from the eight actors I was working with. I studied the words. I learned the motivations and thought deeply about the hidden lives of these stage roles. The rehearsals went very well. The other director, a mentor to me in some ways, praised my work proclaiming it “excellent.” The performances were a critical success. People active in the local theatre community all came and openly beamed at the accomplishment. It was a beautiful play.

And then ten days after the show closed, I got a letter from one of the actors I directed. He rebuked me for a change I asked him to make late in the rehearsal process. He made the change in the remaining rehearsals, and his performance was superb. In the letter, though, he said my mishandling of my request to him made him unsure of his characterization, and he was therefore incapable of enjoying any of the normal joy an actor gets from performing.

All of this was new information to me. He was cheerful throughout the run of the show. I took his letter to heart, and it hurt greatly. My happy memories of the successful production are forever tainted by this man’s complaint.

My life is a very quiet one. I live on my computer in many ways. I have many far-flung friends. A number of them are from a small website that I would normally have open on my web browser all day, chatting and interacting with others. It’s a social site with active moderators policing it and keeping it running smoothly. A matter arose on this site, and I voiced my opinion. It was an opinion shared by several users. Much to my surprise, our remarks on the site were removed by the moderators, and we were told to toe the line.

I was flabbergasted. I have been a member of this online community for four years, and suddenly my ideas were forcefully muzzled. I was torn. I complained to the community’s manager and given no answer. I was met with silence. It is a site with many different subjects, and mental illness comes up occasionally. I toyed with the idea of deleting my account, but finally, I decided to tell a few trusted friends there to forward any information or questions that come up about mental illness. I am restricting my interaction there to that subject only.

I have gone from a very active online life to a small one in a matter of weeks. I’m still adjusting.

These are three losses I’ve experienced recently. There have been numerous smaller ones. These three sting.

Changing Medication

I’m going to try to ease back into blogging regularly by mentioning that I changed medication in October. I was taking two different medicines for bipolar disorder, and those have been replaced with one.

I have had a nice side effect. One of the old medicines caused a great deal of weight gain. Now that I’m no longer on that old one, I am shedding pounds. It’s almost effortless. I think I’m at the end of that stage, though, and any more weight loss will require effort.

I have had some not so nice side effects. I went through a period of irrational, high anxiety, and I’ve experienced general irritability. Both are common with my new medicine. I have an anti-anxiety medicine I can take, but I don’t like to. It makes me sleepy. The irritability is another matter.

I have made an important decision. I have stopped explaining and qualifying my experiences. I am what I am. I feel the way I feel for complex reasons. I have stopped apologizing.

A person with a visible disability is not required to volunteer information. I stop the same. I proclaim my independence from judgement.

A Good Quote

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

Interior Wounds and Exterior Smiles

I hurt.

I have just come from a psychotherapy appointment where I laid bare my latest problems. I’m hyper-sexual, and I’m spending money.

I can’t remember whether I’ve written about this or whether that even matters, but bipolar disorder has many seasonal symptoms. I have first-hand knowledge that when the seasons change, my illness demonstrates its hold on me. I often don’t realize it, until it’s almost over or completely over. I’m in one of those periods now, or perhaps I’m coming out of it.

Hyper-sexuality and spending money are symptoms of mania, and I’m manic. My decisions are sometimes flawed now.

However, I have a resolve not to feel shame or guilt. I spoke openly about my recent sexual forays to my therapist, and I will continue to do so. Next, I have to gain the courage to call my nurse and report my mania to her. Sometimes her bedside manner is lacking, and I’m reluctant to talk openly. I am thankful to have friends, old and new. The healing began after my last post here when a correspondent wrote me offering to listen. I wrote back about my troubles. That opening allowed me to chat with my best friend without fear, and then today, I spoke at depth to my therapist.

My money situation is not a problem to my mind. I budgeted some large purchases very recently. All my bills are covered. I will not accept negative looks and judgement about my actions there.

Outside, I’m all smiles.

It’s a mask, and I’m not ready to write about it.

Capable Incapacities

Sailing off into the sunset on a placid sea is not for me as yet.  I remain on the path to employment as a Certified Peer Specialist. My internship was successful, and now, I wait. The man in charge of such things at the state level called me himself to congratulate me on a job well done, and he said he would like to hire me on a contract basis to lead groups in WRAP and Seeking Safety. That was 3 weeks ago. I’m still waiting.

It’s the government, and they are not known for working at high speed. To be fair, they are currently reorganizing their workforce, and adding a new employee, even just a contracted one, is not high on their priority list. Thankfully, I’m dealing with state government and not the federal one, which is shut down at the moment. I also have to state that the man in charge works alone. He has no secretary to help him at his job. He has no staff. What’s more, I’m patient. I am not worried. It will come.

In the meantime, I am involved with theatre, co-directing a play at the local university here where I live. It’s thrilling, and it brings a smile to my face and a flutter to my heart thinking about the theatrical process.

I am very organized. I have the rehearsal times all intertwined with the many actors’ individual schedules, no easy feat. I studied the script diligently to learn the proper motivations and their actions for the various pieces I’m responsible for directing. I wrote solid notes about salient points. I subtly questioned each actor, eliciting their own ideas about why certain words are uttered by certain characters. I offered my thoughts as well and let the actors choose how best to proceed with the growth of their work.

I’m maintaining an excellent work ethic with my group. They really are coming along fine, and the other director, a much more experienced one, complimented my actors, which I passed along to them.

All is well?

No.

I am haunted by my own incapacity to protect my most vulnerable core. In the quiet of my being, people come and use me. I allow it. I participate in it. I want it.

I tell no one. Revelation brings judgement, and I’m sick of it.

After waiting more than two months, I was finally paid for the hours I worked during my internship. It was a large sum for me, but small compared to my past earnings before my illness began. I used a good chunk to pay past medical bills, and then I spent the remainder on toys. I bought a computer tablet and a new TV and Blu-Ray DVD player.

I have the Kindle app on the tablet, and I downloaded a vast number of free Kindle books, all classics. I bought a few select new books as well. I have spent long hours reading, and that is a positive accomplishment. For many years, my illness robbed me of reading. I couldn’t concentrate, and it was beyond frustrating. It was debilitating. Getting the right medicine helped remedy that, and I can report that I enjoy a good book now. Reading on the tablet is very easy. The screen size is perfect, and my eyes flit over the lines rapidly. A finger flick turns the page. It’s brilliant.

The new TV and Blu-Ray player was a frivolous purchase. I don’t watch TV. I can’t. My daughters watch it, and I do occasionally watch movies. I like serious drama and period pieces. Some comedies are good, too.

But the machine bothers me. It throws a switch in my brain that hurts. If I really want to sit and enjoy watching a show or movie, I generally have to take a very low dose of the anti-anxiety medicine prescribe for me. Isn’t that ridiculous? I have to sedate myself to enjoy TV.

Finally, and this pains me to write, a man is using me in the worst possible way. I can’t think about it. I haven’t told anyone. I haven’t told my therapist or my nurse or my doctor or my best friend. I can write no more about it. It’s too upsetting. All is moving so well in my life, yet I allow a man to abuse me. My sleep has been disturbed. It sickens me.