Radical alterations to my world

I have a question in mind: What events in my life have radically altered me? A few come to mind very quickly, and then a few more get added, followed by more. So let’s just list them. They are not in any particular order of importance. They simply came to me this way.

Getting sober: really, without that, I have nothing. I was a daily drunk by the time I was twenty years old. My doctors have all said I was probably just self-medicating. Whatever the reason, as I thought it took the misery away, alcohol filled me with despair beyond description. Only in sobriety did I learn that it caused the misery.

Coming out of the closet: any GLBT person will tell you this changes everything. It freed me. And in the end, it led to my divorce. It gave me power, and it filled me with pain. Any GLBT person will also tell you that coming out is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. I took me five or six years to get comfortable with being gay, and another five years to become really happy about it.

The birth of my children: what parent isn’t radically altered by a birth? While there have been fits along the way, my children are central to the joy I have in my life today.

Being an exchange student: I spent my junior year of college abroad, and I have never looked at the world in the same way since. I see the diversity and truly love it. It wasn’t until I was submerged in a foreign land that I really understood what it meant to be from my home country.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder: a year and half after I got sober, I had a breakdown. It was painful and baffling. I at once knew that something was wrong, but couldn’t for the life of me bring myself to believe that it had something to do with my brain. I was furious with God and could not pray. Over the past years, much of what I had has been stripped away from me because of the disease. I hate mental illness. I hate what it does to people. I hate what it does to caregivers and loved ones. I hate how poorly it is understood by society. I hate it. At the same time, I have people in my life who truly care about me and whom I love. I have access to case workers, therapists, doctors, and medications that work. I am very lucky to be living with this disease in the present and not the past.

There are a few things that I think qualify as radically altering my world.

Thoughts in Hell

For years whenever I closed my eyes, I was submerged in a bog. A mirey glue held me under its surface. I couldn’t close my eyes to rest. I couldn’t close my eyes to nap. Going to bed at night was an exercise in strong denial. It makes me want to cry just remembering it now.

The bog was thick and deep. I could not feel anything solid underneath me, and I could not reach up to the surface. It was all encompassing, and I was suffocating in the black, slick waste.

I would pull myself one arm at a time upward trying to reach air. I would grab and pull and attempt to get myself out of the wretched mess, and eventually, my face would break the surface, and I could breathe. I was still trapped, but I was breathing. This imagery went on for years. My eyes would shut, and I would be trapped in sludge.

I think back on it now, and the emotions are strong. It makes me want to sob remembering the terror.

There came a day when more than my face broke through. Somehow, my hands broke the surface, and I attempted to grab something to pull myself free. To my horror, the bog was covered with razor sharp rocks. Points and edges of the rocks were honed to a fine edge. Grabbing hold would slice through skin and muscle on my hands and cut to the bone. My head was free, but I was still captive to this vicious muck.

I can’t remember when it happened, but I gathered the strength to lift my torso out of the mire. The rocks sliced through my hands, but I denied the pain and wrenched my body upward. I remember being exhilarated by the ability to twist from my waist up in the open air. My legs remained encased and unusable, but I felt exultant. I could move.

This exercise took years. For ages, I remained in the bog, and I saw it every single time I shut my eyes. Even to pray.

I don’t remember now which came first: the smoother surface or lifting my entire body above the razor-like rocks. Still, that day did come when I stood above the bog ready to move.

Was there celebrating? Was there exuberance? No, for I found myself at the bottom of a pit. The only way out was up a slope of razor-like rocks. Again, the pain. More pain. Fierce, blinding cutting pain. Searing behind my eyes.

For years, I languished sunken in a putrid mire. Now free of that black bog, I faced a mountainous climb up rocks meant to slice me to pieces. And I did begin to climb.

I don’t know how the healing began or even when, but the day came when I could close my eyes and not see myself in the bog or being sliced to pieces trying to escape. It was sometime after my fifth anniversary of sobriety. I spent a great deal of my life self-medicating with gin. The pain did not stop on my first day sober. It did not stop in the first year. It was sometime after five years of continuous sobriety.

It also came two or three years after my bipolar diagnosis, and the beginning of medication.

Today, I am relieved to report that I close my eyes, and I see nothing. Blessed nothing.