My journal is really one woman’s bipolar struggle through constant mental and physical symptoms to stay the course of achieving her goals despite the severity of the two states. It practically seems that it’s either a daily struggle with physical side effects of psychiatric medications, a wide variety of psychiatric symptoms, or a complicated mix of both for me in this life. There’s no way I could today maintain my former teaching career with even just my physical symptoms, let alone my mental ones, or the combination of them both that comprise my daily battle. But you should read my bipolar journal today because despite these facts, it is a journal about choosing beauty, finding inner strength and cultivating love.
It is really a wonder that I still have the will to thrive after 24 diagnosed years of struggling just to keep my head above water–maybe it is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit or just my unending desire to achieve something worthwhile that will outlast me–whatever it is, it keeps me reorienting and pushing myself through this daunting daily existence of one major struggle or another or usually what is many struggles all at once…I realize everyone can relate to me even though I am still an extreme case, I realize everyone is constantly struggling and succeeding and failing and trying again, too. This gives me much solace. I realize I have been allowed the combination of freedom, time and vocabulary to share my all too relatable, even though seemingly exaggerated, life on this growing platform in order to express sympathy and love for the struggles of others like me who are Bipolar and for others who are just all too human.
I’ve basically boiled down my life to its most basic elements in order to continue to survive without making an eighth suicide attempt. This is the entirety of my life: waking myself up every morning, being a wife and mom, keeping a house, self care, trying to sleep normally, trying to make art…that’s it. Some of these elements are optional or simply out of reach on a daily basis–and I cannot even juggle these most basic elements of living in a consistently successful way.
My body and mind are probably unfortunately just too fragile to successfully exist in this world, even though my current world has been carefully constructed by my husband and I to really be just a hermetically sealed type of solitude during the school and work day while my family is busy where I am free to mostly just rest or make art and can also sometimes manage to maintain a clean house. I usually cannot eat much, go outside for long, be side effect-free, feel content for more than brief stretches of time; I mostly exist on an emotional and physical rollercoaster, forced to constantly focus on making and attending neuropsychiatric appointments, taking medication, changing medication, changing medication dosages, abstaining from food additives, OTC medication, alcohol, most food groups, most beauty products and cleansers, most commonly consumed food and beverages, and ironically I’m overly sensitive to most psychiatric medications, too–but I still wake up every morning thinking, “I will be healthy today” despite all previous evidence to the contrary…
I’m either the stupidest woman on earth or maybe just the most optimistic. Maybe I just really refuse to stop believing that eventually, with enough concerted effort, I will be able to be happy and symptom-free, a real author, a successful wife and mom, a human being who feels good mentally, physically, and emotionally all at the same time for more than a passing moment. Why? It’s the undying desire to succeed at living, although my life is really reduced to basically the least it could be and still I struggle to function normally within the small circle that is my existence.
I believe that healthy people simply take their easy health for granted because they do not know any better. I choose to think that people make the most out of their own health because I know I do my best to do this when I am able to feel briefly healthful.
I am starting to think I should probably be sealed up in a dark, rosy bubble in a safe room underground somewhere with the gifts of endless art supplies and computer access, alone with very limited time with other people (even my family) because they disrupt my grasp to hang on to reality with even their joy and especially their angst, and that I should live out the rest of my days just focused on making art–free from distraction except for crackers, water, sleep and CNN–and then maybe I would have a real shot at happiness or achieving greatness in either visual or literary art and finally feel free.
No wonder I’ve tried to kill myself seven chrissakes times! Suffice it to say that the only benefit I find the in the great difficulty of trying to maintain my life in any reasonable form or fashion is the sometimes short bursts of joy I experience in just three things: loving my daughter and husband, really feeling loved in return, and trying to create what I consider to be righteous art. That’s it. These three things keep me going. Without them, I would simply try to kill myself again. I’m a simple equation–joy as a reward for misery, and completeness to soothe my messy, disaster-ridden incompleteness.
I’m exasperated today by the difficulty of my very tenuous existence, and yet I am overfull with life’s graces at the same time. I’m exhausted and lucky and grateful and miserable and hopeful and forward-looking, all at the same time. I’m Bipolar I. I wish my life were simpler but it couldn’t be reduced any more than we’ve already reduced it down to the last most basic elements of a life.
Sometimes I marvel at, and alternately even pity, the much more successful, complicated, maybe more joyful lives I see from the outside all around me when I interact with people on the occasion that I can successfully leave my house–but I still wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone in the whole wide world and potentially give up the very great love and art-making I experience when I can make the most of these opportunities. That’s a mouthful. That’s really something of a statement, considering what I put up with on a daily basis, living within this body that God (or a lesser god) gave me to work with.
I am so cursed, and yet still more than blessed, to continue living in order to be a better mom, wife, person and artist. At least I know I have a simple and easy-to-remember purpose and place in the world–and that I would never trade that in for someone else’s purpose or place–because my desperate misery is matched only by the great love and commitment of being part of a family and of making art, by trying to understand the beauty and despair that is the small and lovely world I have managed to carve out for myself with the support of my family while under great duress. Living my life is ultimately worth it because perhaps the most basic gift of misery is the purity of joy that sometimes supersedes it.
And that is why you should read my journal today.
If you are intrigued by this post, please consider visiting my creative writing website, http://www.MarieKJohnston.com, where you can read excerpts of “Mental,” my second novel, officially accepted for publication by Page Publishing of New York City just yesterday!