on walking wounded

Hello. I’m a twice-divorced, middle-aged mom with bipolar and ADHD, and this is my first blog post. I’ve been meaning to blog since 1998. I’m not surprised it took me this long. Much of my energy goes to working full time. It’s not easy for me to work. I’ve managed one career and many jobs. None of them stuck, none of them are what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. I’m single. I’ve been in love a dozen times, but I can’t figure out how to make a healthy relationship last. The most meaningful part of life is my two amazing kids, but I’ve never worked so hard at something just to be barely adequate at it. I’m blessed, and grateful to be alive, but I’ve also had days, months, and years at a time where it’s been impossible to derive pleasure from anything. At times being alive is so painful it feels like unyielding punishment from capricious gods.

Shall I count some blessings? Generally able body, privileged skin color, middle class childhood, supportive family and friends, flexible employment, aforementioned amazing kids. I’m smart enough, which is my working hypothesis for how I’ve been able to function at all, between the misdiagnosed mental illness and the undiagnosed neurodivirgence. In spring of 2019 I started ramping up into a manic episode that became disruptive enough I had to take medical leave from my job. I’ve since returned to work, but I’ve yet to return to my previous (tenuous, inadequate) baseline. I am struggling to function in the most basic, day-to-day regard. Everything is hard. Brushing teeth, doing dishes. Everything.

But dreams ain’t broken down here. They’re walking with a limp (pilfered from the near-perfect Tom Waits album, Small Change). I’m writing to you in an attempt to organize my thoughts, hold myself accountable, and gain some support. Even if it’s the support of an imaginary audience, I think it can help. I can’t give up on the possibility that life could be a little more joy and lot less struggle. I’m accepting myself as a person with a chronic mental illness, an out of shape middle aged mom with vague health problems. I’m failing at my job and desperately trying not to fail as a parent. But I refuse to accept this is all I am, or ever will be. I’ve lived dozens of lives in the first half of this drama, I have hope for at least one more good one before the curtains close.

A few weeks ago I started with a commitment to myself to walk every day, even just around the block, for three weeks. Most days I managed more, some days I didn’t make it out at all. It’s a cold, wet Pacific Northwest winter, and COVID makes it too easy to stay inside. But I was in better shape at the end of the three weeks, so it was worth doing. The idea was it takes doing something daily for twenty one days to establish a habit. I’m not sure the voracity of that. I read it on the internet somewhere. There’s a whole science of behavioral change, and I’ve studied some of it in a proper academic setting, when I was becoming a counselor. I’m not writing this as a counselor, though. That’s my background so it’ll be in attendance, but for now I’m just a messy woman trying to heal.

So we’ll pretend it takes doing something daily for at least 21 days to establish a habit. I’ll write more about the walking in my next post. I’m still trying to get it to stick.