Four more days to go until I finally get in for my behavioral health appointment. It’s been a month of doing pretty much anything I could to keep my head above water.
Knitting like crazy. I lost track, finally, of how many hats I made, and even moved on to knitting one with some gorgeous happy-making rainbow yarn from KnittedWit’s shop on Etsy–made doubly wonderful by the fact that a portion of each sale is being donated to two non-profit groups that advocate for LGBTQ+ issues. Which, in a way, is a bit of a balm for my soul. Knitting keeps my hands busy so I’m not online obsessing, and that purchase is helping people who are threatened by the current administration. Win-win, right? I also moved on to a cowl. I’ve found I really enjoy knitting on circular needles, so this was the perfect excuse to mess around with seed stitch and whip up something with this soft and puffy cotton candy pink yarn I got on clearance at JoAnn’s Fabrics. I already made a slouchy hat to go with it. Too bad spring is almost here.
The long weekend that fell in the middle of all of this found me with a renewed need for little sleep, more energy than usual, and an antsy-ness that couldn’t be contained. I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen for the first time in ages. I bought a bunch of art supplies and essentially ran my own Paint Night on my kitchen table…for three nights in a row. I savored every moment with my kids. And I worked on four recipes for a client, including photographing them. All in three days. It was a whirlwind.
This is why I don’t disagree with my primary care provider’s concern about bipolar disorder. My life is a series of highs and lows, and the highs are extremely productive bursts of creative energy that I’ve come to rely upon to function in life. When I feel low, I know that eventually, the pendulum will swing the other way and I will get that boost. I just have to wait it out.
I’ve learned to embrace the cloudy days. But it also means I don’t always know how to respond properly to the sunny ones.
As I was working my way through one last recipe for my client last weekend, I depended upon the forecast for a cloudy day when I decided to spend a leisurely Sunday morning sleeping in. When I finally got out of bed, I found that the cloudy day was nowhere to be found…and my current preferred photography location was already bathed in direct sunlight, a considerable problem for the planned project. I plowed right into the project, hoping the random clouds scattering the sky would offer me enough diffusion when I needed it to complete the photo series.
I also skipped my anxiety meds, because they have to be taken with food, and I had no time to eat. Big mistake.
There is a phrase on my resume that perfectly illustrates how I embrace my brand of mania and turn it into gold: “thrive in deadline-driven environments.” Except right now, I’m run down. And I’m on the other side of a high and leveling out. And…and…and…
At the critical moment to take photos–just as the recipe came out of the pan–my workspace was shining like a drive to work in rush hour sunlight. Blinding bright, SAD-combating, beach-like direct sun. And I was running out of time and ingredients. And I freaked out. Warpath. Baby tantrum. The words that come out of my mouth under these circumstances would make a sailor blush. It took my all not to flip everything off the table and storm out of the room. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I had grown so used to cloudy days and working within those limitations that I had lost the ability to handle more than ample light. Just like I had grown so comfortable in my blanket of darkness that I sometimes have difficulty accepting the good, or believing it’s for me, or taking it as my own.
I regrouped. I moved to my sunny day spot. I set everything back up. I tried again. I had an absolutely failure. An “I-think-I-ruined-this-artsy-fartsy-shabby-chic-barn-board-background-I-made” failure. I tossed my hands up and declared I’m never doing this again. I quit. It’s over. I’m not cut out for any of this anymore. And nobody wants my work anyway. I’m not that good. It’s just not worth it. I can’t.
My brain is a horrible enemy.
I ate. I took my meds. I chilled the fuck out. And I wrote to my client, explained the difficulties I was having, was willing to take the loss of the project, but also offered one last shot at an alternative. And was surprised to not only receive permission to try again, but also talk about more work.
Inside my head, I am constantly being told what I do isn’t good enough. Isn’t worthwhile. Is a waste of time. That nobody cares. And people are just being nice to me. As in, the polite nice where nobody really likes you, but we’re all adults here and they’re not going to be like high school where they actually scream at you in the hallway that nobody likes you. (What, that hasn’t happened to you? Just me?) My head is a liar. But it doesn’t matter how many times I’m proven it’s wrong; how many times I’m told otherwise; how many times I tell myself otherwise; my head often wins. I’m a fabulous self-saboteur, without even trying.
This weekend, when I attempted the project again, even with a kitchen bright and shiny from all that glorious sunshine, I prepared. I pep talked the night before. I set a timeline, so I wouldn’t destroy my chances of working where I wanted to. I set an alarm–no lazing about in bed. And I managed my expectations. Preparation is always the key.
Today was a much better day than last Sunday.
But it’s still one day at a time.