Swinging – On the Other Side

5-9-10                   2:27am

When I read posts from M- I feel such compassion. I don’t know just what draws me to him. I’ve never met him. I only know him through FB. I think it’s the fact that he’s genuine. (My stomach hurts.) And the volume of genuine posts. If you make me think or occupy enough of my think-time, you become a close friend, whether I know you or not.

I noticed tonight he seems to swing a lot. Mood swings that is. Extreme highs and lows. Joy and strife. I was riding with my mom thinking about this. I felt concerned and wondered if he’d ever sought help. I realized it’s not really my place to ask but also that it’s not my place to kill the dream.

I realized – I’m on the other side. If I could go back to my days of creative highs and performance and laughter and joy and strife and craziness, would I? I have given up so much in the pursuit of not happiness but stability. And what do I really have? Not stability, less happiness, I guess less strife. Less psychosis. But there is little traveling, almost no dancing, no theater. My grand ideas are mostly limited to mental health and don’t usually happen. I have no degree. I have talent but I’m not doing what I love. I’d like to go to Fresno in a few weeks for a convention but I can’t afford it, have a choir performance and Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. I’d much rather do midnight workshops and dance all day.

I didn’t know what I was signing up for when I started taking medication. I just needed to get the Hell away from what was happening. I think if I’d been accurately diagnosed things might have been different. Maybe not. I remember the first night I heard voices. It was the scariest night of my life. I’ve been through a lot of scary things, but that tops it. My psychiatrist told me it was “normal” for people with depression to hear voices and not to worry, did nothing. (deep breath…) I would not go back to my days of skinniness and days of dancing and top of the world highs if it meant taking back the voices and the visions and the feelings and everything that went with them. But I yearn for those days. If you haven’t experienced them, you can never understand. It’s why we go off our meds. To feel them. Sometimes almost anything is worth getting that back. It’s like trying to convince yourself every minute that eating only peanut butter and jelly for the rest of your life will be as full-filling as eating as much of the best food you’ve ever tasted for a month and then starving.

This bitter perspective is not quite something someone new to mental health should hear or can handle. Would you jump at that? Maybe if you are desperate or REALLY like peanut butter. But it’s something they NEED to hear. But nobody says it. Nobody says to the artist, “This pill may save your life but you won’t paint the same.” No one says to the actor, “The stage might not be your friend.” No one bothers to tell the dancer, “By the way, in six months you’ll either be too fat to dance or you’ll be fat enough that you hate yourself enough not to.” No one says that. They should. But they don’t.

So I find myself on the other side. I’ve been through creativity and performance and crazy wonderful and terrible highs. And I’ve been through years of treatment and its ups and downs and effects. And now I’m here, on the other side. I think I’ve learned all I can from programs. Therapy keeps me going because it gives me someone non-judgmental to talk to. But I usually have the answer or it’s me that has to figure it out. I’ve been on tons of meds. I’m not on many anymore. And I watch people. I watch them feel and interact. I know when something’s wrong and sometimes what. Not much surprises me. Not much other people say scares me. And I want to help. What I have been through helps, but it doesn’t not hurt. It takes from you. It’s not free. Life in entertainment may be crazy but it’s a choice. Everything is a choice. (sigh)

I wish there was a way to get “better” without losing the creativity. Without losing what makes us us. On the other side now. I can’t cross back. Not for long…

© Michelle Routhieaux 2010

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