Not all bipolar swings are inherently negative. A downward swing towards depression, if examined from an objective standpoint, can be a time for reflection and constructive introversion. Sometimes, one has to distance or disconnect oneself from the usual stimuli of the outside world to take stock, recover strength, and realign thoughts and goals. By the same coin, a upward swing — not necessarily into full hypomania — can be a boom time of great creativity, channeling energy into endeavors that suit one’s goals.
This takes time, practice, the help of a therapist and loved ones, and a good amount of hammering out new pathways in one’s thought processes and emotional self-examination. It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.
It also eats up a bunch of spoons.
If you’re not familiar with the Spoon Theory, I expound upon it (and reference its source) here. Most spoonies deal with a purely physical ailment — fibromyalgia, endometriosis, auto-immune diseases, etc. Mental illness can qualify as well — bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, and so on. If you get a flashback, a sting of anxiety, or enter a mixed state, you have to spend time and energy dealing with that state of being before you can move on to something like sleeping, or eating. You spend spoons you’d otherwise spend elsewhere.
It can be easy to realize, in retrospect, that we haven’t taken steps towards reaching our long-term goals. We might even look around us and see all sorts of things that could be addressed, in terms of chores or self-care. I feel that it’s important to keep focus on the fact that our worth is not tied to our productivity, no matter what this modern capitalist dystopia in which we find ourselves might say. We can, and should, find self-worth in who we are and what we cultivate in ourselves and the world around us.
There are two factors that inform the ways in which we contribute to the world around us: willingness and ability. If we have the willingness to contribute, but not the ability — be it because of spoons, money, skills, or other resources — that has worth, in and of itself, and in my opinion, does not get recognized as much as it should. On the flip side, if one has the ability to contribute, but not the willingness… well, that’s a completely different kettle of fish.
In the aftermath of those moments of introspection and personal re-alignment, the next step is to examine what is worthy of focus, and what can be set aside, at least for now. For example: I haven’t spent as much time writing as I have in gaming. I even tried my hand at streaming Hearthstone again over a couple of weekends. The thing is, there are only so many hours in the day and I only have so many spoons. And, let’s be honest, I’m a better writer than I am a gamer. I may get myself to Legend rank in Hearthstone, but I doubt I have the time and bandwidth to both cultivate tournament-level skills in that game and finish the writing projects that may actually achieve my long-term goal of writing novels as my primary means of income.
So it’s time to focus on that, and get the words out, and get this shit done.
For whatever it’s worth, May is Mental Health Month, and as we go through it, I’m going to also take time to reflect on how I’ve been improving over the last few months, what I can bring up in therapy, and how I can continue carving new and healthier neural pathways. I hope these experiences, and my words, prove helpful to you. It can be difficult for me to remember that focusing on myself and the way forward is not selfish, in and of itself; rather, if I do not build myself up, and celebrate myself, the world will be all to happy to tear me down and strip-mine me for useful material the way they have our planet.
But that’s a post for a different day.
Tuesdays are for telling my story.