The Observed and the Observer

Part of me feels I should apologize for my last blog post.  However, it’s my blog and no one’s being forced to read it, and I’m trying to figure out something really complicated, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Incidentally, I feel much better at the moment than I did over the weekend.  Almost spookily so.  Enough to joltingly remind me of the nature of what’s wrong with my brainmeats.  Enough to feel silly when I finally got a doctor’s appointment to review some of my more unpleasant behaviors and thought patterns.  Something tells me that’s the hallmark of being bipolar: the neverending sensation that whatever it was that you recently experienced must not have been real, or might not have been as severe or debilitating or frightening as it really was.  I imagine it’s this same sensation that makes a lot of bipolars go off their meds.  I have firsthand experience how terrible this is for the people around them: my mother went off her various meds many, many times while I was growing up.  If I have any wishes for myself, not to mention my family, it’s that I entirely skip my mother’s madness of stopping her meds and finding another doctor who would tell her something completely different because they weren’t hip to her bullshit yet.

Meanwhile, everything around her, the family included, would crumble to bits and the only sane person in the house (me) would be heavily leaned upon to maintain the family structure.  I wonder how much of having to put up with that has to do with what’s up with me today.  I hope it’s a lot, because it means my daughter has a much lower chance of having a brain that short circuits on her in her late teens or early twenties.  I along with my husband have somehow managed to (largely) provide an environment that has produced a pretty goddamned normal almost 8-year-old.  I look at her and think how I’m really looking at the person *I* should have been at that age.  Even at her tender age, she has a really good bead on who she is and where she’s going.

I wish I could say the same for myself, at the age of 39.  I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out who I am.  I’m certainly not where I thought I would be at this age, but I was also the victim of our culture’s mandate that one have their entire life planned out by the age of 18, much to the detriment of my self-esteem as that plan failed to unfold.  Now I have an entirely new set of identity crises to deal with.  Namely, how do I know which of my moods are really “mine” and which ones are products of being bipolar?  When should I stop having a good time laughing and start being concerned that I’m being too funny?  When should I stop moping and start worrying that I’m in a serious depression?  Just what exactly should I define as “normal” or “happy” or “sad”?  Or should I define moods by what they are not? I know it’s unhealthy to have suicidal, hostile, or violent thoughts: does that mean that any bad or sad mood that doesn’t include those qualities should be deemed “normal” or “healthy”?

It’s such a strange thing to have to self-analyze in this way.  Fortunately, I’m really good at analyzing things in general.  To a degree sometimes that I wish I could stop, because I understand the world in a way that most others do not, and that all by itself makes me a little nutty sometimes.  I feel pompous and conceited when I feel this way.  I mean, who wants to talk with someone who claims to really understand things like how far it is to the Moon and back?  That’s not an abstraction to me the way it is for a lot of people who gaze up into the night sky at the white orb that keeps our planet in perfect 23.5 degree balance.  That’s 350,000 kilometers, roughly.  And I grok every single one of them.  In fact, I’ve made a concerted effort to grok things like that.  Partly because feeling small and tiny is one of the things that feels comforting to me here on Earth.  That makes some people feel frightened, but not me.  Feeling puny in relation to the rest of the Universe gives me hope and comfort that the beauty of the Universe will continue on, no matter how many Neocons get elected to office or how few rich people really control the world or how many dogs and cats are unnecessarily euthanized.  In that way, the Universe, everything in it, and the way it all operates is my God.

Whoops, little segue there.  It’s things like that paragraph that make me curious: which part is me, and which part is the bipolar?  Are the separable?  If they are, which parts should I keep?  Of course, these are largely questions of philosophy, not psychology, or at the very least, live in the DMZ between the two.  I do know this: there are no hard lines in the Universe.  Absolutely none.  There is no place and no philosophy where a person can point and KNOW that This is where This ends and This is where This begins.  There is overlap everywhere.  I think our little blue marble 93 million miles from the Sun would function a lot better if people could figure that out.

And this is where my brain is today: on a good day, wondering how long it will last and when my mood will take a downturn to something merely melancholy or hatefully hostile.  I’m still doing a lot of reading about bipolar, and from what I’ve read, it can take months to recover from a full-blown up, down, or mixed episode.  I’ve had several of all three in the last couple of months.  I wonder what the fuck THAT means.  Again, is that the illness?  Or is that just ME?

I essentially have to treat my life as an experiment with rigid conditions in which there are very few uncontrolled variables.  If screwy sleep patterns set me off, then I have to establish rigid sleeping schedules and actually stick to them, regardless of how tired I am (allowing for naps when possible: the schedule is what’s important).  If low blood sugar sets me off, then I have to establish rigid eating habits and keep things around that I’ll actually want to eat.  If reading the news on Facebook sets me off, then I have to cut out what I shouldn’t read.  If a lack of exercise leads to weight gain and depression, then I have to make sure that I exercise every day, and give myself several options in case I don’t feel like doing one of them that day.  I am the scientist AND the rat in this maze!  Only by keeping that degree of control over certain things can I know how my moods interact with my life, and vice versa.

I also have to do something else that has heretofore been extremely difficult and the lack of which has led to a bit of surprise on the part of people who’ve known me for many years upon finding out the kind of trouble I’ve had since my late teens.  I have to talk to people and open up to them.  I have to ask them to let me know if I’m “off”.  Maybe that is the best way of all to answer the existential questions that I have.  Who am I?  The people who’ve been around me for the last 15-20 years ought to be able to tell me, or at the very least give their impressions.  And I know most of them love and care for me enough that I’m pretty sure they’d tell me if I wasn’t being “myself”.

I imagine there will be no small amount of adjustment and transition as I slowly figure out things like when I’m just being happy and in a good humor and when I’m being too funny or too happy or too depressed (and make no mistake, I AM a somewhat morbid and morose person with a very dark sense of humor, and I can only hope it’s obvious when I’ve switched from being amusing to being disturbing).  I hope the psychiatric nurse I’m seeing next week can help me answer some of these questions, or some of the books that I’ve been reading.  And I must leave the possibility open that there are no answers to those questions, because perhaps only I can answer “who am I?”

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