This past January I wrote an article called Creativity and Comfort Food, I concluded the piece by sharing that in an enlightening moment of self-acceptance I had been cured of writer’s block that I had struggled with for a couple of years. Not long after the article was published, I started writing a blog focused on my recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I made a promise, on the blog, to maintain the blog by writing a new post every day.
At some point, without my realizing when it happened, writer’s block returned, or more aptly, my daily writing had fallen away. My promises broken. It didn’t bother me so much that I had broken a promise to myself, but there was the embarrassment I had done it in a public forum.
I hadn’t given the blog or, for that matter, writing any real thought in months, until a few days ago when I realized that something was missing from my life and I wanted it back. It wasn’t too difficult for me to identify that I missed writing and why I had stopped, and writer’s block was not the problem. What happened was just as insidious as writer’s block, although I wasn’t blocked. I had made myself vulnerable, laying myself bare to anyone willing to read about my struggle with a late life diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I had opened up about my mental and emotional health for friends and strangers to enter, and I did so without using any discernment as to who I let in. Wide open, exposed.
When I was writing the blog I jumped off a cliff and for awhile I soared, and then I disappeared carried away into oblivion.
At some point I had stopped feeling bipolar, and with that I lost all interest in the disorder. With my subconscious denial of my illness, I lost the thread of identity that I had started to gain.
During my eight night hospital stay this past August, I had my first real experience of knowing who I was, and it didn’t have anything to do with my illness. Without my usual outside daily influences to mold me I had a crystal clear sense of identity, and the experience of identity began with experiencing an energy in my body which was so grand in scale that it was both awe inspiring and somewhat scary. That energy was linked to the mania that I was in the throes of, but I also believe that it was firmly rooted in the true essence of me; I was someone and I like her quite a lot.
Surrounded by the depressed and the delusional, I found myself. I knew my likes and dislikes, my favorite things. I knew that I loved and valued my everyday life, and that I never wanted to leave it again. To other people I may have always been a real person, but not to me. With my freedoms taken away from me in the hospital, I took shape behind the locked doors of the third floor of Lakeview Psychiatric Hospital.
When I ignore myself, shutting myself off from writing about my experiences, I stop writing. And when there’s nobody home there’s nothing to say.
Fear and shame quieted my voice. I lost the self-assured manic woman I was in the hospital and the old me returned, reticent and frightened. Fearful about the new people in my life finding out about my illness, at odds with my writings from a few months ago in which I exposed it all to whoever was willing to read.
I’m working again teaching yoga. My students don’t know my secrets and I’ve liked it that way, but now even stronger is my longing to have a relationship with myself which comes directly through my writing. I come to life on paper and I miss being comforted by the thread of my own thoughts and words.
Writing is risky if it’s done the way I like it, transparently. It’s up to me to grant myself the permission to write again from a compassionate and accepting place within myself.
Read my words as the words of a woman who loves the beautiful way they roll out of her mind and through her fingers onto the page. Don’t just read me as a woman afflicted by a mental illness, because I am so much more.