It is hard for me to believe, as I sit here gripping the edge of my desk, the wind knocked out of me, that sirens are screaming at full blast and very near to me. There is a fire somewhere. I will never get past the sound of those sirens. They fill the air around me in dreams at night.
I was just starting to write here, as I have tried and tried and not been able to start, about the New Year. I haven’t done a blog post since December 22. Essentially I have just been trying to hold on these last weeks. Everyone has launched their New Year resolutions, had the parties, bumbled about the first week trying to remember to write 2015 on their checks instead of 2014, and have eased their way into this year having set their sails and headed out onto an open sea of uncharted moments that will make up their lives in the year to come. I capsized somewhere in late 2014 and can’t seem to get my footing again.
I’m sure my readers are sick to death of hearing about my fire, and I am past the “Oh me, Oh dear, my house burned down!” state of things, but right now my PTSD is flaring up, I can’t sleep at night, and, as we are coming up on the one year anniversary of the fire, February 5, my mind races around the facts of New Year’s Day last year, when I was full of hope and very excited because I had worked with a wonderful business coach for 6 months and was launching my new business with the new year. I worked all through January harder than I have in years and my business was really going well and then, before I could get a firm footing with things, the fire collided with my life.
One thinks about the losses of the fire, but what has really happened is that right now the fire itself is almost incidental. What’s lost is lost, the house was rebuilt, the physical life here began again in October, but by the end of the year my worst fears were realized. I started the year with enough money to get through the year, the plan being that by the time I ran out of my personal money my business would be going well enough to support me, but the fire stopped the business and I incurred all kinds of expenses I could not have imagined because of the fire, and the year ended with me so broken as a bi polar, agoraphobic person who had had a year of losses and been displaced that a basket full of mental health diagnoses were waving their flags in high dudgeon and I was just a shell of a person. Before I left the rental house I had applied for disability with almost no money left at all. Shortly after arriving back here I found out I was denied for disability, the money was now almost completely gone, and I had to get an attorney and appeal the denial. Approaching Christmas with no money was so heartbreaking for me, unable to do for my family, that something in me just collapsed. I was going to make presents. I haven’t even been able to do that.
Please bear with me. I’m sure you’re all very tired of me sounding like a Debby Downer but if I don’t get past this place I will never be able to move forward. That I am writing this post at all is a miracle. I have to do something to get past this place of stuck-ness even though I sound like I am wallowing in the same old stuff. I promise you, I am not wallowing, I am trying to figure out a way to get a firm footing in something, anything at all. Starting the year with the uncertainty about the disability and no money means I am in a state of limbo. It is nearly impossible to get all up and excited about the new year when you are hanging on by a slim thread in the land of uncertainty. I will be 61 in April and I don’t yet know what is going to happen to me.
Everyone around me — and I love them all dearly, appreciate their intentions, know they are right on many levels — are trying to help me with positive affirmations and ways of looking at things, but being upbeat and hopeful isn’t so easy. If I was just a person who had happened upon hard times I could perhaps grasp it all as just a hard time and my life would get back to normal, but that isn’t the case for me. What this all means is that I have finally run aground, stopped living in a fantasy world where I would be the star of my own life, where a thousand plans and dreams and schemes led me to spend money to see this business start or that one, when the reality was that I am a person with bi polar disorder and it is so much bigger than I ever realized, and I cannot wish it away, and it means that starting a business that will support me is just not going to happen.
The sentence that is stuck in my head as if on a tape loop, one of hundreds filled out on forms the last few months, was the sentence my dear daughter wrote down for me on yet another set of papers to try to get assistance with food and medicaid. She had to write in one place, “Can’t complete tasks.” and that was the story of my whole life, the reason I had/have no money. I cannot complete tasks. My mental health issues keep me from doing anything consistently that would create gainful employment. I have believed in myself so zealously I have spent everything I had trying to build a life that I truly believed with my whole heart and soul would take care of me, but my bi polar bits and parts throw roadblocks in the way and cause collapses and crashes willy nilly every time I start down a path with a lilt in my step and a song in my heart. That lilt and song are the manic bits that have a ball when I am in the New Beginnings phase, followed by the terror that fills me when the manic phase is melting away and heading toward the downswing, the paralyzing depression. In the middle, or on the way down, in the panic and despair of Oh-My-God-It’s-Happening-Again before utter blackness descends my life flashes before my eyes — “Not again, not again, not again, not again, OhGodNotAgain!!!” and then I slide into the home plate and the curtain falls. I am afraid to have an idea or feel hopeful because that is the course it takes.
While people are wanting me to feel hopeful and cheerful and positive I am feeling in my body that when I do feel those things mania is liable to slip into the picture and start building a head of steam. One week ago at my regular 3 month check up it was ascertained that my meds were not at all balanced, the manic side not properly medicated at all. This year of the fire did so much damage to my already fragile psyche that my imbalanced brain slid so far out of bounds that I’m afraid that all the kings horses and all the kings men will never be able to put Maitri together again. But they will. It will take time and it will sort itself out. But I move forward with the knowledge that I will always have to be medicated, that I cannot trust the upswings in mood that take me down dangerous paths, and that my life will be a life of constantly balancing and rebalancing as my brain shifts and turns and rocks back and forth between the two poles.
The problem is that right now there is no place to feel safe. No day when I can so much as go out to get a cup of coffee because there is no money to do so. Now I am agoraphobic and not a goer-outer anyway, but I have my times where I will drive through and get a latte and then drive to a beautiful place at a nearby park overlooking the swans on the pond, the beautiful Monet-like bridge, weeping trees, and even now incredibly beautiful in winter, and sit in my car and sip my coffee and perhaps write in my journal or read my book and feel at peace. That is an outing for me. But right now I can’t afford the cup of coffee. I’m not at all trying to sound like “Poor Little Me,” I am talking about the profound shock of not being able, for the first time in my life, of being able to so much as go out for a coffee. When you are looking at the whole rest of your life and don’t know what is going to happen it is so overwhelming it’s hard to even breathe. I don’t sleep almost all night long and then can barely stay awake during the day. I stay awake at night because I am afraid of the night terrors and nightmares. My body shuts down during the day from exhaustion and fear, fear of a life that will never be the same, and it is just so hard to hold on in the middle of so much uncertainty.
Start the new year? I’m having trouble starting my life.
But I am painting, and my art is saving me. The curious thing is that after a year and a half of drawing and painting The 100 Ladies, and now also painting Tallulah and her little pug Georgia as illustrations for a book on living with bi polar disorder, I woke up one day, picked up the brush and painted the painting at the top of this post and it startled me. It came as if from nowhere. It is primal, it is coming from a completely different place than The Ladies, deeper, some of it is darker, and it is frightening, and healing. The Wounded Healer is a work, is helping me to transform this frightening time of uncertainty into something lighter. I have realized that I won’t be able to return to my ladies, or not fully, until this new art does its work. I think that I will get back to them but there is no way to tell. Right now I must needs embrace the art I am birthing. It startles me, and is as necessary as breathing air. I have to let it take me where it wants to go. I don’t know how it will shape-shift, if I will never return to painting the ladies, or if this is just for me, part of healing process that is necessary to help me traverse the uncertain journey ahead, but I have to respect what is coming up right now.
It will be interesting to see where it takes me. Right now I am trying to not judge and just paint. I suppose the best way for me to enter the new year is to just keep painting and let the art support me through the weeks and months ahead. It anchors me, it is an alchemical process that is turning my life into something bearable. I will put no more weight or import on it than that.
2015 has begun and I now know what I must do. I have begun. I will keep going.