enjoy the little things

img_6294

Thought this quote was fitting because good little things are what’s getting me through the all-consuming boredom (things like fancy coffee from my own personal at-home cafe lol, finding and downloading and playing new games on my phone, infused water, and video calling my family♡ every day).
I’m telling myself to focus on these awesome little things because I just regained my mental stability and I don’t want unending boredom and the looming feeling of uncertainty to uproot that. The second part sounds dramatic, but seriously, the world is a mess and the uncertainty is a trigger (for lots of people!). The first part sounds like it shouldn’t be a big deal buuuuut
Boredom makes me feel super shitty. I want to be motivated and productive and feel accomplished (and not because the world is telling me I have to, it’s just an internal feeling of calm I get from it that I want). I need structure (I am clinging to my morning routine bc I like the way my mornings go, and that helps, but still, I don’t have places to BE). Oh hang on, I started writing this wanting it to be a positive rant lol so yeah, focusing on the little things and enjoying them to their fullest and doing what I can to combat the negativity that comes with the quarantine (that’s an absolute necessity still, by the way) and thinking good things.

I wrote a list a while back about “how to know it’s coming on again” and hoooo boy does it feel accurate…but maybe I’ll think about the opposite now?

To review:

How to know it’s coming on again:

  • No matter what song I put on, it doesn’t feel right
  • No matter where I go, it doesn’t feel homey or safe or okay
  • So much dread
  • The fact that I have to get through a whole day (and subsequently a whole night) feels like I have to scale a mountain
  • “Life hurts”
  • I’m overwhelmed by everything
  • I’m having trouble doing small, menial tasks
  • I want to drive really fast so the anxiety can’t catch up to me
  • I can’t decide what mood I’m in or how I feel, I just know I don’t feel right
  • Oh dear GOD the irritability

There’s so much more to that, I can add countless more things to that list. But in the spirit of being positive (because I somehow don’t have the weight of existence crushing the life out of me at this moment), here’s a list of how to know you’re coming out of it:

  • I contemplate what outfit to wear, don’t get violently angry while trying to find one I like, it sort of matches, and then I even think about putting makeup on (too much effort still? that’s okay)
  • My therapist gets me to crack a smile
  • Breathing becomes easier, and it’s so hard to explain the sensation but the air doesn’t feel like lead as much anymore
  • I can hold a conversation with my boyfriend, with my mom, my sister, my friends, the people I’ve been ignoring for weeks
  • I take a shower and go through the trouble of shaving my legs and using coconut oil on my skin because #selfcare
  • I think to turn on happy/pump-up music in the morning and it actually has the vague effect of making me happy or pumped
  • My thoughts get clearer
  • I don’t use sleep as an escape from the bleak reality of consciousness
  • Hello motivation, how I have missed you

I dunno. I’m obviously scared to say this episode is dissipating. I don’t want to jinx it. Again. Every time I think it’s getting better I get beaten down again. The higher you go, the harder you fall. That type thing. Of course, there’s the positive outlook on that. That being the harder you fall, the higher you bounce. I dunnooooo.

I’m trying. I HAVE been trying, but like, I’m STILL trying. What else can I do?

Anyway, here’s hoping the sun’s gonna come out soon (the literal sun, because it’s been rainy and gross all week which obviously doesn’t help my moods, and the metaphorical one).

Happy things to appreciate 💙 (updates!)

Random acts of kindness 💕

Cloud watching ☁️

Giving something my all💯

The tippytap of my dog’s paws as he comes to me when I call him 🐾❣️

Family!! 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧

Fairytales about princesses and castles 🏰👑

Classic Disney movies °O° 📼

Waking up without an alarm ⏰ 🌅

Selfies when I’m really feeling myself 🤳🏻

Coffee ☕️ enjoying that first cup in the morning 🙂

Meeting up with friends 👭

Getting stronger 🏋🏼‍♀️ (physically or mentallyyy)❗️

Proving my resilience ⬇️🆙

Beer with friends after a long week 🗓🍻

Going on a trip ✈️

Pretty bows 🎀 (and other accessories) 💍

Smiling for no particular reason 😃

Roller coasters!🎢 the anticipation at the top!

Fruit salad 🍒🥝🍍🍎🍉🍇🍐🍌

When it all comes together like a puzzle 🧩

Old school video games 🎮

Leaving love notes (or any notes!) 💌

Gettingggg love notes (or any notes!) 📬

Good news in the paper 📰

Enjoying nature 🏔🏕

Karaoke 🎤

Flowers on a spring day 🌷🌻🌺🌿🌸

Cookies and milk 🍪🥛

The smell of rain/ thunderstorms ⛈⚡️

Balloons 🎈

Tea 🍵 with honey 🍯

Binge watching a good show on Netflix/Hulu 🖥

Tropical vacations 🏝

The smell of mom baking apple pie on a fall morning 🍎 🥧

The sun, rising every day 🌅

A fresh notebook waiting to be filled 📓

Cute puppies 🐶

Cute cats 🐱

My favorite music 🎼 🎶🎵

A stack of books waiting to be read 📚

Seeing a rainbow 🌈

Photography that captures feelings 📸

Improving myself 📈

The sun coming out 🌥⛅️🌤☀️

Fireworks 🎆🎇

Cosmic phenomena 🌙💫 -notice the miracles

Getting a good night’s sleep 💤😴

City skylines 🌇 🌃

Office supplies 📎✏️ 📋

Magic✨/ unicorns 🦄 / etc 🌟

Being alive!! 🌎 appreciate that 👈🏻

Shooting for the moon 🚀 🌕

Hot chocolate 🍫 on a cold winter day ❄️

Making someone happy 😃

Deep conversations 🗣 with close friends 👥

My perfect nephew 👶🏼

Learning something new about science 🧬

Comfy pajamas ✔️

Jeans that fit just right 👖

Frantically writing ✍🏻 getting ideas💡 on paper

Pride 🏳️‍🌈 for whatever I am

Connecting w people I love on social media 💻📱

Self-care 🕯 🧼🛁🧖🏻‍♀️

Really appreciating stars 🌟 in the night sky 🌌

Good fortune 🔮

Getting into a video game 🎮 (or watching one)

Shopping sprees! 🛍

Fall 🍁🍂🌾🌼 bonfires 🔥

Achieving something to be proud of 🎓

A big paycheck 💵

Late night car rides🚙 with Andrew🥰 singing🎶

Funny memes 😂

The incredibleee excitement the night before a Disney trip 🔜

Waking up on Christmas morning 🎄🎁

Feeling lucky 🍀

Winning something 🎰

Classical music that brings back memories 🎻

When things fit together perfectly 🔐

Making art 👩🏻‍🎨🖍🖌🖊

Appreciating all the world’s differences 🗺

Becoming the best version of me 🏆

Learning 👩🏻‍🎓

Books 📖 & how so many of them exist📚

Making wishes 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️✨

Things that comfort me 🧸 🐘 (my stuffed elly!)

My favorite perfume 🥰

The first snow ⛄️ of the season 🗓 [peaceful!]

Singing in the rain ☔️

Checking something off my to do list ☑️

Tattoos 🌀

Ice cream (size congruent with my mood) 🍦

Parties 🥳

Quiet mornings 🔇

Crocheting someone a hat 🧶

Ska shows 🏁

Facing fears 🕸

My infinite internal power ♾ 💥

The journey 🛤

Climbing into bed feeling accomplished after a long day 🛏

A new haircut (or color!) 🆕👱🏻‍♀️💙

Reliving memories 💭 / looking through keepsakes 🎟🎫

Being the perfect amount of energetic🔋

Finding light in the darkness 🔦

When good things fall apart but better things fall together 💔➡️❤️

Counting down on New Year’s Eve just like the entire rest of the world 🎆🎇

Making someone proud (even if it’s myself)☺️

Late night adventures 🌙

The fact that I kicked the fucking shit out of anorexia once and I can fucking do it again 🍽

An unfinished piece about change…

A change is gonna come

There is a vague dotted line connecting what was, what is, and what will be. This is a constant and inescapable truth. The line isn’t always straight. In fact, there are probably times when the dots are few and far between, and you can scarcely follow their path. Furthermore, the transitions between past, present, and future aren’t always balanced on either side of the decisions that lead from one to the other. It doesn’t happen seamlessly, yet the metamorphosis happens nonetheless. Change is gonna come because that’s what it does. Change is gonna come.

Sometimes change is exactly what we need; meeting new people, exploring new places, a different routine, a different set of opportunities, it is often the solution that we know exists and we know we can make possible. But the onward march of time and the changes that it brings don’t always come without fear and doubt. Stasis, more time than not, feels safer, and comfort or contentment or nostalgia pull us into its depths. It happens. And it is a trap.

Because what once was has already given way to what is. Progress has already been made. And we’re here having survived, still breathing, still going. We’ve climbed the mountains and looked back on mere hills. We’ve crossed oceans and remember only nonthreatening lakes. It’s easier when it’s said and done, of course, but once it’s done I’ll bet you anything we rarely ever regret it. So can’t we apply this logic to our futures? What exactly is preventing us from diving into the next unknown, throwing apprehension behind us and heading straight into possibilities?

I know. Accepting change is fucking hard. I also know it is our only option when it comes to life’s one given.

“We’re only given one spark of madness.”

I have this hooded denim vest that I stick all my pins and patches on. It’s fun to wear because it’s fun and colorful, and overall just an outward expression of who I am, how I feel in the inside. My favorite pin on there, as of lately, is an orange one with a Robin Williams quote: “You are only given one tiny spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” I’ve thought a lot about those words lately.

Madness is something I know well. I know it may sound like a subjective thing, madness. Who’s to say what makes a person mad? What are the qualifications? Who’s a typical example of madness, who can we base our judgment off of? I know personally, I feel I’m mad because my ridiculously extreme mood fluctuations and my tenuous grip on my sanity makes me act in an over-the-top, out of control way. So like, I’m pretty sure I know madness in the way Robin Williams meant it. I know how he must have felt as he said those words. He was known to have suffered from depression, and unfortunately lost his battle against it.

But taking the definition of madness and putting it aside, what the comedian was saying is that madness is a gift. It doesn’t have to be veiled in darkness, the word doesn’t have to hold a negative connotation.

I agree to an extent. My insanity can certainly be a gift (although that might be a fairly magnanimous way to view it). It’s given me many wonderful things: my creativity, my capability to show empathy, my motivation, my passionate personality. Maybe neither the bad or the good outweighs the other, maybe comparing the benefits and disadvantages of being crazy is like comparing two totally unrelated things. But what I know for sure is I wouldn’t change who I am, madness and all, even if I could. I simply wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to risk losing the good, despite all of the bad.

Because as much as it sucks, my bipolar makes me see things differently. I see the world and all that it encompasses in a unique way. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s not always ugly. It is always my way, though. It is always true to me.

Again, it makes me creative, it helps me manipulate words, helps me bend them, helps me to warp their meaning by surrounding them with other words of varying meanings, all to get you to understand or allow you to escape or propel you into your own imagination. It makes me empathetic, allows me to understand the other human beings that walk this earth alongside me. It helps me connect to them in meaningful, beautiful ways. It drives me forward, and although my one-track mind isn’t always ideal, the passion behind it is powerful and glorious.

This all brings me to the ever-popular question amongst those with my affliction: where does my bipolar stop and where do I start? If the qualities I value about myself are so inextricably linked to my disorder, then is my disorder the only thing I like about myself?

In terms of recovering from anorexia, it wasn’t a matter of going back to who I was prior to diving into the depths of the disorder; rather, it was a matter of reinventing myself, new and while and happy, once the detrimental mental clutter was all cleared out. I couldn’t go back to before (a literal child). I couldn’t stay within it (utterly and painfully obsessed with food and calories and weight, chained to self-destruction). I had to decide who I wanted to be and be it.

Of course, deciding who I wanted to be wasn’t easy. So many options, ya know? I wanted to be me. Just me. But I needed a clearer image of what “just me” meant.

Bipolar is an entirely different animal. First of all, I’m stuck with it. It ain’t goin’ anywhere. Second, it’s more of a personality trait thing than a behavior thing.

Not to mention how some people with bipolar experience periods of normal stability in between major episodes. Or so they say. I’ve heard that and read it a thousand times lately. But like, what does that mean for me?? What is normal? What is stable? What is an even keel? I feel like all of that alludes me, or maybe I just like to feel down on myself.

One spark. One glittering, luminous, dangerous, shocking spark. That’s all we get in this life, and maybe if we were to let it fizzle out prematurely, we’d regret it.

One spark of madness. One diagnosis. One chance to utilize what it’s given me.

One chance to survive and thrive, to take the bullshit along with the best of it and make this thing work, because one day I may regret it if I don’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that madness is not a punishment. I mustn’t think of it in that way. I must open the madness up to the sparkling light, applying the benefits of it to my life. I think by understanding it in that way I’ll be better able to discern who I am.

Still some fight in me

My car has always been a sort of limbo;
I wait here, time passing.
I am not patient but still content
to stay here listening to classical music
(some of which I remember playing, years ago)
that reminds me I have a past
that was full of pain and torment but
also of
music and its reverberating explosions that send shockwaves of unimaginable hope through my being,
out my arteries, down through my fingertips,
and carried back to my heart with triumph.
I cannot always hang tight into that hope
(I don’t know anyone who has a right to blame me).
I cannot always see a way to weather the storms
(that come fast and hard, quicker than ever now, gaining intensity and ferocity)…but
I am intensity. I am ferocity.
I cannot always know this, see this, understand this, feel this.
But it doesn’t change that I am.
So I sit in limbo. Waiting, time passing…
Minutes march on,
thank some sort of god that they do,
and I’m surviving
(though not always actively).
How often have I sat here in the in-between?
Does it even matter?
Does anything?
I don’t have to know.
I’m wearing makeup and earrings
and a shirt that says “hello sunshine;”
I clearly have some sort of fight left in me.

A poem about my daily life that ends far too optimistically, but whatever…

She woke before seven, excitement abundant, still groggy but ready to thrive.
She sprang out of bed (or did something like that); it was morning and she was alive!

With a handful of pills and a few sips of water, she began with a plea to stay stable.
Then came washing and dressing, while counting each blessing…the gratitude made her feel able.

The birds started chirping, the world started waking, the sun started brightening the sky.
The quiet was punctured, (perhaps that was better), and then the thoughts started to fly…

With resolve she stayed focused on what she thought mattered: the good that this new day would bring.
Because in only one hour, or probably less, she had felt her moods climb, fall, and swing.

“Come ON,” she thought loudly above all the chaos, “you got this, just sit and calm down!”
But would sitting there help when annoyance was rising and rage on her face put a frown?

The always-there need to be NOT sitting still then took over. She got in her car.
She wanted to drive fast, away from confusion, away, anywhere, near or far.

She wound up (surprise!) at the cafe in town, as if the paths toward it were paved.
And soon coffee was brewing, her passion renewing. Just maybe the day could be saved.

For her mug full of love was symbolic of passion and all the excitement it brings.
With sugar and milk added for extra goodness, the winter outside became spring!

“Alright,” went her brain-talk, “you know now you’re able to change your emotional state.”
Deep inside, though, she knew her bipolar disorder would get her, would always checkmate.

What was she to do, this mess of a human, when life brings such her up, down, and up?
She takes all the meds and she thinks the right things, she forever fills her coffee cup.

Though the grand fluctuations are now less intense, though the coaster-ride invokes less fear,
The daily uncertainty, constant unsureness, make it hard to know ‘normal’ is near.

Yet for all she knows, ‘normal’ is just as dramatic, confusing, and full of such flux.
So honestly, why should she bother? She shouldn’t! She shouldn’t give so many fucks.

Now tomorrow is dawning, it’s come to forgive her, to show her a new chance to live.
And yes it will test her, and also will bless her, will prove to the girl it can give.

Because that is tomorrow and that is the next day, that’s life in a nutshell, you see.
The crazy’s expected, can even be fun, once you realize this you can be free.

What Brings Me Down vs What Fills Me Up

I am 20 years old. I am walking around Stony Brook University, meandering through the buildings, wandering aimlessly across the expansive campus in the pouring rain. I’m drenched from my hair in its high ponytail right down to my purple plaid converse sneakers, but I keep walking. I could be in class; I should be in class. But my body wouldn’t carry me into the lecture hall even if I wanted it to. The rain is disguising my tear-streaked face, hiding the fact that I’m quietly sobbing. I look down at the concrete as I walk, and it occurs to me to pull my hood over my head. It won’t prevent the rain from soaking me further, but it hides me better at least. Not that anyone would notice me anyway. It’s simply that the hood hides me in a more metaphorical sense, shields me from the reality of the world outside my head in an ambiguously emotional way. There’s a song playing on repeat in the distance, no wait, it’s coming from my headphones, the headphones planted securely over my ears. The punk rock band shout-sings lyrics to me and for me through fast-paced drumming and heavy guitar music: “why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?!”

I find myself in the campus bookstore talking to the manager. She’s a woman about my mother’s age. She’s friendly and she always remembers me. She speaks words of comfort that land far away from me but still close enough for me to consider. “Why don’t you withdraw from this semester? Come back when you’re feeling better, more secure. What do you think?”

It takes a while for the idea to solidify in my head. I can withdraw. I know I’d fail if I stay. The knowledge cuts me deeply, slicing through the facade, ripping through the mask of my former self, the mask of a high-functioning perfectionist. I am left with my current self: a confused failure, a bitterly struggling mess, a girl whose desperate attempt at being a regular college student has just been shattered into a billion pieces.

I leave the bookstore and trudge away towards my car, and once I get there and slump into the driver’s seat, I turn my music on again at full volume, the band once again asking me what it’s asked me over and over again today: why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?

*

I am 27 years old. I am driving east on the parkway, not necessarily speeding but going fast enough that I can pretend my anxiety won’t be able to catch up to me. I know it’ll get me eventually, catch me by the throat and squeeze the breath out of me before settling in my chest for its stay. But I allow myself the fantasy of escaping it as I fly free down the Southern State. I just have to keep going, keep doing, keep moving. The faster the better.

I left therapy a few minutes earlier. The office had been bright even without the lights on, with the better part of the back wall a window overlooking the parking lot. We’d been talking about the usual: the way my bipolar disorder seemed to be a cloud casting a shadow on nearly every aspect of my life, obscuring the meaning of it all, eclipsing my sense of what to do to extricate myself from such a situation. I was sick of it, I had no more energy for it. It seemed, at that moment and quite honestly all other moments of recent life, that picking myself up from the depths would be pointless; I’d be dragged back down, probably shortly afterward, anyway. The control I so desperately seek out was too far out of reach. It wasn’t worth it.

Thus I’d been tasked with figuring out the particulars in terms of what actually brings me down, and conversely, what fills me up.

“Change the script in your head,” I was told. “Think about what makes you tick and about what fills you up with that good goo.”

Apparently, I am able to reclaim my moods as my own and combat the suffocating anxiety. I wanted so much to dispute that fact, to lend the negative arguments in my head a voice, and my eyes instinctively lept to the window as the doubts started to crawl their way towards me like the living dead. But my gaze found its way back to my therapist sitting across from me. Her confidence flickered through me. I kept my mouth shut. It couldn’t hurt to entertain the idea. All I had to do was think about what upsets me and what makes me happy. Basic stuff. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

So here I am. Driving. Thinking about what upsets me and what makes me happy.

Well, for starters, these fuckers who don’t know how to DRIVE upset me. Get the FUCK out of my WAY! But we’ve talked about that before. Other drivers represent a lack of control, which is fairly consistently the larger issue when I get worked up. Another example would be when technology doesn’t just WORK. When the wifi sucks, when my laptop freezes. It should just work, things should just work, why don’t things just WORK? The reasoning there is that my life is already difficult enough without things always going wrong. I don’t need minor, insignificant things putting me over the edge. If two elephants of equal weight are sitting on a seesaw, the seesaw doesn’t move. When a fly lands on one of the elephants, it makes one side of the seesaw heavier. And in my illogical corner of the world, that fly might as well have weighed a ton, because the seesaw is uneven and now I’m off balance and everything is ruined and wrong and I’m anxious and I hate everything. Also known as: Laura isn’t in control of the situation. If I can’t control the idiot drivers, and I can’t control the god damned wifi, what else might be out of my control? It isn’t the other drivers, it isn’t the god damned wifi, it’s what all those bullshit things represent in the bigger picture! Things could easily, so very easily, spin into chaos. The world may very well fly out of the sun’s gravitation, or at least that’s how it feels, because my GOD do things spiral quickly! And the worst of it is that certainty really doesn’t seem like too much to ask. It’s just that life and the universe and my fucking bipolar disorder are always shifting and changing, always moving faster than I can ever hope to. Certainty is a joke, and a cruel one at that.

As if on cue, iTunes shuffles to a familiar song that brings me back seven years. Suddenly I am 20 years old, wet and cold and scared of the fact that so much has gone wrong and I don’t know how to fix it. So much has changed since that rainy October day, but I’m still scared. I sing out loud with the song and wonder, “why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?”

Because that’s really what it feels like –that the world itself is out to get me, that the world is trying as hard as it can to bring me down. But I assume the purpose of trying to determine what upsets me isn’t to give me something negative to dwell upon. I assume I’m supposed to focus more on the things that fill me up. And I assume that putting the two next to each other is supposed to teach me some sort of self-reflective lesson about positive self-talk and what it can do for me.

Okay. Positives, positives, let’s think of some positives. What makes me happy? Is it just me, or does this one seem harder than the last one?

But it hits me that I’ve thought about this before. I’d written about it, years ago. Could it have been after I withdrew from that semester back in 2012? I remember sitting cross-legged on my bed, my laptop propped up on my pillow as my fingers tap-tap-tapped across my keyboard without stopping for hours. It must have been late; insomnia had dug its claws into me, but I didn’t have to wake up to get to class, so I stared at my computer screen until I couldn’t possibly stare any longer, until the words had all been propelled from mind to page. I wrote about the little things in life, the small symbols of joy, the smile-bringers. I wrote about those moments of meaningful exhilaration that cast the meaningless days before it in the golden light of purpose. I wrote from my heart because everything else in me was exhausted with the ups and the downs and the frenzied anxiety and the cyclic upheavals and everything else. My body, my brain, my soul was exhausted. But my heart still found its way to the good.

I remember exactly where I saved that piece. I drive home and only need to search a minute or two before I find the flash drive, jam it into my laptop, and once agian sit cross-legged on my bed to devour my words of years past…

*

Waking up before dawn for no reason, but not going back to sleep. Being the only one awake to hear the reverberating silence be punctuated by the birds beginning to chirp in sweet harmonies. Watching the daylight edge ever so slowly towards the darkness, until finally, the morning erupts into being with fragrant hope. Feeling the peaceful intensity of truly appreciating the gift of a new day.

The smell of spring.

When the lights go out because of a storm so you’re stuck inside counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder. Listening to the storm move progressively closer, the pitterpatter of raindrops grow steadily heavier, until it runs its course and retreats, the hypnotizing sounds easing to a stop. Walking outside and feeling the heavy dampness of the renewed earth.

Seeing a rainbow arc across the sky.

Laughing uncontrollably with friends, so hard that you’re in tears, gasping for breath because you can’t stop cracking up long enough to inhale fully. Calming down for a few seconds only to start all over again a few seconds later.

When the days get longer, the mornings get brighter, and the weather gets warmer. When summer announced itself in a blaze of freedom and excitement. When the beach invites you to relax on its shores and you arrive with a towel, a book, and some pink lemonade. When you arrive at the bar and meet all your friends for a night of karaoke and deep conversations and maybe even alcohol. When you’re having fun around the clock, and the days melt happily into the next, and your happiness feels eternal and safe.

A blank notebook begging to be filled with ideas and stories and poems and drawings and anecdotes about adventures. An open document, a blank slate waiting to have meaning. A new box of markers, a sharpened pencil, books full of stickers. Creativity waiting to happen. The sheer amount of potential ways to express it.

Looks of encouragement when you don’t think you can possibly go on.

Text messages of all kinds: friends saying “good morning,” groups making plans, catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. The magic of being able to communicate with loved ones with such ease. Texts that make you smile, texts that serve as reminders of how loved you are. The kind that you screenshot and save and look at again and again.

Relatable quotes.

Disney World vacations. Going home to the Happiest Place On Earth. The butterflies you get when you walk around the corner, down Main Street, and see the awe-inspiring view of Cinderella Castle. Riding rides, meeting characters, watching shows and parades and entertainment, all the the same exhilaration you’ve always felt while there in sunny Florida. Being a hopeful youth again, finally remembering what that feels like. Having no cares. Making memories. The emotions you’re filled with when you see the fireworks explode gloriously above your head.

Dogs.

When someone gets your quirks and unique assets perfectly.

The few seconds of anticipation at the very top of a roller coaster, when you know you’re about to go over the edge. When you realize just how high up you are, and you’re flooded with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Then the rush of wind blows back your hair and your stomach flips as you rocket towards the ground. The way you involuntarily throw your hands up, screaming and laughing because there’s nothing on your mind except the next drop.

When someone says “this reminded me of you.” Getting noticed, being appreciated, feeling loved.

The crispy smell of fall. Pumpkin coffee and apple pies. Scarves and boots and a light leather jacket. The possibility of hay rides and corn mazes and haunted houses. The colors of the changing leaves.

Being the reason someone smiles or laughs.

The first cup of coffee in the morning. Inhaling the smell of it and exhaling whatever nonsense is attempting to take up space in your mind. Sitting quietly as you drink it, enjoying the flavor, savoring every sip. Then easing into your day feeling energized and excited and filled with ideas and intentions.

Crossing bullet point after bullet point off your to-do list. Collapsing into bed after a long, productive day. Feeling good about your accomplishments. Being proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved.

Snow days where you sip hot chocolate under a blanket as the crystalline flakes continue to fall peacefully outside. Having no place to go and nothing in particular to do. Relaxing, truly relaxing.

A good book.

Deep, emotional conversations with friends. Important conversations. Ones where you talk about everything from philosophical concepts to feelings about life and love, to things from the past and plans for the future, to the craziest and most random things in the world. Getting to know someone you love on another level of intimacy, feeling closer and more connected to them.

Waking up on Christmas morning. Experiencing unparalleled excitement, the same exact excitement you felt as a five-year-old. Christmas breakfast, Christmas presents, Christmas traditions. Giving gifts to friends and family, exchanging them in the spirit of the holiday.

Big hugs that last for a long time, with a squeeze at the end to get out the extra love.

Counting backward from ten on New Year’s Eve after having an awesome night. The way everyone, everywhere shouts “Happy New Year!” in unison. The promise of new opportunities on the horizon. The way we begin each year by hugging and kissing the people we care about.

*

I take in my words, let them absorb into my mind. Try to reconcile the positivity with the foul, negative lump sitting undigested in my gut.

I get it. I get what past-Laura was trying to convey, I get why my therapist wanted me to focus on the good, the tremendous potential for good that this world brings. Yes, the little things matter more, sometimes. And no, life doesn’t have to be perfect all the time to be beautiful. I realize that I am capable of changing what I see around me by simply viewing it all through the lenses of hope and optimism.

I still have that damn song ringing in my ears, though. “No matter how hard that I try to climb I’ll be pulled back down again…why does the world as I know it…”

I guess that’s the point, though. I have to keep climbing up because that’s really the only thing there is to do. I guess I will reluctantly agree to continue doing that. I’ll agree to pick myself up after every fall, even if the chaos sweeps through again and again in startlingly rapid succession. Okay, fine. There. I get it. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to, because I get it.

The world keeps on bringing me down because that’s what it does. I’m gonna keep on climbing back up. And no matter how annoyed I am about having to do it, I’m still gonna keep doing it.

 

Fuck bipolar.

How do you expel sadness? How do you chase it away? How do you take the sadness that has crept into your being and, graciously or not, show it to the exit? How do you repair the wall that sadness tore down, and how do you ready yourself for its next intrusion? How do you heal from the hurt left in its wake?

Any number of analogies would work beautifully here. Countless metaphors would suffice, and goodness knows I’d love to sit here and type them all out in long, eloquently phrased paragraphs. But ambiguous words don’t exactly help me solve the issue at hand so much as explain it. And fluffy descriptions and fancy words simply won’t help; I’d much prefer concrete and definite instructions to vague, unreachable concepts.

So how can I explain to you the ways in which you may hope to overcome the sadness? How can I help you to tear yourself free from the vice-like grip of internal desolation?

Sadness is a poison and I know an antidote exists. The problem is I’m well-versed in what the former entails but I’m not so clear on the latter. I long for a manual, a set of instructions that can serve as a guide. I doubt there is one. I am left to write the directions on my own, to learn the steps through my own efforts and energy. I only wonder if I can.

I’ve tried to do it before. Trust me when I tell you I’ve given it a God’s honest attempt. And of course I have, how could I not, having been through the ringer. I’ve seen hell, countless times. You don’t think I’ve scrambled to make a mental note about how I got my hands on the rope I used climb back out? To write down exactly how I survived? And furthermore, to figure out why? Believe me when I explain that I’ve given it my all to figure it out!

In my darkest days, when waves of depression were crashing into me, the riptide pulling me hard and fast away from the comforts of sanity at the shoreline, I tumbled with the current and couldn’t find my footing, but eventually caught my breath and treaded water and surfed my way back to shallower depths. I’ve been sucked back into the ocean many times over again, finding it rougher each successive time. I am afraid of it. Bodies of water represent the terrifying repetition (the tide comes in, the ride retreats, it repeats continuously). I am afraid. But that doesn’t stop me from going to the beach. I have never let it stop me from going to the beach.

I guess that’s the first step, then? Resilience? We’ve got no choice but to get back up, time after time. It sucks, and you may get dragged for miles, but eventually you get back up. As long as you’re taking air into your lungs, you still have time to do so. And since you’ve gotta get up eventually, there’s no harm in doing so with as much hope and optimism as you can muster.

Then a few steps away, somewhere down the staircase is another critical issue: the self-talk, the internal monologue, the script forever running on and on in your head. You’ve certainly heard it before that your thoughts become your reality, that you attract what you think about. You’ve gotta make your head a positive place to be because you’re there all the time. You’re literally never fully away from it. So choose wisely the words that you say to yourself. Pick each idea carefully, and pluck from your consciousness the ones that don’t promote happiness, the beliefs and perceptions and opinions that don’t serve a valuable purpose. Weed out the dead flowers, filter the muddy waters. Affirm the fact that you’ll be okay, you’ll always end up being okay. Even if you aren’t right now, you will be eventually because that’s the way it works. Collect the inspirational quotes, litter your life with positivity. Surround yourself with it; you might as well.

The next step is just as cliched, if not more. But it helps, so you’d better get going on that self-care. Images of bubbles baths come immediately to my mind. The kind where bath bombs have colored the water and candles are lit around the edges. Face masks and body scrubs and special conditioners, all of this seems to be what’s marketed as the prime examples of taking time for yourself. And I value such things for what they are and what they do. But caring for yourself spans a wide array of actions, all of which are supposed to help you meet the needs you might have been neglecting in a calm and relaxed way. This could mean taking a walk outside in the sunshine. Or making yourself a healthy meal. Or meditating on things you’re grateful for while focusing on steadying your breathing. It could mean treating yourself to that overpriced coffee, coloring mindlessly, or just taking a nap when you need one. But whatever it is for you, you’ve gotta do it.

Continuing along the staircase away from melancholy brings you to distraction. Keeping your mind busy is an indispensable means of taking sadness by the collar and kicking it to the curb. Channel the bad feelings polluting you, put them into something positive and productive and helpful. Don’t think about anything but what you’re doing. Focus, consciously. Give it effort, and work hard, and reap the benefits.

Let’s never forget to reach out for help, either. Get that support, surround yourself with love, jump into all that is happy and positive. You are enclosed in a semi-permeable membrane, the fact that sadness has entered is a testament to that. So it’s logical to marinate in the good, the beautiful, the special. If you don’t, how do you expect to let it seep in? Utilize your loved ones for they are all around you. They choose to be a part of your life for a reason. They are prime examples of tools that can help. And if they cannot do the trick alone, there are other minds that may hold an answer. But it’s all dependent on you seeking the help. Ask for what you need. Ask for light and you’ll soon find it shining on you.

if nothing else, you can wait it out. You’ve got more time than the sadness does, you are more expansive and contain more power. Within you is all that you’ll ever need, in fact. Remember this truth while you stay where you are as the clock ticks you closer to freedom.

Through all of these steps, you’ll surely gain some forms of protection for the future. You’ll learn from what you’ve gone through, building upon a foundation of inner strength and using cumulative knowledge as material. You’ll make mental notes, write down how exactly you survived. You’ll do this subconsciously as apparently I have done, and think that maybe all of this is easier than it seems.

You wanted to know how to push away sadness. You asked me how it is actually done. It turns out I knew more than I gave myself credit for, so I’ve tried here to answer your question in earnest, but the truth is I’m still not quite certain. The process I’m describing might just have to be trial and error. Or maybe you just have to do what you can with what you have until the sadness gets bored and vacates the premises of your mind and body.

Either way, I hope you find metaphors that apply to your journey. I hope you can explain your plight and triumph with fluffy, fancy descriptions. And I hope the ambiguous collection of words that don’t exactly solve anything help you, at the very least, to find meaning.

Conversations with myself:

—Apparently, there is hope. I can reclaim my moods as my own, combat the suffocating anxiety, and subsequently take control of my life. In theory, at least. It doesn’t seem likely, but I’ve been told so many times recently that there is hope. I’ve been told it repeatedly. The people saying it have such confidence in the concept. Hope. Not that I know how to define a term so vague, anyway. What is hope?

-Don’t be a dumbass, you know what hope is. You’ve felt it before, more times than you could even begin to count. Hope is what you felt as a child, going to bed on Christmas Eve, and it’s what woke you up way too early the next morning to peek outside your bedroom door down the hall at the glistening tree. Yes, it’s an intangible thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Hope is an invisible force that consistently moves in the direction of better things simply because that is its nature. Hope is a lighthouse finally visible in the distance when you’ve been lost at sea, scared and cold, for so long. It’s what you aim for because you know if you do, you’ll land exactly where you’re supposed to be. Hope is something to hold on to when for whatever reason, you’ve let go of the reins and you’re about to be thrown off the horse. It’s what tethers you to the task you’re trying to accomplish until you’ve actually accomplished it and what drives you forward when your goals seem too far out of reach. Hope is expecting these things to save you even if them happening seems unlikely.

—Got a little wordy with that, didn’t you? Let your inter writer come out? Nice touch. But it still doesn’t help. Your metaphors and examples are beautiful, they just don’t give me direction. I’m not lost at sea, I’m not on a horse. You know?

-Gotcha, you wanna be difficult. No, no, it’s okay. I can work with that. You want direction, a map of sorts, a step-by-step guide to refer back to. Well first, close your eyes and take a deep breath. In and out. Again and again. Repeat the process until your heart steadies and the fluttering anxiety vacates your chest. Now tell yourself that you’re stronger than what you’re feeling in this moment. Because you are stronger. The feelings are temporary and you are forever, infinite by default because energy is neither created nor destroyed and my god is your energy, your wild, loud, excited energy, a lasting thing. You are a body and mind and soul, you are everything and the fleeting feelings are nothing. You are powerful. You possess in your very being everything it takes to survive and thrive. Once you’ve internalized that message, check the weather. Go outside, feel the breeze if there is one and let it remind you that there’s good all around us and we are permeable enough to let it in. If it’s raining, be soaked by it’s drops. Let it remind you that you are real, that you are right there, alive and breathing, and that it takes rain to make a rainbow. If it’s sunny, soak it in. Know that every sun casts a shadow, but we have to have some dark in order to show light. But regardless of the current conditions, the weather is going to change tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. That’s just how it is, but if they’re not predicting sun, you can always bring your own sunshine.

—Again, beautifully and artistically explained. But I still don’t know how to latch onto something that isn’t physical. If hope is what’s going to help me get through these problems, these issues, this thing called life, how do I utilize it? How do I actively hope?

-Okay, okay. You want a specific answer to your problem. You want a simple solution that you can whip out and use, right now, so you can feel immediately better. Right? Well, I’m sorry. I can’t help you on that one. It doesn’t work like that. You learn to hope through the efforts you make to learn about what hope is. Which is stupid, I know. But you don’t start out with knowledge, you never do. Learning is an active process. I think it’s a “fake it til you make it” type thing. Just try. Do whatever feels like hoping to you. Jump into it. “Leap and the net will appear,” you know? Ask yourself questions, do some soul-searching and define hope for yourself. Do it now, there’s no point in waiting. Hope isn’t going anywhere, but it’s sitting right in front of you. You might as well acknowledge it.

—Profound, as always. But this time, I think you helped something click in my head. Because I’m already thinking about hope, aren’t I? I’m already halfway there, I guess. Hope is the fact that I’m trying to figure this out. Even that attempt means I’m refusing to give up. Refusing to throw in the towel and let the chaos crash onto me like waves on the shoreline. I’m swimming through the waves, riding over them, and maybe soon I’ll be learning to surf. Hope is pressing on and asking these questions even though I’m confused, feeling meek. Hope is roaring like a lion in spite of all that.

-See, you got it. I hoped that you would