You know the feeling when something so terrible seems like light years away, stuck in the distant past? Oh, the relief. But there is a twist: the pain from it is still so raw, and palpable but no longer relevant in the present moment. That is how I imagine most of the people in the dormant stages of bipolar recovery to be, when the meds work and the depression and mania are in check. I’ve detached myself from that part of my past- my depressive phase- (at least outwardly), and it became another piece in my private collection, guarded by many locks and bolts to the outside world. To me, it was just another dark past that I have overcome. As Mariah Carey came out of the bipolar closet, I went in as far as I could.
It all started when I started going to a local church. Read: when I began interacting with people outside of my family, my treatment group and my art class. For someone who grew up without a particular religion, as a lifelong atheist, it doesn’t make sense. But I was thirsty for a human connection, preferably a non-judgmental, and kind one, and church seemed like the perfect place,and it was five minutes away from where I live. It may sound somewhat calculating, but I wasn’t so opposed to converting if my needs were met. And my guess was right, the church turned out to be another family I came to embrace, and it was all good.
Except, it got in the way of being authentic. Being me. Long time readers know my issue with this- this fine line of oversharing and being authentic. I found myself introducing myself to these people as a glossy version of myself, which skips the part where I quit my job because of my bipolar breakdown, the multiple suicide attempts, hospitalizations and moving back home across the country, and then moving yet again because my parents moved. And not working, and not looking, or aspiring to become something any time soon.
The glossy, approachable, I-have-my-shit-all-figured-out version is that I’m an art student and voluntarily quit my job and moved to New York City to pursue a career in art. Ah, how different things look when you swap out the true reason for a innocuous, false one. I started taking comfort in this version of my story to others, and I almost started believing it myself. It moved me towards more and more projects, and to practice drawing, painting and towards learning about art history. I actually subtly started dreaming about doing art for a living. Not that I was sure of it or knew how I could make it.
Like a bad breakup, I had abolished what was left of my hospital experiences, and those dark dark moments of depression from my memory (and most importantly, my story.) I feel a slight tinge or guilt when I have to tell people this new version, and frustrated that I may be making myself work towards a rather temporary goal that may not be something that I really want. But really, for now, I’m happy. My story will simply have to change when the time comes, I guess.