Slowly I walk through my bedroom door. Into the far reaches of the dark corner I pull it out, take off the lid and step inside. I’m always just a little surprised I can fit myself into a size 8 shoe box. While it’s a little tight, the small secure space doesn’t leave any room for chance. There’s absolutely no possibility for you to penetrate these walls. My secrets and lies lace the perimeter, providing just a hint of padding.
Don’t be fooled. I am not proud of this picture. It’s a symbol of how small I have allowed my world to become. This cocoon is designed for one, it’s safer that way. I look around and just don’t see myself fitting in anymore. I’ve lost my cohort in a sense. What few friends I did have, are all married w children and heavily immersed in that scene. PTA, soccer, little league, homework, birthday parties. There is a vast social network of mommies they now belong to. I, on the other hand, while married, do not have children. I speak a different language.
The one forty something female friend w no children, who has a love for hiking and the ocean as I do, doesn’t treat me fairly. She knows I’m bipolar and is not judgmental. I can share fairly openly w her. Yet, our relationship is on her terms much of the time. I’m left feeling compromised. Desperate for meaningful friendship, I let this go for far too long. I tell myself it’s okay. I have my box. But in reality it’s not okay. It hurts. I feel alone. There was a time I felt really connected to people, had a social circle. I felt guilty this was an area lacking for my husband. I would encourage him to reach out, share my perspective on what may be getting in his way. Now, I am the one left home. This is not to say I am not incredibly happy for him, because I am. I can see the lift in his spirit in believing he matters to others. They now seek him out. He has stepped outside of his box. He deserves it. Spouses in general probably need social outlets outside the marriage, but I imagine even more so when bipolar madness is involved.
Truth be told the connection with my husband does not feel very solid right now. Evenings go by with the tv on, he staring at his phone, I immersed in my iPad. Lately I don’t feel like I have anything outside of bipolar disorder to discuss. I am reading anti psychiatry books, railing on medication, going to outpatient groups, and therapy. It’s the center of my existence right now, in a much more productive way than a month ago, but still the bullseye nonetheless. I think he might have stopped listening. There has to be more, right? I am more, right?
This feels like much the same reason my circle is minuscule and I find some sort of comfort in the box. It’s just me oozing at the seems, no need for explanation or excuses. I am stuck w me. I don’t have to talk, try to be something I’m not. Worry I’m too much for you.
But the loneliness is palpable. It’s a gateway. It opens that door to despair, shame, fear. I used to believe I was a person worthy of your time, I might even bring some laughter, sincerity and joy along with me. I embodied it, felt it, tasted it…oozed it. I’m glad I can remember this, even if only vaguely. It also saddens me as I feel so far away from that person. There is a women’s AA meeting where many old timers would attend. One woman often expressed a sentiment that she was striving to be the best woman she could possibly be. I always loved that.
I make list after list of ways I can be “better/best.” Many tasks revolve around emotional regulation, self compassion, making an impact. I don’t understand how to just be. Just be okay with me. Just hold myself in the space I’m in, knowing it is ever changing. The caveat is this type of personal work cannot be done in a box, or with rules, or with expectations. If I am ever lucky enough to hold a butterfly in my hands, I would not contain it or tell it how to act. I would be its platform, safety net, to soar. Trick is to carry this unconditional love over to myself.