The Oasis

Well, I haven't written anything in a while.  Truthfully, I've been struggling with bipolar (and a long bout of physical illness) that have made it difficult to do daily tasks and work, much less write.  However, I wrote this yesterday, and although it was supposed to be personal, I've decided to post it anyway.  

Mental illness is a really difficult thing to get through, especially if it happens many times over a person's life.  I originally thought that I knew what was going to happen each time, and how my symptoms could be simply fixed, but the mind and body are such flexible things that I've given up trying to find similarities in every episode.

This time, I'm having difficult symptoms that I've never had before, and "normal" life is becoming increasingly hard to navigate.  In particular, work on my creative writing/fiction has completely stalled.  I've been having strange episodes where things don't feel "real".  I can see what is happening to me, rather than what I am doing.  It is completely disorienting, and adding fictional characters into the mix doesn't help much.

But here's the constant that I know will happen.  There is an oasis.

If you have never watched the program Human Planet, you should do it.  It shows breathtaking footage of people all over the world and how they live their amazing lives.  Reindeer herders in Lapland, treehouse dwellers who have never seen another human outside their tribe, and people who live in the most extraordinary circumstances.  There is one segment where they show a tribe of women who trek with their camels through the Sahara for weeks to find a small well only a few feet across.  They navigate by the stars and constantly changing sand dunes.  The ground under their feet is shifting with every gust of wind, but they instinctually know that the water is there.

That's how every episode of poor mental health has gone for me.  In the middle of an emotional desert, there is a day or two where I can function almost normally.  Spiritual people might say "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."  I'm not sure God has much to do with it, but I also haven't come up with any decent scientific theories as to why my brain just stops being screwy for a day or so.  If you happen to know, I would be really interested to hear why.

For instance, my to-do list on a bad day usually contains 3 things (along with the usual "Get out of bed" and "Don't cry all day"):
1.  Do one hour of work.
2.  Keep Ella alive (with candy and movies generally).
3.  Do one small chore (putting my breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, putting my shoes away, putting dirty clothes in the basket).

I know that sounds like not much, but those are absolutely mammoth tasks.  Showering and cleaning are very low on the priority list, so sorry to anyone who smells me or sees the inside of my house during this time.

Today is an oasis day though.  Here's what I've done today:
1.  Done an hour of work.
2.  Actually played with Ella for an hour or two.
3.  Took a shower (although I still wore my dirty but comfortable yoga pants).
4.  Put dishes in the dishwasher and cooked dinner.
5.  Took Ella to ballet.
6.  Finished the last chapter of a book.
7.  Laughed at some tv.
8.  Cuddled my husband.

I know tomorrow's list might just have two or three things again, but I just have to keep moving my camels through the desert.  If you are struggling, having a good day might feel like you are getting better.  The next day when you feel down again, it's almost harder because you were so sure it was getting better.  I think this is probably true of any illness, not just mental illness.  But figuring out about the oasis has almost made it easier for me, because, eventually, there will be more good days together.  Then, there will be more good days than bad days.  Then finally, the desert will be behind me.


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