It was good to see my therapist, H, again. She literally works at the top of my street. It’s got to be the shortest journey for therapy I’ve ever made. One of the benefits of living in a small town. It’s a nice place as well. A big old building, with various therapies on offer, a solicitor and picture framer on the ground floor.
I got a whole fifty minutes to talk to another person all about my current difficulties without feeling guilty about going on about myself too much. One of my anxieties had been that I wasn’t going to present with “an issue” to work on; one thing, in particular. But it was OK. Over the course of my hour it became more than obvious that I was someone that would benefit from the support of therapy.
I started out by saying I was depressed. That I was still grieving my ex, which I reported was obviously a bit silly given how long it’s been since we broke up. I told her about the meds I was on, how they are making me feel a bit flat, although I felt that it was a good idea to be taking them as I couldn’t deal with another manic episode. My therapist agreed that I was one of those people that experience has shown needs meds. I said that I have known people, in the past, with Bipolar that seem to manage OK without meds, but I had noticed that they do not seem to have to grapple with regular trips to the hospital.
Personally I prefer Manic Depression as a description of the condition I suffer from. I think it sounds weightier, and so more accurately reflects the gravitas of this disorder. But as no one else uses Manic Depression any more neither do I.
I reported that I thought some more exercise would probably help my low mood, but I was out of ideas for how to achieve it. The pool’s still not open and I don’t enjoy yoga and running anymore. I didn’t seem to include my walk to Aldi, as legitimate, but my therapist pointed out it was actually quite a good stroll up there. I agreed, and said perhaps if I walked there daily that would take care of my need for extra movement. So I did that today, after my morning coffee in the cafe on the high street, and it is quite a good amount of exercise; not too much, nor too little.
I was thinking quite a bit about Sally Rooney on my stroll. As you may be aware she has a new book about to be published, and so is generating quite a bit of media attention, again. I have read both of her books, and I enjoyed them. They seem so effortlessly written. I was wondering that if I could write like Rooney, would I attract a lot of readers here? Would people notice? Could I become a star like Rooney?
I do actually know a reputable literary agent in London. She was beginning her doctorate when I was doing my masters degree. I told her about my blog a few days ago. She had suggested Huffington Post, which I looked up and decided against. They have quite strict guidelines, and moderate their blogs. They also don’t like journal style blogs apparently. But I like to write a blog that is like a journal. I told L that I thought Huff Post was a bit “too professional” for me.
Actually the whole reason I started writing, and thought about writing as a career option for me, back in 2006, was because I enjoyed writing a journal so much. But novel writing, which I felt was the way to go, is not at all like writing a journal. I chose novel writing because at the time Paul Auster was my favourite author. I loved the way he wrote about the lives of artists and writers, and made ordinary life seem meaningful. But I never managed to write like Paul Auster, nor did I really enjoy attempting to write fiction. It was very hard to write in a form that I, you, one, doesn’t enjoy working in. Really, I should have been writing memoir, or creative non fiction, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t think this was the way to go. God knows why.
Writing a journal was my safe place. I could say whatever I wanted, which isn’t a possibility for me in real life. I find it difficult to express myself in reality. I can always find multiple reasons to keep my thoughts to myself. I think this stems from growing up with a mother who always seemed to be taking offence when I expressed myself, when she would actually talk to me, which was never a given. I have spent an awful lot of my life in silence, I’m sad to report. Therapy is another place I feel able to express myself.
I told H (my therapist) that I feel like I have wasted my life and am full of a generalised feeling of regret. Maybe, I said, I should have embarked on doing something useful, instead of art: helping with the refugee crises, fighting racism or the climate emergency. H said that writing was useful; after all a lot of people read. I also said that looking for my soul mate, a project that had “driven” me all my life, had been a total waste of time. “Now I know I don’t have a soul mate, and that God doesn’t exist, I’m like: what now?” It felt good to be heard on that score. There is at least one place that what I think actually matters in some way.
I didn’t really come up with a new project however. Although we both agreed that having a bit more to do would be a good idea. More volunteering. It’s a shame they don’t have more shifts available at the bookshop, as I do enjoy my time there. I like to be around books, and talk to people about them. I used to work as a bookseller in London, and have devoted much of my life to books and reading. I still have a couple of friends from those days; four actually. But I don’t really chat with them very often.
My therapist felt that she could “support” me in some sort of self-compassion practice. “Well, what’s that then?”, I said, after agreeing that it sounded a worthwhile project. She reported that it was an area she was currently exploring and wold get back to me about it. I told her that I had, in fact, been reading about “self-compassion” in the Guardian earlier that day, and had thought it sounded good. We both agreed that I am pretty negative, and that attempting to alleviate that could be helpful.
I told H about my recent experiences with my ex and how majorly pissed off with him I am. Whilst relaying these experiences to her, I became quite animated and jokey. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you look happy since you sat down,” she reflected. “I know”, I said. “I find him funny because his behaviour is so ridiculous, and he always makes me feel so happy when I see him.” Which, I admitted was slightly ridiculous, in itself. “He drives me mad, but he makes me happy,” I said. “In a way, I wish he’d meet someone else.” H wanted to know why. “Because then he could drive someone else nuts and wouldn’t be able to blame me for everything. But this doesn’t appear to be happening.”
It’s true that, for this reason, I do find myself wishing he would meet someone new. But realistically, I think my reaction might be a bit more complicated. I don’t know though. I honestly don’t know how anyone could deal with his irrational behaviour as long as I did, nor do it with such good humour, as I also did. A fact that was never appreciated by him at all. I just want him to appreciate me still, but I don’t think he ever thinks about me, so it’s not likely to occur.
It really isn’t fair, I think, that I am assailed by thoughts and feelings about him on a daily basis, yet he never takes me into account at all. He can say, without any trouble, “I can’t meet you for coffee at the moment, because I am depressed.” Or, “Don’t ask me what brand my new phone is; it’s a private matter.” Or, halfway though a perfectly pleasant cup of tea in a cafe, “please leave me alone now.”
“I should have more compassion for him,” I told H. “I know that he struggles.” This is true. T also has Bipolar disorder. It’s messed up his life in exactly the same way it’s messed up mine. There was such an extraordinary freedom and sense of relief to connect with someone who had been through everything I had, but as I have reported before, he did not experience the same sense of homecoming that I did. I think he was more invested in being a ‘success’. He had been married to a woman who was not Bipolar, she had a good job as an engineer, and he really valorised her achievements. When he ended our relationship he said he still wasn’t “over” his marriage. Even after six years. I was too unconventional for T, even though he was an artist. He didn’t really rate anything I had done with my life, even though I did have two degrees and had held down various jobs. T hadn’t gone to university. His early development as a young person had been truncated by hospitalisation and depression. Mine had been as well, but not to the extent he had been. He’d also faced more stigma, being from a small place, where everyone knew everyone else’s story.
After my session yesterday the whole question of my ever present feeling for T really came back to haunt me. My conversation with H had brought the whole thing so much more alive. I lay in bed, unable to sleep, rehashing everything I had lately felt and thought, over and over in my mind. I kept thinking about everything I wanted to say to him to express all my angry feelings. Things like: “As you don’t seem to like, respect or trust me I think you should go off and be friends with people you do like respect and trust. Bye”. But by the time I woke up I realised that I didn’t really want to say those things as that would be the end of our friendship. And whilst our friendship may well be over anyway, because of him, not me, it isn’t what I really want. I still care about him and I don’t really want to slam the door in his face.
It’s been good to get all of these thoughts out of my brain and onto the blank page today, just as it was good to express myself to H yesterday. After yesterday’s session I noticed that I was able to breathe properly again; ordinarily I struggle with being able to breathe properly. Like a constant panic attack. It’s like relieving a pressure cooker, like I said to H yesterday. “What I want from therapy is to be able to express myself. To be able to let off steam.” It doesn’t make great literature perhaps, like a novel by Sally Rooney, but I’ll take it. A small consolation in the life of a Bipolar addict.