So, I’m living in an empty nest, and I love it, it’s a tiny apartment nestled in the hills; my vision for the living room is to create an art gallery. Very minimal.
My brain does not love it quite as much, It recognizes the changes. The new job. The empty nest. The quiet. I didn’t plan for how much my brain would splat instead of bounce.
As I was facing the stove, a young woman appeared clear as could be, at my pantry. She was slender, her head was bent down and she was reading the nutrition label on a box of cereal. She was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Startled, I asked “how did you get in here?” She seemed so real! So that was my immediate reaction. I sounded annoyed and angry. I didn’t even see her walk in. I don’t know why I didn’t say “Who are you!” But now I know, if I’m confronted by a stranger in my home who was not requested to do maintenance, I will most likely skip formalities and jump into screaming.
My mind talked to my brain the rest of the evening, as it’s rare for me to have visual hallucinations, and nothing that strong. I thought perhaps she was a ghost of someone who lived there previously. I don’t really believe in ghosts, so I decided it was most likely the stress of the empty nest, and missing someone who looked so similar, but with more wave to her hair. She is also nutritionally conscious. Yesterday I opened my mailbox and found an envelope of photos addressed to the woman who lived here before me. I promise to take them to the apartment office unopened, but wouldn’t you be tempted just to take a peek?
There are ways to have adult temper tantrums, and I am going to have one tonight in the form of a carbohydrate laden meal. Then I’ll brush myself off (ok, crash on the couch), and find some way to decide what to do when reality is vastly different from what’s in my brain, and the voices arrive to remind me.
I recently received a prestigious award at work, and my brain is processing it in a paranoid version of “Where the Wild Things Are,” in particular, “Oh, no, please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so!” They like what I do, and for the most part I do it well. But my brain thought it was the last thank you before the kick out the door (even though, realistically, you can’t find enough folks to do my job). I also found paranoia in the idea that I can’t say no, I do too much for others and I do it well, and this is their way of saying “thanks, keep sacrificing your sanity for our beach vacation.” Metaphorically speaking of course, because none of what we do is a beach vacation. And none of them knew I was feeling crazy, so how could they thank me in the most accurate way?
The thing is, they don’t know I’m sacrificing my sanity. There are two co-workers who know I have bipolar, and neither know I have heard voices. I found an ineffective way to make several people frustrated but also protective on my behalf; neither result was ideal.
So back to the drawing board, next to the peach cobbler. The people pleasing personality traits have got to go. I just don’t know if peace of mind comes from telling co-workers about my bipolar; I have already admitted my personality traits to them that made last week a struggle for all of us. You are faced with a new challenge when you say it out loud and someone agrees. That’s what brought on the voices. They told me I was unworthy, ineffective, and should just end it. They are quiet now, they just want carbs. If they could carry the weight of the carbs, that would be even better.
I have a new voice in my head. This one arrived when I was putting clothes in a drawer during the day, rather frantically trying to clean up for the arrival of a guest. He said in a menacing, gravely voice, “kill him.”
Yes, this was a shock to me. I don’t hear voices during the day time. I responded, “Oh, you’re annoyed that you have to do this work for a visitor when you could just be relaxing. Life is stressful enough.” He told me yes, and went away. I knew there was more to it, but he was satisfied and stayed fairly quiet throughout a busy weekend.
A few hours after the man spoke, a young girl’s voice came into my head, she said definitively, but quietly, “hurt you.” I didn’t respond to her other than to say “NO.” She has talked since, repeating the same thing, but I haven’t had a talk with her yet. She wants to make my voice small, to give up my happiness so he can have his. I’m already doing that, to quite a great extent, so I’m not sure what her deal is. But she is also telling me someone hurt me, someone in the past, so I know where this is coming from. I just don’t want to go there now.
For now, it seems they are trying to find a balance; my brain is going to make me deal with things I just refuse to look at. I am very good at avoidance, or I was until now.