Sunday, August 5, 2012

What If I Told You The Truth?

“At some point I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend, and come out with personal truth.”

~o~ May Sarton ~o~

Dear Ones,

It has been an extraordinary week for me. Difficult. Weighty. Frightening. Revelatory. Transformative. I am up against the wall. My whole future and well-being may depend on my ability to write a book about living as a woman with Bipolar Disorder, and every time I start it seems wrong. Perhaps it is the nature of the disease. If you read this blog, if you have read it for years, you will see the teeter-totter writing, from deeply soulful to funny, from frightened and heart-broken to hopeful, from the depths of despair to a flight among the stars, but I can tell you, with all my heart, that the one thing I have always done is to try to tell the truth.

I am not afraid or ashamed to tell the truth about myself but I will never reveal anything about those around me save a passing remark that is unremarkable in their life but helps flesh out my own as a human being, a woman, walking through this life, in this body, with this complex mind. I will tell you that I was an adopted child, an only child, adopted during my mother's first marriage, and then adopted again by the man she married when I was four. Yes, I could write about many years of sexual and emotional abuse, but you see I have written about that for a lifetime, and I need, I really need, to draw a line in the sand and step over it. I am not afraid to write about the abuse, but I don't want to be defined by it, and most of all, I want the book that I write to speak to all people who struggle, for whatever reason, with not fitting in, with being the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Yes, I have Bipolar Disorder, but even with that I don't want to narrow the scope of what I write to a mental health diagnosis, again, not because I am afraid or ashamed to write about it but because I believe that so many people suffer for so many reasons, and I want to reach out to all who do. You are my brothers and sisters. You are my tribe.

I want to talk about how we can carve out a life for ourselves in a world that many never understand but that is essential, crucial, if we are to live in this world, perhaps even stay alive. Some cannot, but many of us battle on through years of therapy and with the help of medication do our best to carry on. Many of us have struggled since childhood to hold on to something to get us through while we were punished, ostracized, or chameleon-like, shape-shifted to fit in wherever we were so that we wouldn't stick out. That's what I did. I didn't want to be noticed. There were a few years when I started working in theatre and those were wonderful because I could be someone other than myself. I could go onstage and sing and dance and I did very well at it. I had dreams. Big ones. And when they didn't come to pass, at 18, I came crashing down with what was probably the beginning, the foreshadowing, of the life I would live, but there weren't terms for that then, and I was young.

I would marry at 20, less than 2 years later spend a month in a mental ward in a hospital after a nervous breakdown, and, after coming out of the hospital I found out that I was pregnant, had to go off of the medication cold turkey, and in the next decade had three children. They are my bright shining stars, the reason that I have, somehow or another, held on, they have given me a reason for living. But I won't write about that because I guard, zealously, their privacy, and this story is not about them. This story, the one that I need to write, is about living a life continuing to shape-shift as an adult until, finally, more than a decade ago, I retreated from the world and began the journey that would lead me to today. I am a virtual recluse that lives with 9 animals and is relieved and grateful to live alone. I can leave the house for brief periods to do absolutely necessary things like get food, medicine, or other necessary items, but I only feel completely safe here. Varying any routine can throw me into a tailspin, and my routines are as rigid as the steps of a sturdy ladder. I climb them one at a time each day, and if I miss a step, if something causes me to miss a step, I may be holding on for dear life for the rest of the day.

But, what I want to tell you all is that I am happy -- as happy as I can be with what nature and nurture have handed me -- four mental health diagnoses in all -- and many days I do indeed feel joyful, and in every moment I am grateful for this life. I am able to be open on the page and I pray that my writing may help someone else feel a little less lonely, may help them know that they are not alone in this world or crazy because they are deemed crazy in the world's terms, that we live with whatever it is that we live with, diagnoses or no, that for some the world has just thrown them so many curves that they, too, struggle every single day to make sense of it all and carry on. Some will work outside the home and some will not be able to. Some will be in partnerships or marriages with someone they love and who supports them through the hard times, and others will be in very hard places in relationships for any of a number of reasons. If you are in pain, if you are confused, if you feel like you never fit in, if you, too, are a square peg in a round hole, then you are part of my tribe. I write this for you. This is the book I need to write. And I haven't known how.

There are people who have wanted me to write a book about abuse. I myself have started many books about being bipolar, because there are few out there and most seem to be dire pictures of near suicides or severe manic stories or medical texts. I don't want to stay in the narrow channel of a disease that can make many days seem like a trip down Alice's rabbit hole where everything around them is seen as if through a fun house mirror at a carnival because all of my days -- and I can only speak for myself -- are not that way. When I sink deeply into despair, now, I lean into the coping skills that I have learned and know that the hard times will pass. I have learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, at least for today, and for, perhaps, many days to come. I do not want to burden anyone, least of all my family who are dearer to me than I can say.  I live with 9 animals, rescues, 4 pugs and 5 parrots, because their love is unconditional, and, many mornings, if it weren't for having to get up to care for them I might not get out of bed at all. There are many times throughout the day where I have spent hours huddled in a chair, but having to get up to take the dogs out helped me move and changed the tenor of my day. Sleeping with my pugs I am able to, most nights, sleep almost through the night without waking in tears, or screaming, or a cold sweat because of soul shaking nightmares. I go to sleep now with my hand on a pug, or a tiny blind pug snuggled in my arm with the rest of them snoring their chorus of pug snores around me, and I go to sleep smiling, and in the morning I am awakened by them jumping all over me with kisses and tiny tails wagging and huge eyes staring into mine. Yes, living with animals is what works for me. People have hurt me, animals never have, and they bring me more joy and comfort than I ever knew I would have.

And so this is the book I am trying to write. I want it, in a way, to be a book of love letters to those in my tribe, and when I say love letters I don't mean in the romantic sense, I mean that I want those like me -- meaning those that feel that they never quite fit anywhere for whatever reason -- I want you, if you are reading this, to know that you are loved. I want you to know that you are valuable and have much to give in this world. I want you to know that you can carve out a life for yourself that will work for you if for nobody else, and that within the walls of that world you can experience much joy and wonder, and you will have very hard days and shed many tears but you will be safe, and the dawn does indeed come after the dark. I want you to know that and to hold on because a new day is coming and you will make it. I want to help you know that you will be okay, no matter what, and come what may, and I want you to know that though we will never meet that there is someone who genuinely cares about you and wishes you well, someone who wants to write books that will help you hold on.

Hold on. Please. You are not alone. I am here and there are many others. No matter what circumstances brought us to this place we can survive and thrive and move forward into a life that can be beautiful and full. I am living such a life, in my own way, and finally I don't care if anyone else understands. I no longer care to be a chameleon. I am fully myself, with all that that means, and with every wobbly facet of my being.

And so yes, May, I am telling the truth, and I am so grateful to have known you before you died, and to have written letters to you and received postcards and gifts back, and for our numerous phone calls that gave me the strength to go on. I am grateful to know that I can live in the world, mostly cut off from it, that I can have rages and yet mostly be very tender, and that living alone can be painful and lonely and yet the one thing that makes me feel whole. I love my solitude, it has saved my life. It, and my animals, and my garden, and my books, and my family, and my cherished friends mean more to me than I can say, even if I cannot always be what they might want or need. I am not easy, but I do try.

This is the book that I am trying to write. I hope that it has value, I hope that it helps others. I guess that I am writing this blog entry in the hopes that it will propel me into the pages of the book that I need to write. I have so much more to tell you. I will tell you there, in the pages of my book. Until then, hold on dear ones, you are not alone, you are a member of a tribe of hundreds of thousands, more, and through spirit and the conscious knowledge of the presence of the others that live and soldier on we can all make it. Hold on dear reader, hold on. I am coming. I am writing this book.

With deepest love, and gentle caring, from behind the veil...


Crystal said...

Maitri, I want you to know that you are not alone either.. Never forget how courageous you are and how beautiful of a soul you are. I've never known such beauty.. You have reduced me to tears and I feel like I am weeping right along side you. Bless you dear Maitri.

Maitri said...

Crystal honey, thank you SO much for your kind comment. You will never know how much it means to me. It is so easy to feel alone when we sit in our own homes with our feelings, and I think that is one of the beauties -- and for me sometimes lifesaving -- things about the internet. So many beautiful people here, and you, of course, are one. Many blessings to you dearheart, and a great big warm hug...


Emma Springfield said...

I read so many blogs written by people with backgrounds of abuse and mental health issues. It seems to be therapeutic to get the thoughts and memories out of your mind and down onto paper. What strong people you all are. Some of the horrors I read about are just beyond what my mind can grasp. My very best wishes for you. I admire your strength.

Lidian said...

Maybe, maybe - you could lean, creatively, on the wondrous writing you have already done a sense, perhaps, you've been working on the book all along through sharing your writings with us, here.

All this to be taken with a good shake of salt, of course - coming as it does from someone who wants to write creatively but who simply cannot write in the novel form. And has been So stubborn about what it means to be a writer. Nope, no can do...But am going to try to work in smaller pieces, on tales. If that doesn't work, I guess - I don't know, yet. We'll see!

And also, dear Maitri - I'm definitely of your tribe and send you a hug from way up north. I don't write about it (at all!) online but I surely am (lucky in my present immediate family, not so much in the original, and that's all I have the courage to say for now - but maybe someday...)

xxx Lidian

John said...

This article is really worth reading, it has too much details in it and yet it is so simple to understand, Thanks for sharing the picture it has great detail in it and i really appreciate your true artistic work!

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Shreeja N said...

You have a lot of courage Maitri. And you have penned it down so very beautifully. Honestly, I was browsing my blog when I saw an advert for Maitri's blog at the end of the feedjit section.The name Maitri made me click on the link-many a times, I give in to my intuition and it hasn't disappointed me so far.Whenever I face major problems in life, I always repeat one fact that I strongly believe in - God is always there with me and for me. It is the same case with you, Trust me :) Have a beautiful, happy day!

Lhia said...

Dearest Maitri,
I just want to stop in and let you know how much comfort your words bring me. I admire you, your life, your bravery, your honesty and your YOUness. You are my hero. Sometimes, when the days seem SO lonley, I only have to stop into your blog and smile, because I truely feel like I am NOT alone. Thank you
Love always,

Maitri said...


Thank you so much. You know, we all suffer. In our lives we all have triumphs and tragedies. One of the things I have struggled with -- one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write this book and why there have been so many false starts -- is because I've gone through all the questions -- "Should it be about abuse, mental illness, living with Bi-Polar disorder?" and on and on and on, but the thing is, what I mostly want to address is how we all feel loneliness, we all, at sometime or another, or most of us, feel like we are on the outside looking in and don't fit in some place and it breaks our hearts. We all have disappointments, hard days, and devastating circumstances touch our lives, and the main message is, we can still live and thrive and find beauty despite it all. All of your lovely comments here, ALL of you, are bits of beauty in my life. I carry them in my heart. Thank you Emma. Be at peace dearest, and know that you are loved...


Maitri said...

I am behindhand but slowly catching up with comments this weekend. Please forgive me, all of you, for being so late, as I appreciate every comment so much. All will be answered, and my love to you all. Hang on! I'm coming! :o)


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