Monday, May 20, 2013

On Being A Bi Polar Artist...

Dear Ones...

It is one of those days...

One of those days when I feel blue, when any energy I might have had has drained out of my body and I look around at the disarray in my studio and feel overwhelmed and helpless. Will I ever get this cleaned up? Will I have the will, the wherewithal to finish this book? I have received great encouragement from the people that I am working with, that the work is good, has meaning, could sell, and I have been very happy to hear this, comforted, hopeful, and then these times come. 

I can't write this. It is my dark secret, I feel ashamed, embarrassed.

I have to write this. Writing this is the only way to open the shades and let some light in. I need light.

If even one person reads this that needs to hear these words, who might feel less alone, then this is what I must do. Throughout it all, good times and bad, hard times and times of great happiness, I have shared it all here, and my role as a truth-teller is the most important role that I have with my work because at the very heart of everything I do is the desire to help others. I have felt so alone, so frightened in my life. I have read and reread and clung to books that gave me hope, that were life rafts in a stormy sea. If I can do that for someone else, I must do it.

The difficulty for me is not in whether or not I can write or create art, I can do both of those things and I'm confident in my ability to do so, no, the difficulties that I face are the roller-coaster ups and downs of being bi polar. As I have been in therapy for decades and now only require regular check-ins every 3 months or so to have medications evaluated and dosages tweaked, I know my body, and the medications have helped enormously, but they can't pave over the rutted roads, sharp curves, and landslides that my neural pathways and grey matter are wont to take. Things are much more even now, the swings between the poles are not severe ups and downs, but they come regularly enough that, though subtle to the outside observer, can keep me from being consistently able to get the work done at a pace and speed that I would like to maintain to finish any project , be it a book, the artwork, household chores, or other things. 

My saving grace is the living things around me. My animals are my dearest loves and always get the best of care. They are the reason that I get up many days, to feed, take the dogs out, care for the parrots, get in any and all food and supplies that they need, go to the vet, and so on. And the dogs are the reason that I stay as stable as I do. Animals have an amazing sensibility and understanding of what is going on. My 3 pugs will practically lay on top of me when I am slipping into a sinkhole of despair. The concern on their little faces touches me deeply. I reach for them and love them to ease their worried little hearts, and in so doing I am lifted up. Time and again they pull me back into the present moment and move the stalled engine inside of me forward once more.

Too, the garden saves me, especially at this time of year when so much planting is being done, as plants come and must get in the ground and be watered lest they die, and the seeds that I plant by the tens of thousands must be kept watered to grow into the lush cottage gardens that I create. I drink in the color, the life, the lively dance of the cosmos, the poppies, the thousands of zinnias, the fragrant herbs, and am nourished, healed, and calmed by nature, the living plants, the wild birds at my feeders, a squirrel frolicking on my windowsill, a mourning dove sitting peacefully in a patch of daylilies, these things, too, are saving graces. I can move to care for the living things. I will take care of the plants and animals who need me.

And then a tidal wave of fear comes again.

"What will I do for income, how will I support myself if I can't get this work done quickly enough?" shouts a voice inside of me as fear runs over me. During these times, on these days, I try to anchor myself in what is concrete. I get up and clean up the kitchen. I have been putting that off for days. I get the dishwasher going, gather the dirty laundry and get a load of wash going, do my rounds with the animals and sit down with coffee. I tell myself that my plan will be that every time I get up, to go to the bathroom, to go outside with the dogs, answer the door, whatever, I will do as many little chores as I can. Last time I went out on the deck and filled the three bird feeders and blew the deck off, something I do several times a day with the leaf blower so the pugs don't eat the fallen birdseed. I got another load of laundry going, checked on the parrots in the other room, and returned to the safety of my chair here with an urgency of someone who barely made it back alive.

That will sound like an exaggeration to you, perhaps overly dramatic. It is the often painful truth. It is my reality.

There are times that my blood sugar drops far too low and I become shaky because I can't get up to get something to eat. I finally got up and got hummus and rice crackers. I am okay now. This happens far too often.

At these times I feel that it is important for me to write the book I keep starting and putting off, about living with bi polar disorder, because it may help someone. I don't share any of this to frighten anyone, to try to garner sympathy, but because I know what it is like to be thrown a life raft when there is a hole in the boat and I've lost my oars and am about to sink. 

I am working steadily on my 100 Ladies and will continue to do so. I love them dearly and it is work that has really opened up a place inside of me where beauty grows, where hope has taken the place of hopelessness, where I see so many possibilities, but I think if I use the ladies in smaller books along the way, if I can publish, even self-publish, books of stories that people can read along the way but more to the point that give me a feeling of accomplishment, that show me that a project can come to completion, then it will keep propelling me forward. Yes. I think that's it. In the way that I have to take small steps each day as a way of getting things done and feeling the sense of accomplishment necessary to keep me moving forward, so, too, would publishing small books along the way. My ladies are coming. They cannot be stopped! They have a will and a life of their own. There is no fear that I will not finish this book, it is only a concern about taking too long to finish all 100 of the ladies. I needn't wait until the end. Just writing this I see a bit of light coming in around the edges.

I want so much to write a book about Dragonfly Cottage, about the road to Dragonfly Cottage, because it has been the road to a place where I could finally land, where I could nest and feel safe, where I could create a life that would make living possible, where I could grow and flourish, and I have been, and I want, so very much, to show other people that it is possible for them too, to find a way, a place, the necessary elements needed to create a life of meaning and substance even with the limitations of bi polar disorder or whatever else might feel crippling in someone's life. People despair when they feel as though they can't fit in. I think we need to be comfortable fitting out. Fitting outside the norm. Living outside the box. That is my message. That has been the road to Dragonfly Cottage. I have run off the road a number of times but always seem to find the path back. Dragonfly Cottage, creating this world here, has been life-saving for me. I will continue, all the days of my life, to tend these gardens, these animals, and yes, work with every fiber of my being to keep moving forward, to do my writing and my art, and hope it has some value to the world. 

I think I'm okay now. I just noticed that I took the first whole breath that I have in some time. My body is relaxing. I have made it safely to shore again.

I am bi polar. I am an artist. A writer. I will live my way through everything I need to to do my work. It's what I have to give in this lifetime. I will do it because I can. I will do it because I must. I will do it.

Thank you for being here with me, for listening. It is a greater gift than you could possibly know.


Nancy said...

You are a wonderful writer with a huge heart and a beautiful soul.

Jo Watts said...

Dearest Maitri, I'm not bi-polar, but as you know I have anxiety disorder and am prone to bouts of depression. I have been in a small pit lately, not the kind that feels devastating, but just enough to make it hard to take a step forward. I know that your work touches many people who need it, but we don't always share that with you. Believe me, I find strength and hope in your art and your writing, your honesty and your passion to make a difference. I listen to you, and I'm not so discouraged about baby steps, comparing myself to others. I have been learning some of the same lessons as you in the last few years, but it's still shaky at times. To hear you talk about fitting out, well, it reinforces what I have been learning, too. You hang in there. It will get better, and you WILL make it. I know that you know this, but sometimes it's what I need to hear, so I'm hoping it will help you and give you hope, too. <3

Sharon Knight said...

Yeah, I am having one of those days myself. I don't know that I am bi-polar, but definitely prone to depression. And then I have no energy and can't think straight. It's pretty hard. Seems to be a common affliction of the artistically natured.

La Jen said...

Dearest Maitri,

Perhaps your blogging about the bi-polarness is enough for now, a micro-movement if you will, toward your book about it. It touches my heart as what it is, truthful heartful sharing. Each blog post a chapter of your beautiful imperfect life. I honor your caring for pets and wildlife as a lifegiving circle of energy.

Anonymous said...

I came across your fb page by accident. I typed in dragonfly and I looked through a few pages. I came here and read your blog and just want to thank you. I don't feel so all alone right now at this moment. I have anxiety disorder and PTSD. I have had such a bad last couple days. I am 51 years old and have such a hard time coping sometimes. Being lonely is one of my major problems it seems. I have lived where I do now for 10 years and don't have one friend. I have acquaintances, but no friends. I have one brother and his wife that live close by, but we only see each other a few times a year since my mother passed away almost 5 years ago now. I get so frightened sometimes and overwhelmed about being alone and being concerned about how am I going to make it in life too. I work 7 nights a week 12 hour shifts sitting with an elderly lady with dementia. I used to have the most beautiful houseplants and everyone always complemented on them. Now, I do good to water them. Most are half full of soil and dead. I have never had a 'real' garden outside till this year. My son has worked so hard in my yard building me raised beds and such trying to get me interested in going outside. He doesn't understand my illness though and it frustrates him and we get into a lot of arguments which just makes me shut down and not want to do anything but lay in my bed, which I have to push over the piles of cloths and papers before I can. I could go on and on but I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed so much reading your blog and plan on putting your page on my favorites. I too have dogs that are my babies and I feel so horrible if I feel like I am not being all I can for them. Know are helping others. ;)

Tina Campbell said...

Maitri, as I read your blog,I didn't feel alone anymore. I love creating things, a weaver, knitting, crotchet, sewing, and recently painting again, but some days I can't get the motivation to get up and do anything, even things I enjoy so much. My Mom and Grandmother are both artists also, and I wonder why I can't be more like them, organized and disciplined. I look forward to reading more of your blogs and maybe it will help me to be lifted in them dark days that I have. Thank you for sharing your story, Tins

Anonymous said...

Dora Anne
My Father's blessings to and for you.
I could read your writings and not get tired. God has gifted you with a wonderful ability to express yourself to touch the hearts and lives of others.

Maitri Libellule said...

I want to thank you ALL so much for your kind and supportive comments and I apologize for taking so long to respond. Often when I write a post that is powerfully intense for me it kind of takes it out of me and I need to be quiet and have a hard time responding but I so appreciate all of the comments and I always read and treasure them. I hope you will forgive me for being remiss, but I truly wanted you all to know how much your comments meant.

Blessings and love,


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