In response to the post that was originally here, the person I dated on the rebound linked here and referred to me as a GIANT LIAR – all caps.
Sometimes, people are not what we expect them to be. Sometimes, we are not what we expect to be.
As adults who have lived decades of life, most of us have had failed relationships. As a friend recently put it, “At our age, haven’t we all pretended to have feelings that weren’t there or tried to force something that we knew deep down wasn’t right? Doesn’t make you a terrible person.”
He also posted several screenshots of private emails I sent to him.
In those emails, I disclose very personal feelings about my struggle at the time. I candidly discuss my depression and anxiety, I struggle to hold on to something that I believed made sense at the time even while battling red flags and deep uncertainty.
Also in those emails I allude to the fact that I have Bipolar II.
The Bipolar II component of my reality is something I have been working on posting here for months, but it’s something I haven’t been able to fully articulate.
I am not a collection of my symptoms. I am not a weaker or lesser human being because of things about my chemical makeup that are beyond my control.
But as a culture we are not very kind to people who battle mental illness. It makes us squirmy. And even as an outspoken advocate of depression awareness and suicide prevention, someone who has championed for ubiquitous acceptance of and compassion toward mental illness… still, outing myself is scary. Being outed by someone else is even scarier. But after the initial shock and instinct to do damage control, there is somehow peace in just letting it be.
It is a battle, sometimes daily, to consider that people might think I act this way or that because of mental illness.
A dear friend compared it to PMS. Are you grouchy because you’re PMSing? NO. I’M JUST GROUCHY.
But it would not be complete truth to say that my decisions aren’t sometimes affected by a combination of chemicals and life experiences. Because that would be a lie if anyone said it.
We’re all a product of our chemicals and our circumstances to some degree. Sometimes we make poor choices, and sometimes we err on the side of sinner more than saint. I have no misgivings about my fallibility. I have told lies in my life. We all have.
Big lies or small omissions, everyone has been too fearful at times to tell the whole truth. Sometimes we’re just not sure how to move forward. Sometimes we find out information and we are too cowardly to do anything honest with it. Sometimes we have to figure out what exactly is our truth.
Our brains and hearts don’t come with handbooks. We are not programmed to automatically know what is the perfect decision in every situation, especially when emotions are involved.
If you came here from a vitriolic Facebook post, I am sorry to disappoint you by simply owning my imperfection. It’s true, I spent a few weeks bumbling through my love life, trying to figure out what to do and how to be happy, which I’m fairly certain is what all human beings spend most of their lives doing. Through my weakness and fear, I unwittingly hurt someone, a fact for which I have apologized repeatedly and profusely because I am genuinely sorry.
Those few weeks were fraught with a lot of fear, and many of my decisions were driven by my being afraid. Afraid to move forward, afraid to move backward.
I was afraid of a new position in a top tier firm, a place where I was afraid I did not belong and did not fit in.
I was afraid of my own health in the face of likely Multiple Sclerosis (another post for another time, maybe right after the Bipolar II post – so many amazing bodily things to discuss with you all!)
I was afraid that I would never get out from under the weight of losing three family members to untimely deaths within eight months.
I’m still fearful. Every single day. It is something I am working on, but it will probably take a lifetime to resolve. In the meantime, I am striving to make sure my life choices are driven by awareness, wakefulness, a deliberate path.
Last night, when I saw that my private emails had been posted publicly online, fear and anxiety and panic filled my every cell. That sort of deliberate attempt at shaming and embarrassing someone isn’t something that most adults engage in, and it is not something I was prepared to face.
But, as Em and I lay in the early morning light today before getting up to shower, the fear began to fade. When my sisters rallied around me and lifted me up the way we always promised our mother we would, that fear began to melt in earnest. And when close friends whose lives were directly impacted by my mother began to rally as well, I came to realize that – imperfect though I am – there is a sweetness to this life that is much bigger than fear. And there are a lot of really amazing people in this life of mine, people who understand nuance and dignity, people who do not live by false dichotomy.
I know who I am.
With the clarity of retrospect, I was able to see that I never stopped loving Em and I had no business trying to move on, especially with another person. Hindsight offers incredible vision. There was no calculation on my part, much like there is rarely calculation on the part of people who come to realize that a relationship or a person isn’t right for them.
These things happen. It’s adulthood. Sometimes we handle it with surgical precision. Other times, we are bulls in china shops. And sometimes we don’t become aware of our bungling ineptitude until we have inadvertently left a trail of gracelessness behind us.
It is not entirely what I have done that defines who I am, even my most despicable and self-serving choices. If we all defined ourselves by our least graceful actions, we’d live in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we’d all deserve to burn. Luckily, life is not such a binary. Humanness is not so dichotomous.
With the bright light of morning comes the realization that we need only be fearful and frail if we choose to be, whatever the circumstances. The light also ushers in the reminder that we all make mistakes. We are all pieced together with patches of imperfection and wretchedness, we are all a combination of good and bad, ugly and beautiful. None of us is perfectly Good or invariably True. We aren’t meant to be. Nor are we meant to have a spirit of fear.
Be not so nervous, be not so frail
Someone watches you, you will not fail
Be not so sorry for what you’ve done
You must forget them now, it’s done
Be not so fearful, be not so pale
Someone watches you, you will not leave the rails