Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘my books’

My Next Mental Health Tattoo

My next mental health tattoo isn’t going to be about mental health at all – except that it will be.

I have had several ideas for tattoos recently: a yellow rose for my mother (whose maiden name was Rose and whose favorite flower was yellow roses); a compass rose to celebrate my love for travel; or the constellation Orion for my love of astronomy. I also thought of getting a script “My story isn’t over,” which would, of course, be a mental health tattoo.

But what I decided on was a stack of books.

Why is this a mental health tattoo? Because books have saved my life so many times when I was at the bottom of the pit. I find books the best distraction from thinking about my misery. They are the best escape from what is going on around, and inside, me. They take me to places I never imagined I’d go. They have helped me understand my condition.

And I have written two books myself on mental health topics, Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us. They were compilations of these blog posts, including some of my most popular ones, such as “What Is It with Showers, anyway?,” “When You Don’t Want to Live But You Don’t Want to Die,” “The Fire and the Window,” and several on gaslighting and bipolar disorder.

The tattoo will not be about those particular books specifically, as the tattoo will be too small to have titles on the books. Instead, it will represent all the books that have nourished me, supported me, surprised me, touched me, informed me, and delighted me. Books I return to again and again, sometimes every year. Books that I own, or borrowed, or lost in the tornado that destroyed our house.

There was one time in my life when books were not an option for me – during my last major depressive episode. Then I was so deep in despair that no book appealed to me. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read more than a couple of pages. I missed my books (and my music), but I was unable to respond to them as I normally would. I even tried reading one of my favorites, a novel called Memory, but found it upsetting at that time, as I was having trouble retaining or accessing memories because of one of the medications I was on.

When the depressive episode ended, I was once again able to read and enjoy, for which I am infinitely thankful.

These days, I don’t read many books that are about bipolar disorder or other mental conditions, though books like The Noonday Demon have helped me in the past. In my young adulthood, I did read self-help books that I thought would help me with psychological issues, feminist issues, alienation issues, relationship issues, and more. I no longer read those sorts of books, especially workbooks that are supposed to reveal the inner workings of one’s mind and to help discover how various therapies can help get through the bad patches.

Perhaps I don’t like that kind of workbook because they’re too much like journaling. I once kept a journal, an erratic one that I wrote in irregularly over a year or more. I can’t bear to read it now because it was written when I was undiagnosed, unmedicated, and dealing with a lot of confusion and psychic pain. When, later in life, I tried to return to journaling, it quickly turned into this blog. It contains things I want to say to my old self and my new self, but also things I want to share with others. A blog (and the resulting books) seemed the best way to do that.

Right now I am reading that yearly series of books, plus nonfiction ones (I try to balance my reading between fiction and nonfiction). And when I finish those, I have over a thousand more to choose from, as I keep nearly all my books stored in electronic form on my Nook reader.

So, that’s why I chose books as my next tattoo, and why they represent mental health as well as just plain enjoyment. I have had so little enjoyment in my life when depression has hit me hard. I think it’s time to celebrate the times when books and reading have held me up and helped me through the bad times.

Beautiful at the Broken Places

The Japanese have an art form or maybe a philosophy called kintsugi, which involves embracing the flawed or imperfect. Cracks or breaks in a pottery or ceramic vessel are repaired using gold dust and resin.

According to Wikipedia, “Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.”

On December 29, I posted an essay titled “Broken” (https://wp.me/s4e9Hv-broken). In it, I described the despair and depression that finally hit me after a stressful year, one that ended with the news that my second book was not going to be published. It was an awful trigger for me, considering the amount of work and hope and myself I had already invested in the book, and how near it was to completion.

Instead, I have decided to embrace the philosophy of kintsugi. I may have been broken, but nothing says I can’t put myself back together and consider my mending an improvement. In fact, my therapist said something similar after I suffered an earlier breakdown: essentially, that I could choose what parts of myself I would restore and which I could cast aside. Recently I came across an old diary from that time. I have not yet decided whether to read it, keep it unread, or get rid of it. At any rate, I don’t think I’m strong enough to decide that now, given everything else that’s been going on. But there are other things I have decided to keep.

One of my decisions is to keep my first book, Bipolar Me, alive. It was went out of print this month, but I will be self-publishing it on Amazon. I won’t let the second book, Bipolar Us, die either. Right now I am exploring ways to make sure it will be published as a paperback as well as an ebook. It’s better than my first book, I think, and I want it to be available to people that might find help or hope in it.

To celebrate this decision, I have ordered a kintsugi-style bowl. (I can’t afford the real thing.) On the bottom will be written “My Story Isn’t Over,” which is also the motto that informs my semicolon tattoo. I will keep it near my desk, where I can see it often and let it remind me that beauty can come from the broken after all.

I also hope that the rebuild on our house, which was destroyed by a tornado, will make it more beautiful at the broken places. (The only thing that remained was the basement, so it’s really going to be all new.) At last I will have a home that I have had a hand in designing, choosing materials, and decorating. No more mismatched, hand-me-down furniture. No more rental-neutral walls and carpet. I can create my study as a place of comfort as well as work, one where my self-care items are readily available and the colors and decorations reflect a calm, steady mood. Again, it is a chance to rebuild something and make it better.

Most of all, though, I need to keep working on me. There are still cracks and breaks in my psyche that need to be repaired. It will take continued hard work and loving support rather than gold dust and resin, but I hope I can eventually convert my troubled life into a work of reclaimed art.

 

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