On Being Simultaneously Okay and Not Okay 

I have, once again, rather fallen into the habit of perkily reporting on my ballet is adventures whilst staunchly neglecting one of the other legs of this ostensibly-tripedal blog: the bipolar part. 

That said, I suspect that I often do this when I’m struggling. Keeping a stiff upper lip (which, no joke, autocorrupt wanted to parse as “soft, upset lip”) was a central tenet of my upbringing. I am a Yankee of the old school by birth and breeding; we’re supposed to be stoic  and taciturn and to solve our problems by regarding them severely from beneath or beetling brows, or what have you.

I think part of me still believes that As Long As I Don’t Say It’s Happening, It’s NOT Happening

…Which is almost hilariously untrue.

I’ve noticed that I do this to Denis: often he doesn’t hear that I’ve hit a rough patch until either A) I’m on the third or fourth consecutive night with less than six hours of sleep, B) I’m curled up in a ball.on the kitchen floor literally trying to hold myself together when he arrives home from work, C) I’m curled up as in B whilst freaking out about A, or D) I melt down completely, hit full-on  fight/flight mode, and proceed to get in a fight with with the oven or the cupboard door or some other highly-threatening inanimate object. 

I suppose, dear readers, that I do this to you as well. And that I have been.

As a whole Burning Man was great this year — but there was also a thing that happened which cut too close to old wounds and very much re-awakened the part of of me that is aggressively hypervigilant. This has made coping with the transition back to my normal routine immensely difficult.

Couple that with a couple of extremely-stressful situations at home, add a shot of hormonal chaos and the inevitable weirdness that crops up as the seasons change, and everything has gone right to Helena Handbasket (she’s a busy lady, that one). 

So I haven’t really slept in several days, and now I’m debating whether I should try to go to 9:00 class or try to sleep. It probably says a great deal about the situation that I’m not so much worried about whether or not I can dance — in my current state, I’ve noticed, I always get a miraculous little hit of energy as I belly up to the barre — but whether or not I can drive.

Part of me considers it surprising that I can lie here and write about this lightly and humorously. It feels like hell. I’m getting through it a few minutes at a time, an hour at a time, by mindfulness: that is, by the practice of reeling my monkey mind in when it starts to go “OH G-D OH G-D I CAN’T LIVE LIKE THIS I JUST CAN’T I AM NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO SLEEP AGAIN ETC” with the knowledge that I don’t and can’t know the future, but I’m here now, and this is, in the famous words of Avenue Q, “…only for now.”

I remind myself that I might still feel feel like this in ten minutes or I might not, but that right here, right now, I can sit with this — with fury or despair or anger or terror or sorrow or wrath — and just experience it without either judging the experience or buying into the idea that it will never never end.

It will and it won’t. 

The stream of arising phenomena is unending, and so it shall be until the universe cools or torches itself or we all reach Nirvana or Messiah comes (“… I apologize that I took so long…”)

In the calmer moments, like now, when I’m not actively frothing at the mouth, this is a comforting thing to think about. In the other moments, it’s at least something that lets me hang on until.

Meanwhile, I know that getting back to class on a regular basis will help, which right now feels like a Catch-22 (How can I get to class if I don’t start sleeping? How can I sleep of I don’t make all all my classes*?), but I remind myself: that’s only right now. It will come. 

  • *Physical exhaustion is still the only reliable way to manage my insomnia.

Anyway, I’m finally feeling feeling like I  might actually be able to sleep a little. Maybe I’ll make class, maybe I won’t. That’s in the future ,and i can’t live there, but I can live here. 

Anyway, there’s always noon class.

Bonne nuit, et bonne chance. 

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About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Getting along pretty well with bipolar disorder. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2016/09/17, in balllet, bipolar and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Exercise is good if possible. Any chance you can get a ride there with a friend – i.e. carpool?

    • You know, I probably could have! I didn’t think of it ’til I saw your comment after I woke up, but I imagine a friend of mine would’ve been happy to pick me up.

      As it stands, I got a couple hours of sleep and was okay driving. Did two classes today; the first (Officially Advanced Class) went remarkably well; the second (Unofficially Advanced Class!) was a little less stellar but nonetheless left me with some really good notes.

      And I do think I’ll sleep well tonight, and getting out and dancing always improves my mood.

  2. If physical exhaustion is the only reliable way you can manage insomnia then you need to start learning new ways.

    When I’m starting to frazz out from sleep deprivation and it comes down to a choice between ‘getting stuff done’ and practicing relaxation it’s a no-brainer. At least if I have the choice (and haven’t deluded myself otherwise).

    Yeah, I can do stuff while I’m hypomanic – at least until my error rate overtakes my achievement rate and I start going backwards – but by the time I’ve racked up a serious sleep debt I’m so scattered I doubt I’m learning much and my judgement is shot to pieces. Even if I can’t catch a minute of actual sleep, just lying still, eyes closed, in a darkened room for a few hours can recharge me enough to get through another day. And it’s a great chance to put in some mindfulness practice.

    Practice relaxation when you’re high. Force yourself into activity when you’re low. Like most things, it seems to get easier the more you do it.

    • You know, this aligns very directly with something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately (and, only a little grudgingly, I must admit that I’ve had some success with the”lie still with eyes closed” plan of late).

      I finally did get my brain to quiet down long enough to breathe for a while and finally nailed down two good hours of sleep, which made a world of difference. I also got out and did class (two, actually) today, which also helped — I think both because of that whole “runner’s/swimmer’s/dancer’s/whatever-er’s high” thing and also because ballet, for me, is very much a flow-state process.

      I suspect you’re dead on, by the way: I’m pretty good at kicking my own ass out the door when I’m low (because I won’t miss ballet class unless I’m really FUBAR, basically), but I’ve never really thought about trying to learn to relax when I’m high.

      I’m going to start working consciously on that one.

  3. it’s strange how so many of us will start a blog or online journal in an a attempt to write about issues such as these on account of the fact that our façades in real life are so strong, only to don similar masks on here. is there really anywhere wherein honesty and forwardness is natural or at least not avoided? or are we innately always going to hide initially? because then you have to wonder what our inclinations are when it is just you and yourself….

    • These are really, really good questions.

      I know I’m very inclined to try to comparmentalise my public persona, at least where mental illness is concerned — and I think I do so the most where dance is concerned, because I definitely feel a greater sense of impostor syndrome as a dancer than anywhere else, and thus I find myself trying to hide all the chinks in my armor (“Bipolar? Where?! Check out my pas de chats!”).

      This isn’t because I feel ashamed of my bipolar disorder or anything; just that I’m not always sure in which contexts it’s appropriate to discuss (I do sometimes feel like Awkward Bipolar Dude: somebody will be like, “Blahblahblah something innacurate about bipolar,” and I’ll try to step up and say something like, “Oh, well, you know … I have bipolar, and here’s what *my* experience is like, anyway…” …Only I suspect that sometimes it comes across more like, “OHAI I CAN HAZ BIPOLERZ ALOW ME TO TALL U ERRTHING.” And people get that weird deer-in-headlights look that says, “Um, dude? You’re kinda freaking me out.”

      Then I decide not to try again for a while because clearly I have not figured this thing out yet.

      And I think that, on a certain level, I’m kind of worried about causing the same thing in my blog, heh.

      So I fall into this pattern in which I write about ballet, ballet, and nothing but ballet when I’m doing well, and hesitate to break through that mask when I’m struggling.

      I’m hoping that as I do it more, it will start to feel less weird, though.

      Now that I’ve written it, I’m not sure that this addresses anything in your comment directly, but your words definitely got me thinking, anyway, and I’m grateful for them.

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