My brain drives me up the fucking wall at times. In these cycles – yes like a fucking bike with really big wonky wobbly wheels – I have the insane idea of controlling it, despite the fact that I haven’t even got a grip of the handle bars. I’m falling and I know it but the energy just keeps surging inside and I simply have to do something with it. I need projects, I need ideas, In fact they are great ideas and I need to see them come to life – large as life. Yeah! Someone has to be in control. If it’s not me then it’s got to be someone I can trust. But who can I trust? What happens when they fuck me over? What happens when I fuck them over? What happens when I think they are in control but they really have got no control? What happens when they assume I am in control and I have completely lost the plot? It’s too much to think about so I just have to make sure I maintain control and that everyone else around me is in control too. I’m exhausted I just have to go to bed. I can’t sleep my head is exploding with thoughts and I can’t get them filed in my head quickly enough so I get up and I grab a pad and pen and takes notes and then I realise I need to file them into some kind of order so I will understand it all in the morning otherwise it will confuse the hell out of me. Oh it’s morning but I need to get some sleep. Jump into bed at 4am – what is it about 4am that is the best time in the world to go to bed. Sleep is solid until 7 am and now I know I need to get up and do all the stuff I wrote about last night but the notes aren’t in the right order and I am sure I had them in order. The other notes are just garbage – no idea what I was thinking. Throw them out. Actually I’m a piece of shit and none of this stuff is any good. Nobody wants to know what a middle aged ‘thinks she’s a writer’ has to say about anything. Seriously get a grip Donna. Just give it up and get your shit together and go and get a real job and get the fuck over yourself. Take your meds too – you’re a bitch without them and everyone is sick of you being tired and depressed and cranky. When you’re not being tired and depressed you expect everyone to be as excited as you are about the next big fucking thing – another idea – another venture. GET. THE. FUCK. OVER. YOURSELF. SHUT UP! JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP. I am exhausted.
If you are confused and exhausted after reading that then you have just tasted a little of what it feels like to be me sometimes for weeks or months each year. It exhausts me and it’s fair to say it exhausts the people around me. I’m up and I’m down, I’m all in or all out – no in between – ever. It’s not just me though – there are heaps of people just like me. I have lived like it for so long it’s just normal and I think it’s going to have to be normal for everyone else too because not a damn thing changes it. Sometimes when I need a break from it all I take prescription drugs (legal now). Sometimes I just need to switch off – turn the dial down. These days those times are less often and very well controlled. If you’ve just read that and thought to yourself tsk tsk then I suggest you look into your own life habits and tell me in what ways you ‘check out’. There’s not a soul I know who hasn’t found a way to check out. I no longer drink but I know people who drink every single day – just a couple of drinks to wind down, smooth out the edges. I know others who save it all for the weekend and then write themselves off. It’s a legal drug. The same thing can be said about food, sex and gaming. We all have something that we use to smooth out the edges, turn things down a notch or turn the dial up a bit – depending on our mood.
Ever since I was forced to withdraw cold turkey from heroin as a teen due to being locked up in a ‘youth hospital – AKA a jail with chemical restraint permissions, I have known there is a place of complete rest within but had only ever been able to get there with drugs. My life mission has been to get to that resting place within – with no drugs at all. At times I have felt close – touched on it perhaps, but not quite long enough to say it was a success. I believe that it is similar to what many people experience as they are dying. I have witnessed death and studied it in depth – the similarities are striking. Yet if you were to witness people die without the help of the painkilling drugs then perhaps the picture would not look so pretty. We are always in danger of romanticising death because we want to believe that it gives the person suffering some kind of peace. It doesn’t though, it just makes them dead – nada, nothing. A shell left for you to sort out funeral arrangements, inform family and friends and yes all the endless tasks that even death entails.
No, that elusive feeling of peace within doesn’t come with death. It comes with the very essence of our breath and the oh so sweet relief that is felt in the calm exhale and everything simply IS. In those fleeting moments of exhaling – you just let every fucking thing go. It’s not something that can be controlled for any great length of time. Yet it is the most beautiful, breathtaking experience I have ever known. As I have grown older I have considered that perhaps that resting place many of us believe only comes with death, is actually within us all the time. Yet we only seek its refuge when things get too big outside – because we feel like it’s a struggle to access this place inside us. It must be, otherwise why do so many of us fail to find it and stay with it? Perhaps that’s why we actually believe it will be there in our death. Yet despite knowing this myself, I still struggle to stay on this path of meditation, relaxation – whatever you like to call it. I still find myself in places of overwhelm, states of mental suffering and all I can do is sit in the suffering until I can let it go. I admit that as I grow older, I find myself giving less fucks. I’m learning that we really have no control and to even think we do is to be deluded. So it’s fair to say the world is pretty full with deluded people – because we all think we can control everything.
When I met my husband I was stoned and he was drunk. We often laugh about this. My boys were at their dads place and a friend of mine had invited him along to dinner at her place. The whole night was a drunken, groping hot mess of sex and when we woke the following morning at my place all I wanted was for him to go. Wham bam! I figured this was yet another distraction from the real shit that was my life at the time. I figured he felt the same too. He promised to catch up again and I was like “yeah sure” – not believing I would see him again. Yet here we are 25 years later reminiscing about our crazy train ride. Our biggest problem over the years has been my need for control or at least that’s what I used to think. I controlled literally everything. Our finances, our living spaces, our social life and if I could, I would have bent time and space to suit my need for control. He had a drinking problem and because of my history with heroin addiction and where it all led – his addiction scared the shit out of me. We went on for some time and had some major blow ups and fantastic fights and all that resulted was he started to hide himself from me. Yet he couldn’t do this successfully because I was the master of hiding – I could smell it on him, I could feel it on him. I’d confront, he’d deny, I’d lose my shit and he’d confess. It went on like this for a while until he hit me in the face and split my cheek which required stitches. I still have that scar today. Not many people in our life are aware of this because I knew what the reactions would be at the time. It was my brother who took me to get the stitches and after learning I had been on ‘one of my rants’ as he liked to call them he simply said “Sis you’ll have to sort this shit out.” This ‘shit’ being me of course.
My husband has never hit me again. That particular episode in our life was a complete reflex ‘fight or flight’ thing and I was simply in the way when he was trying to escape my manic raging. He had to try and escape me several times before and trust me when I used to lose my shit – you really did need to get out of my way. I was simply out of control – and to make a complete mockery of what I was trying to control, most of those times where I was on a manic rant – I was also drunk. Yes alcohol the very thing I wanted my husband to stop. Those episodes with me were pretty much like the ones you see in the movies where there is a character with bipolar or schizophrenia out of control and being sedated and carted off to the psych ward.
After that awful episode my husband stopped his heavy drinking and only had a couple of beers every other week except for when we went to parties we’d still get drunk – like everyone else we were hanging around with at the time. Our lives were busy with kids, work and day to day living. I was still wanting control of pretty much everything and I think he had just given in to that need.
I had my ‘safe’ obsessions such as penpalling where I couldn’t just have a few penpals there had to be hundreds of them so that I would be busy all the time – especially at night when I couldn’t sleep. I also obsessively cleaned and loved to shop – for anything. I had found a way to funnel my manic states into things that would also help me through the bone numbing depression, which was always just around the corner. When the depression would come I would give up the obsessive cleaning and focus more on the penpalling – actual letter writing, there was no computers for everyone back then! There was always something I was shielding myself with so that I could feel like I was in control of this bipolar that I had hidden all my life. My son was into sports so that was another great distraction – my husband ended up coaching the team and I was managing it – win win! I used to wait until the kids were in bed and ring my girlfriend (who also suffers mental illness) and we would talk for hours and get pissed while we were venting to each other with our rantings.
When I look back I can see how fucked up it all was and I feel guilty for the things the kids must have seen. In fact my son recalls a particular night with great humour – yet it deeply shames me. We’d gone to a friends house for a party – I’d put my baby girl to bed inside the house and the boys were busy playing video games with their friends. My husband and I were drinking and there’s no other way to say it – I was just a cunt of a drinker. I never ever could drink without getting drunk, it’s that addictive, compulsive tendency inside me. I wasn’t actually drunk, I was shitfaced and my behaviour was out of control. I got violent, hit someone and pushed some girl who I don’t know down the embankment. Of course then I wanted to go home. We got the kids together or at least my husband did and I insisted on driving because I thought he was too drunk and I was OK. Deluded or what? I drove home in the middle of the night with my kids in the car and I was driving all over the road. I can only tell you this because it’s my husband and son who remember – not me. My son still peels with laughter retelling this fucked up story when he gets to the bit about how I couldn’t get my jeans off because I was still wearing my boots. He had to come and undress me. The kid was only ten at the time and I am still deeply ashamed of that. I have often admitted my shame to him and yet he just shrugs it off and says there was no harm done. But there was. Kids don’t need to see that crap and they deserve more care and protection from drunk asses like me. I understand that now – but back then it seemed like a whole other world.
It was around this time I really started to look at my out of control behaviour – there were a few more parties in which I would make an absolute cunt of myself and feel really bad about it the next day – yet the damage was already done. So I started the process of ‘fixing myself’. I so didn’t want to write about this because it’s so embarrassing, even cringe worthy – yet relevant to my story. I found God. Not just any God – the happy clappy everything’s gonna be alright kind of God. Fuck me. Needless to say before we knew it my whole family were happy clappers – we got water baptised and hallefuckingluyah. I was obsessed with this crap and yes it’s crap. It’s crap because all it does it teach you that you are indeed a piece of shit who needs forgiveness and you also need to behave and stick to the rules and stay in your box and HIDE. That’s what happy clapping is about – hiding who you really are and pretending to be who you are not. Don’t even get me started on the patriarchal bullshit. As cringe worthy as it is to me now – at the time it was the perfect spot for me because it toned everything inside down – just enough to let me take stock of who I was becoming. Our happy clapper time brought us back together as a family because the one steering the ship was ‘controlled’. Yes I was controlled – not with drugs or alcohol but with God and all the perfect happy clappers around me. I liken it now to a period of time in another kind of psych ward – one that you choose to go into and rather than be unhappy about it, you are excited. Excited because you can feel something different – you’re getting fixed by God and it’s all going to be OK – you are not going to be a fuck up anymore. As fucked up as that sounds – it really was the salve for my heart at the time – it was absolutely perfect.
This whole fixation I had about control was just a long term wrong thinking pathway. My experiences as a teenager caused me to need to control everything and yet the reality was that because of my mental health I had control over jack shit. In fact none of us have control in life. We may be able to control some things for some of the time but life doesn’t go to plan – it never does. There is always something or someone who is going to rock your world. While I know this to be true it doesn’t help when my mental processes are constantly at war with this truth. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy can help but ultimately the work is up to me.
I have written previously that I often cry in the shower and do my mantras and it was on one of those days when I had a remarkable revelation about my negative reaction whenever I see my husband with a beer. He drinks on average one can of beer per fortnight so you can see my reaction to it is over the top and quite paranoid. It doesn’t stop me feeling the way I do though. Anyway that day just recently in the shower, sobbing and just letting the hot water run over my body I had the revelation. I react the way I do because I relate the drinking – ANY drinking of alcohol by either of us as a loss of control and that if he isn’t in control then who the hell is going to steer our ship when I am a red hot mess? When this bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness I felt such a huge weight off my shoulder. Nothing has to make sense – your feelings just need to be understood and sometimes we come to understand the way we feel in the most surprising ways – like sobbing in a shower. So what it has made me aware of is my fear of losing control, fear of him losing control and ultimately if I dig around in that shit for long enough it comes down to fear of going insane. I am terrified of something happening to me that frequently happened in the institution I was in as a teenager. Those other girls were sent to adult mental asylums because they were considered ‘trouble’ – many of them had no mental diagnosis at all. So imagine my terror when a psychiatrist is declaring I have manic depression (Bipolar these days). It was the reason I absconded from there at one point and ran to another state and was devastated to learn that I was caught months later because of a family member dobbing me in when I snuck back to my hometown to see my mum. Of course they weren’t to know what was going on in this place but the terror of being sent away to some mental asylum has stayed with me ever since and in some part – my resentment of that family member hung around the edges of our relationship. I had to hide that resentment because I was still – even years later – hiding that diagnosis of manic depressive illness.
Of course many years later when I was to find out even more awful things that happened in Wilson Youth Hospital I started to wonder if in fact that psychiatrist and the various psychologists had got it all wrong in the first place. But part of this need to control everything and the eventual realisation that I in fact cannot and do not control everything has led me to accept that the past few decades have been proof enough that they were right all along.
Blogging about this is about me finding peace amongst all the pieces of me that were torn apart. It’s about putting those pieces back together so that I can be at peace with myself. That is something I can indeed control. So this is not just a story about someone who was and is damaged. It’s about how we find peace amongst all our broken parts. When we can do that – we have peace within.