Just Like Taffy

A friend recently wrote me asking about a post on my blog that has since been eaten by the internets. I actually lost all my old content a while back. I wasn’t too bummed at the time, but now I’m kinda missing some stuff. No worries I guess… What is meant to happen, does.
This particular post was pretty ‘heavy’ in that I very candidly spoke of my struggles with Bipolar and Depression.
“Oh shit!!! Ugly words!!! RUN!!!!”
At least, that’s what my biggest fear was at the time; that  ‘everyone’ was thinking that and judging me to be unfit as a friend/lover/whatever. Come to find out, that is SO not the case (for the most part). In fact, I received a lot of love and support from that initial post… and even now, remembering the difficulty and the honesty in writing those words… I feel nothing short of grateful (and a little bit proud of myself!) for how far I’ve come.
I know it’s super awkward sometimes to talk about this stuff, but I’m totally an open book. And trust me it’s taken a while but the acceptance part of handling depression/anxiety/bipolar/whatever is a major component to dealing and has been one of the biggest assets I now posses.
I’ve actually seen a number of therapists since I was an early teen. And I struggled for a painfully long time before understanding what was really going on.
The tricky thing about Bipolar in particular is that it never feels ‘out of place’ even though what you might actually be feel is. I’m actually symptomatic of BP II which is characterized by periods of deep depression followed by less intense but equally disruptive ‘highs’. When I experience the excitement and energy of a mental and emotional peak it feels right, as though it was always meant to be that way. Unfortunately, the same can be said about depression; even in the disabling and warped perspective of ‘the dark place’ it still feels ‘right’,  like that’s my instinctual emotional response. If that makes any sense…
The realization finally came when I started to look back over a period of weeks, months, even years and began to notice ‘trends’ or patterns in my overall perspective and attitude on pretty much everything.
Once I saw that there were in fact significant and measurable ups and downs, I was a little freaked out. Actually a lot freaked out. It felt really out of control and I, to some extent, allowed it to be.(It’s difficult to explain how tough it is to force yourself to dampen the freedom and concentrated confidence that comes with mania, ESPECIALLY after the crippling dead-weight of doubt and depression. And likewise, consciously and constantly struggling against that unseen enemy is absolutely exhausting. And hopelessly terrifying.)
But pulling myself through… that’s the hardest of all. And I’m still pulling. :-/ That’s what I’ve come to accept, but also something that has been difficult to embrace; that this is something with which I will always have to interact (I purposefully choose ‘interact’ over struggle, because I now recognize, acknowledge and respond vs. struggle… not to say that it’s always easy!)
I look at it this way; some people have bad eye sight (just for the record, my right eye is awful!) some people are born without xyz, and some are born with an extra lmnop. But for me (among other things, trust, it’s not my only flaw) it happens to be wonky brain chemistry. And therein lies the both the frustration, and the healing. Knowing that it is to some extent beyond my control, that it’s a genetic/biological factor of my development as a human being, puts it out of my reach as something I CAN control. BUT, in knowing this, I have the ability to respond as I choose. And seeing as I’m a big fan of Socrates and all those old thinkers, I firmly believe that once you know better, you do better.
I mean, you have to!
I had to.
And I still do.
But even still, I sometimes forget…
The Autumn of 2010 in particular was REALLY fucking hard. For a number of reasons not all of which are covered in this post, but mostly in part because I forgot that this struggle is and always will be a part of me.
I wanted it to be ‘over’.
I wanted to ‘fix it’. With medicine, acupuncture, a book… whatever means necessary. I wanted to find something that would exorcise this darkness out. But there isn’t any one thing. And there isn’t any thing. It’s on the inside. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
So ‘pulling through’ is really about the pulling. From the inside through medicine, understanding, forgiveness. And from outside via friends, family, therapy, serendipity… it’s pulling from from all sides that counts.
…It’s like making taffy…
I remember watching my step-mom as a kid, making taffy from molasses. You puta ll of the ingredients together and cook them until it reaches a certain temperature. Then you have to let it rest, but only just enough; there’s a point at which the candy needs to be taken out of the pot and worked on. With your hands. It starts out really dark and sticky, and gloopy and weird. But then you start to work with it, and pull it, and understand it. You stretch it out and tie it back, pulling with your hands and really getting your arms into it.
It isn’t easy; it really forces you to physically push and pull, to get in and use your muscle, your strength. But eventually you find a rhythm. You find a way to work with this sticky stuff so that the outcome becomes something worth celebrating.
I feel like I’m finding that rhythm. A way of stretching and working through. A method that is as unique to me as my own set of struggles.
And my strengths.
Only this time, I’m stronger.
I still have a tough time. And I still take medicine (I would rather not, but it helps tremendously. And just like working out, consistency is KEY here). But the most important idea for me is that in the end, it’s part of what makes me, me…
It’s funny, I never thought I’d so willingly embrace such a deep and profound ‘flaw’ in myself. But to tell you the truth, in many ways it’s become one of the things for which I am the most grateful. I appreciate so much now, and so much more fully. Even the little things like feeling good just because, and smiling genuinely without pretense. And in conquering the hard stuff too, like pulling myself out of bed on the darkest of days, and telling myself “You can! You are! You got this one!”
Even when I don’t believe it. Or don’t want to.
It’s not easy. But it’s worth it. To see, and to know on the deepest of levels, that no matter what I feel inside, life IS beautiful.
Every single day.
So, THANK YOU!!!! To everyone who has helped me in any way along this path of mine. Even to those who I’ve yet to meet.= face to face… I’m finding a quiet strength and building confidence in ways never before known to me. And for that, and to you, I am so very grateful.

2 thoughts on “Just Like Taffy

  1. Hi Jake, Please keep being an open book, just read your post on bipolar and depression and it it touched me to the core. I suffer mostly from depression and at times feel very alone and sad. That someone like you..handsome, talented and from what I read lots of friends can still have these self doubts and at times depressed, makes me feel better….. Wait …that did not come out right.. I hope u know what I mean. thanks again Jake!

    1. Jim!

      Thank you for your post! I totally understand, and it IS nice to know that others struggle. Not in seeing their hurt or hardship, but in knowing we aren’t alone in ours. :) I actually re-read my own post after I saw your comment. It’s funny how long ago that feels. I guess that means I’m still growing. Which is good. Remember that everyone has their hardships. No matter what you (or others) think of them. We’re all just a bunch of humans playing at being something more than that. ;)

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