I have come to the recent realization that I treat my emotions with suspicion. The nature of my illness means that emotions arise for no discernable reason other than my brain not acting in the manner that a healthy brain acts.
Part of my coping mechanism has been to develop a sense of emotional awareness. Through introspection and self-honesty, I tend to dig down and analyze not only the emotion I am feeling, but the why of it. It is only when I can understand why I feel a certain way that I can feel the emotion is genuine and not part of my pathology.
Mental illness is a hell of a thing. I have lived with a diagnosis for 28 years now, but honestly the illness has been a lifelong presence for the 43 years of my life. I have gotten pretty good at navigating it for the most part, but I also know it is probably inevitable that my coping mechanisms, support, and medication will not be enough and things go tits up again. I have built these survival strategies over my life, and it is sobering to realize that there will be a day when they are insufficient and I will need to learn new ones.
But for now, I am doing the best I can with what I got, and strive to keep moving forward.
In the 1980s Billy Crystal had a character on Saturday Night Live that insisted that it was better to look good than to feel good. With a cyclic mood disorder, there will be days, many more than I would like, that I won’t feel good. Even with medicine and therapy, I will find myself in a depressive mood swing, and there really is nothing for it. No amount of positive thinking or will power will allow me to not be depressed.
But even in a depressive episode, if i is not severe, I still have some control in my life. I express this control by making the choice to look good.
Today is one of those days. I have had mild depression for a few days now, so I indulged in a little self care. I showered (something I am prone to neglect when depressed), and spent a goodly amount of time on grooming. I’ve recently started shaping my beard in such a way that I get to wear a full beard, but also get to engage in the ritual of shaving regularly which I enjoy. I got dressed in a shirt and tie, with the addition of a small lightsaber pin as a tie-tack. I finished the outfit with bright red shoes to contrast my black pants and shirt, and to coordinate with my black and red tie.
I am still in the grip of depression, but it is balanced somewhat with pride in my appearance. It is a small victory, but I will take it. Mentally ill, but still MARVELOUS.