I stopped caring for myself in 2021.

trigger warning self-harm and suicidal ideation

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

It’s all my fault that 2021 kicked my butt.

In early 2021, a thoughtless comment by a subpar therapist helped me along in a manic spiral. She said something about how mild I was. How great I am at caring for myself. Etc. Etc.

I remembered the counselor in college who told me I wasn’t “bad enough” for inpatient. I spent the rest of the day waiting for an opportune moment to end my life. Thankfully, my husband took me to the ER instead.

And both of those instances send me back to a particular day in my childhood. My mom, with the smell of cheap beer and a slurring tongue in her mouth, called me her little soldier. She was proud of me. And I stared at her surprised. I couldn’t NOT be tough. Her drinking. Her untreated bipolar disorder. My dad’s drinking. Their infidelity.

If I didn’t care for myself, no one else would.

She gave me permission

So I sat in that therapist's tiny, windowless office with generic nature sounds and soft lighting and started to wonder. Could I stop caring for myself? Could I, maybe just a little, let go and crumple on the floor? How much could my husband carry me? How much could I give up, without it hurting my kids?

So crumple I did.

I started drinking most nights while cooking dinner. Just 1–2. Enough for a buzz, but no hangover. Enough to be a happy mom. Not so much that my husband worried.

I cut myself a few times. I hadn’t done this in 8 years. I feel ridiculous cutting myself at the age of 30.

I fought the manic sleep deprivation, but not as hard as I should.

Basically, I slacked. I stopped holding every little thing together through sheer will.

Now I don’t know how to stop

It’s been nearly a year since I started loosening up on my own life. I’ve rapid cycled. Depression. Mania. Psychosis. Hypomania. Hypomania. Hypomania. Depression. Mania. I’ve been symptomatic almost all year.

And without keeping myself tightly bound up, it feels like I’ve stopped caring.

Whatever. Drinking is bad for me but most people drink. And how much worse can it really make the episodes. And it makes me feel good. And I’ll stop once I’m stable.

Whatever. Hurting yourself isn’t so bad. I’m not hurting anyone. I’m not causing long-term harm.

Then there is food, sleep hygiene, movement, actively working with my new (wonderful) therapist.

I’m now struggling to do the minimum things I need to do to take care of myself. I don’t feel like I know how to start again. And I’m paying the consequences.

I’ve always felt like I’m on my own

My mom started having her own manic episodes with psychosis when I was seven. After the rise, always comes the fall. There are many stories there. But I remember one day, asking her to help get me breakfast before school. I was eight at the time.

She didn’t stir.

I can still her limp body and knotted hair in the dark of the bedroom. The blinds are closed with thick curtains hung over them. She’s tangled up with the blankets and the air in the room smells stagnant and musty.

My mom was so depressed, she couldn’t take care of herself. And she definitely couldn’t take care of me.

My dad started cheating on my mom shortly after. I found him combing a clump of gel into his hair in the soft, yellow glow of the trailer he’d started renting. He’d dowsed himself in cologne and was as dressed up as my dad gets.

He was picking up my 18-year-old babysitter for a date.

My dad was such a child, he couldn’t take care of himself. And he definitely couldn’t take care of me.

But I’m not alone anymore

My husband gets up in the morning. He dresses in dark-wash fitted jeans, wool sweaters, and casual leather boots. Sometimes it’s a nice, off-white henley tee or a quarter-zip with our university logo on it. Maybe clean vans or dress shoes to round it off.

He brushes his teeth. He combs his hair. He washes his face. He eats a breakfast sandwich and drinks his coffee. He works, comes home, eats dinner, spends time with the kids, helps put them to bed, then spends time with me.

My husband is so stable, he can take care of himself. And he definitely can take care of me.

Some part of me felt safe enough to fall apart. We’ve been together for eleven years, but I finally got here. I feel guilty for what I’ve put him through this past year.

He has keys hidden around the house for the lockbox holding my extra meds. He has hidden sharp objects. He’s taken me to the ER when I can’t sleep. He’s had appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist. He’s verbalized that he’s worried about me, for the first time since college at least.

I think I’m ready to get better

I’m not sure how trusty the aspirations of a manic woman are at 4:23 am with a mild hangover and 3 hours of sleep, but I’m feeling pretty confident. I’m ready to iron out my meds. Pour out the leftover Angry Orchard. Get on the sobriety bandwagon.

I need to start giving a shit about myself again.

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