Last night, someone was mean to me on the internet.
And when I say someone was mean to me, what I really mean is: I got my feelings hurt. In a big way. Because they were not “mean.” Incredibly condescending, but not mean. I’ve (mostly) learned to deal with it when people actually are mean. When they swear at me, I can laugh it off. Tell me I should I die? Cool. Tell me that my kids are going to grow up to be ax murderers and drunk drivers and rapists because I don’t spank them? Whatever.
But admonish me, however politely, for not being a good enough human? To use patronizing language to call my character into question? To tell me, as a stranger, that I need to do better, to be better, no matter how well intentioned… holy hell. HOLY HELL, does that cut deep. I’m pretty sure that I have the years of damage from my fundamental Christian upbringing to thank for that. The great irony (because my life is one big example of irony) is that I was being chastised for not having enough grace for people. That I never knew what someone else was going through – which, of course, is absolutely 100% true – so I shouldn’t judge them based on one unkind and nasty snippet on the internet. What I wonder is if this person would have shown me more grace if they knew more of my story? Because yeah, I overreacted. But there was a reason. It doesn’t excuse it … but there was a reason.
I haven’t been sleeping lately.
It’s only been 3, 4 weeks now I think. Usually it takes a couple of months before it causes a complete mental break, which means if I can get on top of things, there’s still time to catch it before I end up where I was in July: suicidal and threatened with involuntary hospitalization.
Anyway, I haven’t been sleeping. First because of mania, then because of anxiety, then … I don’t know. And I’ve learned that nothing, nothing, unravels me faster than lack of sleep. I could eat nothing but junk food for months on end, sit on my couch like a sloth, ignore everyone and everything and still manage to function (relatively) normally. But take away my sleep? I start to slip. Like rapidly, rapidly, down-the-rabbit-hole free-fall. If I’ve learned nothing in this past year and half, it’s that I need to watch my sleep. You’d think that I would have learned that sooner, having been a chronic insomniac on and off since my early twenties, but… sometimes I’m a slow learner.
So I haven’t been sleeping, and I got my feelings hurt on the internet, and last night I found myself rather violently cleaning the kitchen at 9:00 PM, just to give myself something to do with my angst. It was the second night in a row that I’d gotten swept up (Swept up. Ha. See what I did there?) swept up in the act of rage-cleaning before bed. Second night in a row that I’d gotten into bed depressed, and anxious, and jumping out of my skin. I’d deleted the offending post and all its comments on my Facebook page, but I still felt gross about it. And I realized as I was slamming the sixth plate into the dishwasher that it was at least the fourth time this week that I’d deleted something because I’d gotten my feelings hurt. Or felt shamed, or embarrassed, or angry. Which made major alarm bells go off, because I only start doing that when I Am Not Okay. Or at a very minimum, on the verge of Not Okay.
And rather than trying to push through – which never works. Which never, ever works – today I’m sitting with my not-okay-ness. I’m admitting it; I’m saying it out loud. And I’m breathing, and I’m being gentle with myself, and I’m working out what has to change in order for me to start sleeping again, in order for me to start interacting like a reasonable human again. Letting go of my own self-care, letting myself get swallowed by the Big Black Hole, and then couching it in, “It’s not my fault; it’s the bipolar!” helps no one, least of all myself. Or my kids. Or my husband. Or anyone who has the (mis)fortune of being within a 50 foot radius when I am as jacked-up as I am right now. Whenever I feel myself starting to slip, self-care is the very first thing to go…. and the very first thing that I should turn to. I know this. I know this. And yet, here I am, once again.
It’s time to make peace with self-care. If I can’t do it for myself, I can at least do it for my kids.
And so, to the person who (rightly) reminded me of the importance of giving people grace last night: Thank you. You were right. I absolutely do need to give people more grace.
But today I have to start with myself.