Wednesday, March 10, 2010

St. Dymphna, again

St. Dymphna and the Lights of Gheel 2
watercolor and ink, 6.75 x 11

I'm thinking about fear and anxiety a lot today. I dislike anxiety so much that even thinking about it or having someone close to me experience it causes me a feeling of dread and unease. Anxiety was practically my address for a lot of my life: a constant gnawing in the pit of my stomach, the sure feeling that something was terribly amiss, that I must have done something wrong, that I was somehow responsible for all of the pain and chaos going on around me. When I tried to banish that feeling by deciding I just didn't care I actually did cause other people pain. It wasn't until I started therapy for co-dependency in my late twenties that I began to enjoy some peace of mind. I began to trust that good things could happen and I wasn't going to have to pay some terrible price for them later on. I learned to turn it over. I learned to pray. I learned what faith really is. I have also, through this process, come to view my life-it's particular circumstances, the shame, pain, confusion, and mistakes as well as all of the good things-with acceptance. I appreciate the journey. I understand that without fear there is no courage, without despair no need for me to gather my strength and affirm my life. I have been able to put all of that free-floating anxiety and irrational fear in perspective: I understand where it came from, how it functioned in my life as a co-dependent, and how to deal with it proactively.

I believe that the healing I have done is a gift from God and that with out it I would be devastated by the real and tangible anxiety of watching someone I love very dearly deal with a mental health issue. Feeling that I don't understand my friend's thought process, knowing that I can't make them better, fearing for their physical and emotional safety, seeing them feel tormented by their own mind and not knowing what their future will hold are the worst fear and anxiety I have ever felt. My ass was being roundly kicked and I did allow some catastrophic projections to overwhelm me for a little while. I think, then, that it was no accident when I picked up
"A Mind Apart : Travels in a Neurodiverse World" by Suzanne Antonetta.

To say that I found this book mind expanding would be an understatement. Susanne Antonetta shares her own story of having manic depression as she explores our neurodiverse world, providing an illuminating perspective on mental health. I really like that Susanne Antonetta has friends from all over the spectrum. It is evident that she values and respects each one and, as she introduces her reader to Dawn and N'Lili, so do we.

Coming from my place of anxiety I also found this book to be very comforting. The author manages her manic-depression with medication. She is talented, creative
, successful, and has a rich life and a loving family. In a world where stigma is still attached to mental health problems she has the courage to write about herself and her experiences. The world is fortunate indeed to have such a gifted writer, mother, friend, teacher. The journey she writes about was filled with suffering and confusion, but who's isn't? Certainly not mine, and probably not yours. And so I apply these lessons to my own friend over whom I fret so much, for who am I to wish they were other than how God made them?