I did a yoga class with some friends today. I’d done yoga before at a beach resort I had been spoiled to stay. It was the best four days I’ve ever spent by myself. But, doing it again this time, in a packed little office space above a posh Vancouver street, I just realized that yoga is simply a class on Advanced Stretching and How to Hold In a Fart, where the final and most unwinding moment, lying dead on the floor in Corpse Pose, is ruined by a bass-heavy choir of relaxed sphincters.
As my friends were moving through poses with finesse, without shaking or cheating, I had realized that I could touch the floor with my fingers when standing, too, but I had to bend my knees to do it.
One thought leads to another and I’m stuck with the realization that, in life, my friends are so much further ahead than me. It’s so stupid and I’m not a jealous person, but… I guess I am, but it’s less jealousy and more that I’m mad at myself for falling behind.
I’m lucky to have such creative friends and to be joined by them recently in the big city, but all of these friends who I went through writing and film school with, even the friends in the year behind us, have been finding success networking, striking out with more filming, creating their own flashy portfolio websites, and, what the hell, doing jobs that I never would have thought of (motivational speaking? For fuck’s sake.) Not to mention I’m 30 and most of my friends are under 25.
Its so easy to think of life as one path and speed that everyone is stuck to. The race. I’ve always been competitive to a fault and have judged my output against that of others, but I can’t do it anymore because I’m hurting myself. I don’t hate my friends for their successes, I’m so happy for them of course, but seeing the glaring reasons for why I slip behind hurts: I have bipolar and I haven’t beat it like I thought I have.
You, too, can follow along if you don’t have bipolar. Substitute it for anything like depression or a sports injury. There was an initial incident: a crash or traumatic event. Then, there’s the healing process. For me, when moments like this hit me (in my case: cancer, family deaths, bipolar) I’m Captain Hero. It’s really no big deal and I handle it like a champ. And then I keep doing that. And then it gets out of hand.
Recently, I finished a huge success for myself, an editorial internship at a popular magazine. I was so jazzed after. I was going to take over the world and get a new, killer job at some fantastic company. And then I had some health scares that may have been worsened by my own out-of-control fear, and was hardly able to do anything at all, paralyzed. It’s that cycle of having a huge Go Me moment and being bitch-slapped back down by something that feels so out of my own control that the only possible way to survive is to hide away in the house and maybe sleep it off. Either way, i know I’m not doing anything with my life to propel me on that path and I hate my hating self for that because, oh look, the people I know are lapping me now. Sometimes I even feel like I should get out of their warpath and just walk away. Maybe because it will hurt me less to watch them.
But, no. That’s stupid. Realistically, my chest-beating that ‘I’ve got bipolar and it ain’t no thang’ has now shown its fault. If you’ve torn your knee during a marathon, you’re going to be pulled from the track. Next, you can’t be running around saying you tore your knee and everything’s good. You have months of rehab to do on it! So, no, I haven’t beaten bipolar. I have it, I had a crash, and now I’m on the gradual path to recovery.
And that sucks because I can easily beat myself up about that, too. ‘Psh, you should be better than this.’ But, I’m not, and everyone of my friends and everyone in the yoga class and especially me, all run on our own time. The exercise is to let go and accept it and to take the energy spent hating myself and transfer it to the recovery process.
I know my friends talk about me and I’m sure they wonder about my stagnation, maybe they don’t, but that’s what my mind is dreaming up. And in this case I find it so painfully difficult because I know I am different from my friends. I got bipolar and, yes, it does set me back. The fact is: I am behind my friends.
Beating yourself up, judging yourself, when we sense this happening in our scrambled minds, we really need to just dunk our heads in ice water before we cause ourselves some real pain. We’re raised in a competitive society and age has been the only thing we really time our life success points to in the same way women’s body standards are set by a Photoshop-backed media. You can’t really kill it because it’s also on the lips of everyone. You’ll rarely be at a party where friends are asking who’s been doing what lately. These are the times I completely shut down and look for ways to steer the conversation before it gets to me. It’s so stressful, rummaging through my mind for some sort of half-lie, maybe a vague concept, to throw at them when it’s my turn. “I’m freelancing.” Sad, but that’s the way it is. I have to learn that I have my own speed. It’s slower than other speeds, but this is part of the recovery process and maybe my speed will catch up. Or at least catch up with some sort of idea of where my speed should be. Or maybe with all of this thinking upstairs I’ll discover time travel.
Every athlete, every person who has gone through a trauma, has this moment. It’s the painful, spiteful moment right before committing 100% to the rehab process with a sharp view of the finish line in mind. I’ve had so many successes while having bipolar and I haven’t even really hit my correct stride yet. I know the faults I have to work on and I know that before all else, I have to be good to myself. I don’t know how to do that, I really don’t, but I’ll learn. Even if I have to bend over backwards to figure it out.