On the Arc of Life

I started this as a response to something Paul wrote; decided to trail off the comment I’d left with something here:

Sure, we’re governed by our history [I’m with Joe; love that line]. But I’d also argue that these feelings of stuck are there for us to re-evaluate things. They’re the cognitive reminder that either the course needs correcting, or the old plan wasn’t followed, or that the old plan was shit and now what do you do?

I view life as a rope, fixed on one end: our birth, into the situation we were born into, with the talents and flaws we were doled out. On the other end, we’re weaving in all these strands of things, making the rope we have. You can’t really cut the rope that fixes you to your past—it’ll always be there in your mind, even if you “re-invent yourself” and become a whole new person. You’ll still know that it’s there.

But just because that fixed endpoint is there, and the momentum of the rope that’s laid out has an arc to it … that doesn’t constrain you to putting new strands in, taking old strands out, and trying to change the arc of the rope.

I’ve been coming to grips with a lot of things in the last year or so. I have hit four realizations …

  1. This mental illness that I have is something I’ll have for the rest of my life. I’ll need mood stabilizers as long as I live. It’s admittedly painful to realize that you can’t lead a normal life without pharmacological intervention, but … I can’t go on living like I was. I just can’t. I was an undamped oscillating function—okay, a diving board springing ever faster and higher. The hypomania and the depression came in longer spells than they used to; the depressive spells were deepening. I literally couldn’t have handled it for much longer. I’m convinced that I’d have been dead by 35 without seeking help, so I did. Damn straight I take that green tablet every night.
  2. My value as a person comes from my beliefs, my ethos, my core. My value does not come from the work I do, the degree I hold, my SAT score, how much I do for other people, or anything like that. I believed that lie for more than a decade, and it ended up with me ever more desperately seeking ever greater success to keep proving to the world that I Am Somebody. A project manager at 27? A NASA award-winner at 29? All I heard in my head is that I was peaking too soon.
  3. I can handle my emotions. I’m an emotionally intense person. I shouldn’t fight that. I should let these things come and go in the waves that they do. Fighting that is just a terrible way to live.
  4. I’m an addict.

More on that last one soon. I just came to that realization on Tuesday, and I’m still coming to grips with it.