Feeling bad about feeling good
I’m in a pretty good place lately; I’m on a new antipsychotic that’s doing its job without hitting me too hard with side effects, I’m in a crapload of treatment that all seems pretty positive, I’m working on new collaborative philanthropy projects.
Feeling good makes me anxious. I’m bipolar and have a history of mania, so I get nervous that I’m in an upward spiral. I don’t trust that it’s going to stay, so I don’t really like it when people tell me I seem better (it feels like a jinx).
Most of all, I get impostor syndrome.
Never mind that I’m doing about 15 hours a week with mental health professionals, or that I’m on some seriously heavy-duty drugs. I feel the need to explain as much about past symptoms as I can so that people don’t think I’m invading a safe space that’s actually mine, too. I feel guilty that I’m doing better when those around me are in a more struggle-based place. It can almost feel like I should be more symptomatic so that I could better relate to my peers in the moment. I feel a bit like a traitor to my community, even though I’m kind of living #goals at the moment.
Also, how fragile it is to be well! I appreciate this to a great degree, having been unable to work for two extended periods (~1 year-ish each time) in the last five years, for unrelated reasons. It seems like if I commit to feeling good, I’ll lose it immediately. I’ve had too many false starts to believe that I’ll be level forever, and I practice radical acceptance around that — but somehow it’s much easier to practice radical acceptance around the dialectic of “I’m disabled now and I can still lead my life” than “I’m feeling good and I’m still mentally ill.”
It might seem counterproductive to have these feelings, but in doing the practice that my therapist suggested (investigating what the benefits are to symptoms, how I’m subconsciously protecting myself), I can recognize that this feeling is keeping me motivated to keep doing the IOP, to keep taking therapy incredibly seriously, to keep taking my meds. I’ve gotten complacent too many times, crashed and burned too many times. This feels like it might stick for a while.
But just to be safe, I’m going to continue saying I’m cautiously optimistic about possibly feeling better.