Not gonna lie, I've been avoiding you. Yes, you. All of you. I'm just going to say it and can you promise that when you're done reading it, you'll leave it at that? You probably won't, but at least give it some thought before you come rushing at me with comments/suggestions/advice. I'm leaving Clemson. There. I said it. It's been some time in the making, but that's my final decision. My room is mostly empty and I am waiting on the final paperwork for my medical withdraw to go through. The completely blank walls of my room, minus a to do list on a sheet of paper taped to the wall, are a stark concrete block reminder that by Thanksgiving, I'll not be living here. And I just killed all of the bugs. Just organized my dresser. But anyone who knows me or reads this regularly can attest that I am more than just a bit up and down. I am not leaving because of Clemson, or a lack of support here, or something else. I did all that I can do. Student Disability Services, counseling, one-on-one sessions with professors to make sure I got the material. But I can't predict when the Bipolar Disorder will rear its ugly head. I can put every precaution I can think of in place and it still doesn't change the fact that it happens. I think I really underestimated my support system in Charleston: doctor, therapist, family, sisters, Thomas, friends, the smell of the marsh... Okay maybe not the last one, but maybe so. I regret not being academically or mentally equipped to finish the semester with everything my parents put into tuition and all of their help. But I think if I didn't go crazy and apply and give it one helluva shot, I would still wonder. I did the best I could. That's all I can ask of myself. I tried.
I'm coming at all of this from a semi-rational state. I've had a lot of time to process this, both with my parents, with Thomas, with friends, and by myself. In one week I got engaged, turned 23, and then decided to leave school. And yes, there are plenty of terrible things about leaving school. Not feeling like I finished, tuition loss, returning home in a worse state than when I left, the shame of it all. Oh the shame. (Hence the request to not really talk about it.) But I spent a lot of time staring at the walls, dreading packing and leaving. I came to some conclusions. Yes, I will have to find a job. I hate job hunting. It's made worse by the fact that most listings are for people with degrees and experience- I have neither- kind of rubs salt in the wounds there. An income will be nice to have though. I might even get the chance to explore what I really want and enjoy doing. I'd love to do something that would give me a chance to write- who knows! Those chances are slim on Craigslist. But I'll find a "meantime" job. I get to plan a wedding from home. I get to try on my mom's wedding dress, see the church again, probably wish I want to elope instead at least 3 times before the actual wedding, and all that fun stuff. I get to see Thomas more than once or twice a month. Trust me, as soon as you've made the decision together to get married, you really don't want to spend any more time apart and the Navy is due to provide us with that soon. So I'm glad that I don't have to have a commuter marriage as I grew to talk about it. I get to marry him, move in, and then spend time in bliss, briefly interrupted when we find out those weird quirks about the other you can only find out about once you live together every single day. It's okay. I think we're pretty prepared. :) I get my support system- everyone- back to help out. I don't tell them enough, but their constant presence is usually enough to set me straight.
God and I are better. Really. Here's the conversation. G= God. L= Lauren. Just in case you can't figure that one out. It also takes place over years. Lots of time gaps.
G: "You have Bipolar Disorder!!"
L: "What the @*&%!! WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?"
L: "No, seriously. Why?"
G: "Later. Try and figure it out now, I have things to do."
L: *perplexed* Enter in period of cycling between confusion, bad days, calm periods, more bad days, anger, frustration. Later- "Are you sure you can't figure it out for me? Please? I am feeling very alone. You are still there, aren't you?"
G: *more silence* But then gifts appear. Doctors who get it. Parents who do their best to understand. A therapist who gets me now and who I want to be. Friends who stay by my side, even in uncomfortable times. Plenty of learning experiences.
L: "Okay, that's nice that they all want to help out, but seriously, do I still have to have this?"
G: "Yes. Hold on. I'm working through you. But you need to work through you for a while now too. Don't try to accomplish everything at once. Get to a point where you can deal with this."
L: "I'm trying to deal with this, but you are making it difficult! Why do I have to have this? It SUCKS. Where are you sometimes? I need some person-to-God interaction."
G: "I am with you always. Just not always in the way you want me to be. But I'm here in the way you need me to be. Think about that for a while."
L: "Fair enough." **Enter in period of Scotland, Clemson.** "Okay, so I have to leave school again? What are you trying to teach me, making me go in and out of school all the time? Can't you give me a little heads up? Let me know so I stop face-planting."
ENTER IN THE REVELATIONS:
1. Bipolar Disorder may be characterized by cycles, but dealing with it in Therapy is not!!!! Oh my goodness, the years it took me to realize that!! It's also a painfully slow and often frustrating experience until you look at it in hindsight. For over three years, I have been in therapy with my therapist (sounds redundant, but want to re-iterate it's with the same person), and often it seems like we talk about the same stuff when things are good and the same things when things are bad. In this semester, you've heard me write about all kinds of things relating to my BPD and how I've dealt with it. The how I've dealt with it is the key factor here. First, for the first time I was able to actually say: wow. I'm going through something really bad (like a panic attack) and I should go talk to someone RIGHT NOW. And I followed through with that. Before, I would have never done something like that. I would have ignored it. I kept following up on it.
2. Just because you do something about it, to recognize it, doesn't mean it will change. This one is very important. I always came from the mentality that once you were able to recognize a problem, you could fix it. Isn't there some maxim like: half of the solution to a problem is identifying it? I think so. I have to accept that (for the moment) just being cognizant of its existence is progress enough. I often felt this semester that even though this was being touted as "progress" still left me feeling awkward because I can't fix a bad day. I don't know how yet. Leading me to:
3. I can change the course of my therapy. I know there are dozens of different styles of therapy. Television and experience have taught me that. There's a lot of merit in just having someone to talk to. A monologue for an hour might bring up things you hadn't lead your brain to think of before. Sometimes you need guiding therapy- with the right push and shove, you might actually go do something! Question and answer sessions can prod along times when you just feel stuck. I love all of these things because each have their place at the right time. There are also times where you need to bring up something to work on. Part of the issue I've been having is the difficulty of asking for help- not because I'm afraid anymore, but mostly because I don't know what to ask for. Now I do. I want to know how to change a bad day/period. I don't know if it's possible, but I want to try. No one knows better than me that some days you just can't do anything about it. But the medium to low lull periods when the apathy just settles like a heavy wool blanket- I want to get out of that.
4. God gave us free will for a reason. I know sometimes we're afraid, afraid that choosing our own course of action will set us up for sin or disaster. And I know it seems an odd thing to write about in a post where I started off announcing that I was leaving Clemson. But I might not have figured these things out if I hadn't have come. If I didn't have the gumption to leave for Scotland for three weeks and travel by myself, I wouldn't have felt empowered in a way I never had before. I did that purely out of choice. I chose to set that up and go. Sometimes we fail to look for opportunities and instead we think that if God means for them to be, he'll do the leg work and then, ta-da! A mission project or a job offer or something that slaps us in the face. I'm all for face-slapping opportunities, but seriously, you have free will. USE IT. Even if it is choosing school when you're unsure. Go for it. You will figure it out. You might even find your own Scotland on the way.
I felt God reeling me back in this last week. I've cried my eyes out over leaving this amazing school. But he also stroked my head and dried my tears and said, "look at all that awaits you instead!" I can try again in a few years, or a few decades. College will be there. But I get to spend the last bit of my "single" life with my family close by. I'm getting married. Then I get to live with my husband. Not having school as a factor isn't great, but it opens a lot of possibilities that I didn't think were available to me. I still have a long way to go. I'll be 70 and still figuring out how to live with Bipolar and how I can better listen to God. This blog's readership spans 6 continents and many countries. It's cathartic to me, but I hope it's also helpful to others. As God said (in the Bible, not in my head this time), ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’
I'm pretty weak, but he's got some serious power.