Sometimes I look at the scattered marbles strewn across my mind and think to myself, “Who could love something so disassembled, something so broken?”
In this society, we are taught that the worst thing for a lover to be is “crazy,” and that being “crazy” makes us deserving of our loneliness and our longing.
To be “crazy” is to be unworthy, to be unwanted.
Confession: Sometimes I want to run away. Sometimes, even after getting married and even after a thousand “I love you, I need you, I want you’s” – written, spoken, texted, felt – I fantasize about taking the train as far away as I can go, up the coast where no one can find me.
Sometimes in our desperation, we isolate ourselves, fearful of what it means to be seen, to be visible, to be known.
Confession: I am often afraid that having bipolar disorder means that, if someone gets too close, they’ll get burned.
But then my lover holds me and I see that they are still whole – not a single burn, or scar, or wound – and I realize this impulse to run is yet another lie, another deception of a disorder known for its deceiving.
Maybe you are like me. Maybe you are afraid, too.
Confession: We are, and have always been, staggeringly, astonishingly, magnificently beautiful and worthy of good things.
You and I – we deserve good things. We deserve love. We deserve happiness and we are worthy of the people who make us happy.
The gears of our minds may turn a little differently, but it makes us no less worthy of that happiness than anyone else.
Whenever I feel that instinct to run or to hide, I affirm myself as an act of resistance.
And I put passion into my resistance, I resist with my whole being. When I hear the dark voice, echoing from the corner of my mind, telling me that I am not enough – I straighten my spine, curl my fists and say, “No. I have always been enough.”
Because, confession: We are enough.
Which is not to say that we don’t make mistakes, which is not to say that we are perfect, which is not to say that we have arrived at our destination, exactly as we’d like to be.
But we are human.
So long as we are committed to being the best versions of ourselves that we can be, and so long as we hold ourselves accountable as we go along, we should be gentle with ourselves.
Gentle, like putting a bandage on a hurting child; gentle, like placing a baby bird back into the nest. We should be tender with ourselves, we should be soft, we should be kind – we deserve no less than kindness, especially when we are sore, especially when we are hurting, especially when we are lonely.
Mental illness can make us so sore. Sometimes we resist love because we are hurting, because we only know what it means to hurt.
But there are other ways of being.
Confession: Kindness is difficult when we are acutely aware of our shortcomings.
So every day, I practice. I write love letters to myself. I remind myself of when I’ve done something good. I light candles for myself. I take long showers and afternoon naps. I go to the beach and dig my feet into the sand. I drink lots of water. I smell the roses and the eucalyptus and the daisies.
And at first, I didn’t know how to be nice to myself. I’d spent years practicing the exact opposite. I knew all my worst mistakes by heart. I could rehearse every imperfection. It wasn’t difficult to pick myself apart.
Sometimes, though, we must do the more difficult things because they are also the most important.
In a world that tries to reduce you to “crazy” – a world that tries to tell you that you are inherently flawed – it is necessary to do everything you can to build yourself up.
It is powerful to be loving in a world that tells you that you should not be loved.
Because, confession: Letting yourself love and be loved is a radical act.
Which is to say, you are enough in this moment and you always were.
Which is to say, mental illness does not make us damaged goods.
Which is to say, mental illness is a part of us but it is certainly not all of us.
We are not enough “in spite of,” we are not enough “all things considered.” We are enough, full stop, human in every sense of the word.
We are bright, we are luminous.