31. Coping

My family believes strongly in the concept of pulling up your big girl panties.

If you are unfamiliar with what this means, it is, quite simply, shoving back any emotion you have to deal with the task at hand.  I am not entirely opposed to this, in the short term, because sometimes a situation demands leadership.  And leaders pull up their big girl panties to get the job done.

The other side of leadership, though, is knowing when to show that you are scared as well.  Or sad.  You cannot lead if those that follow you can find nothing with which to empathize.

I know a number of people who can strike this balance rather well.  They know when to stand and fight; and when to sit down and submit to their emotions.

In general, I don’t think bipolar people are born with the ability to strike this balance.  There is a very strong “all or nothing” component to this disease.  You go all the way, or you don’t go at all.  I tend towards the former.

When my grandfather lay dying in bed, we each took our turns in bed with him.  We would stay there, and just talk with him.  When it was my turn to lay by the man who was once so gregarious, so strong, so untouchable, I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want him to think I did not want to be there for him.

In that bed, I don’t remember anything we said to each other, because I spent the whole time angry.  Anger was the only way I knew to supress sadness.  And sadness was weakness.  Sadness was fear.  If I was afraid, my big girl panties most certainly were not pulled up, and I would metaphorically be mooning the family with my little girl ass.

I wasn’t angry with him, so I invented reasons in my head.  Infractions never committed raced through my head to keep me in that place of emotional distance.

And I stayed at that level of distance.

I denied myself the chance to say to him anything I was feeling, anything I thought, so no one would see me submit.


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