Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Completely Imperfect

I'm not perfect. Which is no surprise, since nobody is. Nor are most people anywhere near close. But I may have a few more obvious "differences" than most. Perhaps they're more obvious because I am intentionally open about them.  While other people's might simmer under the surface, slowly revealing themselves little by little, mine say "look, here I am, in all my glory." A friend once told me I'm the emotional equivalent of streaking across a baseball field. I'd say that's pretty accurate.

If it's not completely clear where I feel my "issues" lie (though I can't imagine that it's not), here are a few of the most notable. For one, I'm diagnosed with a mood cycling disorder. While I feel it's an unfair reaction, that diagnosis alone can be enough to concern people, even if they've not seen any outward manifestation of it. I'm a fiery person, prone to emotional displays, both positive and not-so-positive. I have strong opinions, and I'm not afraid to share them - many times after which I wish I had bitten my tongue. My lovely genetics make it so that my moods can cycle even within a day, so, surprise, I can be moody. I don't give up. I can be as stubborn as a mule when I want to be. Well, perhaps persistent and determined is a better way to put it - I go after what I want, I don't give up until I get it, and I don't like to give in if I feel I'm in the right. Though I'm also the first to apologize when I'm not. There are times when my head is in the clouds or left field or who knows where and I'm not thinking perfectly clear - but how can you when you have100 thoughts racing around in your head at any given time. Ok maybe not 100, but definitely at least 20 to 30. I have a lot of trigger words, phrases, and situations that make me want to spit nails. Never tell me to calm down or shut up (or any version of these), never call me irrational or hypocritical. Don't turn your back on me when I'm talking to you, or walk away from me when I'm upset, or give me the silent treatment. Don't ever question my ability to succeed. In fact, don't ever tell me I can't do anything. I'll prove you wrong or die trying. It's one thing if I question myself; it's another thing entirely if you do. I need people to believe in me even when I don't believe in myself. Because I do the same for them.

Now before I continue, let me dispel some myths. These above items don't occur on a daily basis. I go through probably one terrible cycle a year. These cycles might get better or worse over the course of a week or two, but it's not as if every day I'm going to wake up and throw all of these things at people at once. The rest of my cycles aren't too rough, and often I'm the only one who knows about them. Even if you've seen me cycle, here's the thing - I cycle multiple times most days. So, chances are, you've really not picked up on most of them at all. Which is exactly how I want it.

Secondly, these faults are not my preference. I'd rather not act like the spawn of satan at times, but it happens and I do my best to deal with it and to shield those around me from the effects. I'll admit, I wish I was successful in this more often, but I do try. A for effort anyone? But regardless, everyone does and says things they wish they didn't. I'm no different. That's just life. Additionally, and this is probably the stigma that upsets me the most, I do not - let me repeat do not - use my condition as an excuse. I'm not just acting out and blaming cyclothymia because I can. It is not a crutch. It's a condition that I battle every day. Some days it's a real bitch. I hate those days, not only because they're miserable for me, but because they can negatively impact those around me. I work very hard at improving myself and dealing with my condition on a continued basis. And, quite frankly, all of this stuff above, these faults and differences and triggers and the like ... they're worth it. Let me relate back to the "issues" in the first paragraph to explain why.

Let's start with the fact that I'm a fiery person. It means I'm easily excitable. I make people smile and laugh, and create energy wherever I go. I've been told I can lift people's mood just be being in their presence. Who doesn't like a smile and a good laugh and someone breaking out some random dance in the middle of the room just because they feel like it?  And those strong opinions that get me in trouble so often? They're because I'm passionate about life and everything it encompasses. That includes the people I hold close. I'd use my strong opinions and my lack of shame at expressing them to defend you to the death - mine, not yours, to be clear. I've often gotten myself in trouble with "authority" while speaking up for someone who's too afraid to defend themselves. It's just how I am. I won't let someone I care about be trodden all over. Especially not in front of others. So that big mouth that people wish I'd keep quiet sometimes... it just might come in handy for them some day.

Now lets move on to the actual mood cycles themselves. Dealing with them day in and day out means I'm good at dealing with extremes. It means that in someone else's crisis, I can remain much calmer than one would expect. I'm surprisingly a "rock" for people. While we're talking moods, I'd like to make it clear - my ups are way more frequent than my downs, so the tiniest thing can make me happy, and often does.  If I'm down, I usually bounce back quickly.

I mentioned above that I'm stubborn a.k.a persistent. I won't give up on things that are important to me. This makes me an incredibly forgiving and loyal person. I've forgiven things I probably never should have, but that's just me. Always the benefit of the doubt and another chance. It's also helped me stay on my feet or stand back up when I've been dealt the strongest of blows. I don't believe in failing. It's really that simple.

Finally, there's that "rational" thing... everyone else's favorite word it seems, and one of my least favorite. Yes, there are times I am not thinking 100 percent clearly, and yes I have a decent amount of trigger words that make me seem unreasonably upset... and due to this, I understand when these happen to others. Or at least I try my damnedest to. Because really, doesn't everyone have something (or things) that hit a nerve and make them angrier or more upset than outsiders think it should? And at that moment, do they always see everything perfectly clear? I'd venture to say they don't. Luckily, I totally get that. Because I'm fully willing to admit, as I have here, that this happens to me too. This relates back to forgiveness. I'm much tougher on myself than I am on others 99 percent of the time. It doesn't mean I don't get upset ever. I'm only human. It means I don't hold it against them, and generally, a genuine, heartfelt apology is all that's needed.

So no, I'm not perfect. In fact, I'm completely imperfect. But I think most anyone would agree that while you can sit there and dwell on faults, it's healthier to focus on how those same characteristics can manifest in a positive manner. And though I don't wish a mood cycling condition on anyone, including myself, it's made me the person I am, just as your "faults" have made you the person that you are. So don't be so hard on yourselves, or on each other. We can't ignore those imperfect traits, but we can certainly look at both sides of the coin. Perhaps in doing so, we will come to understand that without all of those "negatives", what we'd really be missing out on most is all of the positives.

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