On Sept 20th, Calen began posting questions from a new book titled, Learning to Fall: Recording the Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. The premise this day was on Mystery – do you see life “as a problem to be solved and back away in fear, confusion, or the belief it can’t really be that great, or do you leap forward into the mystery of it?” Here’s her question for us to explore:
Forgive me as I wander off-topic for a few moments. I think this needs to be explained before I can properly answer this question.
There is a life of awe and wonder pre-Mental Illness for most of us who have mental illnesses. That time when anything and everything feels possible. When life can seem like one big mystery to be solved. And then there is life post-Mental Illness when nothing seems possible, where it is a struggle to just do the basics each day and you have no time to think about wonders and possibilities.
I bring this up because my mental illnesses didn’t start to manifest in a major way until I was around 22-25 yrs old. I’d always been a quiet, somewhat melancholia child, but I still had that sense of awe and wonder. Even through my twenties, I was able to function fairly well with my disorders. I went through nine years of college battling between the mania and the depression, acting out and being difficult, and my OCD was off the charts during those years. Perfectionism ruled me completely. I also spent a great deal of time feeling anxious as I withdrew further into myself and away from others. I’ve just described to you my four mental illnesses – Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD and Social Anxiety Disorder.
It would be my mid-thirties before I became so unstable that I had to seek help – psychiatrists, therapists and medication. The medication helped for a while, but I was so zombified that I couldn’t accomplish even the smallest of tasks. As a writer, that would become excruciating. So, over the past 15 years or so, I have yo-yoed between medicated and non-medicated in a battle to continue to write.
Now to actually answer the question – Where in my life have I actually experienced true mystery? I would have to say in those pre-Mental Illness years . I was a curious child, always with either a book in my hand or outside exploring the life of insects. I would lay out in a field at night and contemplate the stars. Prisms fascinated me, as did the weather. In those days, everything was a mystery to be explored. I quietly explored the world around me, rarely showing my enthusiasm, but it was there in an abundance. It was only after those mental illnesses began to take hold of me that I stopped seeing the outside world so much as a mystery. As I withdrew into myself, I discover a maze of mysteries that still keep me perplexed. These are not awe-inspiring mysteries. They are filled with fear, insecurities, doubt, shame, and pain.
It takes a lot of patience and mindfulness to even explore the outer world these days. I still get trapped inside my mind maps/puzzles/mazes on a daily basis. These days, I have to force myself to choose between outer or inner mystery. I ask myself, which of these still inspire me? Which will I choose today? It is a constant battle and not always a choice.