Every day is full of choices and decisions. From the really simple ones like do I bring my lunch or eat in the cafeteria, to final decisions of living or dying. How we respond to these decisions is dependent on so many different factors. How do I actually feel today? Am I strong and aware, or just going with the flow? Environment can have a lot to do with it too. Is it a very stressful day, or have I been able to take everything in stride?
But decisions have to be made, nonetheless.
So many times the simple questions just answer themselves. Making a ham sandwich or bringing leftovers is a no brainer if I’ve been eating ham all week. But it’s still a choice. Do I buy gas on the way into work, or wait until I’m on the way home depends on how bad the traffic is and how late I’m running.
But not all decisions are that easy.
My lease is up on my house the end of this month. As much as I’ve enjoyed my little place in the country, the 80 mile round trip to work is starting to get a little old. Not to mention, my social life is centered around the city, and that 80 mile trip easily turns into a 120 mile one if I go back out after work. But the flip side is I really dread moving again. And then there’s all the money needed for new deposits, truck rentals, and other costs that go along with a move. There is also a fairly high level of stress in looking for a new place and organizing everything. Sometimes I really want to get closer to town, other times I just want to stay where I am. How to decide?
Another thing weighing on me is how to deal with a relationship I’ve recently developed. This lady is great. She can be a lot of fun to do things with and it can be very comfortable just hanging out at home. She’s very affectionate, which is something I always crave. And she obviously cares for me; she’s always doing very thoughtful things and is very considerate and kind. But the affection is suffocating. I can’t get within 4 feet of her without being grabbed for a hug or kiss. I can’t do anything by myself without her hanging around. Anytime I sit down, she’s right there, laying up against me or draping herself over me. Affection is nice, even desired, but there are limits. It’s really driving me away. There is such a thing as too nice. At some point it becomes needy. I’ve talked to her about it, and she has gotten a little better, but it’s still overwhelming. It’s really awkward, but she has a very peculiar (and strong) body odor. It’s not a hygiene thing; it’s just her body chemistry. I can be as understanding as the next man, but it’s physically unpleasant to be close to her. I don’t even know how to bring that up, or even if is should since it’s not something she has control over. I don’t think I’m being selfish about it, but it’s a reality I have to work with. And I just don’t feel strongly about her. I’m afraid that her feelings for me are far exceeding my feelings for her. It will hurt her feelings if I break it off, but if it doesn’t work out long term, it’ll hurt a lot more. You’d think it would be an easy choice, but it’s been a struggle.
I’ve had to make some very difficult choices lately about friendships and the people I accept into my life. Part of my recovery has been surrounding myself with people who are positive and uplifting. So I’ve removed myself from those who are negative and drag me down. I just don’t need all the drama. My best friend ever is an alcoholic. She’s functioning; she holds down her job, pays her bills and keeps her house very nice. But when she drinks, she gets either very abusive or extremely depressed, and I was getting texts almost every night from her either attacking me for some imagined slight or boo hooing about how miserable she was. I have my own tendencies to alcohol abuse, and she was very much an enabler. So as painful as it was, I had to remove her from my life. I still miss her, but I’m healthier for it.
I have to believe that being bipolar makes making good choices even harder. Of course in the grips of a mania or depression, the basic decision ability is just not there. Bad choices are inevitable. But living 50 plus years with this illness has established tendencies and perspectives that are difficult to overcome. Personality traits that have developed over the years create drivers and influences that impact how decisions are made. I have an unhealthy need to be in a relationship for example. So many times I’ve ignored warning signs or justified giving it a chance just so I can stay involved. And there is an inherent ‘screw it’ factor. Should I take a weekend trip and spend money that I really ought to be saving? I really want to go, and tomorrow I might be unemployed or out of my mind, so screw it. I’m going. I think my driving habits are a good example. The decision is, do I exceed the speed limit and weave in and out of traffic? Or do I patiently stay in one lane and move with the others following the posted speed limit? It’s a choice. I have a strong competitive tendency however. I am strongly driven to be the first in line or get ahead of the driver in front of me. Without thinking about it, I have the strong desire to ‘win’, and my driving reflects this. So, unconsciously, the decision is made, based on behaviors and influences that have developed over the years. And my other decisions are made based on the characteristics that have evolved with my having to deal with being bipolar my whole life.
These choices; simple or large, are what end up defining who we are and what kind of life we lead. Yes, there are tendencies and personality traits that influence the way decisions are made. But in the end, they are still decisions, and there is a chance to overcome the predispositions that are learned. Ultimately it comes down to whether or not I choose to be healthy.
But I have one question. Why are the best decisions the hardest? This ought to be easy. But it’s not. I want to be healthy, but I’m fighting 50 years of evolution. I’ve got some life changing things hanging over my head now.
What the hell do I do?
The choice is mine.