Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have a wallpaper changer app called Variety, and you can set it to put quotes on top of your desktop pictures. When I saw this quote, I realized that Roosevelt could probably understand me better than most, because he was a prisoner in his mind for a lot of his life. If my mind is full, I cannot imagine how his must have burst forth, thinking of things that no one has since (actually, I take that back. The Affordable Health Care Act would have made Roosevelt smile). But the point is that when I read this quote, I thought, “he just gets me.” Roosevelt was in a wheelchair because of polio.
I didn’t walk until I was almost two because my mind developed much faster than my body. I don’t think I’d be able to walk at all without the constant physical therapy that my mother endured, because seeing your child cry is one of the hardest jobs mothers have…. when you know something is good for them, but you see how bad it hurts in the moment and you can’t do anything about it. Miracles happen every day, and the fact that I can walk and talk and speak and write as well as I can is one of them. I have a cerebral palsy, possibly more than one, from being born eight weeks early in a hospital in 1977 and being oxygen deprived in the process. I learned to think much more quickly than I learned to do anything else. I could speak in full sentences at about one, and because I was born so early, I looked like I was half that age. One idiot in the grocery store thought my mom was throwing her voice.
I was a prisoner of my own mind for quite a long time, and I can’t imagine what was running through my head, but I do know that it made me verbally smarter than anyone in any of my classes until I got to college. Even through that, though, I was often a depressed child. I remember one summer when I was about ten or so that I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, and my parents forced it on me every day- that I couldn’t spend the entire summer in my room sleeping all day. I had to get dressed, take a shower, go to the library, SOMETHING. I knew I wasn’t acting normally. There’s a difference between a kid off for the summer that sleeps late and someone who cannot perpetually propel themselves. I was a prisoner of my own mind, although it was years and years afterward that I was finally diagnosed with depression and even more years that I was diagnosed as bipolar so that I could get the right treatment for what ailed me. Getting a mood stablilizer on board was like getting new glasses- for the first time I knew what it was like to live without depression, and I knew that because my mood and behavior became lighter, more playful as the drug took effect… because let’s face it. I am hilarious when I am not mired in illness.
I still have ups and downs, but the swings are less frequent and disparate. Sometimes, I am comfortable as the life of the party. Sometimes I just want you to get off my lawn.
A prisoner of my own mind and what I think I can do with it.
On my best days, I see a church with hundreds of members all dedicated to social justice. We feed the homeless. We invite the homeless into the building and let them sit next to us. We baptize them if they want it… because the church is not the building, but the acceptance of everyone who shows up. On my worst days, I see a writer who can never finish a book, can never get out into the community enough to start the projects she wants to finish, because it’s just too hard. When you have depression, things that are easy for most people seem insurmountable for you. My darkest moments are Dana asking why they let me out of the hospital to begin with, as if I belonged there as easily as the furniture.
I crumpled in the face of it, because I wasn’t ready to leave the hospital, either. My nurse practitioner said that the ward was quiet all weekend, and she didn’t think I would get much therapeutically out of staying, so she was going to send me home to start outpatient. I agreed with her that it was a good treatment plan, and the thought of going home to Dana was comforting….. right up until I got there. She told me with finality that we were not getting back together when we were on the phone together at the hospital, and I uninvited her from visiting me because I needed to cry out my hope. I still do, in a lot of ways.
And that’s what this time of single-ness is for. Crying out hope, and making room for new people in my life. I am doing fine with making friends, but most of the time, I am content to be trapped in my own mind, because I have to learn to take care of myself, first.
In terms of taking care of myself, today is terrible. My entire body aches as if I am coming down with something, and I have split a tooth down to the nerve and it hurts so bad I’ve cried off and on all day. This is the exact reason I am glad I didn’t move in by myself. When I’m sick or upset or depressed, there are people here to catch me.
In fact, Samantha and I were talking the other day and she said, “Leslie, I think there was a reason you were sent to us.” It was music to my ears….. in a major key.