I have just driven 82 miles round trip to go up to Carlsbad to celebrate my uncle’s retirement. I saw my cousins, and spouses who I consider cousins now as well. Mike, the commissioner of the family fantasy football league was there, and his wife (my actual cousin) Jessica as well. And Jess announced that she is pregnant! Another family member on the way. That will make 7 grandkids when she gives birth. Zero from me or my sister, who is not inclined to settle down and make babies. Neither am I. Point being, the family continues to grow. And that is a good thing. I saw my cousin John and his wife Jessica (I know, two in the same room… confusing). It’s been a while since I’ve seen John. I used to live with him and three other guys in a 5 bedroom house in Santa Barbara. But that was 10 years ago. Holy shit. That’s a long time. It feels so much closer than that, maybe because that’s really when my mental health journey began. Right about then, I started showing the symptoms of bipolar disorder and sought treatment. Seeing him brings back painful memories of my troubling past. It reminds me of how far I have fallen, and how I’ve grown since. But he doesn’t know much about how I have changed, only what I did in the past. Mike and Jess are both players in the fantasy football league. I eliminated Jess in the final regular season game to advance to the playoffs. Then I snuck by the first round opponent to end up in the championship. They are both rooting for me, but I’ve already conceded. I’m going to get blown apart on Sunday, and my season will be over. I gave it my best shot, and came up short. I don’t know what I need to do better in order to win, I really don’t. I guess I’ll have several months to think about it.

Seeing them was great. Even if it was for only an hour and a half. I had a long way to drive to get back home, and I’m already up past my bedtime. But I have had a remarkable turnaround in my mood. I’m doing better by leaps and bounds. I almost bailed on tonight, when I got to thinking about the 1.5 hours it was going to take to get up there. Which it did take that long because of the traffic. But I try not to listen to that voice, because he leads me astray. I shut-down and become hollow when I listen to him. He does not help me feel better, he makes the darkness linger and grow. But he is difficult to ignore, and when he is powerful I am often struggling. He wanted me to not go out and see my family tonight, and I know now that doing that would have been a disaster. I would be wallowing in suffering and feeling no end of guilt to have not been there.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that there are people out there who care, and that I am being thought of. I can get to feeling like I don’t exist, because no one cares that I am alive. But family reminds me of all the people who do know me and wonder about what I am doing with my life. It forces me out of my shell and makes me feel human again. In some meaningful way, I am helped by them.

But this shift came mostly while I was sitting in the car thinking. I slowly built a soundproof box around that unwelcome voice and stopped the badness at the source. Sometimes I really just need to stop and think about where I am, and who I am. I get so caught up in my surroundings that I forget to look at where I’m putting my feet. I’m endeavoring to be more mindful, and I still have plenty of work to do. Have a good night. Thanks for listening.

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