This illness, I have found, is the epitome of a blessing and a curse simultaneously. This illness is full of dialectics.
"I am both mentally ill and creative. It is my favorite dialectic. It's my favorite dialectic because it is the most extreme. It is the best thing about me and the worst thing about me existing together".
I could never just hand my ability to paint and draw and write to the person next to me and then check out completely. Because those things only exist if I do. I cherish them and I can’t imagine wanting to give those things up, so it’s almost funny to me now. Those are the things that keep me alive, and I don’t believe I would have them to the extent that I do if my brain didn’t work the way it does. And because my brain operates this way, I am both mentally ill and creative. It is my favorite dialectic. It’s my favorite dialectic because it is the most extreme. It is the best thing about me and the worst thing about me existing together. But without one I could not have the other. You could argue I’m justifying my mental illness, but I don’t look at it that way. A gift will always come with a curse and a curse will always come with a gift, I mean, maybe, I guess. My mental illness is my curse but the gift it comes with is my creativity and my mind. And my mind can be a gift but in itself is a dialectic, too. Because I think so deeply, I dig myself holes I get trapped in. But because I think so deeply, I have a creative mind that never really runs short of thoughts and ideas. And this current train of thought illustrates my every word. God, I think too much. But there’s sort of a choice in what I can do with that. I think overthinkers truly do have a gift. It is a great thing to be of constant curiosity, to know that you do not know it all so there is so much to learn. The overthinker is the one that people might think are lacking in thoughts because they look lost. But the over thinker is probably thinking about how it’s funny, how the world around you can deem you quiet and clueless when in fact you were both blessed and cursed with a mind that never stops; a mind that produces thoughts that produce more thought that produce even more thought. Am I thinking too much? Is this train of thought drawn out? Rhetorical questions. The over thinkers loves rhetorical questions and they will ask them until they find an answer or until they find beauty in not knowing the answer and continue to ask it anyway. If I’m looking lost, it’s because I am. But not maybe in the way you think. I’m not lost in the sense that I am missing something that an entire room of people understands. I am lost in the sense that I am thinking so much that I know a whole room of people doesn’t understand. Where did that thought come from? If I say I don’t know, I am probably lying. It is simply a tangent I don’t want to explain. Because trying to follow how I got from a to b to c is a rollercoaster ride no one needs to go on. But here we are. We started at my favorite dialectic of my mental illness and my creative mind. Now I am rambling on about thinking too much. It is now speaking for itself.
My favorite dialectic has dialectics in itself and I think most do. Living with this mind, I think, well, I’m thinking too much. But living with this mind, means never truly growing bored. Boredom is irrelevant to your surroundings if you have a mind that is thrilling to share space with. But boredom can be a good thing in moderation, I think. Boredom might mean that your brain has a luxury to rest. Boredom might just simply mean rest. Boredom might imply the absence of chaos. But if boredom implies the absence of chaos, then it can’t find me often. I never grow bored of thinking, and I think, no over thinker does. Thinking is an addiction of sorts, as I said I have thoughts that produce thought that produce more thought. And if it weren’t for the very first thought, you wouldn’t keep thinking. If it weren’t for the thought that I love this dialectic, then I wouldn’t arrive here, discussing boredom. If you don’t try the drug the first time, well, that’s the end of that. I wouldn’t trade this addiction in for anything else, though. Despite the many faults it owns, I want to think until I run out of ideas, and I hope I never see a day where my chaotic mind goes blank. I am thinking about thinking too much. And of course, I live for those witty sentences that find me and I can put them in a safe space to revisit, to make art with or just think more about. It’s funny, my mental illness means sometimes thinking in black and white. And I do. And I did. But I see the spectrum between black and white clearer than ever. I think, I would like to think, that I am seeing in grey far more than I am seeing in black and white. Seeing in black and white limits me. It is a product of my natural tendency to be intense and passionate. When I love something, boy I love it so much. When I hate something, I hate who I become. It creates this questionable dialectic where I wonder if I am supposed to like the things about myself that I do. I see so much beauty in ugly things because I am an artist. I think there is so much beauty in intensity and in loving something deeply, but that doesn’t come without its counterpart of loathing. What a complex relationship that I do have with my mind. There is quite a lot that I find to be simultaneously wonderful and awful. Maybe, I wonder, I see too many colors in that spectrum between black and white. Maybe, I see colors that shouldn’t even be there. Maybe, I see turquoise and purple when all I should be seeing is various shades of gray.
Put me in front of a computer screen and a keyboard and you tell me to write about dialectics with no specifications. You would get something like this. And I would find difficulty in stopping. Truly, I think they might be endless. Truly, I think they might be like my over thinking mind in that one dialectic just produces another. I think of the hurdles this brain comes with, and I see the gifts it gives. I think of my fault of over thinking, my anti mindfulness that might give my therapist a stroke, and I see opportunity. I think of a very dark time in my life, or I’d like to say, the very dark time in my life, and I can see the bright and meaningful artwork on my wall; the little pieces of my soul. Because without that dark time, that art would not exist. And that is how I am able to operate under the conditions I do; I believe deeply in dialectics which is kind of funny and ironic in itself. Seeing the entirety of a story, from cover to cover with illustrations and all, is the greatest ability I have acquired from this form of therapy that I just happen to have a love hate relationship with.
No worksheet or skill was going to change my life, unfortunately, but the concepts have. It was when my therapist said that I probably would not be able to create the things I do or write the way I do, if I had not suffered so greatly. Finding purpose from your pain is reading the entire story. Finding purpose from your pain is not leaving out a single word or chapter. Because for me, it was not about assigning productivity to what has harmed me. That should never be too effortful, I think, and if it is, that might indicate that you simply are seeking purpose for your pain, only so you can give a reason for your suffering. But I think that the reasons for our suffering are always there. They’ll find us, we shouldn’t go looking too hard for them. I never really had reasons for my suffering, so my suffering felt all that much more useless. I have some now, definitely, I don’t think I have them all, but just having some is enough. I see the whole story. I see the chapter that broke me, and I see the one I write now. I see the illustration on the first page, and I see the one on this one. I think our entire universe is filled with dialectics, I mean, probably. So, if you suffer, I think a gift is written for you. I can’t make promises because who am I? But this is how I think, and I think this way because I experience oh so many opposing things all at once. I am a walking and talking dialectic and I will always strive to be that. Because with one thing, I have the other. Without suffering, I might be boring, and being boring is a massive fear of mine. So, I will take it both. I will take the mind that does not have an off button because with it, I can create. And I will take that terrible chapter because with it, I found the ability to make art under any circumstance. And I will take my complex relationship with the concept of life, and I will take having experienced both a will to live and a will to die. Because without having felt the terror of fearing my own dangerous capabilities, I would not know how precious it is to be here. Without the thing that sparked my tangent of creativity just months ago, I would not be writing these words. I would not be making artwork to describe how I now have excitement in saying I don’t know what’s next. In that I have some reasons to wake up in the morning that actually stick. Without having been silenced, I would not want to learn to speak.
I’m in love with the idea of dialectics when I remove the textbook quality of it. When I take this concept and apply my own thoughts and ideas, it makes sense. And that was what I had to do with everything that treatment and therapy handed me. Because empty worksheets and words in black and white sheets bored me, and I do not tolerate boredom well. If boredom sits in front of me, I start creating things that will stimulate my mind. If a textbook that doesn’t resonate sits in front of me, I begin to look lost. I have escaped to one of many worlds of my own and I will currently be getting lost there. I learned to improvise. I learned to tweak so that things made sense. And I could take this idea of dialectics and learn in that way. I found it funny, ironic, anti-everything they were teaching, that they could teach dialectics and then give a room full of fifteen different humans, the same five skills to use. So, all of these things can be true at once. You probably think in black and white. But what’s true is that I differ from the person next to me and the person next to me differs from the person next to them. I think that is a dialectic. We can all suffer from similar conditions but need different approaches. The thing that clicks with me might not be what clicks with her.
I kept thinking about how this book could have this vital concept, but it was taught as if it were indeed black and white. I could not learn in this way. So, I took the term dialectic and I ran with it. It made everything make sense for me and I like for things to make sense. I could be ill and recovering simultaneously. I could be right about some things and wrong about others. I could be kind and gritty. Blonde and smart-ha, a dialectic with a sense of humor and a middle finger to primary school teachers that implied I was indeed lost, in no thought at all. And I could give subtle middle fingers, or not so subtle, I have a choice, to those that have harmed me and that have tried to write my narrative for me, but I can do so with grace. I can make art about my ugly symptoms but paint it in pastel and throw glitter at it. I can say that I don’t think I could ever learn a rigid textbook in the ways they are typically taught. However, I can gain something from that same textbook if only I turn it upside, look at it from other angles, see what it might look like from afar. DBT felt useless because I was viewing it with the eyes of someone else. I tried to read it like a textbook because that is how people were looking at it. It felt useless because mindfulness told me not to think but that felt like a vital part of who I was. It felt useless because I tried to look at it the same way as everyone else. Why would I do that then, when I didn’t do that for most things? It wasn’t working. So, I took what made sense and ran with it. Dialectics, I mean look how much I could go on about that alone. Acceptance. I could accept myself as I was and embrace what was different about me, the things that maybe I have kept hidden because I thought they were ugly. But the things people had encouraged me to hide had always been the best parts of me, yet another dialectic. I mean, the world tells us to be like everybody else. It tells us to be unique but in a typical way. A little unique and if anything more it should be kept to yourself. That’s such bull shit, though. Often, it’s those who think too much, that have nothing to say, but you wonder why. Because they have been conditioned to do so, life has taught them that their brain is on steroids, and they should tone it down to fit in. It’s not that they don’t have anything to say, it’s that they don’t think anyone wants to hear it.
I can’t stop and this is part of the battle. They told me not to use the same few skills, but those were what worked. And I wondered, in a therapy that highlights the grey area, why I was being told that what worked for me didn’t actually work for me. I was being told that if I kept doing the same things, my brain would somehow unlearn them, my brain would go numb to them and they would lose their effect. But I had never seen this happen in my life, so I questioned it. I questioned and I challenged it after I had tried the worksheets and followed the rigid rules. I tried their way and then I tried mine. I took the one thing that had never failed me and that is where I put all of the very little energy I had. I was told I was not supposed to be writing so much or drawing so much. My creativity was being discouraged because it was of alleged overuse. But I did not think in this way so when I abided by their rule it felt wrong.
The best instinct I followed was in doing what I knew to do. I wrote and I drew because nothing else was working. And I can’t say it solved all of my problems because nothing can, but it solved all of my problems in the way that something can solve all of your problems. Moral of the story? We are not cookie cutters. Imagine how it feels to know that the one therapy that is “supposed” to treat your illness just does not in your case. But it really was never about finding a solution that existed and was available for me. It was about creating one that did not exist. It was in treating myself like I was an individual and not an illness. No therapist would have ever advised me to go draw until my arm ached. But no therapist will ever understand me better than I do. I did not turn to art with such intention. I did it because my options were slim. It just happened to work in my favor. They told me not to do the same thing, and it’s funny because doing the same thing was my saving grace. I was told not to “just be writing in the garden all of the time”, but that’s funny too because when you put it that way, it sounds completely unproductive. But for me it’s more productive than that person would ever know. To know to treat yourself like you are not a cookie cutter is to know not to treat anyone else like they are a cookie cutter. BPD is not the word problem and DBT is the one solution. That’s just not how that works, and I wish I knew that sooner.
My saving grace was never going to be check the facts or TIPP. These things can help but I should have known nothing from a book was going to save me. It was in reading between the lines that I found relief. It was in going against the grain. It was in doing what I was actually told not to. And I love that my rebellion to treatment was a dialectic. I made my own rules, but they eventually worked. I love the irony in that. I’m in love with the idea that there are limitless answers to any problem. I’m in love with the idea that I can be many things at once and I am in love with the idea that anyone can be many things at once. Nothing thrills me more than controversy does, and I will never get tired of meeting someone with a tough exterior and a kind heart. For so long, I didn’t make sense to me because I hadn’t known dialectics. I was taught there was one right answer to every problem and that made me think I was dumb. I didn’t make sense to me because I thought that everything that was controversial about the way that I was, just simply could not be. I thought, I had to choose. I’m either quiet or loud. I’m either smart or stupid. I’m either strong or weak. I’m either soft or tough. I’m either smudged black eyeliner or pearls, but I can’t be both. I love how so, very wrong I was. Because with dialectics, people can be everything that they are. There is no choosing. If you were made up of controversies, the world would kind of shape you to make up your mind. It would not embrace you for that. It would not say wear smudged black eyeliner and pearls at the same time. This concept doesn’t make me choose. I have always been many things at once and I wonder if this is to be said for many people with my condition. I can be very quiet, but I can get angry at people, and it shows. I can care too much or not at all. It is in that black and white mind that there are endless controversies, so it only makes sense that they use dialectics for the black and white mind. But what a freedom it is to know that I don’t have to choose. Sometimes, I want to wear black eyeliner and a string of pearls and oftentimes I feel like I am black eyeliner and a string of pearls.
This illness, I have found, is the epitome of a blessing and a curse simultaneously. This illness is full of dialectics. In accepting the shades of gray between black and white and even the colors I shouldn’t see, has brought me peace. I think, I might be thinking too much. I think, I am reminded of my favorite dialectic. I would not be able to put words or colors to paper in the ways I can if I did not own the same mind that also taunts me. This could be endless, but I will end it. I’ll just say that if you’ve arrived at the bottom, sorry I think too much, and thank you for bearing with me and my chaotic mind. And I will also say I have found so much love for all of the endless things that can be true at the same time. I have so much love for the ballerina that also does hip hop. And I have so much love for the girl dressed in all black that has the most colorful heart in the room. I’ll never forget the staff member in treatment that was that girl. Her exterior intimidated me to no end until I learned of her kindness. I have so much love for opposites because they make me think and keep me curious. And I have so much love for wearing smudged black eyeliner and pearls at once.
I once wanted to rip out my every blank page, but then I found joy in writing them. I once struggled to write my own story but then I changed my fucking narrative. I once cried in corners and now I walk by them. I once was the quietest person in the room, but now I speak loudly in this language. Things still hurt, but I am healing. When it comes to dialectics, I could write a piece of writing that never came to an end. Because the things dearest to my heart have infinite controversy in them. But I will stop overthinking, just for now. Or more accurately, I will begin to overthink about something else. So, I guess, once again, to be continued…