Saturday, 19 September 2015
Secrets. We all have them. Some we share with the closest of friends. Some we take to the grave. So what happens when you have a mental illness and have a secret you're keeping from a loved one? That's been my latest anxiety trigger.
As a Borderline/Bipolar in the midst of what can only be described as the manic of all manic phases, I have been pulling out every trick in the book to manage my mania in productive ways. Gardening, DIY, walking, etc. But I was craving a crutch. A chemical and tactile release to help calm me in between the chaos. I had no intentions. But one day I found myself at the shop and asked for a packet of cigarettes. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. Not drugs. Not scouring the back alleys for some crack or heroine. Just cigarettes. A habit I've never been able to fully commit to. Frankly I've picked them up and dropped them just as easily throughout my life. And now older, and much wiser, if not saner, I realise they are a knee jerk anxiety release. When I'm swimming, swimming, swimming...smoothly through this world, I have no need. Furthest thing from my mind. But a few weeks ago, mania hit me like a tidal wave. Massive turrents crashing down on my head while the rip tides swept my feet out from under me. And I needed something.
Now I don't sit around chain smoking everyday. Well sometimes. Depends on the day. Here's the issue: my wonderful loving husband is and always will be 100% against smoking. So what was I to do. I hid it. My dirty little secret. He'd shuffle off to work all tidy in his suit and tie, me itching and pushing him out the door, just waiting and practically drooling for that early morning fag with my coffee. I nearly chain the first two. And then, depending on the day and what state I'm in, they would come quite regularly or I wouldn't even think about it for hours into the afternoon. I would say no rhyme or reason, but let's face it, when you're in a manic state, there's usually a reason whether you see it or not.
But I'm not here to speak of the reasons for picking up those nasty little treats. I'm here to speak of how I went to great lengths to hide my, which I can honestly say will only be a temporary, dirty stinky nasty habit. I kept my stinky hoodie tucked away in the shed he never visits. I would wear a bandana on my head to protect my hair. I would go through bottle after bottle of body mist. Hand lotions, hand washing, teeth brushing, mouth washing, clouds of perfume... This was my camouflage. And as soon as I knew he was on his way home, quickly chaining a couple for last of the day, and then it was shower time. Feverishly scrubbing and washing away my sins. Febrezing my pile of dirty clothes of the day in a bag of "dirty laundry" waiting to be washed. He never knew. No clue. But the guilt. The shame. It slowing started eating at me. Like a rat gnawing on a carcass. The anxiety grew and grew. And the fact that I was trying to manage the anxiety of my illness made this added anxiety worse. So I did what I finally knew I had to do for my sanity. For better or worse, I had to tell him.
When the day came, just a few short days ago, I skipped my usual cleansing routine. I sat in my little studio waiting for his arrival. Replaying over and over again the coming conversation. He got home and instead of a hug, I made him sit down. "Honey I have something to tell you. I need you to not get mad. I need you to understand. I need you to realise it is only temporary. I have a secret I've been keeping. And I can't lie and deceive you anymore. It's eating me alive. I've started smoking."
What happened next I didn't expect. As my words poured out, his anxiety grew. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was cheating on him. I suppose I did build the suspense as he sat there. I laughed. I have never since we've been together even had the slightest inkling of cheating or desire to do so or any interaction with any man that made the idea even flit through my mind for a split second. So relief. I was relieved to have ended the secret. And he was more than relieved to be assured his worst fear was fiction.
It's been a few days now. My anxiety of my secret had decreased (only wish my other anxieties would do the same). I can now freely go hide in my secret garden and engage in my filthy habit. I don't enjoy it really. But for now, temporarily, I'm using this crutch. I hope to replace it with some other healthier habit soon. But for now, it is what it is. And now that I've unveiled my truth, there is a little less anxiety in my life.
Moral of this story... If you are keeping a secret that you feel the need to desperately hide from your loved one, you are slowly breaking down the foundation that holds you up. And that is never a good idea. Honesty. Loyalty. Trust. These things are what hold love together. Without them, the cracks will appear and the foundation will crumble. You won't even see it coming.