Can a Little Getaway Get You Far Enough?

July 16, 2013

I'm on vacation. I can sleep in. I can stay up late. I can spend my days with my toes in the sand. I've even eaten dessert two nights in a row and not felt guilty about it (well, not too guilty.) My younger son, my boyfriend and I are spending the week with my family at the beach. But even with great chic lit on my Kindle, my mind can't escape the realities of my life. 

Don't worry. I brought my medication: the high dose of anti-depressant and the new mood stabilizer that together work as my psychological cocktail to keep me in relative balance. Lately, my psychiatrist has been working overtime to keep me out of bed and off the ceiling. Being bipolar II, I know my meds are not optional no matter what paradise my suitcase and I land in. I've ventured off meds a few times in the past but never successfully. And I would never even think to try that with the life I'm living to date.

For those of you who do not know my story, my older son, 21, has bipolar disorder. In a two year downward spiral, experimenting with self-medication and ignoring his diagnosis, he ended up in prison with six felony charges. He's been incaracerated since March 28. And so have I. We all have to some degree. But as a mother who shares her son's illness, I am indeed in prison too.

Vacationing doesn't feel the same this summer. And I suppose it shouldn't. There is a guilt cloud floating over my head. How do I deserve to bask in the sun when my boy hasn't felt solar rays regularly for almost four months? How do I deserve to enjoy relaxing jogs along a shaded seaside trail when my son is only limited to every other day yard time within the perimeter of an electric fence? I can't shake the guilt. It haunts me.

But now, with so much time to think, I wonder, are we all a little guilty of feeling guilty when we experience pleasure? Do we all carry some weight of something that makes us feel unworthy of happiness? Unworthy of joy? Is it my bipolar mind that makes me feel this way? Or is it motherhood? Could it be both? I do not have bipolar friends to ask. Only those who read this blog. I would love to know if my feelings sound familiar to you.

In any case, this little getaway hasn't gotten me far enough away. It has only gotten me far enough to see that happiness remains out of reach, unattainable. With every moment of laughter, there is a dull weight in my gut reminding me that laughter isn't allowed. Joy is not an option. And freedom only exists in my dreams. When I awake, whether it's with sand between my toes or at home in my own bed, the nightmare of my reality is still there to greet me. This vacation doesn't get me far enough away.

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