Recovery Has Taught Me That I'm a Free Spirit

Recovery Has Taught Me That I’m a Free Spirit

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This post was originally published on June 15, 2016.

About a week ago, I went back to see my old psychiatric nurse practitioner. She previously diagnosed me as bipolar, but after I moved to the Mojave desert, she went out on a one year sick leave.

I ended up seeing another shrink in some local outpatient health clinic. This other doctor and I never quite met in person. I got to experience my first Tele-psychiatry conference, which was as lame as his “adjustment disorder with anxiety” and “situational depression” diagnosis. He took me off Cymbalta, let me continue on my Celexa, a staple SSRI that I have been taking on and off for 17 years and put me on Wellbutrin.

Well, that didn’t quite work out. I became more hostile than a group of angry protestors at a Donald Trump rally. I went back and it turned out I might have had the beginnings of serotonin syndrome, so he took me off the Wellbutrin, and just prescribed Celexa. This made me feel like I was left out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, alone, with nothing to hang onto but a kid’s Nemo inner tube.

In other words, I became very overwhelmed.

Plus my eating disorder kicked in. When I get really down and anxious, I don’t eat. At my age, looking like a stick figure adds a century to my face. I’m serious. I look like Granny Moses after she gets electric shock treatment in The Beverly Hillbillies.

So, when I went back to see my psychiatric nurse practitioner in Palmdale, I asked, “You said I might be bipolar? Do you still think that’s possible?”

She nodded, and said, “Yes, I do.

“Really?” I yipped, like one of my chihuahuas.

“Yes, but I went on leave after I prescribed the Celexa and Cymbalta. Let’s see how that works again, and if it doesn’t we can try something else.”

“Okay! Yes! Thank you!” I nodded my head, frantically.

She looked at me and said, “Have you been seeing the therapist here?”

“No, I ended up seeing a male therapist in Mojave. He basically told me I should have a man in my life. So I dumped him.”

“That’s not what you needed to hear,” she said.

I nodded.

“Take the word, should out of your vocabulary! Every time we meet, you always get so excited when you talk about writing or photography! You are a free spirit! Embrace that!” she said.

As she spoke, I had an image of myself as a hippie wearing tie-dyed outfits, driving a colorful 1967 Volkswagen bus, with my six dogs filling the seats, all dressed in hippie doggy outfits. There I would be, driving around the country, listening to Steppenwolf singing, “Like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild!”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I grew up in a conservative Greek Orthodox family. Can’t see myself as a hippie.”

“I didn’t say hippie, I said free spirit!” I must have looked confused. “Why don’t you embrace yourself?” she asked. “Love yourself? It’s about acceptance.”

When I heard the word, acceptance, my little 12 step brainwashed mind got a small glimmer of understanding. After I left her office, armed with my prescription, I thought about what she said. In the Big Book, there is talk about acceptance and how absolutely nothing happens in God’s world as a mistake. I will be honest—I have a really hard time with that concept. When I got sober, I thought I was one of the most serious mistakes to walk on planet Earth. I thought the acceptance meant that I should be passive about the circumstances that were going on in my life, situations that became painfully clear and much too overwhelming to deal with right after I stopped drinking.

Even with four and a half years of sobriety, I can still be my own worst enemy.

Maybe this is because I have a hard time loving and accepting myself. According to an article in Psychology Today, What Keeps You From Being Unconditionally Self-Accepting, Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D, writes that people who are always dependent on external validation will never feel good enough. They are constantly engaged in some kind of internal struggle. That sounds like me. But what is the key to acceptance?

“Live and let live.”

Honestly, I am still trying to figure that one out because for a long time, I have tried to live my life the way I feel that I should live my life, according to other people’s standards. While I was in my nurse practitioner’s office, I also admitted, with a little embarrassment, that the reason that I didn’t like seeing the other therapist was because he insisted that having sex was one of life’s many perks. I told him I wasn’t interested in casual sex. I have serious self-esteem issues, and did not feel that his suggestion was a healthy prescription for me. At this stage in my life, a one-night stand would be a waste of time. I would rather binge on some short-lived, horribly received TV show than have casual sex with a man that I barely know.

But instead of simply accepting myself for not wanting to have casual sex, what do I do? I spun out.

What the hell is wrong with me? Am I a eunuch? What the hell is a eunuch anyway? Here, let me Google it. Oh, wow. No. I am not a eunuch. What about asexual? Here, let me Google that. Hmm. Says here that the literary character, Sherlock Holmes was often described as asexual. And then like old Sherlock, a light bulb flashes over my head. Maybe there is nothing wrong with me. Maybe I am just me! Elementary, my dear Sevasti.

So if I look back at my life, and accept myself as a “free spirit” (whatever that means) maybe I can be a little kinder to myself. And if I’m not so worried about what others think of me, perhaps I will be okay with who I am. My nurse practitioner also suggested that I express myself through my wardrobe. There was a time I had style. These days, I just find myself wearing drab t-shirts, flats and worn out jeans. I have a stupid brown T-shirt that says, GET OVER IT IN THERAPY across the chest. On the back, there are adjectives describing various mental disorders including, Delusional, dysfunctional, psychotic and deranged. To add insult to injury, I also own an awful oversized black T-shirt with a yellow sad emoticon that says, SHIN HAPPENS. While I do need therapy, and yes, shin happens, those shirts don’t do anything to boost my self-esteem. The T-shirts remind me of my drinking days. When it was raining, I would cut three holes in a Hefty garbage bag, and wear the bag as a raincoat.

In AA, I was told that I am not terminally unique, but that was in regards to my drinking. But acceptance is learning that I am unique, as a human being, and learning to love my unique self is definitely a good idea. While I am not going to get a VW bus or decorate my car with crazy and wild colors, I think I will start with a new wardrobe.

But the idea of doing a road trip one day, with all the dogs, does sound kind of groovy and far out.

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About Author

Sevasti Iyama is a recovering alcoholic, writer and photographer from the Bronx and LA. She has written a novel, From Bel Air to Welfare, and is currently penning her second one, The Holy Face Medal and Other Stories.