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It's not you. It's me.

Those who have known me very well or very long understand that it’s not unusual for me to disappear. I don’t literally vanish, of course, but for all practical purposes, I cease to be available for anything other than my family or emergencies. Mental health mavens call this “isolating” and often view it as a symptom of deepening depression or an impending psychological crisis. I, on the other hand, view it as a life-saving tool that spares me from depression or even worse, mood swings.

Perhaps it’s not the most gracious of survival techniques, but I developed it long before I had the sophistication to realize that most people don’t understand the frailties of the bipolar mind.

I was five.

Although my resources were limited and childish, I usually managed to find necessary seclusion of some ilk, even if that meant hanging out in my closet. When I couldn’t physically escape the daily chaos, I dissociated by coloring or pretending to read. My parents teased that I was a “maudlin” child or scolded me for pouting, which I managed to dodge until I was old enough to ride my bike, roller skate, or walk elsewhere to withdraw into my safety zone.

It took years of counseling and three suicide attempts before I refined my boundaries and routines to the point that I could function fairly well in the alleged real world. It took a couple of decades more before I could do that without the mind numbing, soul crushing drugs that were supposed to (but never did) help me. These days I do very well without meds, thank you, as long as I hold my boundaries sacred, which isn’t always convenient or understood.

Recent case in point: The past two years have been a mental marathon that included financial upheaval, two moves, and debilitating chronic pain. Even after the dust settled, I still faced months of invasive procedures as well as major surgery and recovery, which required more months of physical therapy and chiropractic work. Much to my surprise and pride, I managed it all without hitting the wall. But a couple of weeks ago, I saw that damned wall ahead and began dropping hints that I was about to isolate.

Those closest to me understood, but those who are not so close were left to wonder if they’d done something offensive to prompt my abrupt exit.

Alas, friends, I apologize for that and for this cliché, but truly, it isn’t you. It’s me.

I would like to thank Lisa J. Rough for her lovely image, "Hibernation". Please visit her website at:

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