It’s been a while. I mean, I send out signs of life every so often, but actually working out something? That’s something I’ve been struggling with for years. It’s been a crazy ride of manic highs and valleys of despair. For a long time, I was simply too screwed up and scattered to the wind to compose anything. Now, I’ve settled into a solid little place of introspection, and have started processing the extraordinary things that have happened to me over the past several years.
By extraordinary, I don’t mean always good: I simply mean I’ve been living a superlative life. Now my soul speaks in quiet tones of humility, hard lessons learned in the life of the perpetual actress. And that is a sobering thing: to accept your failures, while also appreciating the deep wisdom in the darkest parts of ourselves, the shadow parts of us that we are trained to bury and reject without question due to social or religious standards. The funny thing is that we are told that these sanctions are to protect us: to protect our souls, to protect our dignity, to protect our rights. In all actuality, those darker qualities are part of being human, and have an equal voice in the entire composition of who we are. Defining some of those voices as “bad” and meant to be eliminated takes away from our ability to balance and grow. When jealousy, or envy, or lust speaks in our hearts, it is trying to give us a message from the spirit, or self, or whatever you want to call it. And one of the largest chests of knowledge that I’ve unlocked through my experiences is that we are a world seriously lacking in soul; in philosophy; in compassion; in wisdom. Surely there must be a way to heal this rift between the people we are and the people we want to be.
Of course, suffering from bipolar disorder has made all these lessons that much more painful to learn. Sometimes I long for the early days of my symptoms, which were full of long months of melancholy but only short bursts of mania. Depression I can deal with. My depression is predictable, and tearful, and lazy, and self-loathing. At times, it has been debilitating for me, but it’s never been dangerous. Depression is safe and boring.
Mania, on the other hand, is dangerous and interesting. I was 21 when I had my first manic break. Kestrel was a baby and I was a live-in caretaker to Ian’s step-grandmother, who was was a terrible abusive, extremely manipulative person. I tried my best every day to please her. I did chores and clipped her horrifying, brittle, diabetic toenails, changed her catheter bag, and ran her errands, and brought her boxed wine, and helped give her showers. This on top of the stress of having a three-month-old first baby (I was on-call for both Kestrel and Beverley 24 hours and between the two of them, I got even less sleep than most new moms) and a husband who was away most of the time. All of this live-in care, for a woman I barely knew, and she still expected rent, and called her nurse every night to complain about how I folded the laundry, and the way I cooked dinner, and the way I dusted, and the time I forgot to stop at the liquor store because the baby had a fever and then I had to run back out and she got her wine a half an hour late, and obviously I didn’t care and why didn’t anyone love her and why couldn’t she just die since life was so miserable and there was no one to help her?
I cried every night, and took to drinking her boxed wine.
Now, the combination of sleep deprivation, alcohol, and extreme emotional distress is bad for any person. But imagine how much worse it is for someone whose brain chemistry is already so fucked up that they are one step away from being clinically incapable of impulse control or rational thought. Someone who’s having hallucinations or hearing voices. That was my first cycle and, in my case, mania follows depression. It’s like I just get so weary of being numb and hollow that my brain decides to make up for all my lost life at once. Or take a stand. This one was a bit of both.
I don’t have much recollection of my first psychotic episode. I got drunk and cried, then locked myself in the bathroom and cut myself repeatedly, writing with blood on the floor the words I heard angry voices shouting in my head. I called everyone I loved and I have no idea what I said to any of them. Ian held me and kissed me and tried to calm me down. Eventually I passed out, and he made arrangements with my mother to get me 400 miles out of the living situation the very next day. He loved me so much. He gave up what would have been a good career to stay with me, and see me safe. If I hadn’t had that first manic episode when I did, our lives might have been entirely different. But I guess it was supposed to be this way. Makes no difference now, anyway.
Since then, my manic episodes have lasted longer and longer, as well as becoming more cogent. I have clearer, more complete memories of them, though I still have blackout areas as well. Having a brain chemistry imbalance is rather like being a drug addict, except the drugs are already inside of you and you never agree to taking them. The drugs in this scenario pretty much choose to use you. (Though bipolar disorder can be drug-induced. Mine was triggered by pregnancy.) There are things you can do to minimize the risks, but the possibility will always be lurking that the single wrong event will flip a switch and all your progress will be leveled. Such is life, I know. The manifestation is just more extreme in some people than others.
I really did start out with a point here, and then it kind of dissolved a bit in the pool of experience. It is way past my bedtime and I have to work in the morning, so I will attempt again tomorrow.
In the meantime, at least I can say I’ve written something, at least.