I had a really bad night.
We all have them… It’s eight pm and the kids have forgotten their science project is due the next day and they’re going to fail because they didn’t procure a pivotal piece which they knew they needed two weeks ago. Maybe my husband comes home in a terrible mood because a client was particularly incompetent and ruined a design he’s been working on for a month because they didn’t care to send a simple email asking for a document. Or perhaps the dog literally exploded with diarrhea in its kennel covering itself in liquid shit which also pools in the box and was sprayed on the wall and floor… and I have to get to a school meeting in half an hour.
None of this happened to me. (Not last night at least.) It was a perfectly normal day. I had one client which meant I got to take a nap. The kids helped make dinner. We watched an episode of Lost (our latest Netflix binge-watch.) My husband was stressed, his job has been intense lately, but he was in fairly good spirits… everyone even went to bed on time.
And I lay there in the dark in tears fighting desperately with myself not to go find an exacto-knife and cut myself. I’ve been good. I haven’t cut myself in a long time, haven’t even really wanted to. But oh God did I want to. I wanted to bleed. I wanted to see that bright red substance coursing freely down my arm. Because then I would feel better. Tears coursed down my cheeks and I couldn’t sob like I wanted to because that might wake my husband and he needs to sleep… and besides, I don’t want him to know. I don’t want to see that look in his eye, that fear that I’m losing it. I don’t want to pile more stress on him. I can’t. That would be selfish. And more tears flow because I feel so impotent. And if I admit to wanting to cut, wanting to hurt myself, he might tell my doctor, and they’ll change my meds… again. At the moment I’m considered stable. I’ve been proud of that. I have it under control.
Then why this sudden horrible violent urge that seems to come out of nowhere? Is it because of the memory loss? Yes… is it because of the headaches? Yes… Is it because of the hallucinations? Yes… Is it because I only had one client, and there are only three scheduled all week and I know I’m failing as a massage therapist and I can see the annoyance in my husband’s eyes that I’m not pulling my weight and contributing to the budget enough? Yes…
And they can’t do anything about it. I’m in a down swing, a low point in the wave, a depression. I’m bi-polar. And the saddest part is that to my knowledge I’ve only gotten to ride the high wave, the exciting manic phase, twice in my whole life. Most folks swing wide going up and down. They get to fly once in a while, out of control, dancing on epic euphoria, in contrast to the deep darkness of the down sweep. But not me.
I’m type two bi-polar. This means it took them twenty years to diagnose me properly because until three years ago I only got the depressive swings. In type II you don’t get the manic part until well into adulthood. Which is why it goes misdiagnosed for so long.
They’ve tried everything. Ive been to every kind of doctor you can imagine. And I’ve taken so many drugs I don’t remember all the names. Literally… because one of the newer symptoms is memory loss. I’ve lost the memories of my kids infantries, of my first kiss with my husband. “Hey, Mama. Do you remember when..?” No, I don’t, I’m sorry. I don’t know what day of the week it is, the date, sometimes the month. Help my tenth-grader with trigonometry? You’re funny… I can’t even help the fifth-grader multiply fractions. Tell you about this painting… it’s got nice contrast, probably Renaissance era, but who painted it? Nope, the art history minor is gone just like ninety percent of my college memories.
I can’t speak properly anymore. What am I writing? A blog for this thing… it’s… a bunch of us. I mean we… about… It’s just a thing, okay? I can’t tell you. I’m sorry. Words don’t come out of my mouth coherently anymore, just my fingers.
That was my first manic event. I woke up one day and felt good, really good. I’d had a dream and thought for the first time ever that I’d write it down. In a frantic obsession I got down forty pages that day and had no idea where the story was going. My fingers wrote it, I was just along for the ride. But damn, it felt good. I soared on a magical wind that had me dancing, it made me feel bright and alive, and for the first time ever I had a sex drive. (And this was after telling my husband two months before I never wanted to have sex again. I still don’t know why he stayed with me.) The rush lasted for nearly four months. Over five million words in four volumes later I was a writer. I’d never written anything before that. I’m a visual artist turned massage therapist. I’d been virtually illiterate growing up. Must be a different part of the brain, writing and speaking, because the words flowed forth, but the speaking was so hard, frustrating, embarrassing, when I couldn’t pull the words I wanted from my broken brain. Pass the red salt… you mean the ketchup? Where’s the goer? You mean the remote control for the TV? It makes the TV go, it’s a perfectly acceptable word for it. Go put on your white kicking pants. Dobak… your Tao Kwon Do uniform. They laugh, my husband, my kids. It’s funny. No… it’s not. It hurts. I want to cry.
This round I’m having trouble reading. Words slide sideways, slipping away from my eyes so I have to read a headline three times before it makes sense. It’s not the first time this has happened. Other times I become clumsy, bump into walls, my hands just let go of things I’m holding, like full glasses of tea. Then I have to clean up the broken glass, and I cut my fingers, and I bleed… and I kneel there transfixed, staring in fascination at the blood dripping to the floor. Did some part of my mind drop it on purpose just so I could see this? I don’t know. I don’t trust my own mind. It tortures me with pain, my head my chest, back. They say it’s all in my head and they’re right. And I can’t stop it.
So I get sent to doctors, to neurologists, to cardiologists because my heart races to 220 bpm when sparring. That’s not good, it’s not normal. And it hurts, makes it even harder to think, to speak, to understand. But why? Why does it do this? They say they don’t know…
I cried last night wanting to cut myself because at the last appointment I had, the neurologist brushed me off and told me there was nothing they could do. This was the bi-polar acting up, go talk to my psychiatrist. Just learn to ignore the invisable bugs biting me and crawling under my skin, and the dark creatures that constantly dog my peripheral vision. They’re not real, get over it.
I live every moment in terror because one of these days I’m going to lose. Will it be my midnight fight with the knife, or my coherent thought because that which is me, my memories, my experiences, my mind, has slipped away through the cracks and I can’t get it back?
I look up to my fellow writers who’ve been wonderful in including me in their midst and I’m even getting over the imposter syndrome. I am a writer, and I’m good at it. But I can’t be a panelist like them at conventions. Those pesky words again that don’t come out of my mouth especially if I get nervous. And nervous doesn’t even touch on the terror involved in going to a Con. And I hurt because I can’t do what they do, be what they are.
I know its foolish to want to be. I’m me. And I’m damn good at what I do. I have my own magic and I help people with it. I am appreciated and I am loved. I’m one of the lucky ones. It could be so much worse.
But look at that shiny knife.
Don’t pick it up.
I’m holding onto the Light.