They all know it’s bad when I’m quiet. The reason may allude them but its significance rings out.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Mary opens her arms for me to snuggle into.
I shrug, unable to find the words to match the feelings that would explain the cause of my emotionless expression and uncharacteristic lack of speech. I sink into Mary’s maternal embrace as I let the electric fire spread in the already disrupted circuits of my brain.
But the emptiness consumes me today. Why bother talking when there’s nothing to say?
Or rather, why bother talking when there’s too much to say but it’s all caught in the vortex that’s spinning out around me too fast for me to latch onto just one solid thought and translate it from sloppy mental hieroglyphics to something I can speak in intelligible English. Why bother wasting energy when such a commodity is more precious than water.
This happens. This thing, it just happens, over and over again, and it will continue to happen. I float above myself into the foggy spiral of pure chaos. Not bothering.
I try to descend back into my body, but something rips the chord to the parachute tethering me to this-time. It rips into my shoulders, I hover in midair. It is two days ago. I sit in Andrew’s car writhing with visible anxiety, plagued with ripples of nausea, shaking with weakness. I work myself farther into imbalance. This is stupid, so stupid that I’m leaning into the fall rather than opening my arms or trying to catch my footing. I could try to pull my brain away from danger, but my body reacts involuntarily to it either way.
A gust of air and I am hanging over last week and then dropped into bed in my pitch-dark room. It’s seven at night. Twisted and tangled in my sheets, I am paralyzed with indecision. Do I get up, or do I lay down? The difference between the two is so obviously insignificant, yet I am crippled with the choice. Frustration rushes in because I can’t make the damn choice. Frustration infiltrates every neuron in my gray matter so I can’t think, I can’t think. Could I ever think? I thrash and moan and kick and cry. Somewhere in the distance, I hear Ozzy Osbourne: “I’m goin’ off the rails on a Crazy Train!”
It is two months ago and I’m at work. Blind to the typical annoyances, I am zipping through my day, barreling past bullshit on autopilot. Whoever said ‘slow and steady wins the race’ wasn’t invincible, poor thing. But I am. I fly like a superhero, too high above the world to feel its exhaustion. “You’re going a million miles a minute, Pumpkin, have you been taking your meds?” Marianne questions. Euphoria bursts like a bubble around me, and I drop down, down, down.
My parachute catches and I’m yanked into last summer, or wait, no, last winter. Stress overtakes me and I sleep for fourteen hours at a time to hide from the uncertainty stalking me like a monster. Somehow I’m spinning around upside down.
I am engulfed in fabric, I can’t find my way out. It’s five years ago. It’s more than five years ago? My temper flares up, my anger stoking the flames, and I burn my way free from the chute.
“You okay, my honey girl?” I look up from the flashbacks to see Diane’s concern. If I could change my expression I could keep her from worrying. But I can’t figure out how to move my face, and it once again allows my emotions to be broadcast unpleasantly to anyone who happens to glance in my direction.
It’s this-time again, I am here and now with my friends around me…not that this is much different than those-times. They blend together. It’s still the rise after the fall after the rise after the fall. Same cycle, same symptoms.
Same freefall after the ground is ripped from beneath me, same all-consuming confusion wreaking havoc on anything and everything I hope to rest my thoughts on. Same dread swirling around me, snaking its way into me because I know what’s coming and I desperately want to make it stop. I will lose myself because I can’t.
I will use every ounce of energy, every fiber of my being to extricate myself from the sadness. Then a happy thought will make me fly. It’s a struggle to find such a thought, but I’ll latch onto it as if my life depends on it. Or rather it will latch onto me. If only it were Tinkerbell’s fairy dust instead of a terrifying lack of control. The happy thought will rocket me to the moon and beyond. And once again, it will be the same. Same increase of speed, same painful focus. I will dig my fingertips into the mountaintop, having just clawed my way up from the depths, but teeter precariously on the peak. The once-clear happy thought will dissipate into frazzled distress.
This-time will blend into next-time, and so the web of interconnected emotional baggage will grow larger still.
For now, I trudge my way to the office and punch out. I am agitated, itchy with internal discomfort. I want to rip my face off and jump from my skin. I survived the workday, won the minor battle, but am worse for wear. I am relieved that it’s over but tears still threaten to fall.
Because I may have had a small victory but I’m still on the battlefield. One wrong thought and I can feel myself slipping. The crippling anxiety is there waiting along with the uncomfortable stress and seething, unwarranted anger.
I know this, yet I can’t help but wonder: am I being dramatic? Doubt washing in like the tide and guilt retreats back into me. My poor mom-friends must be getting whiplash trying to keep up with my wild and unruly moods. I worry they’ll hate me for it. I worry that the crazy will win. That I’ll lose.
“We’re all a little crazy, kiddo!” Doreen says. Just being in the presence of her confidence is enough to make me feel better. I look up from the floor and muster a smile. Without disregarding my feelings, she reminds me that crazy runs through everyone sometimes, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Granted, my crazy is more pronounced. It fluctuates between quirky and straightjacket-worthy insanity. It does so frequently.
“Mama said there’d be days like this, mama said mama said!” she continues. I’ve heard it from her before. She’s right. I let the wisdom sink in.
And then I launch into an entire this-time worth of feelings and thoughts and words. I stutter and stumble, but I eventually release it all into the ether, freeing it from the grasp of my mind. And before it drifts completely away, all of it is caught and considered by my friends.
I am lucky to be talking again and lucky that it means something to them. They know its better when I’m talking.