I am completely exhausted. Insomnia has finally given way to excessive sleeping, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been taking multiple doses of multiple sleep aids every night, starting at five, just to become unconscious. I don’t want to have to think. Although I say that as if thinking is an active process at this point. It’s something that just happens. I’m dragged into it. The thoughts come in, rising like floodwaters, forcing me wherever they want me to go. My moods move in a similar, violent fashion, dragging me with them in a deranging pattern that seems never to end. I’m scared, as dramatic as it may seem to say. There’s no other way to describe it. Nothing else seems to capture what this feels like, although everyone I come across who sees my dead expression and my body twisted with anxiety seems to “understand.” Because, apparently, they’ve felt the same way at one point or another. I need that to not be true. Because if “everyone” feels this intensely terrible, then what in the fuck is wrong with me? Have they really experienced the painful ripping of their sanity from their brain? Repeatedly? Have they suffered the debilitating fear waiting for it to happen again? Have they been pulverized by the gravity of the rage within them, caused and quelled by absolutely nothing? Have they collapsed into bed, exhausted from staring blankly into space trying to summon the will to move. Have they laid there in agony that stems from nowhere, that goes on without a beginning or an end, an explanation or a solution? Cried empty tears for hours? Heaved heavy sobs until the accompanying headache stops them in their tracks? Yes, sadness happens to all of us. And yes, even depression can be felt by those still lucky enough to not have bipolar disorder. But do not. do NOT tell me you understand. Don’t insult me like that. Don’t compare your commonplace emotions to the colliding hurricanes of unwarranted pain I am tortured into feeling. Your sadness was caused by something, and I don’t deny how much that sucks. But my suffering comes without reason. There is nothing to blame it on, and nothing to repair to try to end it. It is meaningless, but its omnipresence demands it be given a meaning. Confusion rips into every aspect of who I am. My concentration is turned to smoke and dissipates like it never existed. I am sick with it. My appetite is stolen and morphed into disgust. Mr. Hyde to its Dr. Jekyll, they are one and the same, and maybe one is an excuse for the other as goes the moral of the story, but how can I be blamed for the defect thrust into me, for the malfunction that invaded my body and soul like a virus and continues to violate my every moment. Survival is all I can hope for. Day to day, minute to minute. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. It is heavy, the air like lead, but there is no cure. There is nothing left to do. Deal with it. Barely get by, but get by. It requires constant distraction. Frantic, panicked distraction. One wrong thought and I’m paralyzed. One spare moment and I’m incapacitated, another day wasted in the darkness of my mind in the darkness of my bedroom in the darkness of life itself. It wouldn’t be so extreme if it didn’t bring powerful uncertainty and unintelligible, mangled discomfort. All-consuming distress. My deadened eyes announce the signs of visible resignation. The dark bags have never left, and I don’t need a mirror to know they’re getting more pronounced. I scream into my pillow, not actually hearing the blood-curdling slice through the silence. It’s a faraway sound. It might be coming from something outside of myself, but what does it matter if I don’t have a concept of who in the fuck I even am? Spiral again. Spiral further into it. Rather than reaching for relief, clinging to whatever remnants of happiness I can find in my memories, I give up. Relief would only be fleeting. Why bother? Maybe giving myself up for consumption will get this whole ordeal over with sooner. But for now, existing is difficult. Building myself up over and over again is futile, but I have to keep doing it if I want to drag myself from under my covers to the bathroom at least twice a day. My brain is mush, but it’s still firing neurons or something, I’m still alive or something, so I’m left with gray matter leaking down into the rest of me. It’s sticky, and a sickening sight. And it lacks the neurotransmitters that might be some sort of help in this fucked up situation, lucky me. I am left with a mind disconnected, sensations out of my control, moods trying to escape the bounds of their intangible nature, and a stomach ache. Congratulations to me, I’m having en episode.
“I don’t even know what a normal life would look like,” I sighed, disheartened at the fact that my lack of normal was largely due to my apparent need for drama.
I’m bipolar. For close to twelve years, I cycled between deep depressions and wildly irritable, energetic, too-much-in-too-small-a-space hypomanias. It happened every three months like clockwork. And before that, I’d spent the better portion of my teenage years slipping ever downward into an eating disordered abyss.
So it really isn’t my fault that I can’t imagine “normal.” I haven’t had a long enough period of stability to even think about it.
Until now. I’m rounding the bend on half of a year. A whole six months without totally losing my shit, without my sanity being painfully ripped from my mind and tossed aside like garbage. I haven’t had to pick up the shattered pieces of my mindset and use energy pulled out of nowhere to put them all together again. I haven’t had to do any of that. In six months.
I have the time to figure it out now, this “normal” thing, and I think I’m going to try. I felt stupid about it at first, thinking it was dumb to be confused about something so obvious, but apparently, it’s a good question. And even if it isn’t, my standards are different than other people’s. I have a different set of circumstances. And I respect myself enough to cut myself some slack.
Right. Onto defining normal.
I think what it really comes down to is “who am I when I’m not struggling” and “how is my life when I’m not struggling.” Who am I when I’m not in a mood episode, when I’m not fighting with myself over my weight, when I’m relatively stable, when I’m not actively in a crisis.
Part of me has been afraid to ask such a question because I’m afraid of the answer. What if I’m no one without my diagnoses? What if my life is pointless without my struggles?
There’s no doubt that lots of ME is inextricably linked to my bipolar disorder (or my ADHD, my anxiety, and I guess even my eating disorder). Things that make up my personality are also markers for my mental health issues. Particularly my intensity and my reactivity. While they’re both telltale signs of being a raging bipolar, they’re also two of my favorite qualities. The same can go for my passion, my one-track-mind, my motivation to create. I see the world differently because mental illness requires it, and I’m driven beyond belief to fervently capture that difference in an imaginative and exciting way, and not stop until I’m finished. I’m so often wildly energetic, unable to sit still or stay in one place. My ADHD is probably to thank, but isn’t that also just part of who I am?
I think for “normal” to happen, I’d need to set aside the drama that accompanies mental illness. After all, I have been known to sabotage my sanity when things are going too smoothly. I don’t blame myself –I blame my brain for having fucked with me for so long that I’m scared of the quiet hidden in the moments of calm. But normal requires slowing down. It requires letting go of the need to be busy every waking moment of the day to keep from becoming too reflective. It’s not like I’m in a period where I’m constantly working. But I still create lists of things to complete each day with way more tasks than need to be done. I will myself to concentrate on something, anything, because I worry where one stray thought might lead me. If I wanna move forward, I can’t be afraid to be alone with my thoughts.
To keep things short, normal probably means less negativity and less anxiety about my future. Not living in constant fear of another mood episode while still being realistic about the possibility and trying to prevent one. Doing the right things for myself while not focusing solely on symptom relief.
No obsessive thoughts, less stress. Calm, content happiness. Excitement (in a comfortable, contained way).
Knowledge. Self-awareness. Knowing my purpose, my reason, my why, my truth. Working to be the best version of me. Thinking about the big picture. Being more productive in a variety of ways. Accomplishing what I set my mind to. Actually looking forward to the future. Enjoying each moment as it comes. Being sure of who I am and how I want to be. Being sure of my values.
Being the ME I want to be: bright, bubbly, outgoing, energetic, friendly, kind, optimistic, loving, hard-working, full of life, a social butterfly, accountable, trustworthy, helpful, inspiring. With that, being seen as I want to be seen. I want to be known for those good qualities I value (while also not letting it bother me when every single person doesn’t get to know me; not everyone will know me personally, not everyone will know my story, and that’s okay because not everyone has to). I also want to be seen and understood as the whole, multifaceted, and at times contradictory person that I am. Because I accept that I am and always will be more reactive, more intense, and yes, more dramatic. I want to see and understand myself as the whole, multifaceted, contradictory way that I just am.
I think listing shit like that will help me to envision normal because it shows what I think I’d be like and what my life would be like if I continue in this period of relative peace.
Like…I was recently inspired to picture the kind of future I want to have. What will I be like? What will my circumstances be? When I really stop and think about things like that, I do picture myself happy and successful and fulfilled and proud of my accomplishments (deep down I know I’m smart and capable, so I can manage that!). I picture myself doing okay with the resources I have. I picture myself surrounded by the same love I’m lucky to have now, as well as new love. Basically, I picture a normal life. And I think all of what I described above relates to that.
So I guess I already have an idea of what normal is, and I guess it’s time to just…manifest that shit.
woke up feeling shitty and anxious and mopey
spent lots of time wondering why i felt that way and thinking about confusing shit about how i have to constantly readjust my moods and how i’m literally just unsure of how to do that at this point
taking my adhd meds helped because now i can at least focus on something distracting or productive
ingesting hella caffeine is making me feel better too
and my favorite band (reel big fish) playing in the background is working to make me not feel shitty
and now for a vaguely poetic brain dump
It’s comfortable at first, and then the world hits you.
Mind too big in a world too small.
Or perhaps the opposite.
Because there are too many thoughts,
Too much noise at too high a volume,
But there’s too much room for it all to fly free in total chaos
Which means you have to focus,
Use specific, deliberate effort to adjust and readjust.
It requires all of you,
The fight, from within and without, against unseen demons.
And as you look around at the confusion
That has nearly turned your mind,
Too big and too small,
Get it out.
It’s urgent to do so.
Spill it, pour it, put it elsewhere,
Into the ether
Or onto a page that may or may not be read
Or even remembered.
An hour into consciousness and you’re tired and unsure.
Anxious? Depressed? Empty?
(You are continually putting words to the intangible,
But somehow can’t when it comes to emotions, those mercurial things).
Take your meds. Drink some water. Eat something.
What are you even doing,
Sitting there comatose when you have shit to do?
How can you hold it together today?
What’s the plan (you’ll be lost without one)?
Put on some music,
Your favorite band,
Turn it up.
The forceful pressure recedes, permitting some sort of flow,
Some influx of something that resembles calm,
Your mind shrinks,
Or perhaps grows,
But you’re not analyzing it so you feel better.
Your free-flying thoughts organize into
What is more reminiscent of graduation caps mid-air,
Thrown up in celebration of achievement.
It’ll take time to find your cap, the one you were looking for.
That doesn’t necessarily matter;
The photographer snapped a picture and the frozen moment makes you happy.
So maybe, you think, there’s something to strive for
In the potential to turn a day around
(or a month, a year, a life).
Potential for new thoughts,
For finding happiness as opposed to forcing something vaguely similar to it,
For not letting sadness with when all else fails
Because you’re coming at life with full force.
Although survival mode played its role,
It’s in the past for now.
So tomorrow if you have to drag yourself out of bed
As you doubt your ability to get through the day,
Don’t wallow in confusion.
Let it out, find the words,
Take your meds, drink some water, eat something.
Let your mind shift, take shape, rearrange and reorganize.
Give it time, don’t dwell, stay calm, and fight hard.
Haven’t you proven your strength to yourself yet?
It was dark.
The only light in the room was coming off the clock on the nightstand, which indicated that it was 4:02am by way of a dull blue glow. It was too fucking early. And too fucking dark. And cold. Fuck the cold.
Insomnia ravaged her. Again.
The grunting snores of her boyfriend, fast asleep next to her, sent her temper spiraling but she was comatose despite the succession of jittery shockwaves pulsing through her body. She didn’t get up. She didn’t move. No matter how hard she willed herself to, she didn’t so much as roll over.
She didn’t want to wait til dawn to break. She wanted it to come now. She needed it and needed it now, in this moment, because waiting is the worst and she didn’t have the patience for it. This sucked.
It was her fault, she hated to admit. She’d drugged herself to sleep (thank you sleeping pill, melatonin, and cbd oil) at 6:27 because she couldn’t stand the thought of being awake for a moment longer, staring blankly at the wall. No, her brain was too loud but it wouldn’t allow her to move and her stomach growled angrily but it couldn’t bear the heaviness of food and there were texts to answer but no words were available to her. No, fuck that. Time to fucking sleep.
At two in the morning she’d opened her eyes but forced them shut again. Forced her brain into a quasi sleep mode by having made up conversations in her head, half concentrating on them until she couldn’t any more and the fake attempt at batting away the longing for a friendly voice, a friendly presence, faded into unfulfilling sleep.
Two hour of tossing and turning and it brought her to her present wide-awake state. Fuck.
Get up and do something, she berated herself. Get to your headphones, blast some metal, or open your laptop, do some writing.
No amount of internal urging seemed to be enough to summon the motivation to move.
She was just about to attempt to get another round of restless sleep in, but the thought of doing so was more exhausting than actually doing it. So she finally got up. Cold enveloped her.
She paced. She paused. She stood motionless like a confused zombie trying to get her thoughts together but it was a messy, tangled web up in her mind. Wires were twisted. None of them were plugged into the right connections.
Gravity amazingly pulled her to her desk, where her headphones thankfully sat on a pile of books, which thankfully was next to her laptop. A sweatshirt was thrown over the back of her chair, and she used what little energy she had to pull it over herself. It was a miracle that the setting was now one that allowed for a meager amount of productivity to take place.
A miracle. That’s what’s worth calling a miracle? How stupid. How pathetically stupid. But whatever.
Headphones on. Music loud. Laptop open. Document pulled up. Aaaaand, go!
“Going” took another few minutes of zoned-out staring, but somehow her fingers were brought to the keyboard and somehow they started moving and somehow the movements formed words that appeared on the too-bright screen in front of her.
Why is this happening again? Why did I let this happen again? Why did I make this happen again and why am I continuing to push myself father into it. Again. I’m guilty as charged. I hate myself.
It went on like that for a while. Her words chased themselves in circles. Negativity. Self-hate. Anger. It went on until she began to write fervently and passionately and quickly, so quickly, her fingers barely keeping up with the pace at which her brain threw thoughts into formation.
She shrugged her sweatshirt off. Rolled up her sleeves. Was it getting hotter, or was she becoming overheated like a computer that’s been on for too long? Did it even matter?
Her eyes flicked away from the computer for a fraction of a second.
Bad move. Losing the flow was always a bad move. She lost the momentum and let her thoughts wander and…fuck, no. Why did she let her thoughts wander?
But the tattoo on her left forearm shouted loudly from its type-written font: Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise!
Yet there was a pale light in the distance now. It fell through the window as if by accident but it stayed like it was comfortable in the bedroom. Morning had come. She shut her laptop.
She collapsed back into bed, weary from the exertion of being awake and alive.
But at least she got an hour and a half of sleep.
“If you have the courage to make it through a lonely night with nothing but your self destructive thoughts to keep you company, darling, you have the courage to make it through anything.”
My insides were rotting with fiery emptiness.
A terrifying lack of control stoked the flames along with tenacious sadness. The sadness that had simmered on my internal burner for too long, causing the contents of the pot, the emptiness that filled me, to boil over, eventually turning it into the unmatched heat of full-blown depression.
The parts of me that hadn’t already been rotted away were scorched away into nothing as hell itself had come for me. I drowned in the flames.
My skin melted off, my bones were incinerated, the essence of my humanity was reduced to dust and blown away by the gale-force winds of the surrounding stormy hellfire.
Because the whole thing had to do with more than just me. Yes, I was the one burning. But that was either caused by the storm forever raging beneath heaven and earth, or perhaps the reverse. Perhaps my internal fire run rampant had somehow caused the swirling chaos encompassing it, had caused hell to alight. Perhaps it was a matched flicked to life in an underworld full of gas, working its way toward combustion, creating an explosion that took down a whole damned place, in addition to swallowing the little match wholly and completely.
The fire took me. I decomposed.
But guess what. I’m a fucking phoenix. So fire, and its ferocious affinity for destruction, did not end me. It could never end me. Decomposition? That’s where I’m born, motherfucker.
Yeah. I was reborn eleven years ago. I built another life, somehow related to the previous one but still distinctly new and radiant and beautiful. I wore my vibrant red, purple, and yellow hues with pride (an experience that had died long before I was taken by the aforementioned flames). I took to the skies, flying freely above the world, observing it all with a birds-eye view (the wind felt like home, and the return of my scope of vision felt powerful). I participated in life and all its majesties (who would have thought it possible?).
Eleven years ago. And then suddenly the temperature began to rise. It had been a lifetime since that had happened, but I reacted reflexively. A phoenix should know what’s coming, shouldn’t it? Their lives are reminiscent of the adage “same shit, different day.” Life live. Burst into flames. New life. It’s expected, isn’t it?
But apparently, I don’t have to throw myself into the depths of hell in order to start again. I’m a motherfucking phoenix, but hey, that’s just a metaphor. And the cool thing about that is that I can choose to rise up from the ashes without the morbid part having to happen.
People will criticize your dreams,
Layer doubt and uncertainty on your consciousness
Because they don’t understand
The intensity and ferocity of your fire,
With its red passion,
Aggressively orange desire,
And burning yellow optimism,
Your fire, your eternal, internal warmth,
With its propensity to spread, to expand.
They’ll approach the ladder you’re steadily climbing
And insist you’ve missed a rung or two,
As if you haven’t reached a higher altitude already.
They’ll warn of the dangers that lay above you
Without regarding the successful resilience of your past
Or the Houdini-style escapes you’ve scraped your way through.
“You can’t marry the mood,” they’ll chime,
Thinking they’re ringing out like virtuous bells of truth.
But if I can’t marry the moon,
Explain to me why I’ve been bathed gloriously in its light
Why it’s soothed my dubiety,
Quelled my ever-questioning mind.
Explain why it’s kissed me goodnight
After I’ve collapsed into a cocoon of blankets and pillows,
Exhausted from the efforts I’ve left behind,
Whispering in my ear that the sun is going to rise again soon,
Powering the winds of renewal
Like my perfectly-paced, everlasting forward motion.
She wanted me to know that she wasn’t frustrated with me, that lots of people who see her have some type of roadblock (usually maladaptive behaviors, or repeatedly putting themselves in bad situations) that stop them from being the best version of themselves or the most mentally stable they can be. But like, she explained to me that I’m standing in my own way. How I’m a barrier to my own recovery and mental health, I guess.
I’m talking about my therapist (obviously) and what she was trying to get across to me while we sat on the floor by the window (where we always sit, because it’s more comfortable and somehow safer and easier and because I can be my fidgety self and even tug on the hem of her pants, which makes me feel connected and reassured that someone is there and present and near me in case my anxiety skyrockets and and and). I’m standing in my own way. I looked at her as she talked to me, making phenomenal eye contact if I do say so myself, and promised to think about it all (meaning write about it all, since that’s how I process shit) when I got home. So hereeee I am. Let’s gooooo…
The first thing I assume she was talking about was med compliance. As in, taking my medications like a good girl, the way they’re prescribed, and every day, and at a regular time, etc. And I’ll admit, for a (long) while there, I was not med compliant. I was shitty with it for so long because the psychiatrist I saw for 11 years, the only one I’d ever seen, didn’t really impress upon me its importance, and because I had virtually no psychoeducation, and because let’s face it, taking that shit can be hard. As I got sick and tired of continually going through the exhaustive cycles of bipolar disorder, as I started to do the right things without anyone ever telling me they were the right things, I downloaded an app that would let me keep track of when I took my pills. For a year or two, I thought it was GREAT if I only missed like three or four days a month. Which realistically fucking sucks. It makes my moods more chaotic. Duh. But worse than that, when I feel shitty, I have even MORE trouble taking my meds regularly, because I’m kinda just like “fuck it, this sucks anyway, I might as well play into it.” Not smart, my friends. Not smart.
I wrote a whole list a while back with reasons it’s hard to stay on top of the meds thing. There were things 17 on that list. Things like “I forgot,” “laziness,” and “I choked on the pills” (I have lots of trouble swallowing pills, ugh). There were also things like “I resent having to take them,” and “because they make me gain weight and that’s a huge issue to me.” One bullet point was “I’d rather be fully crazy than have the vague sense of impending doom at half-crazy because at least when it’s full-blown I have a valid excuse for my horribly erratic behavior.” There were darker reasons. “I’m always gonna be insane so I might as well be really insane.” “I’m violently angry that I’ve been given this bullshit fucking disorder and that anger is corrosive enough to wear down my will to choke down a handful of pills.
But I really have gotten better with it! I made a counter list with reasons to do what I’m supposed to do. And even that aside, I’ve only missed 2 pills in four months, and that’s a tremendous fucking achievement. Not sure if it still says “not med compliant” in big letters across her notes about me (come to think of it, it may still say “suicide risk” in even larger letters, hmmm) but like. I take my fucking pills. I do.
Agh okay, maybe I struggle with the ADHD one, because in my mind “I don’t have to concentrate that well allll of the time.” And I just got one for anxiety, and it does say to take it as needed but fuck, okay, maybe I should take it more because the endless surges of adrenaline, the unceasing rapidly palpitating heart, and the like? Just not good for me.
Alsoooo, I see my psychiatrist Thursday, and basically, I have to come at her with more data so we can figure out what to do/where to go from here.
My therapist also said a week or two ago that I’m not even fully treatment compliant. Because I was having a shitty fucking time, crying and being sad and anxious and just ugh fuck blah. The anxiety I have usually sits in my chest but it was expanding into my stomach making it gross and upset, it was bubbling up my throat causing acid reflux, it was making me dizzy and shaky and weak and terrible. And oh hey, that’s a fucking panic attack, so. Yeah. She said to me a few times to call my psychiatrist because “there’s no need to suffer” and because my psychiatrist can fucking HELP ME WITH MEDS which is SUCH AN ATTAINABLE SOLUTION.
I listen, though. I listen to both of them and do (most of) what they say and come home and consciously try to process what we talk about when we see each other. I put in the effort. I work fucking hard. I’m trying.
It’s making me wonder, though: am I just sitting here trying to convince myself that I’m not actually standing in my way? ‘Cause I mean, even though I try really hard doesn’t mean I’m still not causing it to be harder than it has to be.
I guesssss the point of this rambling stream-of-consciousness is that I’m gonna try to figure out how I’m standing in my own way. Figure that shit out so I can be honest with myself about it. And that seeing/acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. Not to mention when I’m able to think about it more clearly, I’ll be able to go back and hash this all out with my therapist and “do work,” the work that therapy requires.
I guess there’ll be more on this subject later. So stay tuned???