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.

Why bother?

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!

Fucking positivity.

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.”

“We’re only given one spark of madness.”

I have this hooded denim vest that I stick all my pins and patches on. It’s fun to wear because it’s fun and colorful, and overall just an outward expression of who I am, how I feel in the inside. My favorite pin on there, as of lately, is an orange one with a Robin Williams quote: “You are only given one tiny spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” I’ve thought a lot about those words lately.

Madness is something I know well. I know it may sound like a subjective thing, madness. Who’s to say what makes a person mad? What are the qualifications? Who’s a typical example of madness, who can we base our judgment off of? I know personally, I feel I’m mad because my ridiculously extreme mood fluctuations and my tenuous grip on my sanity makes me act in an over-the-top, out of control way. So like, I’m pretty sure I know madness in the way Robin Williams meant it. I know how he must have felt as he said those words. He was known to have suffered from depression, and unfortunately lost his battle against it.

But taking the definition of madness and putting it aside, what the comedian was saying is that madness is a gift. It doesn’t have to be veiled in darkness, the word doesn’t have to hold a negative connotation.

I agree to an extent. My insanity can certainly be a gift (although that might be a fairly magnanimous way to view it). It’s given me many wonderful things: my creativity, my capability to show empathy, my motivation, my passionate personality. Maybe neither the bad or the good outweighs the other, maybe comparing the benefits and disadvantages of being crazy is like comparing two totally unrelated things. But what I know for sure is I wouldn’t change who I am, madness and all, even if I could. I simply wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to risk losing the good, despite all of the bad.

Because as much as it sucks, my bipolar makes me see things differently. I see the world and all that it encompasses in a unique way. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s not always ugly. It is always my way, though. It is always true to me.

Again, it makes me creative, it helps me manipulate words, helps me bend them, helps me to warp their meaning by surrounding them with other words of varying meanings, all to get you to understand or allow you to escape or propel you into your own imagination. It makes me empathetic, allows me to understand the other human beings that walk this earth alongside me. It helps me connect to them in meaningful, beautiful ways. It drives me forward, and although my one-track mind isn’t always ideal, the passion behind it is powerful and glorious.

This all brings me to the ever-popular question amongst those with my affliction: where does my bipolar stop and where do I start? If the qualities I value about myself are so inextricably linked to my disorder, then is my disorder the only thing I like about myself?

In terms of recovering from anorexia, it wasn’t a matter of going back to who I was prior to diving into the depths of the disorder; rather, it was a matter of reinventing myself, new and while and happy, once the detrimental mental clutter was all cleared out. I couldn’t go back to before (a literal child). I couldn’t stay within it (utterly and painfully obsessed with food and calories and weight, chained to self-destruction). I had to decide who I wanted to be and be it.

Of course, deciding who I wanted to be wasn’t easy. So many options, ya know? I wanted to be me. Just me. But I needed a clearer image of what “just me” meant.

Bipolar is an entirely different animal. First of all, I’m stuck with it. It ain’t goin’ anywhere. Second, it’s more of a personality trait thing than a behavior thing.

Not to mention how some people with bipolar experience periods of normal stability in between major episodes. Or so they say. I’ve heard that and read it a thousand times lately. But like, what does that mean for me?? What is normal? What is stable? What is an even keel? I feel like all of that alludes me, or maybe I just like to feel down on myself.

One spark. One glittering, luminous, dangerous, shocking spark. That’s all we get in this life, and maybe if we were to let it fizzle out prematurely, we’d regret it.

One spark of madness. One diagnosis. One chance to utilize what it’s given me.

One chance to survive and thrive, to take the bullshit along with the best of it and make this thing work, because one day I may regret it if I don’t.

The point I’m trying to make is that madness is not a punishment. I mustn’t think of it in that way. I must open the madness up to the sparkling light, applying the benefits of it to my life. I think by understanding it in that way I’ll be better able to discern who I am.

Hope.

“Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”
—Finale, Les Miserables

I hadn’t even checked to make sure that one was actually from Les Mis. I remembered hearing the line on broadway one of the many times I was lucky enough to see the production.

It turns out it’s a small little line, very near the end of the last song of the show.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

I got it tattooed on my left forearm, over faded and non-faded self-harm scars. It was a day or two before I was propelled into yet another major mood episode. It was literally so close to the edge of where I was thrown into the abyss and dragged through the tormenting hell that has been such a part of my life marked my bipolar.

Throughout my agitated hypomania and the subsequent major depression, I didn’t see how the tattoo I’d previously been so excited about could possibly be true. I was tempted to take a sharpie and cross the whole thing out. In my darker moments (of which there were many), I contemplated cutting it off my goddamn body.

I’m glad I didn’t.

Although I am literally, truly, 100% incapable of finding the light in the throes of my major depressions, the ones that seem to be getting worse and worse and worse, I know that positivity is one of the few answers. It’s a fucked up joke that such positivity seems to allude me so, but maybe that’s why I’m supposed to rely on others in those moments.

And there are other things I can do, of course. I mean, I was doing all of them: taking the meds and the supplements, eating healthy, drinking water, sleeping and waking at the same times daily, keeping a routine, moving my body as much as I could, doing the breathing and mindfulness things, using the apps that help me cope, distracting myself, going to therapy, asking for (begging for) help, journaling, tracking my symptoms, etc etc etc. You name it, I was doing it.

(As a side note, I stopped eating gluten. I’ve heard a few times now that the rash I’ve had or my arms and legs since forever could be related to gluten intolerance, and after a few days of doing the whole gluten-free thing, the rash is a lot better. And I’ve also heard this can affect moods, which makes sense. You know, the whole gut-brain axis, serotonin being made in the stomach, blah blah).

I don’t know what sent me spiraling into chaos this last time. I don’t know if it was random, if it was having gone through a time change because of a vacation, if it was me “thinking myself into it” (I’m still not certain that is an actual thing)…I don’t know. I can’t know. I shouldn’t care so much about knowing.

But, for better or worse, there are a few things that are known:
-This will happen again
-I will survive it again
-My doctor and therapist know how to help me better now that they’ve seen me cycle a few times
-There’s something out there that’ll help me make these episodes fewer and farther between and less fucking intense
-Even the darkest motherfucking night will end and the sun will rise

And by the way, how poignant that my tattoo should heal completely on the day I emerge back into the light. The night has ended. The sun has risen. All is well.

 

A poem about my daily life that ends far too optimistically, but whatever…

She woke before seven, excitement abundant, still groggy but ready to thrive.
She sprang out of bed (or did something like that); it was morning and she was alive!

With a handful of pills and a few sips of water, she began with a plea to stay stable.
Then came washing and dressing, while counting each blessing…the gratitude made her feel able.

The birds started chirping, the world started waking, the sun started brightening the sky.
The quiet was punctured, (perhaps that was better), and then the thoughts started to fly…

With resolve she stayed focused on what she thought mattered: the good that this new day would bring.
Because in only one hour, or probably less, she had felt her moods climb, fall, and swing.

“Come ON,” she thought loudly above all the chaos, “you got this, just sit and calm down!”
But would sitting there help when annoyance was rising and rage on her face put a frown?

The always-there need to be NOT sitting still then took over. She got in her car.
She wanted to drive fast, away from confusion, away, anywhere, near or far.

She wound up (surprise!) at the cafe in town, as if the paths toward it were paved.
And soon coffee was brewing, her passion renewing. Just maybe the day could be saved.

For her mug full of love was symbolic of passion and all the excitement it brings.
With sugar and milk added for extra goodness, the winter outside became spring!

“Alright,” went her brain-talk, “you know now you’re able to change your emotional state.”
Deep inside, though, she knew her bipolar disorder would get her, would always checkmate.

What was she to do, this mess of a human, when life brings such her up, down, and up?
She takes all the meds and she thinks the right things, she forever fills her coffee cup.

Though the grand fluctuations are now less intense, though the coaster-ride invokes less fear,
The daily uncertainty, constant unsureness, make it hard to know ‘normal’ is near.

Yet for all she knows, ‘normal’ is just as dramatic, confusing, and full of such flux.
So honestly, why should she bother? She shouldn’t! She shouldn’t give so many fucks.

Now tomorrow is dawning, it’s come to forgive her, to show her a new chance to live.
And yes it will test her, and also will bless her, will prove to the girl it can give.

Because that is tomorrow and that is the next day, that’s life in a nutshell, you see.
The crazy’s expected, can even be fun, once you realize this you can be free.

End of my rope, what now?

Here we go again. I barely had the chance to catch my breath but here we fucking go again.

It came on quickly, and for no reason, and now I’m trapped in the cage that is my existence with nothing to do but pathetically wait for it to leave me alone…hopefully it eventually will.

Rage emerged in a mushroom cloud of destruction. That was maybe a week and a half ago. And now, after the bomb-drop, after the dust and debris settled having burned everything around it in a windy rush of radiation and heat unmatched, a hangover of formless pity is all that’s left. I am despondent. Hopeless. Sickeningly bereft of the will to attempt, minute by minute, to keep fighting.

The worst of it is that once this is over it’ll simply happen again. So what am I left to do but wait for the next detonation to destroy my entire world. Again.

I’m surviving, but barely. I’m not reaching even half a percent of what I’d be capable of if not for this disorder incapacitating me. I cannot work on my passions, I am not permitted to. I cannot move forward, I truly am not able to. I am stuck. My biggest accomplishment is surviving day to day, and fuck if I can be proud of myself for just that.

It’s all so pointless. And that would be weirdly motivational if I had the energy to believe that it it’s motivational. There’s nothing to do but handle this day. What else is there to do?

I wish like hell I could be a normal person. But I can’t. So here I am.

What Brings Me Down vs What Fills Me Up

I am 20 years old. I am walking around Stony Brook University, meandering through the buildings, wandering aimlessly across the expansive campus in the pouring rain. I’m drenched from my hair in its high ponytail right down to my purple plaid converse sneakers, but I keep walking. I could be in class; I should be in class. But my body wouldn’t carry me into the lecture hall even if I wanted it to. The rain is disguising my tear-streaked face, hiding the fact that I’m quietly sobbing. I look down at the concrete as I walk, and it occurs to me to pull my hood over my head. It won’t prevent the rain from soaking me further, but it hides me better at least. Not that anyone would notice me anyway. It’s simply that the hood hides me in a more metaphorical sense, shields me from the reality of the world outside my head in an ambiguously emotional way. There’s a song playing on repeat in the distance, no wait, it’s coming from my headphones, the headphones planted securely over my ears. The punk rock band shout-sings lyrics to me and for me through fast-paced drumming and heavy guitar music: “why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?!”

I find myself in the campus bookstore talking to the manager. She’s a woman about my mother’s age. She’s friendly and she always remembers me. She speaks words of comfort that land far away from me but still close enough for me to consider. “Why don’t you withdraw from this semester? Come back when you’re feeling better, more secure. What do you think?”

It takes a while for the idea to solidify in my head. I can withdraw. I know I’d fail if I stay. The knowledge cuts me deeply, slicing through the facade, ripping through the mask of my former self, the mask of a high-functioning perfectionist. I am left with my current self: a confused failure, a bitterly struggling mess, a girl whose desperate attempt at being a regular college student has just been shattered into a billion pieces.

I leave the bookstore and trudge away towards my car, and once I get there and slump into the driver’s seat, I turn my music on again at full volume, the band once again asking me what it’s asked me over and over again today: why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?

*

I am 27 years old. I am driving east on the parkway, not necessarily speeding but going fast enough that I can pretend my anxiety won’t be able to catch up to me. I know it’ll get me eventually, catch me by the throat and squeeze the breath out of me before settling in my chest for its stay. But I allow myself the fantasy of escaping it as I fly free down the Southern State. I just have to keep going, keep doing, keep moving. The faster the better.

I left therapy a few minutes earlier. The office had been bright even without the lights on, with the better part of the back wall a window overlooking the parking lot. We’d been talking about the usual: the way my bipolar disorder seemed to be a cloud casting a shadow on nearly every aspect of my life, obscuring the meaning of it all, eclipsing my sense of what to do to extricate myself from such a situation. I was sick of it, I had no more energy for it. It seemed, at that moment and quite honestly all other moments of recent life, that picking myself up from the depths would be pointless; I’d be dragged back down, probably shortly afterward, anyway. The control I so desperately seek out was too far out of reach. It wasn’t worth it.

Thus I’d been tasked with figuring out the particulars in terms of what actually brings me down, and conversely, what fills me up.

“Change the script in your head,” I was told. “Think about what makes you tick and about what fills you up with that good goo.”

Apparently, I am able to reclaim my moods as my own and combat the suffocating anxiety. I wanted so much to dispute that fact, to lend the negative arguments in my head a voice, and my eyes instinctively lept to the window as the doubts started to crawl their way towards me like the living dead. But my gaze found its way back to my therapist sitting across from me. Her confidence flickered through me. I kept my mouth shut. It couldn’t hurt to entertain the idea. All I had to do was think about what upsets me and what makes me happy. Basic stuff. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

So here I am. Driving. Thinking about what upsets me and what makes me happy.

Well, for starters, these fuckers who don’t know how to DRIVE upset me. Get the FUCK out of my WAY! But we’ve talked about that before. Other drivers represent a lack of control, which is fairly consistently the larger issue when I get worked up. Another example would be when technology doesn’t just WORK. When the wifi sucks, when my laptop freezes. It should just work, things should just work, why don’t things just WORK? The reasoning there is that my life is already difficult enough without things always going wrong. I don’t need minor, insignificant things putting me over the edge. If two elephants of equal weight are sitting on a seesaw, the seesaw doesn’t move. When a fly lands on one of the elephants, it makes one side of the seesaw heavier. And in my illogical corner of the world, that fly might as well have weighed a ton, because the seesaw is uneven and now I’m off balance and everything is ruined and wrong and I’m anxious and I hate everything. Also known as: Laura isn’t in control of the situation. If I can’t control the idiot drivers, and I can’t control the god damned wifi, what else might be out of my control? It isn’t the other drivers, it isn’t the god damned wifi, it’s what all those bullshit things represent in the bigger picture! Things could easily, so very easily, spin into chaos. The world may very well fly out of the sun’s gravitation, or at least that’s how it feels, because my GOD do things spiral quickly! And the worst of it is that certainty really doesn’t seem like too much to ask. It’s just that life and the universe and my fucking bipolar disorder are always shifting and changing, always moving faster than I can ever hope to. Certainty is a joke, and a cruel one at that.

As if on cue, iTunes shuffles to a familiar song that brings me back seven years. Suddenly I am 20 years old, wet and cold and scared of the fact that so much has gone wrong and I don’t know how to fix it. So much has changed since that rainy October day, but I’m still scared. I sing out loud with the song and wonder, “why does the world as I know it keep on bringing me down?”

Because that’s really what it feels like –that the world itself is out to get me, that the world is trying as hard as it can to bring me down. But I assume the purpose of trying to determine what upsets me isn’t to give me something negative to dwell upon. I assume I’m supposed to focus more on the things that fill me up. And I assume that putting the two next to each other is supposed to teach me some sort of self-reflective lesson about positive self-talk and what it can do for me.

Okay. Positives, positives, let’s think of some positives. What makes me happy? Is it just me, or does this one seem harder than the last one?

But it hits me that I’ve thought about this before. I’d written about it, years ago. Could it have been after I withdrew from that semester back in 2012? I remember sitting cross-legged on my bed, my laptop propped up on my pillow as my fingers tap-tap-tapped across my keyboard without stopping for hours. It must have been late; insomnia had dug its claws into me, but I didn’t have to wake up to get to class, so I stared at my computer screen until I couldn’t possibly stare any longer, until the words had all been propelled from mind to page. I wrote about the little things in life, the small symbols of joy, the smile-bringers. I wrote about those moments of meaningful exhilaration that cast the meaningless days before it in the golden light of purpose. I wrote from my heart because everything else in me was exhausted with the ups and the downs and the frenzied anxiety and the cyclic upheavals and everything else. My body, my brain, my soul was exhausted. But my heart still found its way to the good.

I remember exactly where I saved that piece. I drive home and only need to search a minute or two before I find the flash drive, jam it into my laptop, and once agian sit cross-legged on my bed to devour my words of years past…

*

Waking up before dawn for no reason, but not going back to sleep. Being the only one awake to hear the reverberating silence be punctuated by the birds beginning to chirp in sweet harmonies. Watching the daylight edge ever so slowly towards the darkness, until finally, the morning erupts into being with fragrant hope. Feeling the peaceful intensity of truly appreciating the gift of a new day.

The smell of spring.

When the lights go out because of a storm so you’re stuck inside counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder. Listening to the storm move progressively closer, the pitterpatter of raindrops grow steadily heavier, until it runs its course and retreats, the hypnotizing sounds easing to a stop. Walking outside and feeling the heavy dampness of the renewed earth.

Seeing a rainbow arc across the sky.

Laughing uncontrollably with friends, so hard that you’re in tears, gasping for breath because you can’t stop cracking up long enough to inhale fully. Calming down for a few seconds only to start all over again a few seconds later.

When the days get longer, the mornings get brighter, and the weather gets warmer. When summer announced itself in a blaze of freedom and excitement. When the beach invites you to relax on its shores and you arrive with a towel, a book, and some pink lemonade. When you arrive at the bar and meet all your friends for a night of karaoke and deep conversations and maybe even alcohol. When you’re having fun around the clock, and the days melt happily into the next, and your happiness feels eternal and safe.

A blank notebook begging to be filled with ideas and stories and poems and drawings and anecdotes about adventures. An open document, a blank slate waiting to have meaning. A new box of markers, a sharpened pencil, books full of stickers. Creativity waiting to happen. The sheer amount of potential ways to express it.

Looks of encouragement when you don’t think you can possibly go on.

Text messages of all kinds: friends saying “good morning,” groups making plans, catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a while. The magic of being able to communicate with loved ones with such ease. Texts that make you smile, texts that serve as reminders of how loved you are. The kind that you screenshot and save and look at again and again.

Relatable quotes.

Disney World vacations. Going home to the Happiest Place On Earth. The butterflies you get when you walk around the corner, down Main Street, and see the awe-inspiring view of Cinderella Castle. Riding rides, meeting characters, watching shows and parades and entertainment, all the the same exhilaration you’ve always felt while there in sunny Florida. Being a hopeful youth again, finally remembering what that feels like. Having no cares. Making memories. The emotions you’re filled with when you see the fireworks explode gloriously above your head.

Dogs.

When someone gets your quirks and unique assets perfectly.

The few seconds of anticipation at the very top of a roller coaster, when you know you’re about to go over the edge. When you realize just how high up you are, and you’re flooded with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Then the rush of wind blows back your hair and your stomach flips as you rocket towards the ground. The way you involuntarily throw your hands up, screaming and laughing because there’s nothing on your mind except the next drop.

When someone says “this reminded me of you.” Getting noticed, being appreciated, feeling loved.

The crispy smell of fall. Pumpkin coffee and apple pies. Scarves and boots and a light leather jacket. The possibility of hay rides and corn mazes and haunted houses. The colors of the changing leaves.

Being the reason someone smiles or laughs.

The first cup of coffee in the morning. Inhaling the smell of it and exhaling whatever nonsense is attempting to take up space in your mind. Sitting quietly as you drink it, enjoying the flavor, savoring every sip. Then easing into your day feeling energized and excited and filled with ideas and intentions.

Crossing bullet point after bullet point off your to-do list. Collapsing into bed after a long, productive day. Feeling good about your accomplishments. Being proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved.

Snow days where you sip hot chocolate under a blanket as the crystalline flakes continue to fall peacefully outside. Having no place to go and nothing in particular to do. Relaxing, truly relaxing.

A good book.

Deep, emotional conversations with friends. Important conversations. Ones where you talk about everything from philosophical concepts to feelings about life and love, to things from the past and plans for the future, to the craziest and most random things in the world. Getting to know someone you love on another level of intimacy, feeling closer and more connected to them.

Waking up on Christmas morning. Experiencing unparalleled excitement, the same exact excitement you felt as a five-year-old. Christmas breakfast, Christmas presents, Christmas traditions. Giving gifts to friends and family, exchanging them in the spirit of the holiday.

Big hugs that last for a long time, with a squeeze at the end to get out the extra love.

Counting backward from ten on New Year’s Eve after having an awesome night. The way everyone, everywhere shouts “Happy New Year!” in unison. The promise of new opportunities on the horizon. The way we begin each year by hugging and kissing the people we care about.

*

I take in my words, let them absorb into my mind. Try to reconcile the positivity with the foul, negative lump sitting undigested in my gut.

I get it. I get what past-Laura was trying to convey, I get why my therapist wanted me to focus on the good, the tremendous potential for good that this world brings. Yes, the little things matter more, sometimes. And no, life doesn’t have to be perfect all the time to be beautiful. I realize that I am capable of changing what I see around me by simply viewing it all through the lenses of hope and optimism.

I still have that damn song ringing in my ears, though. “No matter how hard that I try to climb I’ll be pulled back down again…why does the world as I know it…”

I guess that’s the point, though. I have to keep climbing up because that’s really the only thing there is to do. I guess I will reluctantly agree to continue doing that. I’ll agree to pick myself up after every fall, even if the chaos sweeps through again and again in startlingly rapid succession. Okay, fine. There. I get it. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to, because I get it.

The world keeps on bringing me down because that’s what it does. I’m gonna keep on climbing back up. And no matter how annoyed I am about having to do it, I’m still gonna keep doing it.

 

Fuck bipolar.

How do you expel sadness? How do you chase it away? How do you take the sadness that has crept into your being and, graciously or not, show it to the exit? How do you repair the wall that sadness tore down, and how do you ready yourself for its next intrusion? How do you heal from the hurt left in its wake?

Any number of analogies would work beautifully here. Countless metaphors would suffice, and goodness knows I’d love to sit here and type them all out in long, eloquently phrased paragraphs. But ambiguous words don’t exactly help me solve the issue at hand so much as explain it. And fluffy descriptions and fancy words simply won’t help; I’d much prefer concrete and definite instructions to vague, unreachable concepts.

So how can I explain to you the ways in which you may hope to overcome the sadness? How can I help you to tear yourself free from the vice-like grip of internal desolation?

Sadness is a poison and I know an antidote exists. The problem is I’m well-versed in what the former entails but I’m not so clear on the latter. I long for a manual, a set of instructions that can serve as a guide. I doubt there is one. I am left to write the directions on my own, to learn the steps through my own efforts and energy. I only wonder if I can.

I’ve tried to do it before. Trust me when I tell you I’ve given it a God’s honest attempt. And of course I have, how could I not, having been through the ringer. I’ve seen hell, countless times. You don’t think I’ve scrambled to make a mental note about how I got my hands on the rope I used climb back out? To write down exactly how I survived? And furthermore, to figure out why? Believe me when I explain that I’ve given it my all to figure it out!

In my darkest days, when waves of depression were crashing into me, the riptide pulling me hard and fast away from the comforts of sanity at the shoreline, I tumbled with the current and couldn’t find my footing, but eventually caught my breath and treaded water and surfed my way back to shallower depths. I’ve been sucked back into the ocean many times over again, finding it rougher each successive time. I am afraid of it. Bodies of water represent the terrifying repetition (the tide comes in, the ride retreats, it repeats continuously). I am afraid. But that doesn’t stop me from going to the beach. I have never let it stop me from going to the beach.

I guess that’s the first step, then? Resilience? We’ve got no choice but to get back up, time after time. It sucks, and you may get dragged for miles, but eventually you get back up. As long as you’re taking air into your lungs, you still have time to do so. And since you’ve gotta get up eventually, there’s no harm in doing so with as much hope and optimism as you can muster.

Then a few steps away, somewhere down the staircase is another critical issue: the self-talk, the internal monologue, the script forever running on and on in your head. You’ve certainly heard it before that your thoughts become your reality, that you attract what you think about. You’ve gotta make your head a positive place to be because you’re there all the time. You’re literally never fully away from it. So choose wisely the words that you say to yourself. Pick each idea carefully, and pluck from your consciousness the ones that don’t promote happiness, the beliefs and perceptions and opinions that don’t serve a valuable purpose. Weed out the dead flowers, filter the muddy waters. Affirm the fact that you’ll be okay, you’ll always end up being okay. Even if you aren’t right now, you will be eventually because that’s the way it works. Collect the inspirational quotes, litter your life with positivity. Surround yourself with it; you might as well.

The next step is just as cliched, if not more. But it helps, so you’d better get going on that self-care. Images of bubbles baths come immediately to my mind. The kind where bath bombs have colored the water and candles are lit around the edges. Face masks and body scrubs and special conditioners, all of this seems to be what’s marketed as the prime examples of taking time for yourself. And I value such things for what they are and what they do. But caring for yourself spans a wide array of actions, all of which are supposed to help you meet the needs you might have been neglecting in a calm and relaxed way. This could mean taking a walk outside in the sunshine. Or making yourself a healthy meal. Or meditating on things you’re grateful for while focusing on steadying your breathing. It could mean treating yourself to that overpriced coffee, coloring mindlessly, or just taking a nap when you need one. But whatever it is for you, you’ve gotta do it.

Continuing along the staircase away from melancholy brings you to distraction. Keeping your mind busy is an indispensable means of taking sadness by the collar and kicking it to the curb. Channel the bad feelings polluting you, put them into something positive and productive and helpful. Don’t think about anything but what you’re doing. Focus, consciously. Give it effort, and work hard, and reap the benefits.

Let’s never forget to reach out for help, either. Get that support, surround yourself with love, jump into all that is happy and positive. You are enclosed in a semi-permeable membrane, the fact that sadness has entered is a testament to that. So it’s logical to marinate in the good, the beautiful, the special. If you don’t, how do you expect to let it seep in? Utilize your loved ones for they are all around you. They choose to be a part of your life for a reason. They are prime examples of tools that can help. And if they cannot do the trick alone, there are other minds that may hold an answer. But it’s all dependent on you seeking the help. Ask for what you need. Ask for light and you’ll soon find it shining on you.

if nothing else, you can wait it out. You’ve got more time than the sadness does, you are more expansive and contain more power. Within you is all that you’ll ever need, in fact. Remember this truth while you stay where you are as the clock ticks you closer to freedom.

Through all of these steps, you’ll surely gain some forms of protection for the future. You’ll learn from what you’ve gone through, building upon a foundation of inner strength and using cumulative knowledge as material. You’ll make mental notes, write down how exactly you survived. You’ll do this subconsciously as apparently I have done, and think that maybe all of this is easier than it seems.

You wanted to know how to push away sadness. You asked me how it is actually done. It turns out I knew more than I gave myself credit for, so I’ve tried here to answer your question in earnest, but the truth is I’m still not quite certain. The process I’m describing might just have to be trial and error. Or maybe you just have to do what you can with what you have until the sadness gets bored and vacates the premises of your mind and body.

Either way, I hope you find metaphors that apply to your journey. I hope you can explain your plight and triumph with fluffy, fancy descriptions. And I hope the ambiguous collection of words that don’t exactly solve anything help you, at the very least, to find meaning.

Negative

Growing up, it never occurred to me that I was a pessimist.  I mean, on the outside it was all rainbows and sparkles and sunshiney happiness, and I always assumed that my insides matched what I presented outwardly.  After all, I got up each morning and told myself the day would be a good one. I sought out silver linings. I had notebooks upon notebooks filled with inspirational quotes and motivational pictures.  If someone around me was upset, I’d be there in an instant, rambling off positive messages and giving advice laced with fervent hope. I was trying to be optimistic, so I assumed that I actually was.

That’s why it didn’t really make sense that my seventh-grade English teacher nicknamed me “Negative.”  And literally used that name to call on me.

In hindsight, yeah, maybe I was a little on the negative side.  I woke up each morning and hoped to Hell that the day would be a good one, but did I actually believe that it would be?  Was the hope I had real or was it just labeled hope in an anxious attempt to maybe have a decent day? I sought out silver linings, yes.  But did I actually find any? Did I fill notebook after notebook with inspiration and motivation because I was inspired and motivated? Because maybe it was the exact opposite.  Maybe I jumped at the opportunity to comfort others because I was drowning in hopelessness and didn’t want anyone else to have to feel the same way.

It sounds a lot like I was severely depressed and anxious.  Oh wait, I was.

Nothing’s really changed, either.  I mean, I’m not always depressed.  But I am a good amount of times (thank you, bipolar disorder).  And I’m still anxious pretty much all the time. I still wake up in the morning willing the day to be a good one, still attempt to find the good, still litter my notebook with inspiration, still give it every ounce of effort I have to cheer people up when they’re down.

But people still see me as a pessimist.  Quite a few people, in fact. When I’m flipping out at work because my emotions are volcanic in my body and I can’t control them, I am frequently told I have a bad attitude.  When I start to get upset, the snowball rolling down a hill accumulating more and more mass, I am told that it isn’t a big deal, that I shouldn’t dwell on the bad things. Just the other day I was making small talk with a stranger, forcing a smile despite the twisting ball of panic in my chest.  I said simply that I hated rainy days and was told that “rain makes the flowers grow, why don’t you look at it like that?” Why don’t you fuck off? Because I try to look at it like that. I try to be an optimist like all decent humans beings apparently are.  Do you mean to tell me those notebooks full of quotes don’t count as effort?  That my search for the silver lining isn’t hard work? That my quest to be a light in the darkness isn’t worthy of recognition?

People see the negative in me.  They see it even though there’s so much more to me.  And worse than that, to me, is that they hear it when I speak.  When I open my mouth, which in my mind is the equivalent of baring my very soul, they hear pessimism.  They don’t bother to listen for the echoes of attempted hopefulness that reverberate through the subtext.

I am trying.  It isn’t my fault that I suck at this.

It isn’t my fault that it’s been proven to me time and time again that patterns repeat, that every rise comes with an even bigger fall, and that no one can control it, least of all me.  Yes, I tend to feel hopeless, which is a direct result of being shown, over and over again, that hope is sometimes just a sick joke, a fleeting sensation that tricks me into calming down only to have the calm aggressively ripped away.  I don’t always have the energy to ride the rollercoaster. I can’t always have it. Energy is a finite resource, and I need to reserve mine for picking up the pieces after every inevitable impact at rock bottom.

Right, so I’m negative.  I really don’t think negative is the worst thing in the world to be, thank you very much.  I can’t see how it’s wrong to complain every now and then. Pity parties are often earned, and wallowing in self-despair can be cathartic if you use it the right way.

Isn’t it a matter of being negative at the right times?  It’s about having awareness about your negativity, enough of it to see situations clearly.  Complain away, but know when to stop. Pity yourself, give in to the hurting, but make sure that while you’re doing that, you expel all the bullshit you’re hanging on to.  This way, when you pick yourself up again (which is what all people do, every single time, whether they acknowledge such a success or not), you are cleansed. It’s called balance, isn’t it?

You may struggle to see the good, there is nothing inherently wrong about that.  But for the love of all things worthwhile, at least keep your eyes open. Be negative, but not with determination.  There is good out there.  Don’t close yourself off to it.

I am negative.  Yet I don’t think that my negativity is the only part of who I am.  Obviously. Negative may be my default state, but it isn’t my only state.  We’re all multifaceted, we’re all made of so many parts stitched together in a patchwork quilt of glorious variety, and thanks to my mental illness, I think I’m even more multifaceted and varied.  It’s the nature of the thing, and for once I’m grateful for the illness I’ve been given. See? I’m grateful even in regards to the difficulties. I’m not solely negative.

Overall, what I’ve learned to do is kneel by the bottomless pit of hopelessness and pessimism, and without falling into it, pull out the motivation to keep going in spite of it all.  Reach down into the sinkhole and take back what you need to get through the struggles and trials and tribulations.

I do not believe it’s about positivity and optimism (although if those qualities are yours then enjoy them and be proud of them).  I believe it’s about owning who you are and making it work regardless. I can still enjoy the good shit despite having been anxious that it’d never come.  With years of backlogged experience in negativity, aren’t I some champion of enjoying the positives?

More importantly, happiness isn’t tied exclusively to your outlook on life (luckily).  So long as you can see the rainbow after the rain, it is perfectly okay to not dance amongst the puddles.

That’s how I feel, at least.