I am stronger right now, due in part to having the week off from work and my lover beside me. We are better for the moment, although outside pressures weigh on us, trying to push their way into the haven we are attempting to create for ourselves during his visit. He was supposed to be here for a month, but due to family issues, he will probably leave in the coming week. He wonders if I can remain strong. I know if I begin to fail again he will not stand by me – I have put him through this too many times and the guilt I feel every time I stumble and he has to pick me up weighs too heavily upon me.
For the moment we are good. For the moment I am good. But as we lay in bed this morning, holding one another and talking in the early hours of the last day of the year, I explained the battle I face every morning when I wake up, as I wonder what my state of mind will be. Will I be manic? Will I be in a deep depression that seems to be the current state of things? Or will I somehow find a status quo between the two opposing forces that battle on a daily basis in my head? I lay there and wonder. I lay there and hope I have the energy to put on the thick facade of perfection that I have been programmed to wear every day when I leave my house and venture out there into the world. I am a high functioning bipolar woman with multiple concurring conditions that I know will never leave me. I could see every shrink in the field. I could talk until I am blue in the face and hoarse, in private or group therapy, but like the buzz from alcohol, these are only placebos to get me through the moment, the minute. They never last.
Some days I wish I could have electroshock therapy, just so I could stop thinking for a moment, a day, a week – something to blast my synapses out of the funk and the darkness my brain cloaks me in. I see my shrink this week, but as I’ve said I am unimpressed with her “bedside manner” and the only reason I picked her is because she prescribes the anxiety medicine that allows me to get through the day, and in the State I now live in, it is a rarity you can find a doctor that will prescribe it.
I read a great post yesterday about being institutionalized, and it was one I could relate to intimately. The rules, regulations and order these lock-ups insist on. As if they don’t understand that many high functioning bipolar patients already have OCD and need order to keep ourselves regulated. Here’s a hint for these “retreats”: we get it. I hate being moved around like cattle from meeting to meeting, being told I can’t wear tank tops because I may show too much skin for the males on the ward, and being doled out medications that I hate and do nothing for me. The lights-out at 11 PM, but don’t you dare get up before 7 AM (even though my body has been getting up at 4 AM for years). So I lay there in an uncomfortable twin bed, with my roommate talking through her nightmares and wait. And wait. And wait, until the morning staff come tell us it is time to line up for meds, take our showers, and then be fed a breakfast of hospital gruel before we are moved like a group of children in kindergarten and led from room to room to “talk”.
I want to scream “fuck all of you”, but I know that if I act out, it will only make my time there longer. These places have the balls and/or habit of taking me off medications that help me, such as the benzos I have been on for over a decade, and do not care about the repercussions of stopping these cold turkey – uncontrollable shaking, arms flailing without the ability to control them, the possibility of seizures. They think they know what is best. Maybe they do. Maybe it has worked for some people. It has never worked for me. If we are lucky, they will allow us a half an hour of outdoor time, where we are led around the hospital grounds to get whatever sunlight is available, and then it is back to the dark ward, where the ferris wheel of activates begins all over again. If we are good, if we are lucky, we get a movie one night a week (usually about some crazy person and how they “made” it). Sometimes they allow us popcorn and caffeine free soda. I’d rather take solitary confinement over these forced activities.
So even the places that are designed to help – or believe that is why they are there, have given me nothing but a lingering fear of ever having to return. I know I run a great risk of going back. Reading about Carrie Fisher and her battle with the disease has been helpful, yet depressing, because it only reinforces that this never goes away. That we will always struggle with it. And when the darkness descends and my mind thinks of this fact, that is when I begin to think about just finalizing it all.
We went to a hot spring the other day – the “fountain of youth” supposedly, that Ponce de Leon spent his journeys looking for. It was filled with people from all over the world – accents and languages of other cultures filled the air and the sun shone magically through the aqua water. After I swam in the waters, hoping to fill my soul with its restorative powers, I sat and watched my love swim in the spring, following the turtles that lazily swam through the depths. I glanced to my right and saw a woman pushing her daughter in a wheelchair, and my heart went out to her, knowing that she may never know the joy of being enveloped by the water and the freedom it gives to one’s body – the ability to be weightless and light, buoyed by the cleansing springs. And yet, at in the same moment, I was jealous. Yes, jealous, though that may sound insane (what doesn’t in these posts?). As someone with a physical handicap, the world sees it and responds to it in a, hopefully, compassionate vein. Whereas my handicap is in my head, and no one can see it, and thus does it exist?
And that is where my battle lies. That is the stigma of this disease. I cannot tell anyone about it, other than those close to me and doctors. If I told co-workers, other professionals I work with, they would automatically look at me through a different lens. The lens of “crazy”. I have no problem admitting I have a disease, and yes – you can call me crazy if you’d like. But what I’d really like is for those of us suffering from this, or any mental disability, to be able to come out of the shadows and not be judged. To understand we are struggling. Perhaps in a different way that others, those not plagued by demons in the head – because we are all struggling with something – life is a struggle.
I do not know what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. I do not know what 2017 will hold for me, or for the world. All I hope for is peace – in my own head and for the world. When I stare up at the stars at night, I wonder if it will ever happen.
© Sorrow & Kindness