There are people on this earth who swear they really know me. They’ve known me for at least five years or more and they’ve partied with me a majority of those years. Partying with me means drinking. Drinking with me means seeing the best (inebriated) version of me and that’s the one that keeps people around. My Bipolar Disorder (type II) has been a part of my life for the past eighteen years.
I was initially diagnosed with Clinical Depression but things continued to get worse so I went in for a re-evaluation two years later. The next few years brought a Dual diagnosis and my need to address a few other obstacles that I had been avoiding. I’m an intense mix of mania and depression who frequents more on the lower, darker end. When my “hypo-mania” appears, it’s impossible to say how and when it’s going to present itself but it always leaves a trail of debt, regret, blackouts, arrests, and irreversible physical/psychological damage. I’ve also gone through periods of questioning whether I have a mental illness and if pharmaceutical companies: along with my Therapist, Psychiatrist and Probation Officer aren't just trying to trap me and my income. That is either my paranoia. a valid concern or both.
I feel like the questioning of my circumstances is natural. As some people say, “Life Happens” but I don’t process the happenings of life or within myself very well, at all. My mother who's always believed religion would solve all my problems would now agree that mental illness is a very real thing. And she only knows the half of it. I also grew up in a family that didn't accept or attempt to fully understand mental illness. Everyone in my lineage drank their problems and eventually, their lives away.
My relationships/friendships have always been on and off. My disorder is a disastrously loud and openly hidden part of my life. No one has been around long enough to attempt to understand it. I don’t mean around as in a duration of time but around as in around me, physically. I’ve spent more time than I should alone. I also accept that is in part to me not trusting anyone and not wanting to show that side of myself. I can go months without touching another human being and that wears on me from time to time.
I’ve pictured my disorder as many things but I always come back to the image of a cage. A cage in the middle of a large, black space. It’s a room, but it’s not. There’s a floor where the cage sits but there are no walls. It’s a black emptiness that never ends. The cage has prison-like bars, they’re wide enough for me to slip an arm through but I can’t walk out. I’m sitting because I don't have the energy to stand. These vivid projected movies play on the walls, all day and they’re on a loop. There are some moments of silence but just when I think the movies have stopped, they start playing again.
There are images of all my doomed relationships and every single time my parents have yelled at me. Anyone and everyone I know who has died, anyone who may have loved me back and then forgot about me, all my failures... these videos play all day. Sometimes they're slowed down to an almost glacial speed.
It feels like that moment you have when you’re at a funeral and you’ve accepted the person has died. It’s right when you’ve been crying so hard that you have to inhale. You take a breath and feel this dense pressure in your chest. That’s how I feel being in this cage, watching these movies play over and over again. The projector is across the room and I’m looking right at the power switch but I can’t get out of the cage to turn it off. I see the way to stop it right in front of my face but there’s no way I can get to it.
Significant people in my life show up, at different times, for different reasons. Some look down on me in disappointment and then turn and walk away. Some of them scream every single thing that they hate about me and then disappear. Then there are those who come and sit beside me and talk to me. They don’t stay long but they show up more than everyone else. They can’t get in the cage with me (not that I would want them to) but they sit close enough for me to talk to them face to face.
These moments are fleeting. Most of the time I’m completely alone and there’s this loud siren going off. It’s so fucking loud. It screeches to the point of me wanting to rip my face off but after eighteen years, I’ve come to tolerate it. I don’t have a choice. I thought it would’ve stopped going off by now but I don’t think it’s going to. I accept it and I sit with it. Sometimes I scream along with it. That’s also loud as hell but no one hears me. My voice doesn't carry that far. That’s an amazing release but it’s exhausting. I can’t move after a good screaming session. It takes so much out of me so I don’t do it very often. Sometimes I cry because the siren won’t stop and I can’t get out. When I sleep, I wake up and it’s days later. Looking up and hoping to see the sun, all I see is darkness. Then there are days when I don’t sleep at all. I get up and walk back and forth for hours. Slowly pacing at first and then literally running in circles. I can’t slow down for anything.
My mind and body hardly cooperate so I just have to wear myself down. My mind wouldn’t be able to help me anyway. I can’t settle on one thought for longer than two minutes when I get like this. When I finally stop, I grip the bars of the cage so tightly that my hands bleed. And then I cry until I fall back asleep. I never know when this is going to happen. I’ve tried to break free more times than you’d believe and I’ve hurt myself in the process, mentally and physically. Trying to free yourself from a difficult situation with little to no energy can break you. Along with knowing that it shouldn't be so hard and that it’s ultimately pointless. People can stand on the outside and look in. They see the space I'm in but they can never actually be in it. They tell me that they get me and that they understand but that’s because they’ve only heard what I wanted to tell them. Sometimes when people yell at me, I yell back. When people sit on the floor with me, I open up enough. When people look down on me, I look away.
The projector also shows flashes of my dreams. All the opportunities I could’ve taken to do the right thing, yet didn’t. I know everyone has thoughts and sees these types of things in their heads. Some more than others…. but those people are out in the world. They're free and when those images come to mind, they can get up, walk forward and leave them behind. I have to sit with them and I can’t turn it off or walk away.