There are people on this earth who swear they really know me. They’ve known me for at least 5 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 has been a part of my life for the past 19 years. I have three friends who have known me that long and those relationships haven’t been consistent. 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 that is in part to me not trusting anyone and not wanting to show that side of myself.
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. It feels like that moment you have when you’re at a funeral and you’ve accepted that that 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.
My people are there. They're not together but they 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 19 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. 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.