I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
— Kahlil Gibran, The Madman
Saturday. Blue sky and Breakfast Club. Public art and photographs. Through Tuesday’s weeds, I can still see the just-right blue sky. Saturday’s calm has vanished. I’m in my GP’s office, my voice choking on Tuesday’s weeds. I can’t do this by myself anymore. I hate this I hate it I hate it I just want it to stop. I don’t deserve this. It isn’t fair to have a mind that won’t let me rest. Tuesday’s weeds choke my tears. My mind won’t even let me cry properly. Malignant resilience. I tell the doctor I want to rip my brain out. I say the words, I want to rip my brain out, anything, anything to make it stop. I am trying so hard not to think but my brain won’t give me any quarter. One day I feel everything and it is glorious. I have so much energy I dance in the flat at 3am; two nights later and if I turn on the TV people are dying. I look at all of the pills next to my bed and I can’t stop seeing what I see.
This, this then is madness.
The paranoia is the kicker. I had a terrible nightmare on Monday. The nightmare you wake from in tears and I am on the verge of tears now as your names, all of your names run across my screen like an old-fashioned rolodex. Why aren’t you speaking to me anymore? Or you. Or you? Do I prostrate myself and tell you I am sorry I am so sorry for what I have done when I don’t know if I have done anything? Is it all in my head or am I so utterly oblivious to wounding other people? Do I say, ‘it’s ok to hate me, I feel you’, when your silence gnaws at me. I don’t even know if you think of me at all. Your silence becomes my silence. I’m so ashamed of myself. How stupid to believe that I have any use beyond what I have been good at since my childhood. I am a commodity. Not a person. And that’s OK. I can transact. But don’t dangle friendship in front of someone who can’t love. It’s fucking cruel. Don’t say you want to be my friend, elicit terrible darkness from me at 3am, say you can handle it and more besides. You are a tourist in the half-light. You want to clamber through caves and play in the dark, satisfy your curiosity and leave. I live here, and now I don’t know what I have done, or haven’t done, or should have done. And all the while the pressure builds, builds, builds like a club anthem with no drop in sight.
This, this then is madness.
My doctors are working with a marionette. Wooden, painted smile. Pull a string, watch me dance. Get it wrong, watch me fall. If I was depressed or manic, I’d be easier to treat, but this is an epic bout of rapid cycling entering a third week. I look back at messages. 9 January: ‘I’m basically high rn’. I knew I was sick, it was just a beautiful sickness. I tell my doctor that all I want is to feel golden again. And I know I can’t, I know it’s not the answer, but this… this ricocheting every day is unimaginable. I hate it I hate it I hate it. I want it to end. I realise I have started to cry and apologise. This is difficult for them as well. It’s mostly guesswork and very careful gear changes. Today is my fifth medication tweak in four weeks. Tonight I took quetiapine (an anti-psychotic) to shut up shop at night; tomorrow morning I will hit a different lever, an increased dose of lamotrigine (a mood stabiliser), and that will bump up again tomorrow night. There’s a good road cycling analogy to describe where I am: false flat. For the non-cycling (road cycling) fans, a false flat is ‘a low-gradient climb, usually occurring partway up a steeper climb. So-called because while it may look deceptively flat and easy (especially after the steep climb preceding it), it is still a climb’. It’s not that I can’t get out of bed. I can be among you, you lovely people, with your lovely lives and your plans and you can tell me you love me and it doesn’t make a dent. You can’t get through because I am so very susceptible to the part-time vampires in your number. Why do you think I smile so broadly? How I learnt to be so independent? Sheer terror. I am bone-crushingly lonely, so I smile more, just in case you see what I would give for someone to stroke my hair like I was a little girl. That’s all. I don’t want love, I can’t want it, I will not allow it, but I would give all of myself for someone to pet me as they would a little girl, a little girl who had not lived as an adult, whose mind had not retreated through a door to another reality just to reach her next birthday. I would let you tell me that great heaving lie, that I have got this; that I am the motherfucking Little Engine That Could if I thought it would stop my brain shuddering from entry to exit wound every 18 hours.
This, this then is madness.
I wrote all of this last night before today happened. Now it’s today and I am over.
Wednesday. Snap. Snap. Snap. I can’t stop it anymore. I can’t rip my brain out. I can’t even pick up the phone. I can’t speak. I take an anti-psychotic and the distress recedes just enough. The psychiatrist will see me at 7.15am tomorrow. I’ll ride it out one more day. I could go to St Vincent’s, I could walk to St Vincent’s but I can’t go to St Vincent’s in case they make me go through the locked doors to the PECC, a six-bed hellhole built and run by Satan himself. You won’t see what goes on there on any glossy ABC doco about how aware you should be. Your awareness is tourism. Here is your cut out and keep souvenir: in a PECC there is no care. There is no doctor for days. There are nurses safe behind glass and a continuous stainless-steel bathroom so no one gets killed with a tap. There are men who sit on your bed and try and stroke your hair and if you scream the nurses threaten you with Caritas and Caritas is worse. I’m safe at home. I can’t think about consequences anymore. I can’t think about fixing myself. I can’t think. I will let the doctors stroke my hair. For now, I let the chemicals rip out my brain.
This, this then is madness. I have walked through the door.