Shit Gets Real: Bipolar’s Bad Days
We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you … a shit day. Shit Days typically begin with a gasp. Yes, you actually wake up gasping for air because the dementors have gotten in, again, and have started to steal the air from your very mouth as you breathe. It feels like having a freight train tear through you. You curl up under the covers and squirm around, can’t get comfortable. You close your eyes, draw the blanket to right under your chin. Sleep will not come. You feel exhausted, hollowed out like a spent casing of some kind. Your body only wants your eyes to close and your brain to descend back into sleep. You cannot: the dementors have stretched their icy tendrils into your lungs. It feels difficult to breathe. You know it’s not real though, not real like an asthma attack or a bad episode of bronchitis.
This provides little comfort. The mind goblins have conjured dementors. These dementors want to kiss you. It feels like having a freight train tear through you. Your mind has just elevated its threat level to What The Fuck Is Eating My Brain and three-quarters. If you could have a primary care health care team who believed in their patients and believed what you said and could make responsible, sound clinical judgments, rather than engage in cross-examination and denial of your reality as you present it, you might have something to quiet the goblins and dementors and allow you to sleep without feeling like you might die in your sleep. Alas, your sordid status as seven-years’ clean crack cocaine addict renders you ineligible for, unworthy of, the in-case-of-emergency-please-break-glass benzodiazepine that appears at this point in the treatment algorithm for other patients without this co-morbidity. What do you do then? Struggle. You keep up the struggle.
You don’t want to, not in any real sense and at times — at least once daily, to be honest, your resolve will crumble and you’ll plummet down the why me rabbit hole. Why must I? Why must I keep it together? I’m so tired of it, of that desperate, frenzied, trembling feeling of having to fight to keep my head above water. I don’t want to do that anymore. I only want to let go. I only want to cry, sob, wail. And never stop. Everything seems brooding and heavy, the live version of The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black.
A sagging listlessness seeps into your chest, like a dark and heavy oil stain; it makes you feel like one of those sea birds caught in an oil slick. You feel that giant maw open up inside you. Mentally and emotionally, it has the gravitational pull of a black star. You like to think of it as the trap door to visceral Hell. Periodically, you feel like your heart will collapse into itself, into one singular point of very dim light. You frequently think you see things out of the corner of your eye that aren’t there. Murky figures, the colour of Payne’s Grey. While alone you often feel an invisible presence. Around other humans, you mostly feel unreal, unmoored and, out of context.
You’re doing the Philomela I Feel Shitty questionnaire. Already sobbing and screeching at the go have a snack question — the second question. You see, even fixing a fucking snack feels monumental, like scaling a god damned K2, and everything in this day will feel like climbing the summit of Everest while channeling your inner Sisyphus. That’s just how things roll with this illness. It’s also when survival becomes an art. You’ve decided you want to live through this — you’ll clutch and claw at anything to keep you from falling into the gaping ravine. You will survive this. Now, go: snack. Hot chocolate and ramen noodles spiked with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for a snack, because you can still work the kettle.
As you choke down the ramen noodles from the inside of your Game of Thrones Moon of My Life mug, you decide Philomela might be onto to something. You feel like, maybe, some crime show on the forensic TV channel (wait, why do we even have this channel?) could provide a good background for napping. You also feel like the right mixture of sunshine currently streaming through the slats of the vertical blinds, and cats lying on your duvet will synergistically ward off the dementors and mind goblins while you nap.
You nap. Frightening dreams that too closely resemble real life populate your nap, which feels like a nanosecond. A half hour has elapsed. You can feel the mind goblins stirring. A paroxysmal restlessness seizes your legs. You feel like you want to jump out of your skin. Also, like you have no skin. Without skin, every external emotion that touches you hurts, aches, leaves a blister in its wake. Motion keeps the demonic restlessness from eating you alive. You can only rock yourself for so long, though. You try the Philomela I Feel Shitty thing again. My surroundings? Nope, I can’t even. A situation that’s bothering me? Yep. Dad’s dead. How can you solve it? There is no solution. There is no solution. There is no solution. You can’t solve grief. You’re not meant to solve grief. You’re meant to feel it. Feel it, and so much more.
You make Instagram Stories of your cats. You let really terrible movie channel movies like Warcraft carry you away for bits of time. You work on your starry night illustration. You decide you’ll write about this bit of Shit that’s derailing your plan for the day. You write. Then tweet. You write some more. You’ve recently taken to cruising your Twitter feed for your tribe of people; reaching out passes the time and provides a focus when work will not suffice. You know you need to resist falling down the rabbit hole; you know you won’t always. You keep going. One foot in front of the other, the only way: forward. That’s how you roll.