Mental illness has many different faces. I'm not exactly sure how to label my own, and I don't necessarily want to. Several doctors have tried for me, and all of their classifications and categories fit me in one way or another. The "scarier" ones get pushed into the back of my brain and ignored, and the "easier" ones get their names spoken occasionally when I need to explain some sort of odd behavior.
"Sorry I didn't answer when you called. I have anxiety."
"Sorry I was so lame at your party. I'm pretty depressed."
"Sorry I acted like such a boob the other night. It's my ADHD."
Not that those are excuses. But they help explain what's sometimes an uncomfortable weirdness for me and everyone unfortunate enough to have to be around me when I'm, well, weird.
And there are moments where I go beyond weird. Where I sink into such a scary space that I start to entertain scary thoughts and say scary things and behave in scary ways. It's like trying to claw your way out of a dark, dirty pit deep in the earth, and every attempt to make your way free only scratches more dirt down on you. Sometimes it's short-lived, and sometimes I'm stuck down there so long, that I just give up, and sit. And wait.
The desperation grows a little stronger every day, and that's when the weirdness starts. Weird thoughts. Weird words. Weird behaviors.
And I sit there at the bottom of that pit, hoping for some sort of ray of hope. Some sort of ladder, or rescue that will pull me from the darkness and back up to the surface to feel the light of day on my desperate face. It eventually begins to feel truly impossible, and truly hopeless, leaving me to wonder if it's even worth the bother to go forward for another second. And when I'm at my darkest, I know it isn't...
It's the scariest place in the world. Rational thought does nothing to sway these types of feelings at this point. There is literally nothing that makes it seem as tho moving forward is a better choice than...not. My body begins to feel like a big fleshy cage, and I sincerely resent every breath my brain forces me to take.
Relationships are strained. Family dynamics begin to shift. The whole world feels surreal and foreign and wrong. And I truly believe that nothing will ever be good ever again ever ever. I just sit, and wait.
And then, without warning or reason, like a dormant tree suddenly budding in the spring, I begin to look up. I begin to see that all the dirt I've clawed down onto myself has built up under me, and I'm within reach of the top of this horrible pit. I can see daylight, and smell fresh air, and hear birds sending their songs out into the breeze. And I know I'm going to get out...I'm going to be ok.
And when I do, it's goddamned glorious. The-hills-are-alive glorious. Dawning-of-the-age-of-Aquarius glorious. Pinocchio-finally-gets-to-be-a-real-boy fucking glorious.
Every sound is electric. I can hardly contain myself and my excitement as I start blasting awful techno-y house music thru the atmosphere, soaking in every cliche note as if it were gourmet food and woody wine after a year-long fast of flour and water.
Every face around me immediately becomes the most beautiful face in creation. My children are so goddamned lovely I can hardly take it. My husband's graying head and foot-long beard are irresistible and I can hardly stand the moments where his face is not immediately touching my own.
The wind thru my hair, the sun on my cheeks, the air in my lungs...it's all too much, and I feel so happy that at any given moment I could burst open and release an infinite flow of brilliant light powerful enough to heal the whole world. I really could.
My brain full to bursting with thoughts of self-improvement and hopeful desires. And because I suddenly have all the energy in the world, I know without doubt that I can and will fulfill each and every self-appointed task.
"I will walk to the end of town and back every single day, rain or shine. I will shrink this body and build these muscles to strength that will carry me well into my hundreds without effort. I will eat nothing that doesn't come directly from this beautiful soil, and I will harm no creature in order to satiate my carnivorous desires. I will be a better wife and a better mother and a better lover and a better friend. I will answer every phone call, and reply "yes" to every invitation. I will finish every half-written story I've ever started, I will expand my vocabulary and stop using so many fuckwords. I will forgive my mother. I will call my father. I will I will I will I will."
And I believe it. Even the ridiculous. Even the impossible.
Even knowing that it's a temporary and probably "unhealthy" chemical balance causing me to think and feel these things, doesn't dull the brilliant sparkle inside me that's surely radiating from every pore for all to see.
I don't know which is harder to tolerate; me as a dark wad of a person at the bottom of the pit, or me as the hyper-elated crazy lady who's practically an orgasm of emotions.
Eventually, it will settle again, and a kind of quiet peace will take over. I think that's the best part. Sometimes I think it's worth the violent despair I have to endure to get to that point. Sometimes...
I won't medicate. Not conventionally. I have tried it, and I know it's not for me. Most of my teen years are irretrievably hidden under a fog of Lithium and Depakote and Prozac. Not only do those things fail to "heal" me, but they rob me of the beautiful euphoria that follows the dark phase. They rob me of everything, actually; of happiness and compassion and orgasms and desires and appetite for life and want for death. They leave me stale and empty, like a gutted carcass left to bloat and stink in the summer sun. They leave me malleable and compliant, willing to be or do as requested, in a vain attempt to be something. Even if it's for someone else. It isn't for me.
And so, I find my own ways to medicate, to suture, and to survive until I can climb back out of the pit, and into the dazzling spray of light waiting for me on the outside.
Today, I am outside. I feel the molecules of everything on the planet against my skin. I literally tremble with goodness and happiness and lightness, and if I don't hold onto something, I know I will fly away.
Even knowing that it won't last doesn't dull the glorious light tearing thru me right this very minute.
I am unwell. And it's beautiful.