One night in high school I went out with some girlfriends. We lied to our parents about where we were going and we went to some older guy’s house to hang out. We took shots of Captain Morgan. This wasn’t too out of the ordinary for us back then. My memory of this night is blurry, but here’s what I find important: as far as I know, none of the girls I was with had any sort of mental illness (i.e., “crazy”). We separated. I forget how. It wasn’t a big deal. I remember being outdoors at a patio table with two guys and I’m pretty sure the other girls were somewhere nearby with the other guys. I think I continued drinking (more than the other girls?), but maybe not; I don’t remember. But I do remember sobbing. I do remember phone calls involving my high school “boyfriend” and his best friend who I was also seeing.. at the time. It was all ridiculously, embarrassingly dramatic. I remember them picking me up. Hysterics. Attempting to jump out of the car on I-95 and someone physically restraining me. Somehow my mother must have been called because then I remember being in the hospital.
So I invite you to make up your own opinion about what points in the night I was “free,” when I was not, and how that compares to when my girlfriends were “free” that night.
In my opinion, we were all in some stupid-but-fun high school state of rebellious freedom up until we separated. I don’t know how “crazy” I was before that, but it certainly wasn’t enough to warrant concern. At some point after we separated, I believe my insanity took over. And I just described what exactly I mean by that. So that “crazy” point, whether you consider it the sobbing, the self injurious behaviors, the hospitalization, or something else.. Was I “free” at those points? I don’t think so. So fuck you all. Fuck Jimi Hendrix and Lana Del Rey. Craziness is not freedom. Insanity is not freedom. Fuck. You. All.
Be nicer to my boyfriend.
Call my mom more.
Finish decorating my apartment.
Stay out of the hospital.
Get rid of my raggedy sleep/loungewear and replace with grown-up clothes.
Look presentable near-daily.
Eat significantly less dairy.
Increase my physical activity.
Take advantage of nice days by spending time in the sun.
Don’t deny when things are difficult; allow myself put myself first at those times.
“It is the way it is” is no longer acceptable; actively work toward improvements.
Continue to recognize that thoughts are just thoughts and that I can separate myself from them.
Actively work towards socializing more.
Actively keep in touch with friends.
I was 19 when I met my boyfriend. And, looking back, I was a completely different person. I was a sophomore in college and that September when I arrived back at school I decided to stop taking my meds. I think it was a curiosity thing. I had never consistently taken my meds, but I had also never completely stopped taking them. So I was curious what would happen. I had little to no responsibilities besides produce good grades and maintain good health, and I was morbidly indifferent toward the latter. I spent the summer before (which was dark and deep in its own way and certainly deserves its own post separate from this) hypomanic. I entered the new school year all sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I went out every weekend and drank until I puked. My favorite part was trying on different personas. Themed parties were in, and I was more than down to get into character. When there wasn’t a theme, I created my own. And every night ended with my favorite game: Who am I going to fuck tonight? (Answer: Whoever responds to my 2am-bootycall-text first).
I hit my breaking point during halloween. I was dressed as Peter Pan that night. The original plan was Tinkerbell, but I impulsively box-dyed my hair brown one day, so Peter it was. I have a very specific memory of running down the street, yelling back at my friends that they either needed to catch up or I’d meet them at the party. What a metaphor, huh? Well, anyway, that’s where my memory starts to blur and all I know is that I crashed that night. I ran straight into that spot where mania meets depression and the two enter into a violent love affair with full intentions of, quite literally, murdering me. Within a few days, I was on a train home to “rest.” I resumed taking my meds and within a week I was healthy enough to be able to convince my mother that I was healthy enough to return to school. Between you, me, and I’m sure my mother’s inner voice, I certainly was not healthy enough.. Whatever that means…
We met as a one-night stand. I was drunk and dancing in a haze of manic promiscuity. “I’m crazy.. no seriously, I’m crazy hahahah” was actually a good pick-up line for one night stands and relationships that meant next to nothing. Guys looked at me with amusement, bewilderment, and lust. I can only imagine what others thought of me. At the time, I couldn’t care less. And now, the past is the past. It turned out pretty damn well and even if it hadn’t, you can’t change the past, so whatever, right?
It’d be really cool if I had a point to this post. I don’t. Just reflecting. *shrug*
Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. I never actually said the word “bipolar” and the person I told is a person I will probably never see again, at least not in a professional setting. However, it was the closest I’ve ever been to telling anyone at all in my professional world about my mental illness. So maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but it definitely got my heart pumping. And the response was one worth noting.
It was the last 30 minutes of the last time I will see this specific person. She asked me what my major in college was and when I told her it was Psychology, she joked that, “That completely disproves my theory! I always said that all psychologists are nuts themselves because all my friends that were psych majors have so many issues of their own, but obviously you don’t.” I let out a laugh and switched the topic.
But it was brewing in me. “I HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER BUT IT’S OKAY,” I wanted to scream. Eventually I managed to get out, “Actually, I do have mental health issues.” She responded with something along the lines of, “Really? But you’re so NORMAL! You’re the last person I’d ever suspect to have that stuff. You’re so normal and put-together. I hope you didn’t take offense to what I said it was just a joke! And I really mean this all as a compliment.” I told her I receive treatment and “I’m also heavily medicated, which allows me to be the normal person you see.”
It was scary, but it felt good. Like now this one person knows that someone who looks so “put together” can also have mental illness. The two CAN go hand in hand. It’s small: one person, one very weak admission, but it’s a start, right?
Last thing worth mentioning: When I came home and told my boyfriend the story, his response surprised me. He was against me “coming out” in the workplace. He said after he told the head of HR at his company that he suffers from anxiety, he’s since felt “she can see right through me” and “is always looking out for signs that I’m not okay.” He said that even though she seemed supportive and understanding, he regrets telling her. He told me to “be careful.”
It’s always the same nonsensical cycle. You forget to take your meds, you’re out when you remember, but you feel fine so does it even matter? Nah, no big deal. I’ll take them tomorrow. Tomorrow you sleep through your alarm, have to race to get dressed and out the door. You’re in the car when you remember – shit, forgot to take my meds again today. Whatever, I’ve got more important things to worry about! That assignment your boss asked you to do last week that you still haven’t submitted, getting to the bank before it closes, paying rent, and that sale at Urban ends today! How can you worry about four little pills when you have So Much To Do? Besides, you feel fine. You wake up the next day, roll over and go back to sleep. No use checking the time, no use checking your calendar, or your oh-so-important to-do list. None of that matters. What’s the point of it all? You roll over and close your eyes with no intention of opening them again. The next time you wake up, you briefly consider getting out of bed to take your pills. But why? You feel like shit. Worthless, stupid, can’t form a complete thought. Obviously the pills aren’t working, so why bother taking them?
Why did I stop cutting? I’m in bed, feeling really shitty, with the gross crying. You know, the kind where I get a hand towel because tissues are useless against these kind of tears and my nose is all snotty. Gross. And then the panic-y breaths start coming, which freaks me out and my heart begins to palpitate, freaking me out even more.
I’m grateful this is a rare situation now. When I was little, it came every night. Every night I’d cut myself to make it stop. When I get like this, it’s still my instinct to reach for whatever sharp is close by. But I don’t. Why not? It works. Brings me relief no benzo or substance has been able to match. So, why not?
Well, for one thing it’s messy, but I’m already gross and messy, so that doesn’t count. Then there’s the annoying task of having to hide the evidence – Especially difficult now that I’m living with a significant other, but it’s certainly not impossible.
In all honesty, I don’t even think it’s a big deal. It was reason for doctors to decide to send me inpatient when I was too young to have a say, but that’s no longer a concern. So, why not?
I think hard, and I remember. I remember my mom finding bloody tissues in my garbage and crying. I remember my boyfriend finding the shallow scrapes I’d made more recently and crying. It hurts the people I love. And that, in turn, hurts me. So I don’t.
and footnote: there’s way more behind and within self-harm than the blunt version I just told. I’m just getting out my current thoughts here.