A week ago I turned 44. I have lived 4 years into my 4th decade. This is no small feat since Bipolar Disorder often makes it hard to survive life. 41 was the worst tour since 30 and 31. I have to say that I am grateful that the last three birthdays have been nothing to write home about medically, all the while having been amazing celebrations of me by those who barely knew me at 42 and an outpouring of offerings by people from as far back as 1997 whose lives I have impacted in some way, at 44. I will share pictures on my author page after I have compiled all the beautiful letters and artwork. Bae did a piece of art for each offering that was submitted and has made pages of art of all the memories and love notes people sent in. She said this book is for when the depression demons roll in and refuse to let go. This will be my Sunshine Fund for those dark days. That I will reach in here and pull out something and there it will be: a memory, a message, a poem, urging me to wrest free of the grasping tentacles and not heed the call of the diseased mind which tells me all manner of untruths.
In all this positive light and love, I have also, over the last four months, had the most intense of my mania since 30. Although my mania manifests in many forms, from random sexual encounters to visions of grandeur and road rage like none I have seen before, it mostly portends the eventual empty bank account, overdrawn accounts, and maxed out credit cards that have led to credit repair programs on numerous occasions and a bankruptcy on public record. These four months thankfully has been mostly road rage and Amazon going neck to neck. I hate to add up everything I have bought on a whim. I have rearranged and redecorated twice over and have had a frenzied selling spree on Marketplace. Thankfully I live in the U.S. and everything can be returned, even those items for which I had no receipts. That has been my saving grace. Over the 15-plus years since diagnosis, I have managed to steer clear of law enforcement or legal troubles but some seasons I come so close that I can see how my fellow sufferers sometimes fall into some of these situations which I’m sure serves to simply further compound the illness’ effects on their lives, not to say much about the stigma and shame that this elicits. I pause to remember those whose lives have been tragically lost because their families were ill equipped to handle their mania or depression and called the cops. I pause to remember those who lost their fight with the disease.
Why do I start my first post of the year this way? I have been watching my mania play out, dragging me this way and that with no end in sight. I finally said to Bae after making the largest of the purchases, please don’t let me buy anything else without sleeping on it first. I am fiercely independent and until now thought I could do it alone but I have been proven wrong, especially this tour. With age comes some maturity and wisdom, and I am seeing that if I am to survive this illness and maintain a semi-balanced financially independent and healthy life, I must ask for help and not simply succumb to the ravages of the illness. In building the bones of our relationship Bae and I have been completely bare and honest with each other, I dare say, 99.999 percent of the time. However, the illness pushed me to hide the mania very strategically and until recently, deflect whenever questions around financial stability came up. I can’t hide anymore because hiding makes the illness something to be ashamed of and it plays into the stigma narrative and I am an advocate so I must come clean.
Tonight, as I journaled with my more long-time of friends, I thought about not only the years of mania since diagnosis but also the years I’ve been putting pen to paper and how this very act has saved me in those near death moments. I got my first journal officially at 16 but I had been writing several years before then, mostly in notebooks and such and hiding it so it wouldn’t be found. When I found good friends who would listen, they became repositories. SO much was going on in my head and now it all makes sense because the illness starts to blossom around late high school early college. I did not know at the time, and sometimes I wonder if anyone else did. Bubbly af at one moment and moody af then depressed and ready to die all presented within a matter of months. Often the bubbly could be commanded to appear almost instantaneously, after which I would retreat to my dorm bed and cry uncontrollably or journal furiously. High school (boarding school) was a rough time for me. I think it is rough for most adolescents but more so for those who are dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. To everyone, I was just a major drama queen because the largesse of my emotional bandwidth was not something they had experienced, nor did they have any tolerance for. I made friends as fast and furious as I took in anxious breaths, and I professed my love to girl friends who would eventually get jealous of each other and band together against me thus making me a pariah.
Not the best time to reminisce about these terrible twos as I like to call them but I think upon these times today because it is the anniversary of the death of a former lover, and my current lover called me wife material last night. Talk about a breath of emotion. I think I am doing reasonably well holding the two in the same head and not combusting. The pain of such tragic loss, though 8 years old, and the euphoria that comes from hearing your lover wishes to put a ring on it, must all exist in this diseased brain. Tonight, I am holding them both and if I might say so, I am doing it beautifully through the one medium that I know how to do well.
Tonight I am also holding my current and final lover’s message that I give some attention to my book. The memory of the memoir haunts me 9 years since my MFA. At first I wanted to say publication wasn’t a race, but now I see that it was my way of staying afraid of the demons in the book that would haunt my waking moments whenever I began to write or edit. I haven’t touched the book since the pandemic began and Bar wanted to know why? Why not? What was I waiting for? How many more conferences and residencies did I need to attend to be told, it was good and I just needed to write it already! She wanted answers and I didn’t have them so I sat still tonight and journaled. I can do it! I know I can. All this manic energy can be put to good use instead of fattening Amazon’s owners’ coffers. Me tum ay3! So here is my clarion call: do the damned thing!