I have waited for the longest time to read my story. I am a story. And I am a number. I am one of sixteen million Americans with one of the nine types of depression. My type is Bipolar (Manic Depressive is my preferred choice of words for it). I know that there are images that might shoot through your eyeballs right away when you hear ‘BIPOLAR’ and I’ll thank the world of social media and cinema for any of them that are ignorant and damaging. When I heard my diagnosis for the first time, I immediately pictured myself as Glenn Close in the movie ‘Fatal Attraction’ as she freakishly transforms into a rabid she-devil on steroids by the end of the flick. I was happy to learn that it was not manic depression her character (Alex) suffered from, but a form of an obsessive condition known as Clerambault’s syndrome. Still, expunging the image from my brain of the pet rabbit being boiled was not done in a day. But it’s all good now.
I’m not going to tell a sad story. I’m telling a true story. We are all made of true stories. I don’t believe any are sad or uneccesary. They may be threatening or misunderstood or poorly interpreted. But none of us are made of stories that are sad. I have always loved writing and wrote my first poem when I was nine or ten years old (I think I share it down the road). When I decided to write a book, which is now a blog, I realized that there was a reason I could become easily discouraged. In general, the audience for the subject of depression is shrinking these days. We are bombarded with enough to depress all our senses; at the very least, enough to arrest our curiousity when a writer asks “can I tell you the story of my mental illness?” I’m not a Hollywood celebrity, convicted felon, ex-professional athelete, or retired minister that turned psychotic in a public display of
|Another manic depressive?
The few times I put some words out for view from previous blog attempts, there were some thoughtful questions posed by more than one person asking me “what is your purpose?” and “who are you writing to?” I hate those questions. It’s like getting that essay assignment when the teacher says “turn in your outline for approval before you start your paper.” I never did that. I wrote the sparkling essay first, then I wrote the outline. I wonder if that would work with a blog?
That is, how do I begin? I’m thinking a great tag line or one-liner could serve as an intro;
The voice in my head soon commands useless thoughts to stop racing and get on with it so I step into action. Marching forward with what was left of my brain matter, and avoiding having to blow a snot ball, I do what any stuck, amateur, cowardice, desperate, and wannabe gifted writer would do: I google “The 50 Best First Sentences in Fiction” with the intention of using one of them to headline my project.
It worked. I picked the top five that seemed most appropriate for my theme of depression. I think it went well. I can see any one of these opening the curtain to my story.
- “Since it’s Sunday and it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll take a bouquet of roses to my grave.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Someone Has Been Disarranging These Roses)
- “Dear Anyone who finds this. Do not blame the drugs.” (Lynda Barry, Cruddy)
- “They shoot the white girl first” (Toni Morrison, Paradise)
- “I’m pretty much fucked.” (Andy Weir, The Martian)
- “I know longer care if I die, said Korin, then, after a long silence, pointed to the nearby flooded quarry: Are Those Swans?” (Laszlo Krasznahorkai)
The final five. But I can’t do it. It’s plagiarism. I’m too honest. Too afraid, actually. Back when I was in college, the professor collected research papers, threw them down the staircase, and picked up ten of them. She would thoroughly examine those ten word for word, and examine them for plagiarism. Of course I was one of the ten. I was busted for not editing a sentence and got called in for violating the ethical code of composition. They wouldn’t have been so strict but I was an English major. And my professor was Dean of the department. Jeez. I had to go to a hearing and plead the N. “N” is for :
|NEVER. NEVER AGAIN.
I’m just a FRESHMAN.
While part of me was having fun wasting creative energy on all the pointless pit stops, I was also becoming frustrated because I knew I wouldn’t get started until I had that opening and entrance. I stumbled across a nugget of gold written by Robert Frost seconds before I packed it in ~ “You’re searching, Joe, for things that don’t exist: I mean beginnings; ends and beginnings. There are no such things. There are only the middles.” I snuggled with that nugget and slept with the wisdom it imparted. I knew I’d wake with golden insight (although I’m a silver and turquoise girl, myself).
I don’t know that my story has a beginning. Doctors tell me I’ve had depression a lot longer than the 20+ years since I’ve been diagnosed. Apparently, one is predisposed (genetically) while their environment (upbringing and social development) and especially trauma – induced events exacerbates the depressive symptoms that may have been undisturbed. Injurious experiences led the way to much anguish and guilt during my young adult life, and fully blossomed in my 40’s (with the deaths of multiple family members and a failed marriage), earning the name of manic-depression.
Depression is like a flesh-eating infection, working faster at the devouring of life’s sustenance, and depositing nothing but scars as evidence of defeat.
Since my original diagnosis, supplemental features have colored the first page of my chart – too many to list here – but the dominant and most threatening one is the psychosis (I have bunches of stories about that little booger).
Had I started this blog 20 years ago, I would have been in the angry and resentful mode, mortified that I would never be returning to the life I knew before – even though it was a sour existence; angry that I couldn’t control my own fate and people that were responsible for my suffering (yes, I know how infantile that perception is now). I was resentful with the Divine Planner that I could have made my own life improvements without a tsunami hitting my landscape. (Extended grief therapy, Grievers Anonymous, Crisis Stabilization; all good programs) But I went mad. Slowly, it seems. I wasted so much (necessary) time blaming anyone and everyone that bullied or bruised me.
And then I entered the shaming passage. It was there that I was a disgusting specimen; not worthy or deserving of anyone’s love. I lived anything but an authentic life, pretending I was a solid and secure being. In reality I didn’t have enough confidence in myself and I let others build my worth. I didn’t get help when I needed it. I deserved to be sick, abandoned, soul-less. I should be dead. I think writing at that time (or attempts made) found me with a pen in one hand and a bottle of pills in another; constantly entertaining the thought of suicide to put myself and others out of misery. I’ve yet to reopen the file of written pieces from that stage of my life or ever given thought to a compilation of them.
And today. Well, I guess I would say I’m putting out effort to maintain a minimal existence without jumping off a ledge. I’d love to be full of more wisdom and stories and courage and insight, and give less of a damn about what tomorrow will bring. I’d like to stop thinking that my revolution depends on my conquering of the past that, in reality, never defined me but certainly and finally disgusted me. I didn’t like those years of my life. I understand why I didn’t. And it’s okay to say that. And then. Just move on.
Maybe if round up all the stories, give them some artistic flair and comedic relief, splat the final product out in the form of prose and bitching and dreams – maybe then that part of the revolution would be done. I’ll move to the next phase, and hopefully do it while I’m living.
|It’d be great if you joined
me in the splatting !!
Oh, what a hoot. Looks like my introduction page turned out to be a full-blown post which is likely because one of the symptoms of manic-depression is racing thoughts (and run-on sentences). Oh, and because my creative juices are constantly wanting expression. And NO, that is NOT a characteristic of ALL persons with manic-depressive. although, many great artists (includes all artistic forms) happen to be blessed with some form of mental illness.
I hope you gather some pieces of wisdom regarding the disorder and derangement of depression, and that despite the frequent damnation of life that explodes from my perceived fear and insecurities, you’ll listen up close to a soul that believes she is worthy.
The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast
you first must make it beautiful.
(An Unquiet Mind)
I may not have had the choice to welcome depression as a beast in my life. But I have accepted the need to beautify it.
Conquered or not, the life-experience of beautifying the beast is what has kept some joy alive in me. My life as artist continues to conquer the beast.