Every time the depression wells back up and takes me, I feel like a failure. This time it took me by surprise in a new way because it didn’t start with sadness, it started with success. Yes, I’ve been tremendously busy, but I’ve been on top of it all – managing my appointments, my schedule, showing up on time, in the places I’m meant to be, and feeling good. I’ve been feeling in control of myself, nigh invincible, as I have taken on more and more, chasing that glorious moment of triumph.
Something you should know about me: As long as I’ve had something that needs improvement, I have had something to prove.
This time, my descent started with an up-tick. It started with the slow, steady ascent of a wooden coaster, as the click, click, click ushers you ever onward and upward toward the peak before it surrenders you unto the nothingness, allowing you to fall.
But this time it would seem the problem is not really the depression, but the mania. The mania (and the anxiety and the paranoia), which previously only lasted for a few hours or perhaps a day at the most, has become recurring.
I can’t think. I can’t write. I am distracted by the tiniest of things. Glitter, stuck to my sweat-dampened skin. Moira, exploring my work area. The feel of the air in the room, how oppressively warm it is with the sliding glass door closed and the humidity inching upward each moment as the sun heats the moisture on the pavement outside. The creeping vines of anxiety as each of these press inward on my consciousness, the feeling starting in my ankles, moving inexorably upwards toward my chest, immobilizing me and robbing me of my words, setting a spark to my fight or flight response. It suddenly occurs to me that I can either sit here self-immolating, or I can get up and start pacing, picking, cleaning, starting with a lint-roller all over my body to get rid of that god-damned glitter because FUCK GLITTER. WHO LET THAT SHIT INTO MY HOUSE?!
The depression which has punctuated these last few stretches of anxious upheaval has been an almost welcome reprieve. As I have mentioned before, the contrast between the two states is, I imagine, like being catapulted from a tub of hot water into cold, and back and forth — not unlike what Inigo experienced when Fezzik forcibly removed him from his state of drunkenness in the Princess Bride.
It’s in those awful moments I want to do truly terrible things to myself. Still. Even with all the treatment, the therapy, the medications, everything, all the improvements I’ve made, all the distance I’ve covered in the last few years, when I feel the control begin to slip away from me, the urge to harm myself screams back into focus with alarming alacrity. I just know, with deep, chilling certainty, that one simple act of self-harm would immediately, easily end the uneasy, frenetic scratching in my skull – the pain would calm me, my stomach would settle, and I would finally feel better.
My heart wouldn’t be fluttering any longer, and my thoughts wouldn’t be racing. My mind wouldn’t be festering with words and stories that refuse to coagulate into coherent stories worthy of telling. I could sit and enjoy my family’s company, my daughter’s play, my husband’s touch, or the simple miracle of a quiet house.
I don’t typically feel that my mental illness is particularly disabling, or that it makes me especially ill. In fact, as a colleague and I were discussing the other day, we take particular pains to obscure our mental “peculiarities” as much as possible, lest the rumor mill start a’ pumpin’. But this? I hate this. This makes me feel as though I suffer from true madness. I am provoked, then, to spit out the proverbial poison – to remove it from my person as if by force (thus, The Real Sarah C Project was born). Well, now that I think about it, it actually was by force! These 800 words took me two very painful weeks of writing, bitching to trusted friend about not being able to write, trying and failing to write other things, and then trying again.
Reader, the thing that I really want you to know is that I feel like a terrible mess. And despite feeling like a terrible mess, in these last few weeks, I have still felt very much myself – on top of my game, good at my job, able, and confident. I’m not sure precisely what that means in the long run, but in the spirit of keepin’ it real, I just wanted you to know: you can still keep it together while you’re falling apart.