A bad thing happened in October and I’m not ready to write about it yet, but people who have been paying attention will notice that right about the time that I really went off the deep end. (Well, this time around, anyway.)
I have pared my daily life down to the most basic the most and essential life functions because SURVIVAL. I just need to get by. Do my job. Take care of my kid. Sleep. The other stuff will either wait or it won’t get done or it will get frustrated and scream for attention. As the latter has occurred more than once, I’ve been dolling out quite a few explanations and apologies lately:
“I’m sorry, I’m doing the best I can.”
“It isn’t that I don’t want to do X, I just haven’t had the time/energy/attention span.”
“Give me time. Please. I’ll get better. I’m doing the best I can.”
This Button Poetry video showed up in my Facebook feed. In it, Sabrina Benaim eloquent and powerfully explains to her mother what depression looks and feels like from the inside. Thank you for those stirring words and images, Ms. Benaim. As I’m sure you could tell from the reactions in the audience, you accurately voiced the feelings of many.
From to her explanation of depression as miniscule and managable one day, then as massive and brutalizing as a bear the next, to her characterization of anxiety as an unwelcome party guest — Sabrina brings it home. After watching that video, I felt like giving her a slow clap.
Because, you see, my happiness is also a high fever that will ultimately break. That is what mania is. So when someone says to me, “I just don’t know if I really believe that you actually have bipolar disorder — I’ve never really seen you be manic.” What am I supposed to say? Observe: My illness is not so much roller-coaster as it is pendulum, swinging from side to side, and so we shall go from the light side to the dark, and while you will certainly recognize the dark days for what they truly are, you will mistake the light days for health and wellness because you don’t see that I am actually sailing into the Sun. Proof? Really, you need evidence? Ok, here you go, flip through these snapshots of me over the past ten years — I like to call it the “Watch Sarah Gain and Lose and Gain 100 Pounds” Show.
If I’m not proving I’m sick, I’m defending my right to self-care: “You know, I feel like our relationship has been really one-sided lately.” You’re right. It has. Because even though I love you and I care about you as a person, right now my head is one big snarly black mess of fluff and lint, and I can’t seem to keep arbitrary things like dates, appointments, or birthdays straight. I love you, but I don’t want to go out –because I don’t want to have fun when having fun just isn’t fun anymore. I just want to sleep and make sure that there is enough energy left in my reserves to properly take care of my child because if anyone is going to be short-changed it sure as shit isn’t going to be her. It might have to be you. I’m sorry. I love you. I am doing my best. Can you hang on until it gets better? If you can’t that’s okay! Here: have an out: You can hang on until it gets better or you can plead self-preservation in your own right and leave for a while. I won’t be upset. I wouldn’t blame you. You wouldn’t be the first.
I feel like explaining my depression is something like what my non-heteronormative friends tell me about coming out: it isn’t a one-time traumatic release. “Oh thank God, I got that off my chest!” Nope! It’s over, and over, and over, and over. And each time, depending on who I’m “coming out” to, a host of new fears come to the party: will this effect my job? My reputation? Will I lose her as a friend, a colleague? Have I said too much? Is she still going to like me, respect me, want to be around me? Have I frightened her? Overwhelmed her? Will she now turn tail and run?
After a certain point, this whole blog became a calculated risk — people that I know in REAL LIFE read this and will now know me differently! Even if they never bring it up, they have seen behind the mask. My entire adult life I have heard comments like, “You have anxiety? Well, I never would have guessed!” or “You carry yourself with such poise. I had no idea you suffered from depression the way you do.” I am letting that go up in smoke, because I’m willfully telling you: Yes, I am a mess. Yes, I have these disorders. No more compartmentalization and no more hiding. Even if I didn’t know it at the time of inception, that was the mission behind starting the Real Sarah C Project.
But here’s the thing — I fooled you.
For a little while, at least, I fooled you, and now perhaps you will sit back and wonder how many other people in your life are functioning with some form of mental illness — 1 in 5 adults, according to this study — so chances are you know someone. You might even be that someone. And when you consider the masses of individuals coming out and embracing their own non-nueronormativity and fighting to dismantle the systemic stigmatization surrounding mental illness and other disorders, it is plain to see: we are just not as isolated, as powerless, or as dysfunctional as our faulty wiring would have us believe. Perhaps some days, it’s all we can do just to function and to survive, but every so often, we’ll shine.