The year after I left the mental hospital is mostly erased. It’s an old manuscript that’s been underwater, pages stuck together, ink washed away, whole chapters drowned by the magic of mania. I am not intentionally vague, the memory is simply not there. I used to think it was such a waste to have been so free only to come away empty handed. Now, I thank God for the mercy of forgetting.
After I left the hospital, my mood steadily climbed. It climbed and climbed until I was on a plane to Rome, where I wandered for months in a manic haze. When I ran out of money, I fled to London, where I could stay with family friends and recover. Instead, I just rode trains all day, back and forth through the city. Like a crazy person.
My mother sent me care packages full of books, Dr.Pepper, and lithium. I read my books, drank my Dr. Pepper, swallowed my lithium, and decided to move to California.
To this day I do not know how, but I connected with a metal sculptor based in a little town outside of San Diego. He offered me room and board and my own studio space in exchange for administrative work. He was an old man with a reputable business and I was just so homesick and tired and lost.
The manic whooshing gray noise of the London trains followed me to Temecula. I worked furiously day and night, making and making and making until my mind was finally empty. I woke up at the table in my studio on a Tuesday night with wood glue and tissue paper pressed into my hands. It was clear they had been there for a while, but I was just now noticing. At first I thought the power had gone out, jarring me awake with the sudden silence. The lights were on, but there was no buzzing, no grating background static, no rushing ambient electricity pulsing in my head. Everything was just still.
I went outside and looked up. The stars were still. The moon was still. I was still.
Peace that passed all my understanding filled me up like a first breath. Still gasping, I went inside and called my father, told him I was ready to come home.