November was a victory. Three months into therapy and I had finally decided I would stay among the living. I mapped out the winter, made resolutions, got excited.
And despite the fact that it almost kills me every year, I survived December in good spirits. Even with the three herniated discs crushing my sciatic nerve, making it impossible to stand up, hold my children, or use a toilet, I survived. I took good care of myself. I slept, I ate perfectly, I followed all the orders.
And though January stung, with all the plans dashed, I marched on. I had the surgery. There were complications, and the promises of returning to normal faded with my New Year’s resolutions. But even then, I was still certain I would be okay. I was impressed with myself, my resilience, my resolve.
I limped along, around and around the block. I ordered a lightweight stroller to replace the trail running double monstrosity that likely got me into my lumbar mess, and I soaked in sun. I slept and I ate. I boiled the bone broth and poured collagen into everything. I kept my journal and I inked my pens. I prayed. I practiced receiving help. I spoke gently to my children and listened long to my husband, as long as I could.
It was almost February when things began to crack. It started with dreams. Big, seemingly profound, possibly prophetic dreams that got me up out of bed to record every detail. Then there was the thrill of pages flowing right out of my fingers like water from the tap. My therapist smiled so kindly as I pulled six notebooks from my bag and pieced together the story of my grand epiphany, scrawled across spreads in each one. She listened all the way to the end, and even read back parts she thought were especially interesting before she handed me the slip of paper with the names and numbers of psychiatrists I needed to see immediately.
“I’m just hypomanic,” I said, “This is good! I’m finally figuring it all out. I don’t want to be free -from- Bipolar. I want to be free within it!” I sang so confident and so convincingly that she let me go. I came back the next week, decidedly not free.
She asked me to go to the hospital, to the ER. I refused and went to the mall. I pushed the stroller round and round for hours, fed my children waffle fries and lemonade. My husband tracked us down after my therapist called him, warned him not to leave me alone. The girls and I were choosing new dinner plates at Dillard’s, singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” with mouths full of peanut butter cups. Everyone was so proud of me, the children for my fantastic, sugar filled ideas, the grown ups for my thoughtful use of emergency gift cards and the removal of myself and children from traffic. It’s those flashes of “Let’s see how many red lights we can run!” that’ll getcha. The mall is better. The fact that I could still see that is why Bryan did not take me immediately to the hospital, but chose to stay with me, and return with me to the mall three more times that week, a sort of controlled burn.
I have Bipolar Disorder. This is not news. I always think it’s news. I always think it’s going to be so scandalous to announce, as if it isn’t the thing this blog is based upon. I think that telling anyone I am sick will be disappointing, will discredit any ounce of wisdom and wellness I may ever have, undo any bit of the good I’ve done. As if this is a disease tamed by diligence and strong moral character. It does not matter how perfectly I eat, how long I sleep, how meticulously I curate my media consumption, sometimes, I just get sick. Really sick.
Right now I am really sick.
Sick enough to sit with psychiatrists for hours. Sick enough to choose anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers.
Sick enough to say I can’t do my job without a tremendous amount of help.
Sick enough to say it out loud.