Depression is an old friend. I have built my life around its coming and going. I am rarely surprised by its arrival and I have systems in place for when it stays too long or pushes too hard. Depression slows me down, gnaws at my hope for any good to happen in life ever again. Depression, in a sort of quiet, almost tender way, tells me my death would be welcome relief. We discuss it at length.
Mania drops like an anvil from the sky. It has no schedule, no rhythm. It sings it’s siren song and dashes me upon it’s rocks. It empties my bank account and fills up my notebooks. It swerves the minivan and sets tarantulas on my writing desk. It steals my sleep and my friends. It convinces me that I should run my throat along the rusty edge of the metal roof and pins me down with it’s shiny black beak.
Mania has crushed me more than once, but even so, I wave the red flag in front of the hypomanic bull, begging it to chase me so that I will finally write fearlessly, satisfy all the extroverted requirements of my world effortlessly, give generously, impress everyone, and clean out all the closets.
That magic is real. That magic is why we don’t take our medicine. That magic is why normal brained people claim to be jealous and rattle off the list of famous artists, writers, poets with whom I share a diagnosis. That thrill seems harmless, helpful even, until you find out just how many of those magical people stuck their heads in ovens, shoved a gun in their mouth, poured poison down their throats or drowned themselves. The hypomanic magic gives way to the unrelenting, terrorizing force of mania and lives explode into a million irreconcilable pieces.
It feels easy to write about my back injury and all the ways it disappoints and inconveniences me. It feels acceptable to be on the prayer list at church every Sunday since the fire shot down my leg, to let them read my name out loud and ask for my healing. The scar on my back and the leg that drags give me permission to ask for help. My MRIs and hospital bands and stacks and stacks of medical bills make the pain real and accessible to the world. Physical pain is universal. Everyone has a spine, has accidents that break bones, pull tendons, misalign ribs, crush intervertebral discs. There is no shame in breaking your back.
But this is not the disease that will kill me.