It always surprises me when I have this thought. It has happened more than once over the last 13 years. It didn’t happen once after my first hospitalization but it has flitted through my mind on more than one occasion since my second admission. It happens when there is too much noise in my head. I’m not sure how to describe the sound. It’s a buzzing, a white sound. It is the roar of a Nor’Easter in January with 50 mph winds. The rumble of the freight train used to describe an impending tornado. The babble of a thousand voices running together, not one loud enough to discern the words. The noise makes it impossible for me to have a complete thought, if I can think at all. It is the only thing I hear. A Roaring inside my head. My cognizance will soon be gone. I don’t think about how to get out of bed or appointments I will miss. Calls and e-mails go unreturned. All my contacts are ghosted. Mail will start piling up and eventually I will put it somewhere out of sight, until it is completely forgotten about. I can’t remember to comb my hair, never mind pay the power bill. I begin to feel overwhelmed and inadequate. I begin to feel that I am letting my loved ones down. Eventually, my perception and intuition will fail me and I will be defenseless. I am easily offended. For now, I will question the motives of EVERYONE I speak to and some that I don’t. I will look for deception in every word and nuance. I will keep my eyes open for any weapon you may use against me, I am vulnerable and that makes me paranoid. I am constantly scanning my surroundings for the exits. I will ruminate possible scenarios and outcomes of situations for hours. There is danger everywhere. I remain constantly aware. It’s exhausting.
Many times, it accompanies a tingling in my body that resembles the feeling of too much caffeine or not enough sleep. Maybe it’s both… I get itches that I can’t scratch. It seems they are under the skin. I have scratched myself until I bled on more than one occasion, sometimes in my sleep. All this comes with a tiredness of mind that no sleep can refresh. It brings irritability and a lack of patience. I feel compelled to move. I will pace and, alternately, sit on the couch and rocking forward and back, before getting up to do some chore. I begin to feel unconnected to my husband and in my other relationships. I begin to have nightmares; some I will remember and many I will not. I will wake knowing that something is bad somewhere. Something is not okay. Maybe I’ve done something, maybe somebody has done something to me that I don’t know about yet. I will lash out and can become combative if others get too close physically or attempt to suggest I do something that will “make me feel better”. Those suggestions run the gamut from calling the doctor to taking a nap to taking a bath. I never find them helpful and they always make me angry. I will snap, “I’m fine, why do you always treat me like a crazy person? Why don’t YOU go take YOUR meds!! I’m not a child!” I become aggressive and will snap at anyone, anywhere for any slight. Real or imagined. I’m not sure how I still show my face in this county, I am ashamed of my behavior but must go on so I hold my head high, looking over others, the same way I always have. I will smile as I pass you in the aisle at the grocery store even though I know you saw me raging so bad I was spitting last week at the drug store.
It takes a special kind of strength to be mentally ill and survive. It takes a special kind of strength to survive abuse, whether inflicted on you by strangers or by those who claim to love you. Whether it happens in the dark of night or the light of day, at home behind closed doors or in a public place. Whether it is a well-hidden secret or one everyone knows about but refuses to notice. Maybe it is public knowledge and strangers feel they can bring it up whenever they want because somehow, they feel they know you, through the news or social media. To know you have acted in ways that are shameful to you is only a problem when you are well, otherwise you were in the right and it doesn’t seem to matter. You are indignant if anyone claims you are in the wrong. It is when you are well that you must be your strongest. To apologize and try to explain. You can try to explain what you have gone through. but there are no words. How do you explain that there was nothing? Just nothing..in you. I’m sorry now…I didn’t know what I was doing…I don’t describe myself as sick- I am not sick. Like, what? What kind of sick? Like cancer? Heart-disease? If I eat right, I’ll be okay?My mind won’t betray me? My body? The flu? It is very disconcerting for your mind to turn on you. It felt that the WORLD fell on me. I broke. I got shattered. Turned to dust. I will be well and learn to balance myself. To watch for the signs. I will get up. Bi- Polar will not be a terminal illness for me. We WILL co-exist, if not in perfect harmony, then with an uneasy partnership.
I know what it means when I start thinking I should go to the hospital. It means I need to rest and by rest, I mean be alone. The appeal of the hospital to me is NOT the massive doses of anti-psychotics they will numb me with or the puzzles with missing pieces in the rec room. It is the lack of responsibility. It is that I won’t have to talk about anything that matters and that the most I may have to focus on is a coloring page. I crave the order and the quiet. No one makes me eat when I am not hungry or wash my hair when I don’t care. Who wants to take a shower with someone watching to make sure you don’t eat the damn soap? That’s desperation, suicide by .75oz. shampoo….From a hospital bed, I can’t see the pile of dishes in the sink and the dog is not whining to go out. It is a letting go, a giving in. It is no judgement and no sideways looks. I would much rather say, “Hey honey- I need some quiet time so I’m going for a drive, I’ll be back in a week…Love you…” That would sound too much like a vacation and then others would want to ride along, which would defeat the purpose. So instead I will stock the freezer with frozen foods and the refrigerator with sandwich meat and milk. I will stock the cabinets with mac and cheese and rice mixes. I will buy plenty of spaghetti and canned sauce and put the least amount of effort in cooking while I put music on my earbuds or stream the same reruns I always do, finding their repetitive drones comforting. I will lay on the couch for 3 days, with my husband right beside me. I’m going to tell my granddaughter she can’t come over for a bit and apologize to my son about the short notice. I will take the increased doses of anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines my Psychiatric NP. lovingly prescribes me, for the time required for me to “level” out. When I feel better, when I begin to think again, I will slowly cut back on my doses until I am, once again, “stable”. But for now, I’m going to wear my pajamas and sleep whenever I want, IF I want. I’m going to hope it is warm enough to go outside, even if just to sit on the step. I am going to tell everyone around me to figure it out themselves and if I say it loud enough, they will. They are getting used to this by now. I’m sorry they have to, but it is the way it is. Everybody makes concessions to the Bi-Polar- and I share my strength back with them when I am well and they need to take a rest.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9