Write What You’re Trying to Figure Out

Skull Nuggets came out while I was in a down swing. I have a box of them in my closet. I haven’t thrown the party I thought I would, the drunken revelry reading with my friends. I haven’t taken them to local bookstores. I haven’t been posting on all the bookish Facebook groups I joined for that very purpose. I haven’t done any of the things I thought and even said I would. Because of depression.

Freak Night at the Slee-Z Motel is nearly finished. Two more passes and I think it’ll be ready for the editor. But now I’m on an up swing and I know that if I start on it, I won’t be able to stop. I am forcing myself not to look at it because we are leaving tomorrow for a driving vacation centered around my niece’s wedding two big southwestern states away.

This is how it goes for me and my “treatment resistant ultra-rapid cycling bipolar II”:

Every few weeks, I consider disappearing, not existing. The depression is heavy. It changes everything. I don’t think as clearly or as quickly. There are painful gaps in my memory. Even words are slow to manifest. It’s easier not to speak. Physically I am not as strong. Psychologically nothing is worth the effort. I do not believe people who tell me they want to help, that they are there for me. Who would want to let this terrible scabby funk into their life if they didn’t have to? And who would I be if I forced it upon them?

Every few weeks, I am full of energy and ideas and appalled at how disconnected from the world I have become. I reach out to people and start projects. I think my life is worthless and wasted unless I’m producing something amazing, never before seen, and perfectly crafted. If I have an ongoing project, I work obsessively, through the night, for days and weeks. I work instead of interacting with loved ones, instead of taking care of myself physically. This single pointed focus is far more comfortable than existing with the persistent nagging unharnessed energy.

Every few weeks, I return to my baseline, where I am not down or up. From there, I assess the damage, the fallout. What promises have I made and broken? What relationships have I strained? In this state, I pick up the pieces and try to recreate a sustainable pattern. I fix my sleep schedule and buy healthy foods. I begin to get a handle on things, to become a functioning, responsible adult again.

And then it starts over.

This month marks the two year anniversary of the breakdown that led to the speeding up of my cycles.

Two years of trial and error drug testing. Two years of denial and fear and hope and disappointment.

I feel relentlessly conditioned to say something positive at the end of this. To say that because I’m in the midst of a new round of psych testing, effective avenues of treatment are right around the corner. But I don’t feel that way. I don’t have that hope.

So how do I end this? Recently, my mom suggested I write a book about my experience with mental illness, and I flinched, physically tensed, at the idea. No way. The strength of my reaction surprised me, and I realize now that it was because I thought all I had to report was failure. I didn’t think I had anything worthwhile to say. I felt like I couldn’t write about the problem when I don’t have a solution. How could that help anyone?

Well, maybe it can help me. But I’m not ready to take on another book project, especially since they often aggravate my condition. So I figure I can use this forum as a place not to write about what I know, but to write about what I’m trying to figure out. Who knows, maybe it will help me. Or maybe it will help someone else.

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