Down In A Hole
Preface: The following account is a factual diary of October 18, 2017. It is meant to remove the stigma of mental illness and co-occurring disorders as well as to open up healthy dialogue about these subjects. This is my heart and soul presented in print.
“Emily, why does being awake hurt so much?” I asked my nine-year old Daschund as I awoke from a night of poor sleep that I had fought like an infant to not wake up from. I rolled over and felt grime and dirt rub against my unshaven legs. Somehow I had managed to pull the sheets from the corner and was lying on my even dirtier mattress cover. Wow. So this is what 36 feels like? It is a reliving of 3, 6, 12, 15-years old... Time to wake up, after all it is only noon. The familiar, foreboding knot in my gut that has lived there since I have known memories working overtime as an anxious alarm clock.
Born an addict and a stout candidate for Bipolar II Disorder, I have lived in tumult,chaos, passion, and deeply-ingrained resistance all of my collective life (and who knows how many past incarnations?). In the present moment I am wilting in a season of great wither. Lifeless, directionless, messy. My outsides are finally catching up to my insides. This particular bout started almost a year ago. A steady, yet slow decline.
Seasons of mental illness manifest in much longer time frames than seasons of weather. I would liken them to the lifespan of a human versus the lifespan of a dog. This shit goes on forever. And then one day, as mysteriously as it appears, it disappears and ushers in a summer-like incarnation of sanity. The subtlest of transitions. ALL. MY. LIFE.
"Down In A Hole"
“Down in a hole and I don't know if I can be saved
See my heart I decorate it like a grave
Oh, you don't understand who they thought I was supposed to be
Look at me now I'm a man who won't let himself be …
Down in a hole, feeling so small Down in a hole, losing my soul
Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, out of control
I'd like to fly But my wings have been so denied”
– “Down In A Hole” written by Jerry Cantrell, performed by Alice In Chains, lived by Layne Staley (deceased lead singer)
The most perplexing contradiction of my identity is that when I am functioning, I function in a very productive, Type-A, charismatic, and creative way. When the light is emanating from me, I believe it is a candle that holds heat for so many. My heart opens, my eyes shine, and I strive to be of service to others.
Ohhh...but this morning the light is dimmed and I am fighting to see the brightness of the day splayed on my lavender walls and reflected from the chipped crystals of my grandmother's old chandelier. I squint and put my feet to the floor. "Fuck this," I think.
Perhaps the only benchmark Bipolar moment is the fact that I am documenting this day as it is and has happened. Usually my turn around is six months removed from the pain. I am making a concerted effort to drop the facade of this being mentally imbalanced for periods of time. By now I know that it is not an anomaly. The lithium is real. And so are the moments of self-awareness and acceptance and healing. Those occasions are interspersed with the insanity. Tenderizing lessons of humility and an unfogged mirror and the notion that this has to be OK. Not “it is what it is.” It just IS. It is OK. It is not “all in my head” and yet the effects remain largely in my head.
Bipolar II and Addiction are co-occurring disorders. The laymen way of saying it is that they go together like salt and pepper. Little mental illness complements. I was marked from birth and both sides of my family have lovingly and genetically passed these gifts through our family tree. I am the latest incarnate of the gifts of my inheritance. And I vow to not pass them on myself. If I ever endure motherhood, it will be vicariously or by adoption. Motherhood is a latent and quiet dream and one that I tend to not nurture often. These episodes are real and they affect my life in a litany of ways.
To be down in a hole is a serious quandary. I assure you that chemical imbalance is not a fabrication or good excuse for me to become allergic to showering, brushing my teeth, and eating kale. The glorious anticipation of another rebirth in the sun, the dirt that lodges under my nails as I climb out of the poorly- dug pit, and the inner knowing that I will rise again are enough to let me end this day with a quiet wisp of gratitude. To be down in a hole does not mean to be down forever.