How to explain how I can exist in two states, suffocating void and consuming tragedy. It seems an impossible contradiction, to feel extreme apathy and yet be on the cusp of crying at any moment. And yet here I stand, in the middle of a depression that gives me nothing and everything at the same time.
At one end of the spectrum, I feel an absence of interaction with the world. I float on by, watching with casual indifference to all I encounter. I keep my required appointments with a half hearted investment. I shuffle along, exhausted at each moment of the journey. I walk and wander through the labyrinth of underground tunnels in New York City. I bump into rushing passengers. I observe my fellow travelers on the subway for a moment too long. I look straight ahead into the window before me, the blackness outside the car allowing the glass to reflect my face back to me. A stranger stares back with an eerily stillness, eyes sunken in. I’m always struck by the sharpness of my cheekbones, razor blades cutting through each cheek.
I show up and perform in both the literal and metaphorical sense as my profession is to pretend to be someone else on screen. When I see friends in a public forum, I impersonate myself. Instead of enjoyment, I swell with irritation and impatience. Self-consciousness pushes me to try harder for I fear everyone can see my lack of control. My obligations are tiring and after they are fulfilled I retreat home. There I can lie on my sofa for hours upon hours and stare into the television. I obsessively consume food, making an activity of these small meals rotating substance, salty and then sugar. If my phone rings, I don’t answer it. If I’m invited anywhere, I don’t go. Some hide in drugs, alcohol or other vices. I waste my life with inactivity. Who can say which squandering is more destructive.
On the other end of this indifference is a rage that boils, ready at any moment to spill over. Just beneath this shell of protection is a steady stream of pain and pity. One trivial inconvenience, petty slight or poor performance can push me over the edge. In an attempt to pull myself out of my boredom and relentless introspection, I fill out an application to foster a cat through a local rescue. The kitten shows up and promptly gives my cat Sophie a parasite. I watch for a week as my pet withers away refusing to eat. She ends up in the animal hospital hooked up to IV’s. I worry but have my little sister at my side to distract and reassure me.
On the second night of her admittance, I call the hospital to check in and a vet tech is curt and brusque. She’s not eating for us. We are busy right now. In a high stress environment, I’m sure it’s easy to fall back on rudeness. But this woman has no idea how close I am to the edge. I hang up and seethe. I call back and request her name so the establishment notes my displeasure. I hang up again and welcome a wave of despair.
I lean over and brace my face with my hands, rocking back and forth as I cry. Some people experience drops of wetness that spill from their eyes during heartache. Not me, my tear ducts are dry due to my medications. Instead my grief manifests itself throughout my whole body. Torment courses through my body and bursts out in moans and screams, frantic breathing and verbal repetitions. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God, I recite. My face flushes in splotches and jolts of pressure hit the bridge of my nose and temples. My stomach tenses as I heave, gasping for oxygen.
My sister has been watching and tries to comfort. In-between howls and sobs I see the fear painted across her beautiful, porcelain face. Her voice is steady and composed but her eyes betray her. The terror at witnessing my thrashing. I feel guilty for letting her see me like this. She has never seen the manifestation of my disease, only abstract explanations.
She asks me to breathe in for four and breathe out for four. I tell her I don’t want to. It hurts but at the same time feels warm and familiar. The bottom is steady and safe, I can fall no further. It is also cathartic, the pain is active and violent, wild and freeing. I alternate between exile ration and disappointment. I had convinced myself these last few months this darkness had left my person. I had told myself my emotional life was not as ruinous as the comparative experience of others with my condition. Maybe I was misdiagnosed. Maybe I am not really bi polar after all. Maybe my reactions to the trials and tribulations of life’s stresses were normal. Uncertainties in direction and purpose certainly cause distress. But what of the magnitude and depth of mine? The volatile swings that snap between extremes?
I sit down on the floor and pull my knees into my chest. My sister runs off to get a pill. A little ball of salvation, in earlier days I used to reject in favor of torture. But now a days, a general fatigue welcomes the assistance in bringing about calm and drowsiness. I take one and continue to suffocate under the consuming tragedy. Coherent thoughts are blinded by surges of strong synaptic connections. Pain. Pity. Desperation. Destruction. Absence. Despair. Violence. Obsession. I take another one. I grow still and gaze away. I imagine the living room as a self-contained box. The air constrained and encased. Space grows static and I drift away.
I hate myself for having the luxury for such laments. For having won a genetic lottery that provides me many benefits and entitlements. I have the time and assets to lay about in depression, writing essays beguiled by the romance of melancholy.
What a waste of such privilege.