What makes me happy

I’ve lived one day longer than I should have already lived. I should be dead. Actually, technically, I shouldn’t be dead. I thought I would be dead, but I only took enough pills for a severe overdose and not a lethal one ending in fatality. Nevertheless, death has been on my radar since I almost didn’t die. Even then, I wasn’t trying to kill myself. The drugs simply stopped working after a few, so I kept taking more until the good feelings were rolling again.

The good feelings never rolled. If you’re going to overdose, you want to go for fatality, and not recovery, let me tell you. Recovery is not fun because 1. you’re still alive, 2. you are alive and sober, and 3. you are alive, sober and now traumatized by the bad trip. Reality is a lot less fun when you’re not high on amphetamines all the damn time. The silver lining to almost not-dying is that now I have something to talk about, which is death from a totally non-suicidal perspective. 

I’ve also had a number of outstanding good times since death failed to take me. Probably due to mania. It still counts. It’s like life knew how badly I needed the drugs to get me through and gave me mania instead as a safer, more socially-acceptable form of happiness (if we ignore stigma).

Or the drugs have permanently addled my brains.

Seeing as I naturally cycle and the trauma from the last-ever drug binge I had subsists, I gravitate from time to time back to the topic of death, wanting it, wishing I had died, and feeling as if there is still so much more life to have, when I’m not feeling as if life is far too long as it is. I’m not exactly sure I don’t simply wish I had the drugs back. The drugs were at least a plausible explanation for my erratic behavior and an out-of-this world imagination. Life was easier when all I had to be was a junkie. Now I have to do things like “accept responsibility” and “manage my symptoms.” On the side, I philosophize. About death. Mostly wondering why it is I didn’t go that night. Why it is I’m still here. In the broadest sense: what are humans doing here?

There is no answer to that question. I’ll save you the trouble now. There is no answer. Almost every satisfactory answer I’ve come up with ends in a collective mass suicide, which we don’t see happening. The only reason the human race has survived this long is because nobody has been able to answer the question of what it is exactly we are doing here. This is good. Not having an answer to the purpose of human existence ensures our survival, for reasons I haven’t worked out. Nonetheless, humans are designed to survive, which makes death the most terrifying prospect we face in our lives. We are built to survive. Death flies in the face of instinct.

Yet, why be terrified of something that only happens to you once?

I’m not always so accepting of death. I have my bets on heart failure. The mania will kill me, if I don’t accidentally off myself in an extreme case of dissociation. I recently went through a bout of suicidal urges without the capacity to follow through. Between making a suicidal plan I would then have to carry out, and carefully notating my observations, I took the latter course. With somewhat insane rationality, I decided I hadn’t yet finished the work I’m doing. I still had questions. There was still data I wanted to collect. All for posterity. Had I picked up the DSM in that moment and read through the diagnostic criteria for “mania,” particularly the “grandiose” and “elevated self-esteem” parts, I might have decided to off myself after all.

For some strange reason, when I hit my 30s, I started using my birthday as a marker for my death. I thought I would for sure die as someone who is 30 years old. When that didn’t happen, I thought I would for sure die as someone who is 31 years old. As I approach my 32nd birthday, I’ve allowed for a margin of error, and I’m convinced that, like Jesus, I will die when I am 33 years old. Rather than thinking about how I’m another year older, I can’t help but think this is the year I die. 

It hasn’t happened yet.

I look back at my life and wonder what it is I’ve accomplished that makes me feel so prepared to die. The answer is absolutely nothing. Had I done more with myself, I might be a little more scared to let go of the life I’ve built. As it is I’ve built nothing, there is less for me to leave behind. I’m attached to nothing and I have no hope of ever building anything that might make me want to cling to my life harder. I suppose it is easier for someone with nothing to lose to not fear death. And yet, I’d rather have nothing to lose than to have everything and spend my entire life fearing the day I lose it all. The meaninglessness of life reaches levels of absurdity in comic proportions once you’ve lived long enough.

It is best to leave nothing finished when you die. Death ceases all action, puts an end to all things. Life itself is the event and death the denouement. Anything you can do tomorrow can be done now. In all things, we are taught and trained and indoctrinated and distracted to not be afraid of dying, when all of life leads us towards this one objective, a single certainty in the midst of chaotic life. For some, the thought is overwhelming and frustrating. For others, it inspires a vigorous resistance to make something new out of the ashes of chaos, from nothing, in a continual process of renewal. To restart, always, from zero with no promises of tomorrow or of completion. 

Life is meaningless, but so is most of what we watch on television. It serves its purpose as entertainment. It passes the time. If this is true, then why go on with evidence to the contrary? Because melancholy is fashionable. Because living life with death always on the next horizon frees you from typical, altogether boring life burdens. It is best if death is not something for which we can ever prepare. Death is the punchline to life’s greatest joke: we live to die.

A certain sense of endlessness persists in manic depression. One cycle follows another. Nothing makes me long for death more than at the height of a manic episode when I’m sure I will never come down long enough to take a breath. Mania keeps me close to death: the tightness in my chest, the shooting pains, the numb and tingling arms all feel as if I might be having a heart attack at that very moment, and I’m not entirely convinced one day I won’t with enough caffeine. At the same time, the excitement that comes with mania makes me never want to die.

I’m afraid that having a philosophy freeing one from the fear of physical death doesn’t guarantee one a fearless existence. A psychic death awaits anyone who has died too many times a symbolic and metaphorical death, who has been immersed in death and its scene far too many times for too long. It is a psychic death.

“Someone died, and I think it was me.” I wrote those words. I spent a good amount of time wandering the earth, searching for evidence I am still alive. The breeze and cold air remind me of this thing called alive. The first few times you die metaphorically are a real bitch. Then you get used to the experience and start finding ways to examine it more closely. I look forward to the metaphysical process of dying now. It’s been 41 days since the last time I died. Symbolically. Metaphorically. Metaphysically. 

The good news is that as long as I keep dying, symbolically, and returning to life, metaphorically, it means I haven’t yet reached a psychic death, or crossed over the borders of insanity yet. When I die psychically, I’ve reached insanity, and that, more than a physical death, is what scares me. I figure a physical death is always there as a back up plan to ensure a psychic death never happens. In this way, I see death more welcoming than most, because the possibility of living in a vegetative state is closer in reality for me than for most people. All the Normies out there. A psychic death for me is also a “creative” death (I’m loathe to use the word) and a “creative” death for me is more painful than a physical death. 

“I die so frequently and regularly…” I also wrote those words. I can’t finish the sentence, though, because I’ve forgotten what I wrote after them, and I destroyed my diary out of spite and in a fit of paranoia. Those words were written by someone who was no longer phased by the experience of metaphorically dying, and this is the problem with living. We get to a point where nothing phases us anymore. We become disillusioned and disenchanted by the entire charade. Don’t get me wrong, existentially dying on a frequent basis is a horrible feeling, but underneath all of that, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, experienced multiple times. It is a real pleasure experiencing your own death. Sometimes I experience life as if someone else has died as well. Just the other day I was combing my hair in the bathroom, talking to myself and wondering who in the world has died now? It’s not me. I’m not dead today. But I recognized the feeling.

A few days later I was dead. Internally. Psychically. I was rather proud of being dead and having had put down the razor, as a matter of fact. A real proud dead moment for me. It’s odd, because the experience of feeling dead makes you want to stay dead, and not want to kill yourself at all. I suppose it’s a rather sick and twisted urge that makes me want to pull the feeling apart more, to stay alive a little longer to figure out why it is I feel dead, want to be dead, and yet don’t want to actually kill myself. If I wind up dead someday, it should probably be ruled “accidental,” unless there is a tableaux of sorts, in which case, I probably had everything to do with it.

I should tread more carefully around suicide. I haven’t tried, and in all probability won’t try, killing myself, and therefore, it is not at the experiential core of my writing. I simply experience the tendencies and understand what it is like to live inside a “closed world,” though mine is writing and madness. I find refuge in either one, depending on how I feel at the moment. I suppose I should throw in the closed world of “love” as well, but this is perhaps the sickest part of my life, and I’ve no desire to expel any of the secrets here that I possess. My closed world of love can be summed up like so: I am in a fake relationship with someone who doesn’t know I exist. This fake relationship is the reason my diary doesn’t exist anymore, actually. So if you need new and creative ways for destroying yourself, I have a few suggestions. When I said fucked, “in the mind” isn’t what I meant.

At any rate, I don’t live in the closed world of suicide, with all signs pointing me towards killing myself. All signs point to my inevitable and ever-approaching insanity. Otherwise, when they’re more favorable, all signs point to me continuing to write for the rest of however long it will be that I am here.

So I die, repeatedly. Experientially and also, experimentally, because what the fuck else would I do with my time here on earth than practicing my own death? When I for real die, I hope to be in the middle of a poem or reading a book, and if I’m reading, I hope the book stirs up some controversy when I’m gone. So that the last thing people think about me is what the hell was she doing reading that? 

And this is how I live. In terms of what it will be like when I die. My notebooks should be fun to go through. I leave cryptic paper trails for the hell of it, just in case. If anyone wants to exhume me, all they have to do is pore through thousands and thousands of pages, and let’s face it, most people don’t have that kind of stamina. Their show is about to come on TV. The reality is also that the majority of people don’t know that I read, and if they do, they aren’t aware of how much. I either like to read or have deep interpersonal issues. Whichever.

Honestly, I wish I cared more.

As it is, the best way to talk about the experience of what it feels like to experience your own death is to pull a page or two from my own diary, written more recently than I prefer. Obviously, I’m still upset about the fake argument I had with my fake paramour and regret over destroying my diary is coming back to bite me in the ass, which is exactly what he can kiss right now.

What I love about the diary entry, said manic me, is that I am talking about the state of feeling dead, and the title of the entry itself is What Makes Me Happy. Of course, what I meant isn’t that I am happy feeling dead. I am happy about the way writing brings me back to life. Metaphorically speaking, lest some psychiatrist or another wants to paste a symptomatic label on me.

The entry does need some slight context: I hear voices. One of those voices is my beloved, A. And that is how the entry begins, with him (one day I will have a hyperlink to all of these terrific backstories):

“You’re so melancholic,” A said to me, while I was writing.

Yeah, la duh. Most people who get sick don’t spend their time poeticizing it or laughing about it. Obviously something is wrong, Sherlock.

Also, I’m not wearing a bra or pants, and this is the secret to writing goodly. It’s amazing when you write something so good you have to steal it back from yourself later.

Sick? Yes. Grandiose? Always. Bipolar isn’t half bad, arrogant prick that I am. I lvoe how physical illness doesn’t make the grandeur of my life fade. I want to be a real poet one day. Like a real one. Like “work hard” and get there, kind of one. 

I want to write a real poem because that means I’ve gotten this disease far enough away from me that I can think about someone or something other than myself for once. I have my head up my own ass. All the time. Real poets sit down and think about universal things and what things mean to the world at large, and I sit down and just me comes out. Just me. That’s it. It’s an entirely selfish mode of life. Completely selfish, and at times, banal.

But I write and I write and I write. Will I ever think about someone or something other than myself? I’m a malingerer. To myself.

The thing about universal experiences is that you have to have a universal experience and I don’t have a universal experience. I’m an anomaly. I thought up until a few months ago I was pretty normal and had relatively normal experiences, even including the voices. Every book reiterates how every episode of mania and depression will become harder and harder to recover from and the brain will atrophy more and more after each one.

I feel like I should have liver spots already or something. I feel really really old today. Really old. Feelings check: old, haggard, decrepit, deteriorating, rotting, embalmed, decaying. Just a bag of decaying, flesh-rattling bones. I feel gross and old and dying right now. Not alive. Like if I eat, it’s just going to fall right through the bottom, and therefore, no point. Like not even any sustenance in food. Barely hanging on by a thread.

Crusty, musty, and smell. I even showered too. I feel dirty, and unclean, and yucky.

I told this kid today, “You are so cute,” and she goes, “I know that.” I need that confidence. I guess I will go waste away in peace then. I’m like 97 years old today. No wisdom. Just folly.

My sad, sad life. I’m melancholic, so it’s romantic to me right now, dying as I am. I’d rather death take me before old age, though.

I’ve been in and out of consciousness for a few weeks. I woke up drugged, and told myself get out of your head, Jackie. It’s all in your head. So when I got to work, my co-worker was all:

“Are you okay, Jackie? You look confused.” I’m glad someone else said it.

I feel confused. Then there was a blackout at work, which ironically snapped me back into consciousness, rather than out. I’m sort of drifting. Like I want to cry, but I smile instead, and a voice says, See? It’s not that bad. Faker.

Then I laugh because it’s not that bad. I think I like the depression. I think I am one of those people who is fascinated by the fire and everything burning down around them. Rather than walking past someone thinking I hope you die, too, I think My world is also burning. Isn’t it pretty?

I’m dying, but you know, it’s fine. It’s an experience. I’m enjoying the ride. It’s not so bad. I am dying. Everything hurts, but that’s ok, you know?

I’m just getting pummeled by the bipolar again. Michael Myers reminds me of bipolar. Always coming for you, never dying. Never ever dying. Doesn’t even take a hit. Can’t hurt him. He’s evil, immortalized. Invincible. Feels nothing. It is just this thing, this force that comes over and over and over again. If I usually drive, I’m the passenger right now and I’m looking out the dead window like Ok, well, the views are all right, I guess. Lots of decay and new things to notice. The leaves are really bright.

The other day, when I was detached at work (I don’t’ think it was dissociating because I wasn’t “watching” myself, just felt drugged), I did take sleeping pills, but the drugged feeling didn’t wear off, and the voices were like

Doggypaddle. Which means “don’t panic.” Cycle through it. It will pass. Just go slow, doggypaddle. Nobody is drowning, and then you know it broke. Or I did, I don’t know.

It’s rare to know you are dying (metaphorically) in the moment. Self-awareness and insight can be elusive. During the time of writing this entry, I wasn’t yet aware of being in the midst of a death cycle. Clinically, it’s also known as “derealization” and “depersonalization.” But it’s more fun to think about it in literary terms, though, as a symbolic death. It’s remarkable how much this entry doesn’t capture about the feeling. How much you want to walk in front of a car to check if you’re actually in a real body. 

I also really hate conclusions and have nothing further to add to any of these thoughts, feelings, transgressions, accusations, and what have you. It is a portrait of a troubled psyche. I have no more answers in this life than death will give me, and if there is any reason to keep living, it is this: 

There are no answers.

Modus Operandi

I have always wanted to go to Hogwarts. Not the lookalike castle at Universal Studios in Florida. The real deal. As it is, my letter never came, sadly. None of this has anything to do with why I am not strictly a Harry Potter fan.

Because I’m not. A Harry Potter fan, that is. I don’t fangirl over Draco Malfoy in dirty dreams the way I might fall for Peeta in The Hunger Games. I don’t spend my spare time practicing the accio spell to bring the TV remote closer to myself (I should, though). I’ve never hung a Harry Potter poster in my room, though Divergent has had its place. I have, however, spent a fair share of my life trying to figure out how to use my time more productively the way Hermione uses a Time Turner to get the most out of the Hogwarts curriculum.

The first time I remember reading a Harry Potter book, I was in the fourth grade. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh books didn’t even exist yet. The girl next to me was reading the same book, The Chamber of Secrets. All I wanted in that moment during Silent Reading, was to read faster than her. Nevermind the fact that I hadn’t even read the first book yet. All I know is that I’m reading and apples are disappearing out of a magical cabinet. I don’t understand the rules of reading yet, let alone the rules of magic. The only thing I knew was that I had to finish this book before the girl next to me finished her book.

The point is I’ve never been a diehard Harry Potter fan. I’ve only read the books once. I watch the movies religiously. I won’t tell you what the Death Eater scenes do to me. I’ve had to pause the films to finish a spell, if you know what I mean. I know for a fact that if I were sorted into a house, I’d be Gryffindor. What I do love are books. Period. People get so excited to learn this fact when Christmas arrives. Because I love books, and Harry Potter is a franchise, they automatically assume that I must love Harry Potter. As a result, I’ve gotten chocolate frogs and wands and Hedwig Funko dolls and all kinds of Harry Potter paraphernalia. My daughter, bless her heart, accidentally broke Harry’s wand on the one Funko doll of him I had. I can’t even explain why I was upset. I should have thanked her. She was one. I think I was just upset that Hedwig no longer had a partner. Now all I had was a damn owl that didn’t make sense without Harry.

I don’t have any excuse for these people.

It’s remarkable how often I deny being a Harry Potter fan and how often my mind is programmed to the Harry Potter channel. JK Rowling has become a part of the cultural collective consciousness. Even I cannot escape her. I frequently hear voices, not unlike Harry Potter hearing the basilisk talking to him throughout The Chamber of Secrets. I was going through a rough patch at the time, and what do the voices tell me?

“Find your Patronus, Jackie.” That’s it. Depression reminds me very much of the description of Dementors sucking the happiness right out of you.

“Find your Patronus.” As it happens, I had no idea what my Patronus would look like. At first, I was hoping for something like a very sexy, handsome man come to save me. That is a Patronus I’d like to see again and again. Dirty dreams, like situations of peril, seem to require some sort of Patronus to get the job done. 

Apparently the Patronus seems to be an animal, I thought more seriously and was thinking perhaps I’d have a fox. Foxes seem slick enough to get themselves out of any problem. I thought I might like to have a fox as a Patronus.

Since I’m not experienced in this area of divining what Patronus would come to me once I wave my wand, I took a test. I got an owl. Talk about anticlimactic. Can an owl spot prey from hundreds of feet in the air and scoop them up for dinner in a heartbeat?

Yes, yes they can. I don’t want an owl, though. I wanted to be something a little more, I don’t know, fearsome and predatory. An owl is not scary.

One time I spent all of the money I saved from doing chores to buy a book at the Scholastic Book Fair. It was all I had in the world, a whopping $20 or so. I bought one of the Harry Potter books, not knowing what else I should spend my money on. Well, it turns out my mother decided to become “born again” right around the time I bought the book. One day our family was Catholic, and the next day I woke up, and we were Christians. She found me reading Harry Potter on the floor one day. I had been highlighting “important” passages and copying them down into a notebook. My mother, Umbridge that she was, declared there was to be no witchcraft in the house. I’m not sure she realized the books were a part of the “fantasy” genre. And so she took my book. She threw my book, and my $20, into the garbage.

Just like that. It was probably a first edition, now I shall never know. She threw out a fortune in the name of Jesus Christ. It has been 20 years and I still have a grudge against her for this act of treachery. It was Fahrenheit 451 come to life.

For the same reason, I was forced to read Breaking Dawn in a single night under the covers, as if being under the covers would prevent anyone who walked into my room at 2am from seeing what I was doing. It is also why, when my mother had a doctor’s appointment, I logged on the Internet via Wii, to watch a pirated version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Thank God for video cameras in movie theaters. A lost art, truly. My parents password, as luck would have it, was 1111.  I simply went into the settings to change the year to 1983 so that my activity wouldn’t be logged for the same day in 2000 and something.

This was before Parents knew where the Settings were.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Vampires, witches, and wizards were contraband in our house. One did what she had to. How I got the password is a short story in and of itself. I had a convenient red digital camera that was set to record when I asked them to log me on. It took several attempts before I had the angle just right.

One does what she has to.

It’s remarkable how often my life coincides with the Harry Potter phenomenon-menon. Not too long ago, I went through a particular rite of passage granted to those on the verge of 30 years of age. In other words, I hit a midlife crisis. And Hagrid showed up. Twenty years late. On my doorstep. No warning. Uninvited. 

“What the hell are you doing here?” (His name isn’t Hagrid, and he doesn’t actually like being outside, and I‘m 99.9% positive he wants nothing to do with beasts of any kind. Also: he hates September for some ungodly reason.)

Like a vision, he tells me: “You’re a writer, Jackie.” And I’m like:

“I’m a wh-what?” For the next twelve months, he slipped me polyjuice potions, until I could no longer even tell who or what I was. I was sort of hoping he’d walk me into a vault with some kind of fortune the parents I never knew left behind for me.

No such luck. He came bearing the news that I was a writer, and I knew immediately I had to go out and squander any semblance of talent whatsoever.

So here I am writing this post, while Hagrid side-eyes me from a corner, begging me to take a prophylactic before I go too far.

How to Not Die

If you’re looking for a new way to torture an enemy or someone you know, you might consider social deprivation. A new study has investigated the results of social deprivation in a group of monkeys, and the results are not optimistic.

Say goodbye to self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and independence. Humans are programmed to operate best when in the company of other humans. I suppose this is good news for anyone who is already in a codependent relationship. You’re ahead of the rest of us.

No matter what your feelings are, humans remain social animals. You cannot avoid it. Socialization is a requirement, it is not a suggestion, unless you want to die sooner than everybody else. You can thank Dean Ornish. He reviewed the literature on the relationship between social isolation and human mortality, and he found that you will die three to five times sooner than the average person from all causes if you continue to live out a life in isolation.

When Thoreau said he was off to live a life in solitude to “front only the essential facts of life,” he failed to mention how close his neighbors lived (about a mile distant), and how liberally he dined and socialized with them. By no means did he actually carry out his life in any semblance of true solitude. Thoreau is a romantic hero, an emblem of idealism no real human could ever hope to emulate.

Not only are you more likely to die from lack of social contact, but Gary Kraemer has found several other adverse effects of living alone he has termed isolation syndrome. Seeing as we have evolved from monkeys, it makes sense that he has used monkeys for the basis of his experiment. He found monkeys raised alone exhibited far from typical monkey behavior. For one thing, they failed to engage in reciprocal interactions with other monkeys. 

In between savage attacks, they’re unable to find a mate or provide any sort of mammalian affection for their young. The monkeys reared in isolation were also prone to fighting to the death. If you don’t die from isolation, you are going to die from someone who has lived in isolation. In no scenario do you win.

However, violence towards other monkeys isn’t enough. The monkeys in isolation also had a brutal tendency to bite off their own arms, bang their head against the wall, and gouge out their eyes.  The conclusion: without external guidance on behavior from other humans, you will self-destruct. Premature death awaits you.

There’s also an easy solution to avoiding inevitable death: simply find a human you like and attach yourself. Try to avoid scratching, clawing, or otherwise poking out their eyes, and I’d say you’re off to an auspicious start to a life of near immortality.

Whatever you do, avoid isolation at all costs.

You’re All F*cked Up!

Bipolar is no joke, yet there is nothing in the world that makes me laugh more than my own rapid-cycling existence.

Yes, I’m a rapid cycler. One of those. Like a bread machine with a setting to cut the time of making bread in half, only I never come out fully done. There’s a spectrum even for bipolar and I fall on the more extreme end of all things. Not only do I cycle fast, I have mixed cycles within a single day, and as if that isn’t bad enough, the real cherry on the cake is that I also get to cycle seasonally. It’s like pulling off a really cool trick you have no control over.

When I’m not out of my mind, I’m having an out of body experience where I get to watch the entirety of my whole sad condition play out as if I am both the ringmaster and lion in a circus under a big striped tent. Every cycle makes me feel like a ragdoll thrown into a washing machine.

Boom boom doosh doosh boom

Beeeeeep

You’re all fucked up now! Of course I don’t get the satisfaction of having any real bruises or broken bones show up at the end. It leaves me with a vague sense of not really knowing what has just happened to me.

Even now as I type this out, I can’t stop laughing. This morning I woke up in tears. I didn’t wake up and then begin crying. I woke up already crying. Talk about escalating quickly. Life’s too short to live the same day twice, if you ask me. Screw that, what am I talking about? Life’s too short to carry a single emotion from one hour to the next.

One of my biggest preoccupations at the moment is what is stability? What is bipolar? You’d think I’d be something of an expert on the topic. As it is, I was handed a diagnosis neatly labeled and putting me into a categorization I hadn’t even known existed. Here I thought we all cycled at some point or another. I didn’t notice stability had been absent from my life, until someone told me it is absent from my life. So I’m not really sure how to talk about “being” bipolar yet. I’m still absorbing the part where I am different on some astronomical level.

Intelligence is lethal for bipolar. When it became clear the feds weren’t going to show up and bust down my door, I started concocting more elaborate scenarios to explain what is called an “impending sense of doom.” Mind you, I had experienced this emotion in the months leading up to the pandemic, but nobody likes a know-it-all. Otherwise admirable traits such as a “bottomless imagination” only work against me. Going to the grocery store to buy some milk could turn into an episode of espionage at any given moment. I’ve had one such manic episode before.

People think depression means you’re not able to leave your bed. The only reason I stay in bed are in the rare moments I can’t block out all of the voices in my head, which, as it also turns out, is not a normal human feature. Supposedly. What is normal? Maybe it’s normal to hear voices, and it’s not normal to only hear yourself all day long. When I’m depressed, I want to do the most dangerous, absolutely destructive things I can come up with. I might cliff jump today, go on an adrenaline trip, see if I can’t jolt some feeling back into my body.

Depression also means you’re supposed to lose interest in your favorite activities. I simply find a way to poison my favorite activities. Instead of losing interest in reading, I pick the most abhorrent books available to me about sociopathy and murder, stuff to leave me with nightmares because I have an incredibly high impulse for inflicting as much damage on myself as possible. My psyche is nowhere near as scarred as it could be. 

I guess there’s also rumors or these stigma things that people who are bipolar are dangerous. I’m about as dangerous as a teddy bear. I engage in as much air pollution and tree-cutting and global warming as the rest of the world. I recycle, though. I don’t have any human connections. I’m highly introverted and prefer isolation to a hermetic degree, probably to keep everyone else safe. However, it doesn’t change the inner feeling I get when I find out people are jealous, of all things, jealous they don’t get the “bursts of energy” that come with mania. I do not wield a super power.

Mania is exhausting. When I experience mania for more than a few days at a time, exacerbated by sunny days and at its worst in the summer, it feels like walking through a desert without any water. You are just waiting for the rain to come. It’s like a long day at the beach. When you get in the car, you have sand in places you didn’t even know existed. There’s a gritty, metallic taste in your mouth. You smell like lake water and there’s gross algae in your hair. All you want to do is shower, wash the whole day off of you and start over. Finally coming down from a manic streak is like finally getting that shower or drink of water you so desperately need. There’s a tangible release from your body. You’re left with muscle aches and a sore body because you’ve been tense the whole time. Since you can’t keep the mania from happening, all you can do is let it keep you on your toes. It’s a balancing act to not lose even more control than you already feel you’ve lost. It’s very easy to slip outside of yourself when you’re manic. Like a cat chasing a laser on the wall, only you’re too aware to want to watch yourself look that stupid.

Any direction is good if you don’t know where you’re going is not advice for someone who is manic. They’re already lost on a map they drew for themselves.

Let me tell you something. There are rabbit holes in the world, and we all fall down them at one point. My entire life is a rabbit hole. Very rarely do I suffer from any lack of energy whatsoever. The difference with mania is that your energy is not being focused on the task at hand. I have to use most of my energy to direct my impulses before I even focus on what task I am doing, which hopefully, is a task I should be doing, and I haven’t completely found myself lost in Wonderland yet wondering what way to go. Granted, coming from a recovering addiction, the euphoria that sometimes accompanies mania is like seeing an old friend. But it’s a false high. I can reach the same levels of optimism, bliss, and euphoria from writing a good poem on a lucid day.

Have you ever gone to church on a day you didn’t want to be in church? You start to get antsy towards the end of the sermon, right before the closing prayer, and you’re already halfway off the chair, ready to bolt the minute you hear “Amen.” Most of bipolar is dealing with that feeling of always being on the edge of your seat, prepared to jump ship at any moment. It’s rarely smooth sailing. You might make it to harbor, or you might get shipwrecked. If it’s my life, there might be a siren not too far away deliberately trying to lure you to your death. (He’s really a very cute siren, though.)

Impulsive spending is another feature. Bipolar opens a lot of gaps in your reasoning. For example, whenever I get this urge, I prepare for the Apocalypse. I buy things the house needs, like soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, and hair products. If I don’t buy what I want, I can justify the spending. What I can’t do is change the fact that this urge to be productive, to leave the house, to feel prepared won’t go away until I act on the impulse. It’s primal instinct, really. Even squirrels store nuts for a winter day, you know?

Speaking of instincts, I forget to eat. Something about mania overrides the body’s natural functions, like sending out hunger cues. Not eating in and of itself leads to physical symptoms everyone experiences. Like maybe you want to pass out. Or you can barely walk. You feel nauseous and dizzy and your legs and arms shake. Sometimes this happens anyways. For some reason, mania takes away physical strength and coordination. Not only is my walking unsteady, but I can’t carry as many plates at work. Usually I can stack a few plates on my arm, they’re heavy, but if I am manic, I lose the ability. I might go to put a dish into the tub and miss. The plate falls and breaks. Typically I don’t do these things. I might push a door that needs to be pulled. 

Apparently bipolar is called a “burden” I get to carry that nobody else does, even though we’re all expected to function at the same level. Well, I’m functioning. At least Sisyphus got to push the boulder. Personally, I see being bipolar as the punchline to my life. For right now. I suppose the next time I sit down to write about bipolar, I’ll be somewhere along the “suicidal ideation” end of the spectrum.

I might not, though. It just depends on my mood.

Seeds of Sobriety

Since penning this initial diary entry, I’ve been clean for 451 days. I turned from a life of drugs to one of writing, funneling an addiction into more socially acceptable avenues.

The first few months of sobriety is a far cry from the excitement and euphoria of all-night ragers on speed drugs. Looking back, there is a certain beauty in the mundanity, of doing nothing at all, except merely existing, and finding happiness.

Diary Entry

May 2021

The trees in our backyard have finally started to grow back. It’s nice to see some life coming back around here. I’ve been languishing inside for too long.

Even some of the grass seed I planted in the fall is starting to grow. A lot of work goes into a house and this is the first one where I’ve lived. So everything is sort of trial-and-error, like so much of life.

The front yard is much smaller and I didn’t put down any seed. I’m starting to regret that. Our neighbors have some of the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. I’m jealous.

I’m also on Day 10 of the “Practice More, Suck Less” challenge. I’m practicing sobriety. Aren’t we all?

It’s going great. I ran out of deodorant this morning. At least I can’t blame it on the drugs anymore. I spent $12 on more. That’s outrageous. Don’t we want to encourage more people to wear this stuff?

3:17am

Diary Entry

October 2020

I can’t sleep. I go outside. I see Mars. Who do I want to tell? Only one person, but it’s fucking three in the morning. I’m like, I can’t do that. He’s going to wonder what I am doing outside at three in the morning. That would be weird. Then I am like, Oh my God. He is going to guess that I am smoking a cigarette. Because that is what I am always doing. Always. 24 hours a day. My whole family smoked. Died from unrelated causes. So I am like, my God, I don’t want him to know this. Why don’t I want him to know this? 

Man, now I can’t tell him I’ve seen Mars.

Sex in America

Diary Entry

Sex addiction is a thing I guess. Yes, someone out there is telling everyone else that too much sex or sex under the wrong conditions is wrong. Unbelievable. Most people aren’t having enough if you ask me. I googled it. 1.2 times a week. I don’t know how you have .2 sex, maybe that’s a quickie or something, but once a week. 

Sad.

I’m sober by the way. *sips apple juice box*

Kill Me with Your Sexy

Diary Entry 

I know I should be mad at you, but I can’t prove it, so here we are again. Love. I hate you. That fucking face.

He is always in the back of my mind. Or on the forefront, depending on where I put him for the day. I am sure this is weird, an atypical experience, but this is my life, almost two years in the making. I have tried dumping him, I have tried. Whenever I’m done, a little voice in my head: why do you want to destroy a good thing?

Good point, voice in my head. Good point. I don’t, actually. Shall we keep going?

I am stuck with him. It occupies my thoughts from sun up to sun down without boredom in between. Obsessive, maybe. Has anyone else been here before? I don’t know. I have never in my life. Most bizarre phenomenon of my entire life. 

I do the nastiest things in my head with him. I’ll be reading and “doze off.” Then, for some godless reason, I’m interrupted, and I am just like Excuse me, I was about to finish.

I remember the first time I saw him. Cute and kind. That was the word. Of all things. Kind. Him. Biggest asshole I know. Kindest man on Earth. He is the one who says “ass” rhymes with “glass,” no matter what, and did you know? “Fart” rhymes with heart,” every time. Most useless writing advice ever. I want to throw him away sometimes. Worst editor in my life. Doesn’t have the guts to be mean. We are completely different, like night and day, which prevents us from massacring each other. 

Could I write this without him? No. 

It took me like three weeks to decide if he was even cute. I had a debate in my head. What if he’s shorter than me? No. What if he’s taller? That’s okay. Is he cute? I don’t know yet, let me analyze this. Cute at first. It graduated. It went in gradations. The first time I saw him write a non-essential clause, it went to whoa, you’re fucking hot. 

One day he went on and on about the origin and “correct” meaning of some Latin phrase from the Dead Poet’s Society. Etymologize on my face. Kill me with your sexy. 

Am I wearing a bra? Also, no. 

Psychological Chamber of Torture

Weird shit happens to me all the time. Trouble doesn’t just find me, it seeks me out. Murphy’s law governs my life. But if anything goes wrong, it all goes wrong when I’m in front of my computer or phone.

I have a longstanding vendetta with technology. It started approximately two years ago. I’m not one of those people standing on a soapbox preaching we need to unplug and return to nature. I’m no saint. In fact, I’m rather jealous of the general population who seems to be able to browse and social media without an agonizing amount of anxiety approaching them every time. I’m on the verge of buying a VHS player, it’s gotten that bad. For all intents and purposes, I avoid having to do anything online, including brief and informal research. It always comes at a great personal cost, and today I paid.

Yesterday I was in such a dream state while writing that it piqued my curiosity later. I wondered if there was a connection between the state of mind I was in and self-hypnosis. Knowing the history I have with technology, I told myself to not look anything up until it was daylight out, otherwise I’d get scared. I still had a little trepidation about looking up “self-hypnosis” that I did the search while I was on hold on the phone. It was a big mistake. I started crying immediately. Turns out, I don’t think I was on hold at all, and the poor man probably heard the whole thing and assumed I was crying because I couldn’t get a refund back.

Here’s what happened. Here is what always happens to me, and the timing is crucial. Yesterday I wrote the line, not a very rare one, “If seeing is believing, then…” I would venture to say that that line is universally recognized. So I look up “self-hypnosis” and go straight to Wikipedia like any normal 21st century researcher, and right there in front of my face, a quote by some James Braid: “If seeing is believing, then feeling is the very truth.” That’s when I started crying. Synchronous coincidences. 

It happens all the time! It’s a psychological chamber of torture for me without any way to escape the questions without answers.

When I was done getting angry about the conspiracy being plotted against me, I decided to do some research on this James Braid guy, who has been dead since 1865. Of course, since everything is online, I couldn’t find anything. I checked the library catalog, and nothing. It’s remarkable how often the library never has what I’m looking for. I thought about going up to the college campus to be thorough, but I thought I better not push my luck today, what with the internet being broken and whatever.

Wikipedia, the source of information these days, says he’s a surgeon. I thought what in the world is a surgeon doing with hypnosis and trances? There’s a perfectly logical and adequate explanation, turns out. I figured he’d be more into bones and anatomy or something. I went to the library anyways to find an old fashioned encyclopedia to look this guy up. He’s also described as a “gentleman scientist.” First of all, I don’t even know what that means.

I went to my new library. I got kicked out of the Metropolitan Library System because my license changed to a Chicago zipcode. It’s not very big. I found a huge sign with REFERENCE BOOKS above a few shelves that were all empty (totally a conspiracy at this point). I walk along the wall past a dictionary opened to “Mine” and found all the encyclopedias. By “all,” I mean there were a few about Catholicism, the Great American Expansion, and Illinois. Who reads this crap? Anyways, there was nothing to help me. 

I risked going back to my old library, the one that discarded me and my library card on the curb, and checked out their reference section. Even sadder. A book on prescription and nonprescription drugs, one of the new DSM manuals, and a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I realized that, due to the internet, nobody is probably really printing encyclopedias anymore. I just needed one printed after 1850, and I’d be golden. No such luck.

I ran a few more searches. The Chicago library had nothing on self-hypnosis. The second library did. I found the self-hypnosis books between Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and Why You’re Not Married Yet. I pulled out the Idiot’s Guide first. Lo and behold! There is a section in the back telling you to check out all the pioneers in the field of hypnosis, and James Braid is one of the first. In fact, he coined the term. I was so relieved this guy was real for one thing. I summoned all my courage and went into the next book. Nothing. A self-help self-hypnosis book with a section for notes and accompanied by a CD with symbiotic messages included.

I opened up a third book, checked the bibliography. Not very impressive. No James Braid. For someone who coined the term, you’d think he’d be included. On the bright side, they were print sources, always a plus because when I opened the last book, the source she gave for James Braid was the very Wikipedia entry I had already read. However, she gave a pretty decent history, even though the Wikipedia entry is completely different (thanks, editors!). The very logical reason James Braid was into hypnosis was that he used it as an anesthetic for his patients. Calling James Braid a “surgeon” sort of reminded me of Stu from The Hangover when he tells everyone he’s a doctor, but he’s really just a dentist. That’s what Braid did. Extractions and root canals. Another source said differently. Who is this guy?

Without going back online, I cannot find anything else out about this guy, unless I do a WorldCat search, and the vendetta I have with technology extends very far back. I have a dicey browsing history, at best. I still can’t explain why these things happen to me. I found nothing that is actually helpful. Not even the books with “self-help” on the spine. I did find out that Freud cried at his first hypnosis presentation because he was convinced this was a breakthrough and major turning point in science. Then again, Freud thought a lot of things we know now that are just wrong. Plain and simple.

At the very least, James Braid is real and today, we communed. I communed with a dead guy. 

Worst Roommate Ever

There is no boyfriend application. There is no way to screen the men we let into our lives without breaking a few laws. Dating will always be a “you live and you learn” experience. In retrospect, it looks like living with a complete stranger who may or may not murder me at any moment would have been the safer alternative than moving in with a boyfriend without a contractual agreement. Tenancy laws don’t apply to relationships. The only upside to a landlord-tenant relationship is that there is a due legal process. No such recourse exists for two people living with each other, out of economic necessity or love, whichever applies.

I did the smart thing by waiting to get to know the person I was dating before we decided to move in together. He paid his half of the bills, I did all the cooking and cleaning. I paid my half of the bills, and he worked. It was a team effort. I will never forget the butterflies he gave me when he told me he liked the way I folded his shirts, that he could never do work as good as me. I had a gift. Surprisingly, it was not money that ended our non-nuptial bliss. He paid me back every cent I let him borrow. He kept leaving town without telling me. Forget an invitation, I didn’t even know he was gone. Of course, we were not married, so I had no right to know his whereabouts. His half of the bills, afterall, were paid.

Worst roommate ever.

Seeing as the waiting period with the first one didn’t work out, I thought I’d try something a little different with the next applicant and skip the screening period altogether. It just so happened that his lease was expiring and I just so happened to already have my own place I could barely afford to keep paying. It didn’t make any sense fiscally to both pay for rent neither of us could realistically afford on our own. Of course, back then I was only paying half of what I pay now. You never know how good you got it. It also just so happened that my lease expired in six months, and I thought this would be a great trial period.

It worked like a dream. It didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of putting his name on anything if things went south. I divided everything up, and he handed me the money at the end of every month. This changed. I made the mistake of putting his name on the lease with mine, and what I didn’t have to allow before, I now had to learn how to live with. Somewhere in between and much too soon, he proposed, we had a baby, and five years after sharing our first apartment, we moved into the house on Kenton. The place still haunts me.

Here is where I make the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t sign. For anything. We’re about to get married. I’ll gain my rights that way. No big deal. I hand him trust. I am about to give him my name, so I just pass all the finances over to him in the same breath because why not? He has no record to speak of. He had no bank account when I met him, no credit report, no car, and he was living in someone’s basement,  but somehow in my twisted little mind, I thought that this is how things were supposed to go. What I did was hand him the keys to my kingdom, and he usurped me. 

To this day I still don’t know how this conniving bastard managed to play me for the long con (mind you, he cooked for me), but what I do know is that he was by far, by a mile, the worst roommate I’ve ever had in my entire life. I shall tell you why.

We purchased our little fiefdom a few months before the Great Pandemic of 2020 for practical reasons: easy commute, good school districts, resaleability. Alas! We were not nestled into a corner of the kingdom with snug banners encouraging us to stay home and be safe, an irony to be sure. No, we and all the people on the south side of Chicago were in full lockdown mode, not a rare occurrence for us, what with Cook County penitentiary and escaping inmates nearby. (More benign reasons include a simple shortage in staff.) The pandemic contributed to extending this saga long past its expiration date. We were, in every sense of the word, locked down together, almost never to part. Everything happened very slowly, gradually, like cooking a frog that doesn’t yet know it’s being boiled.

For reasons I shall not explain, the wedding was called off. We found ourselves in limbo, but the pandemic proved to be a worthy enough distraction, and it all started off very smoothly. Up until that point, the castle had been mine, and only mine, during daylight hours. He crept up on me. I had spent most of the spring cleaning, as people are wont to do, and throwing away shit he still doesn’t realize is missing. He did his thing and I was doing mine, his figuring out how to work from home and me trying to figure out how to be unemployed for the first time in my life. By summer, I had won the bedroom, he took my office, where I wrote and used to do teacherish things, and we slept peacefully apart for several months. He slept on the couch. It was working out just fine. We probably could have gone on like that forever. We didn’t though.

One night we had an epic battle. By “epic,” I mean he broke my nail. He didn’t chip my nail. He didn’t break off the acrylic. He broke the whole damn thing. He pushed me, I pushed him back, and we tussled. He took my phone and my keys, so I broke down his door. Plus, he got blood, my blood, on the wall I had just finished doing touch-ups to. It took me months to pick out the precise shade of gray I wanted. I had even done the painting myself, and I thought this is no way to treat a lady. Our feelings out of the way, we were now having it out over some territory. For months, he refused to let me paint the wall in what was now my bedroom. I had to be proactive. I bought some crayons that wrote like lipstick and I scribbled all over the walls. Finally, he gave in and let me paint the wall so as to cover the mess I had made. Talk about the writing on the wall. But I was fooled. It wasn’t to be my bedroom for much longer. I had left for a short time, and when I came back, he had painted over my entire wall with a new color as if I had never even been there. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him so motivated to finish a project.

Meanwhile, we went on, avoiding fights by avoiding each other. It was working out well, here and there. If we so much as looked at each other, all hell would break loose. He’d say something like “What the hell are you looking at?” and I’d say something like “Why don’t you want to marry me,” and he’d counter with “There you go bringing up the past again.” We were merciless. He managed to avoid me most of the time by simply locking me out of the house. Whenever I wasn’t around, he’d grab my keys off the wall, take off the house key, send me on my way, and I’d come home to yet another door locked in my face. I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to kick a tenant out. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that I was a tenant. We never had a talk about what we were after the wedding was called off. I figured it was probably none of my business. He yelled at me a good while for not paying him rent. I only found out later he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and where some of my money went, I could never tell you. What is no longer a mystery is how he managed to open up two more credit cards during a pandemic. I now see clearly where funds must have been transferred.

This wasn’t nearly as grand as the furniture war. He had an obsession with moving things after I had deliberately moved them somewhere. If I had the table centered under the light, he’d push it up against the wall. If I had made a play area behind the couch for our kid, he moved it against the wall. If I put the bed somewhere we could all get some feng shui, he pushed it up against the wall. One time he even pushed me up against the wall. By that point, I already knew better than to call the useless city cops. Believe me, I tried. He was aggressive over the barest matters, too. I bought a bag of potato chips and we had yet another epic battle about what food could and could not be brought into his house.

To be fair, it was his house, as the police so kindly reminded me each time they, like him, threw me out of there. Even though that’s where I lived. He was also smarter than he looked. I woke up one night to him standing over me. I had slept in his bed while he was out partying for the night and locked the door behind me, not that this did any good. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about. I wake up, and he’s standing over me with a Mike’s Black Cherry in his hand (it was not even 9am yet). What is he doing in the room when I’m not even dressed? He did this to me all the time. He would just walk in while I was taking a shower or doing my make-up. This roommate had no sense of personal boundaries. He was always in my face, locking me out, or on this occasion, he very literally threw me outside at 9am.

I don’t wear pajamas to sleep.

I called the cops that time. They asked me what he was wearing. I told them what he was wearing. When he walked outside, he was wearing something different. He is no stranger to the police. Of course, I’m the hysterical one; I wasn’t wearing anything. The police kindly offered to call me an ambulance, not because I was bleeding. They told me I had to leave. To pack up my shit and leave. I did this under the eye of a sleazy ass officer. I had no idea there is no due legal process where I live. After all of this goes down, I do what any sane person does. I call the one person you can always count on to be there for you when you need him.

I called my dad. Mistake number three coming up. After the wedding is called off, after we have been in physical fights, after he lights my credit report on fire, after I step down from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, after locking me out, throwing me out, after moving all my furniture, after every microagression he throws at me, my dad says:

“I think you need to work on your relationship.”

Personally speaking, I don’t feel like I should be forced to date a roommate, but here I was, considering that I was perhaps in the wrong after all. If you wouldn’t break down a door to get back your phone and your keys, then you wouldn’t understand.

I will never have another roommate again.