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.

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.