mad hatter aliceI never knew when I was a little girl that I would grow up to be mad. Mad – like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. I always thought I would be Alice.

But that is not what happened. I am not Alice, though I do wear cute dresses, love the color blue, and, from time to time, wear a headband.

I am mad.

They call it bipolar disorder. I’m type I which means I experience mania – this incredible sense of invincibility, this high, this feeling that the rules of the universe don’t apply to me. It starts out good but eventually the sun is too bright and the breeze is too seductive. It means I swing into depressions, holes without bottoms, a smothering darkness. It takes too much energy to move my lips to speak, too much to change my clothes, too much to get out of bed.

I have had hallucinations – rats scurrying around, bugs telling me to kill myself, fur growing on my feet, my boyfriend’s hands made of sawdust. No, I am not schizophrenic, I am bipolar. People with bipolar disorder often experience hallucinations. Did you know that? I didn’t. I do now.

I have been hospitalized 3 times. They take you in when you are “a danger to yourself or others.” They don’t let you have your hairdryer or a razor. This is for your safety. You WILL NOT die on their watch. You eat cold toast and drink bad decaffeinated coffee and count the minutes until you are home again. And each time it is for a little bit longer than the time before. You need to “get back on your feet.” ¬†You need time to “collect yourself.” You need to be a little less mad.

Don’t go yet, I haven’t gotten to the good part.

Today I am a little less mad. I take medication, go to therapy religiously, and see a funny psychiatrist who wants to be played by George Clooney in the movie adaptation of my memoir that has yet to be published. Today I write and I laugh and I cry and I worry. Today I live.

I never forget what it feels like to be completely mad – the alternating exhilaration and dread – but today, for today, I am stable. Today I am thankful. Today I get to be Alice.

 

Picture by DGBurns