I don’t mean to ruin things.
In my late twenties something happened. The crazy came. The madness came. A storm blew in and took with it parts of my mind. I haven’t been able to tell if all of it has returned.
I had a best friend. She knew me. She knew me. She hated all the guys I dated because they weren’t good enough. She loved me that much. She was my plus-one to Austin’s VIP events. She introduced me to good music. We spent Friday nights listening to live bands clutching whiskeys and Saturday mornings holding coffee mugs talking about guys. She could make me laugh until my face hurt and she had the best hugs. She would hold me tight in her long arms and squeeze as if to say, “I won’t let you fall. I will keep you safe.” We knew where we were going. Up. Up. Up.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness – a mood disorder. It seems so simple but it isn’t. Don’t be fooled. Bipolar disorder = two words. Mental illness = two words. Mood disorder = two words. But how do you fit a life into two words?
I pushed her away before the first break from reality. Before I drove halfway across the country to California. Before I tried to kill myself. Before my life could be explained by two words.
She tried to help me before I left Austin. She called my mother in Oklahoma and told her to come. She didn’t know what to do about the cutting and the bandages and the blood. Her hugs couldn’t keep me safe anymore. My smile had become temporary.
She had a new job – a dream job – and I had needs. I needed more and more and more. It was unrealistic. The hole had grown and I was trying to fill it. With her. With attention. With everything.
In the psych ward of Mills-Peninsula Hospital in San Mateo, California after my suicide attempt, she called me. Her words were soft and careful. I could feel her arms through the phone. They wrapped around me and held me, but nothing would ever be right again.
I don’t mean to ruin things but I do. I pushed my best friend away because she couldn’t be who I needed her to be. She grew busy. I was dying and she couldn’t come with me. I had to push her away. I loved her that much.
I never had another friend like her. Not before. Not after. Perhaps it is like a first love, it lingers in the dark corners of your heart and the sun hits your face and that song comes on and you smile and then you cry and you wish life was different. You wish you didn’t know those two words. You wish they were part of someone else’s story or a made-for-TV movie or something you learned in Psych 101 or just an abstract thought. You don’t want to know what it feels like to only see your family during visiting hours. You don’t want to know about vitals and bad decaffeinated coffee. You don’t want to have to put the pale pink roses your mother brought in a plastic cup on the floor by your bed in the room you share with an ancient lady because they can’t trust you with glass. You don’t want to remember what it felt like to dance to the music of one of your favorite Austin bands and sweat and shimmy and shake and laugh with your best friend because she is gone now.
You ruined it.
My mind doesn’t work like yours. Sometimes my mind doesn’t work at all. I live in this weird world where I forget nearly everything. Maybe that is for the best. Who wants to remember the time she met me for coffee at an outdoor café and I cried and she made me believe everything would be okay? Who wants to remember the subway rides and those hot summer afternoons we spent at the museum? Who wants to remember being so poor we barely scraped by but were happier than we had ever been?
Angry words are a solvent. They break down everything you have built. I pushed. She pulled.
We don’t speak. Every once in a while a text will be shared and we will pretend that we are going to. We pretend that what is gone isn’t really gone. We pretend that we know each other, but we don’t. We haven’t spoken in years. I can’t tell you who she’s dating; I used to know his favorite drink.
I am not bitter. This is not bitterness. This is longing. This is missing something. This is wishing I had her to tell me who I use to be – before the madness, before my life became two words.
I don’t mean to ruin things but I can’t help it. My mind wanders away and my words decide who will come out and how fast and how hard. They need. They push. There is no forgiveness.
I’d like to tell her I am sorry. I would like to tell her I didn’t mean it when I told her not to call me anymore. But as I said, angry words are a solvent. They dissolved what we had a long time ago. What are left are memories, pictures where we smile at the camera unaware of who I will become, pictures of when we were happy, pictures of her arms around me.