If there is one thing that being mentally ill has taught me it is empathy. I understand what if feels like to feel worthless and hopeless and loveless. I know how it feels to be a creative genius, to believe that every thought I wrote or spoke was absolutely amazing. I know how wrong I can be. I know those feelings and so I know how others who experience them feel.
I have been unwell for a week now. Somehow I have managed to drive, to go to work, to go to the doctor’s office, to have food with friends. I have made my way through it. I say it like that because it is like making my way across an obstacle course – everyone can see me and my limitations, but expect me to finish. Regardless.
I am going to try, as best I can, to explain how I have felt this past week:
- My sleep pattern is screwed. Trazadone didn’t work. Lunesta didn’t work. Melatonin works ’til about 1 or 3 in the morning. I toss and turn. I have nightmares. I wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning confused as to where I am, where my ex is, where my mom and sister are. It takes me several minutes nearly every day to rediscover that I live in Nashville and all those people live far away and are not, in fact, the other room. I feel displaced. Nearly every day.
- My anxiety is back at a level I remember it being at before – specifically in 2006-2007 when I was dealing with a harassing, abusive ex-boyfriend and felt physically threatened. I am scared. I “freak out.” Driving is a bitch because all my obsessive thoughts are alive and well again, such as the thought that I will run someone over. Mothers hide your children. Sigh.
- I am irritable. I cuss about my very bestest friend and companion, my dog, Hope. I get mad when she doesn’t do what I say or bugs me then doesn’t want what she has asked for like to go outside. Don’t worry. I am in no way neglecting or mistreating my beautiful beast, but she is making me mad. A lot. And I know it is not her fault. She is behaving like she does any other day, just “these” days I am irritable.
- I am energized until I am exhausted. I am most likely in some sort of bipolar manic phase. I can’t stop fidgeting. I wiggle my foot, smooth my hands down my thighs, crack my neck, click my fingernails, drum the chair or table, etc. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I can’t get the energy out. I have said several times this past week that I want to “take my skin off.” What I mean by that is that I am so uncomfortable in my own skin I want to shed it. (Do not confuse this with feeling suicidal. I am not, nor have I felt that way this week). And by late afternoon/evening I am exhausted. I mean, honestly, how many calories am I burning every day in my anxious fidgeting?
- I hallucinate. This week it is bugs. They are on me or they are on the carpet or they are on the bed. Sigh. I guarantee these are hallucinations, but as you can imagine – experiencing them is scary.
- We are trying some med changes. None of this. None of that and half of another thing. I feel like shit.
I have learned empathy. I have learned what this illness – bipolar disorder – can do to one’s mind; what it can make one believe. It makes you behave in sometimes uncharacteristic ways.
Here is what I would like: A Little Freaking Understanding. I would like for my friends and family to think, “She is unwell right now. What can I do to help her? How can I understand her better?” Sometimes all I need is a voice on the other end of the line so that I know that I am not alone; to know that I will not be swallowed up by this illness without a fight.
Sigh. At the same time, unless you have experienced the particularities of my own illness, how can I expect you to understand? How can I expect you to understand the confusion or the disassociation or what it likes to feel like to be ElainaJ?
I can’t. I just want you to.