I stared into the steel rails and wooden grills of our Toronto subway tracks on my way home the other night. I thought, “These old subway tracks have so much meaning; it holds such substance from me, to you.” Meaning also shifts as your life changes. In the recent 5 or 6 years, these tracks have become a dark fantasy for me, an unattainable flirty asshole at a dive bar, or A Streetcar Named Desire. *1, 2, 3 CHEESE.*
So when I look at myself and ask, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most fucked up of them all?” I recognized that what I see in myself is probably not what you see in me.
When I share my life living with bipolar disorder:
I hear, “You’re so brave for telling the whole world and helping others.”
I think, “Basically my friends read this. I bet most of my family doesn’t. #NoNewFriends”
When I tell you how I struggled to stay at work or interact with the world… because my heart could explode from anxiety and yet my mind is as numb as ice:
I hear, “You won today. You made it through and didn’t back down.”
I think, “Well fuck this shit. I’m 25 years old and can’t even leave the house without
Being overwhelmed by human stimulation anymore.”
When I survive every depressed/anxious/hypomanic month-after-month long episode:
I hear, “Look how strong you are. You just have to keep fighting.”
I think, “So bro, when we gonna do this again? Next month or in half a year?”
When I’m breaking down and suicide is my only light at the end of the tunnel:
I hear, “Breathe, you’re going to make it through. We can change it. It’ll get better.”
I think, “Please let me go and stop the pain. I know the pain will come and go but this
pain is my second home. It is my whole life for me to live and for you to witness.”
So when I tell you that I can figure out how to jump these subway tracks:
You say, “It’ll never work. You probably won’t die. You’ll be left severely injured.”
… And though you’re “probably” right,
Your meaning of probably whispers a silent “Girl, your chances are slim to none.”
And my meaning of probably screams “Oh you silly desperate girl” behind my veil of depression.
That’s what differentiates how you see me and how I see myself.
You see hopelessness.
I feel hopeless.
Your understanding is that I should try harder, I shouldn’t give up, I should keep afloat. And my experience is that those are simply alternatives and options. Nothing I do will ever be enough to eliminate my hopelessness because there is no cure to a mental illness like bipolar disorder. No one in mental health knows what the heck they’re doing. No one accurately understands how our brains are altered when we pop these pills. And most of us don’t even know what normal is anymore. Are we depressed/anxious/manic or is this just our normal now?
Stop. I hear it again – “Joanne, there is no normal.”
Um, sorry what? Tell me that when you hear voices, when you leave this world, when you imagine invisible people, and when you think you’re the damn “Queen of the Universe”. Or in my case, when you think you’re a kangaroo (I don’t know why I thought I was a kangaroo. I don’t even like them. I can only imagine that when I meet one in Australia and say “hi”, they’re going to be all moody and karate kick me in full Street Fighter mode. I’m not about that. I’m like… a bunny, or cat, or lion. Definitely not kangaroo.)
See, I lace almost everything with humour because reality hurts and is really unbearable and hence why death is always tempting. But I can’t always be funny. In fact, most of my recent Instagram posts have probably come off bitter or rubbed people the wrong way. Really and truly though, I am bitter. I’m bitter and angry and deeply offended that my physical life is left in the hands of a system that may very well kill me one day.
Sprinkled between this day and my last day, is a giant mound of “accidents” they couldn’t prevent.
Yet it was no secret that my rational mind was fading and I have been hurting every damn day for months despite all that I have done to help myself. Were they reallllyyyy accidents then? Or was I just not in enough pain for you to see? For you to test and measure and evaluate before you decide to protect me from my mind?
Surprise. I am not broken because of the cards that were dealt to me. I can control how much I want to help myself. I can’t control a careless and faceless system. I will never know who was behind the nurse that refused to take me in; who turned me away from their home – their hospital – because I wasn’t suicidal enough or there weren’t enough beds to accommodate me.
But the people overseeing the nurse who turned me away that night won’t welcome me into their home. Nope. Not until I can show them that I am a shell of my body and what remains are the physical damages I inflicted on myself.
I suspect this won’t change anytime soon.
I hope you remember this the next time you wonder why we all can’t “try harder” or “ride the rollercoaster of life.” We have been set up to fail and depend on our wounded and sometimes psychotic minds to fend for ourselves until we splat to rock bottom.
To keep it PG and not as bleak as I feel (because I have had these on and off suicidal thoughts again lately), here is my silver lining to you. Writing is almost easier when I’m in pain because it reminds me that no matter how much I’m hurting, I’ve got this squad of awesomeness spewing in the form of humans that love me unconditionally and check in with me daily. Who still hold me when I’m a wet ball of snot on the floor. Who will put their lives on hold to sit silently with me on my couch. Or just let me go only to watch me pace knowing it is the only way for me to remain sane and intact. Then again, I think I’m full of trickery and no one will know when I’m ready to go.