I apologise for the lack of recent posts. A combination of overwork, overstress and … well, you know. I don’t need to say because everyone on this site knows.
I love this image it feels like a perfect reflection of my current state of mind – half mad half elated, half depressed. A life in three halves.
I recently went – or rather than use the mundane word ‘went’– I would say I recently crawled to my GP, feeling so ill that it seemed nothing short of a miracle to me that I got there and was able to negotiate the stairs, sit in a chair opposite this clipped, professional person and string a few sentences together that may or may not have made sense. When in my 8 minute allotted window of GP time I tried to explain I thought I was suffering from stress (haha, who am I kidding). I was met with the reply ‘do you have much stress in your life?’
Perhaps the inference was ‘you’re not a GP and if you were a GP you would know the meaning of the word stress.’
Sometimes I worry less about stress than I do about losing the plot completely. I worry that I’ll end up like poor Bertha Mason striding up and down Mr. Rochester’s attic and I really hope not because that didn’t end well for anyone. Well, Jane Eyre perhaps.
Anyway I have succeeded in drafting out a novel so not all is disaster. Not all is disaster all of the time. And carrying on the books theme because books are mostly my life when I get depressed. Also when I don’t. I would like to point folks in the direction of this amazing work by Vietnamese American writer Ocean Vuong called On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous(Jonathan Cape, 2019). He has amazing thing to say about bipolar disorder in this letter to his mother:
It’s the chemicals in our brains, they say, I got the wrong chemicals Ma. Or rather I don’t get enough of one or the other. They have a pill for it. They have an industry. They make millions. Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand and say, “It’s been an honor to serve my country.”
The thing is I don’t want my sadness to be othered from me just as I don’t want my happiness to be othered. They’re both mine. I made them dammit. What if the elation I feel is not another “bipolar episode” but something I fought hard for?
I don’t know whether the author suffers from this disorder or not, or whether he takes medication or not. I’m not quoting this to come down on one side or another of the medication argument, but everything he writes is so beautiful and feels true to me so I thought I would share it.
Sometimes I agree that any sense of elation is something to be fought for – even though we are inclined to think we’re not supposed to experience that because there is a depressive episode coming. Who knows? Not the GP obviously.