“I wept not, so to stone within I grew”

Io non piangea, si` dentro impetrai.
-Inferno, Canto 33

It is 3:40 AM, the witching hour, and my being awake cannot be a good sign.

Of course, I have been awake at this hour every day for quite some time now. Maybe wanting to get up and write is a good sign.

Things here are, well, empty. I suppose it is a depression of sorts, though fortunately like the ones I suffered as a child and teenager, before the “manic” part was added to the title. It is much more bearable, at least on the surface, than the episodes I have suffered in the last few years, because I am just quiet and still and numb. No racing mind or body torturing me with horrible thoughts that come faster than any human was meant to think. If I didn’t have the practicalities of running a life to worry about and could just crawl into bed until it goes away, it wouldn’t be bad at all.

It is strange how it has come full circle, taken me right back to where I started. It does remind me of that time when I was 12 and my mind broke for the first time, for seemingly no reason. It is familiar, if not comfortably so, ha ha. It makes me a little nostalgic for that time, when I thought that the worst that could happen, crazy-wise, was the need to crawl into bed for months. Before I knew what could really happen, all the ways a mind can burn and break that I know now.

It does get better throughout the day, and by evening I am almost normal. Unfortunately, 9 PM is not the best time to apply for jobs or deal with the mundane details of life. Every night I go to bed thinking of what I will do first thing in the morning, the interview I will schedule, the tax papers I have been avoiding (two forms, that’s it, two forms!) for months.

And then morning rolls around at 3:30, and I am numb and frozen and terrified again and nothing gets done.

I have not worked in four months. All solid job offers are shift work, night work, in busy, miserable emergencies for minimal pay. Seeing as that is what made me so crazy over the last few years, I have not accepted any of them. I don’t want the responsibility of not missing a heart attack for $5 of pay. It makes me physically ill to think about going back to medicine.

I wrote before that it wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t trying to keep up with life, but I am not sure that that is entirely accurate. I woke at this atramental hour, and beyond the dampened terror of my bank balance, the horror at the thought of returning to the repugnant job that is the only one I am qualified for, a little voice dared to run through my head and say the one thing that I have not allowed myself to think: “Your hope is all gone,” the voice intonated. “Your mind will not work again. This is what you are now.”

I miss very much the streams of words that used to race through my mind, needing to be caught on paper before they got away. I miss writing, which used to be an automatic and unconscious activity. Whatever force I used to channel, whatever it was in the universe that fed me the words, has left. I have been alone, without even the words that I could always count on to come, unbidden. I try to force myself now to write, but I sit and try to think of words. I have to choose them, and they are never quite as right as the ones that come from without. I never used to “have to” make myself write. The words used to just come, words and phrases and alliterations and allusions would streak through my head, unannounced and at odd times, often surprising me and making me laugh or smile at their unexpectedness. All I ever had to do was appreciate them, and transcribe them, and be thankful for the electricity that ran through me when they were flowing, the sense of pure purpose, that this is what I had been put on this planet to do.

But whatever consciousness it was in the universe must have moved on, found another emissary or oracle.

Not only the words are gone. The more primal, wordless passions, the pathos and exultations of life, are muted into nonexistence. For months now, I have been walking around on the verge of weeping, with tears in my eyes that obstinately refuse to fall. I think that if I could weep, something might shift, maybe for the better, maybe not, but at least there would be motion.

I don’t understand where those tears are coming from, why they are so firmly fixed behind my eyes. Maybe when my muse left, someone else’s tragedy mistakenly got into the void left in my eyes, and I, having picked up the narrative in the middle, cannot identify the nature of the misfortune, and thus, cannot weep for it. I have no reason to be sad now (unless I think of the countless broken bodies and broken lives that surrounded me and sometimes touched me over the last years). So I am not sad. Just numb.

The lack of hope – another entity that has left me: something in my head keeps whispering, maybe this is it…this is the best you will ever be. Sometimes I wish that the “maybe” would disappear. If I were to be sure, I could figure out how to arrange some kind of half-existence around what is left. But as long as there is still a memory of how I used to be (abstractly, anyway – I cannot channel how I felt when I was alive and ready to do anything and conquer the world, but I can picture my younger self smiling and full of energy, doing things, doing everything), there is that little last bit that keeps me waiting, as the song says,  busco un mejor momento. In some ways, this keeps me from playing the hand I have been dealt. I am always waiting for the next deal.

For my own record, since I do record this shit, I just saw a new shrink. It was horrific and humiliating, as usual, but no worse than most new shrink appointments. The decision was to raise the bupropion, give that two weeks, and if it isn’t enough, add valproate. I have a hard time seeing much logic in this; it seems to me that the last thing I need now is a drug that will slow me down or make me stupider. But I suppose I have nothing to lose (except my hair and my hormonal balance and my lack of diabetes and any potentially normal fetus I may someday conceive), so I’ll try. Mostly because I don’t want to be that patient on the very first meeting with a new shrink.

And things have undoubtedly improved ever since getting out of the miasma that was the previous shrink. I miss him, maybe, as a person, and on some level I think I like him more than this new one, but I cannot ignore the overwhelming experiential evidence that it was bad for me, and there were too many lapses in professionalism to ignore (see “refusing to release records”).

Sometimes, though, in these tenebrous hours, his words still haunt me: accusations he made, (mis)interpretations of things I did or said that nonetheless were hurtful. The insinuations from someone I trusted that something is so wrong with me that it is a miracle I function, and that I will never be “normal” without serious interventions, which apparently have not yet been invented.

For these reasons, even though it is all I think about almost every day, I am trying to avoid anything psychological or mental health related. When I am away from the whole paradigm, I’m just a flawed person, no more or less than anybody else. When I let them near me, I become an amalgam of pathologies and brokenness. Sometimes I wish I never had gone to any doctor. Then, I would have just been eccentric, or emotional, or melancholic, or even just plain crazy.

I have to remind myself that I don’t even believe in their system of belief, that people lived for thousands of years without shrinks, that 99% of the world’s population has never even heard of their concepts. I try to remember who I was before I ended up so entangled with this bullshit system. I was a person. I wasn’t perfect but I was alive and I did things and knew people and sometimes felt something.

Somehow, all of that has disappeared, and all I can think about are all of the words that have been used by the priests of this odd religion to judge my essential being. I do not believe in their religion, yet somehow, their damnation of my many sins, that they delineate in the clinical terminology of their liturgy (affective instability, noncompliance, Melancholia, Mania, narcissism, Cyparissusism, Axis I, II, III, x, y, z, the asymptote of mood-personality-behavior), haunts me.

I don’t know why I cannot break the hold this farcical cult and its practitioners have on me. I suppose it is my version of the person who doesn’t really believe in God anymore, yet somewhere deep down, is too frightened by the spectacle and rhetoric of the fundamentalist hellfire to actually get up and leave the pew.

And so…back to the title quotation. I feel that underneath the conspicous anodynia, there is a well of misery hiding. Hell, it keeps trying to creep out through my eyes. I can’t help suspecting that the underlying pain is for all that I have seen over the last few years and all the people I have lost. I would drain the well, cry profusely and feel deeply, if I only knew how to reach the stygian waters.

But it is too late. So many years of having wept not, I both created and became the adamantine stone.

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8 Comments

  1. Well, you can still write, as I’m sure you know. You have the words and a poetic turn of phrase that very few can match. I read your blog in it’s entirity a while back and then it stopped dead. Welcome back. I hope you are feeling more positive and that good things start to happen for you. Regards.

  2. I’m glad to see you writing again, but sorry for the terrible pain you are in. I sense hope in there somewhere, I really do. Maybe it’s just a tiny thread, but it’s enough to hold on to. That little voice in your head, the one we all have, tell it to be quiet. There is hope.

  3. Hi Mary, thanks for the nice words, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.

    Hey Harriet, I’m really enjoying your documenting the crisis line training and work!

  4. Hii my sad alter ego,

    (My “K” key is messed up, so bare with me)
    I am so glad to see you writing again. I missed you and your thoughts and ideas. I have been worried for you. I am sorry to hear how much you are struggling. I am right there beside you.

    You mention:

    “I don’t even believe in their system of belief, that people lived for thousands of years without shrinks, that 99% of the world’s population has never even heard of their concepts. ”

    They may not have called people “mentally ill”, or expressed and explained MI people using Axis i, II, III etc., but people have known we were around for years. In some cultures (aboriginal for eg.) we were seen as Shamans, Seers, People with 2nd sight.

    In our own culture we were also often seen as people with 2nd sight, but also, unfortunately for us, as witches practicing witchcraft. Check out Wiipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mental_disorders#Egyptian_and_Mesopotamian:
    Times are different now. In past times people stayed in their communities, and often in their homes, or origin. Extended families supported, cared for and protected us. Now many of us move far from home, and live in isolation, away from those we now. Families are not as connected, as protective etc. of their adult children.

    To be mentally ill in anciient times and in pre modern times, was to be recognized as being behaviourally “different” just like now, but now we have different labels than before. Sometimes, maybe it was better, but many times it was downright awful too (thin “witches” and all the burnings and drownings that too place. Sometimes it was better..I am sure being a Shaman has its perks.

    I guess sort of like now…our system is good some of the time; now we have medications and therapies that help so many people, but scary other times; when meds don’t work, or labels hurt rather than help us, or meds harm us etc..

    Like you, so far I’m not one of those people where meds have helped…but there are so many things to try. I hope both of us find something that eases our pain during this journey.

    P.S. I took 1000 mgs of Valproate and it really helped many of my symptoms…though it did mae me have memory problems/cognitive…HOWEVER…my boyfriend has taen 1500 mgs for years and he is brilliant!…even with it. So it is worth a try…maybe your brilliance will remain…if not you can always switch

  5. Hi. Glad you have pushed through it to write this – even if it is more of an effort to write now. I know exactly what you mean about having a time when the words just flow almost magically. The contrast with how things are when you’re struggling – as I am now – is just dreadful. But your writing is still there, still wonderful. And I’d like to thank you for sharing yourself with us so honestly.

    It occurs to me that your inability to cry may be linked to medication? That they are making you unable to really experience any emotions at the moment. Of course, this can happen without meds as well.

    Once you are on the conveyor belt of psychiatric treatment it is very scary to contemplate stepping off. I gave up Lofepramine end 2005 and it took me at least 6 months to recover my self in any way at all. I had stayed on it far too long simply because I was scared I wouldn’t cope without it. I was psychologically addicted (as well as physically).

    Not sure psychiatrists have a belief system …. ! At least not one that I’ve been able to discern. Of course I am in the UK so when you see the psychiatrist you get who you’re given and their only goal is to get rid of you asap! If they can’t prescribe anything then they just give you a few platitudes and tell you to speak to your CPN. My CPN is the one I rely on. Someone I can talk to who ISN’T trying to “treat” me. It’s a relief to have someone like this!

    Keep on posting because I’m dying to read more.

    Best wishes,
    Bearfriend xx

  6. Wow, I find that a very good piece of writing. Regardless of what you were writing about it was a most readable post just from the way it was written

    I find you are quite a wordsmith

    Graffiti

  7. Hey all – thanks for stoppng by.

    Aqua – that’s the worst part, meds DID help me, even fix me. But then I had that side effect and had to stop, and since then have seen everything crumble because nothing works like that did.

    Thanks also for telling me that about the valproate. No one fucking tells you ever what meds will actually make you FEEL like…so maybe it’s not so bad. The one side effect I can’t stand, though, is cognitive/memory problems. I don’t even care about weight gain.

    Bear – glad to see you back. I do think that a lot of psychiatry is very much like religion. It is basically an unprovable science. One can be damaged in the anal stage, say, and according to theory, become either overly fastidious or super messy. Or may turn out fine. So what is the value of the theory? It is a non-predictive science, which means it is a belief system. Sort of like how one could say, “There is an omnipotent God who created the earth and the universe and controls all occurrences…” I suppose it is plausible, but it is NOT science. Knowing that “fact” gives you no assistance in predicting what will happen, or even really in understanding what already happened…therefore, not science.

    And I have often said, if I were to choose for myself a belief system about human nature, I certainly would choose a kinder, happier one than the one offered by psychiatry.

    This new shrink happens to be a very devout practitioner of religion, but also is classically psychodynamically trained. I think this is overall good for him, because it gives him a competing belief system to psychiatry. He isn’t a fanatic Freudian who believes that psychoanalytic theory explains everything and is doctrine.

    Tony – this post was SO HARD to write, I had to sit and think and drag words out of myself, and I don’t think they flow as well as they should. But, when I finished, I thought I had been writing for 20 minutes or so, and really an hour and a half had passed, so maybe there was some element of a “flow state.”

    I think I’m going to turn this into a post.

  8. Moods for a bipolar are cyclical. It gets better, then it gets worse again. But it’s bound to get better eventually…


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