The other day Dwayne and I stopped by Goodwill and found a few books. One I happened upon is the one pictured above – Manic by Terri Cheney. It’s been a hard read. It’s scary and familiar and her roller coaster is overwhelming. It’s hard not to compare…”Oh, I’m not that sick.” “Surely, I’m not mentally ill, I didn’t do that,” but I can’t risk it. My illness manifests differently for a million different reasons and I’m certainly grateful that I haven’t stripped naked and jumped into the ocean or slept with a best friend’s boyfriend because I was manic and loved the pursuit.
Her highs and lows and suicide attempts illicit fear of the unknown and of meds not working, but the familiar in her story is the most frightening – the idea that gravity increases the lower and more depressed I become, wanting to smash glass (I had no idea I wasn’t the only one), and the instant rage – filling every inch of my body, for no apparent reason. The phrases she uses that speak of her mood swings and reactions to them, it’s a bit too close to home.
One thing that I have found interesting is that so often I have no words to express or explain how I feel or what I’m going through and I’m only recently starting to figure out how to notice the subtle changes that are leading me into depression or hypomania (a milder form of mania). I can’t steer around it, but sometimes, and just sometimes, I can see it coming – caffeine, craving sugar, not getting enough sleep, getting off routine. All of those and so many more hint I’m sliding one way or another. Reading her words has given me the words I’ve needed for myself to name it and be honest with it.
I stopped reading briefly to share a passage with Dwayne that expressed how I’ve felt, but could scarcely put into words, and it suddenly hit me – I am mentally ill. The search has been long and learning has kept me from really absorbing what it means – I am mentally ill. The chemistry in my brain has its own crazy rhythm that has nothing to do with my surroundings or experiences. Even worse, I can’t just pull myself out of the swings. I can’t “fix” it. I can manage, medicate, meditate, and a whole lot of prayer my way through this, but I can’t make it disappear and I will never be able to cure it.