Down the Express Elevator
I can feel it. I swear I can feel it. I don’t know if this feeling is real. Do other BPs feel it? I tried asking once on a BP chat room. No one seemed to know what I was talking about. Some even thought I was crazy. In a mental health chat, a crazy person, go figure.
It’s the cycling down. What goes up must come down, right? Deep into the prison of depression. It’s called Rapid Cycling, generally defined as four or more cycles between mania and depression within a year. This happens to me as little as every two months to frequency of a few weeks. People tell me I’m lucky. BPs can get stuck in a depressive cycle for months. But I’m the opposite. I fly mostly in a hypomanic state. Hypomanic is a less severe form of mania. No hallucinations for me. Never had them, never want them. But I don’t know. This feeling, the feeling that I’m going through this very minute as I write this, is so horrible. Even though I dislike the depressive moods, I can roll with them. But the switching, changing from right side up to upside down, cycling, is painful for me, both mentally and yes, actually physically too. I don’t think I could describe the feeling accurately if I wasn’t going through it. In fact, I’m not sure if I can describe it now. But I’ll try. Come with me.
It begins with a flutter of unease. But I can brush this aside in my mind. Surely I am just having a specific problem. What? We nutters have everyday concerns too. But the feeling grows, builds, and doesn’t stop. And then the denial begins. It is NOT happening again, I won’t let it! Then come the symptoms you can’t ignore. No longer warning signs, I am taking this long trip down and there is no emergency stop. My muscles ache. They bounce between uncontrollable muscle contractions and equally uncontrollable tremors and spasms. I’m hot. I’m cold. I can’t decide. My body won’t let me. Short sleeves are too cold. Long sleeves never seem to be right either. A robe or sweatshirt is far too warm. Both hot or cold, my face is flush and I sweat. I feel odd creepy-crawlies all over my skin. I call them my meth-bugs, though I’m sure it’s nowhere near as bad as the real thing. I don’t scratch my skin to pieces. Usually a hard rub of the palm does the trick. My back hurts. Well, it hurts more I mean to say. My heart feels like a heavy stone lodged in my chest. It hurts to breathe deeply. I breathe shallow. My jaws clench. It shoots thunderbolts through my head. I want to drill a hole in my head to relieve the pressure. My Fibromyalgia kicks in and suddenly hot needles are piercing the soles of my feet, my toes, my knees, my thighs. This is my body cycling.
I have people around me, people I can call, even more people who would be running to my side in a hot second should I need them. But I feel alone. I want to go home. I’m already home. They are all “out there” and I am trapped “in here”. I feel only anxiety, agitation. But otherwise I am an emotional blank slate. There is no happy, sad, mad and I can’t really fake it no matter how hard I try. And I try very hard. I don’t have the feelings, but I’m not stupid. I see how others are reacting. I see that I am not. But I don’t want others to see I am not. I can happily stare off into space for an hour or more, seeing, and yet seeing nothing. I hold Fredo on my lap and press my face against his. He is so still. I try to be still like him. Although I want to breathe shallow, I push myself to breathe deep, to pull in the cleansing air that will float through my brain. I try to retreat, struggle against the before, the after, the now. I fight to crawl through the cave deep in my mind, until I come out on the other side in my happy place. I picture it. I try to be still, so still. I must focus, and focusing on anything is hard. I rub my lips and cheek against Fredo’s velvety fur. I’ve brought him with me. I want him here, I want for us to share my happy place. Focus, focus…
We are standing on a dirt path. Ahead is a sleepy little ivy covered cottage. To my right is a burbling stream. It is the end of May, and the sun is just beginning its descent. The burgeoning trees and bushes burst in a firework display of spring’s showiest colors. The gentle breeze brings me their heady perfume, swaddling me in the glorious scent only a riot of blooms can bring. Wisps of smoke float above the chimneys, beckoning me. This is my happy place. Most people know this lovely little spot. But no one ever trespasses here. It is Thomas Kinkade’s “A Quiet Evening”. And that is exactly what I want. Quiet, peace, still. I press my lips to Fredo’s fur again.
I want the sweet release of depression. It’s not a thing to be wished for, but when I’m cycling down, I yearn for it. Depression brings sleep, always a valuable commodity for me. The sleep brings…nothing, absolutely nothing. There are no feelings in sleep. And there is no guilt about not feeling. Sleep is the warm embrace of a cuddly blanket, a soft pillow, a snoring dog pressing gently against me; Artie curled at my head, making gently mewing noises in her own sleep. Sleep is suspended animation. There is no now. This world does not exist there. But there is peace, happiness, adventure and yes, even horror. It is escape. It is the passkey to the prison of my mind, the locked cage of my body slowly tightening around me. Escape is bliss.
But I’m not there yet. I’m still cycling. I know every moment brings it closer, and this is what I count on. But no, not there yet. In the present, in the now, there is cycling. There is despair. This life of mine has more than its fair share of pain and anguish. I am so tired of clawing my way through it. I am not strong. I am weak. I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to be gone. I know this feeling isn’t real. I know it’s merely faulty synapses in my brain over firing and misfiring. I know it is not real and it WILL go away. But it feels real, so incredibly real. As the agitation mounts, I take the dose of Xanax I’ve put off too long.
Did you come with me? Did you follow? Did you feel the itching? Was your heart as heavy as mine? Were you alone, yet not alone? Home, but not home? Could you hear the stream and smell the flowers? Do you want to sleep? It isn’t time yet. Feel the elevator learching. I don’t know when we’ll reach the bottom floor, but I know this lift never lifts, only drops. The destination may be welcome but the trip is taxing. So be here and now. Try and quell the mounting panic as we plunge into the abyss. It will stop, that much I can assure you. But until it does, feel the silky fine fur against your lips. And try to be still.
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