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Finding my way
The underworld and the steadfast light
I was hospitalized again. I really didn’t want to be. I fought with my therapist and psychiatric nurse practitioner about going, because I really did not want to disrupt my life again, and I was managing to keep myself safe. But it was taking all my energy to survive. So I went on Election Day (I did vote, by mail-in ballot) and just came back on Thursday.
Since my previous hospitalization last month, I had been experiencing rapid cycling, which for me meant I’d switch between manic and depressed and mixed mood states every few days, with an occasional euthymic/“normal” state in between. An advantage of rapid cycling is knowing that any particular mood state won’t last long. But they’re still very intense and hard to deal with, especially when they come with thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide.
I’m not sure what the hospital has done for me this time. It was the same one as last month, the LGBTQ unit, so it was the same good vibes and terrible food (the vegan fare included quinoa on a bun and a “hummus wrap” that was just a little bit of peppers and a lot of hummus). I spent a lot of time during the day feeling stuck in bed from depression or anxiety, and yet I still frequently felt sleepy, partly from being put back on the sleepy antipsychotic that I chose to get off of last time. At least that medication seemed to have worked in the past, so hopefully it should stabilize me until the mood stabilizer kicks in more fully.
I’m still feeling pretty depressed. Just moving slowly through the day, having trouble motivating myself to do anything besides lying in bed scrolling through social media. I was supposed to perform on keyboard at an informal event last night, but ended up calling out sick because I couldn’t even get myself to practice. The number of opportunities I’ve lost due to my mental health crisis really pains me. Eventually I’ll find my way back, but I don’t know when.
While in the hospital, I wrote another Narrative Therapy letter to a “problem” I have. This time I chose to write to my suicidality. It felt very cathartic and strengthening to write this letter, and risking taboo, I want to share it. The metaphors are vivid, but they are purely metaphors, and the message is hopeful.
I feel your inky black tentacles grabbing my shoulders, pulling me down, yearning towards the dark seas of the underworld.
You constrict me, make it hard to breathe.
You cover my eyes, make it hard to see.
With every cautious step forward, I feel you pulling me back, keeping me “safe”: from failure, from fear, from falling.
Yet here is where life pulses most vividly, where my heart breathes desperately for more.
I peel one of your tentacles off my torso. An inky goo remains, a shadowy emblem of your toxic embrace.
You retreat — for now. Ink drips down my arms. I shiver, for death felt close.
I wash the ink off my body. I sigh in relief as the black goo slips down the drain.
I sense that you’ll return sometime soon: in a week, a day, an hour. Yet your fearsome tentacles are only fearful of uncertainty, so fearful that you would desire the greatest certainty of them all: that life has an end.
But do you know the second greatest certainty? That life surprises, beautifully.
I am reminded of these lyrics from the song “Light” from the musical Next to Normal, sung by Diana, who is bipolar and has survived a suicide attempt:
Some ghosts are never gone, But we go on, We still go on. And you find some way to survive And you find out you don't have to be happy at all, To be happy you're alive.
I don’t feel very hopeful right now, but I am happy that I’m alive. It’s been a journey, and there will be more twists and turns to experience.