It’s World Mental Health Day, and I thought I’d take a little bit of time to discuss mental health–largely because it is most definitely directly relevant to my life. Sometimes I joke about it, because the humor helps relieve the pressure. Other times, though, like right now, I want to be more serious about the subject of mental health. It’s a very serious thing, and one that needs more awareness.
It has been a while since I’ve mentioned this here (because, well, it shouldn’t be something worth mentioning): I’m bipolar. I don’t have it as bad as some people, and the medications keep my emotional state mostly under control, but it’s there all the same. I don’t get to take a vacation from it. I don’t get to say, “Y’know, I think I’m not going to be bipolar today.” It’s there. It’s a daily thing, regardless of whether or not it’s at the forefront of my mind.
The fates have been kind to me lately in that I have been able to almost forget that I’m bipolar–almost. My moods have been running fairly stable, and aside from the daily pill regimen to keep those moods in check I really don’t have any constant reminders these days of the horror that I used to endure. I can’t really describe it adequately in prose; poetry sometimes better conveys the roller coaster of bipolar life. I’m going to add a poem here that the narcissist in me is quite proud of: “Hostage in My Head,” a poem written during a more difficult mental state.
“Hostage in My Head” (from Kamikaze Butterflies by AJ Mullican)
Awash in a sea of terror
No escape from my own deranged thoughts
Impossible futures scroll through my mind
Over and over on a continuous loop
My mental movie screen glows
As the macabre fantasy plays unbidden
Death and disaster overtake reality
Can’t focus on the here and now
When the “might be” looms on the horizon
Against my will my death plays out again
For the hundredth time this hour
I watch my lifeless form slide to the ground
Shot in the convenience store
Pulled from the mangled wreck
Coded mysteriously at work
At the sight of my imagined death
My heart rate soars and pounds
There’s nothing beautiful and delicate
About the kamikaze butterflies in my chest
Every single nerve
Teeters on the edge of a precipitous drop
With a nightmare at the bottom
Just one nudge
One little push
And everything will come crashing down
I tiptoe on the inside
Walking the fine line between sanity and oblivion
Pacing the padded room within my skull
Inside I scream for a reprieve, for escape
Even for sweet, sweet nothingness
But my calls go unheeded
The nightmare begins anew
I am my own personal terrorist
And I am the hostage
So yeah. Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes it’s easy going. Sometimes it scares the fuck out of me. You can never tell what the next day–or minute, or second–will bring. And you know what else you sometimes can’t tell? If someone even has mental illness. That’s right, it’s sneaky shit. The stereotype is always the scruffy guy standing in the corner at the bus station, muttering to himself. That. Is. NOT. Typical of mental illness. Yes, it happens, but mental illness could be as innocuous as a slight slump to the shoulders, an unusual amount of energy, a sigh. There are infinite signs, and they can be infinitesimal.
To anyone reading this who suffers from mental illness, no matter what that illness is, I’m here. I may not be able to fully understand your personal illness, or even your own form of bipolar disorder, but I can talk. I can listen. To anyone reading this who is fortunate enough to be fairly mentally “sound,” if you know someone who is mentally ill, be that person who talks. Who listens. Sometimes just a little show of support and understanding is enough to keep the demons at bay.
For now the demons are quiet, and I think I’ll let them sleep a little longer.