Back to the Future

Yes, there are two movie references in this post.

A couple days ago, I tweeted that we’re just about at the ten-year anniversary of my diagnosis. With this New Year’s came the reminder that 2001 was, in fact, an Odyssey.

I think ten years ago now I was somewhere around the fourth ring of a self-made hell. I was spiraling downward, desperate for a Bottom that I never seemed to find. I found no solid rock. Beyond the ninth ring, I found a springboard into a mania that lasted months, rocketing me upward into a self-made psychotic ecstasy. I exploded out of hell, into a million tiny pieces of myself, diffusing throughout the ether. Those tiny selves violently recongealed into my own big bang when the physics of self-compression caused a seizure that September. My omni-existence was followed by the nonexistence that came, for me, with Depakote. I closed out the year with the removal of one of my organs.

As bad as 2009 and 2010 were due to the economy, this New Year’s reminded me that nothing can ever compare to 2001, the year I self-destructed. I mean the destruction of my self. I mean my destruction of my self.

It was glorious and terrifying. It was blindingly bright and deafeningly black. With 2002 came the intervention, the recovery, the starting over, the work. But before all that, 2001 was the year of sheer experience. I saw, felt, knew, and was the sublime. Even the Depakote-induced nothingness was sublime. I didn’t need suicide: I was already dead.

2001 was the year of my transcendence. My depression transcended every concept of the Bottom previously conceived by me, by continually breaking through another lower plateau as if it were jell-o. My mania transcended Humanity by unleashing a truly feral set of electrons once attached to the firing atoms of my brain. My sedation transcended both, stripping me of what it means to be a sentient being — reducing me to fleshy fully-formed molecules and nothing else, emptying me. I was incapable of volition, and thus couldn’t decide to fill myself back up. (That, I think, was the point of the intervention. Others, mostly my mother, needed to make that decision for me.)

I spent the next decade determined to move forward without ever looking back.

I have two resolutions this year: (1) to finally learn how to adequately maintain a household, and (2) to finally let myself think about, consider, and examine 2001. It is the year of which the current me is a product. It is time to talk about it in the first-person. Monday morning, my therapist is in for a shock.

Questions: Have you done this? Have you revisited the past to know your present and work through your future? I’m afraid the process itself will trigger an episode, that if I go there I won’t come back. Who out there can tell me I can do this? If no one, should I do it anyway?

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8 comments
  1. Anonymous said:

    That post was the boldest, most face-on and eyes-open account of depression & mania that I’ve ever encountered. I think if you are beginning the process of 2011 with that level of ballsy introspection, then this is bound to be a phenomenally productive time for you.

  2. erinire said:

    I am really taking a hard look back at my year of hell, which, though unipolar, had its own glorious glistening as well. It’s so interesting to go back, and, sometimes, so hard.

  3. said:

    I’m hoping it will be interesting, while expecting it will be hard. Well, I can identify with half of the unipolar…and any insights you could share would be greatly appreciated. For me, how to continue digging when what you find hurts.

    • Meredith said:

      I find the digging continues regardless, once you get going. One year I decided to re read my journals of the previous 8 (i think) years. I would sit in my studio and instead of create, I would mire in the muck and hell that was my life for so long, 2 long years, then more later. I never wrote when I was enjoying life, which wasn’t often anyway. I always wrote when twisted with emotion, strain, anxiety, and angst. Reading those journals had one positive point. I realized I didn’t want to relive that. I read quite a few before I realized it was triggering me and setting me back a couple of years. Luckily my wife helped me see that. I was slipping right back into that place of mire without even noticing. When I did notice, and decided to not live that way, I threw them all away. I didn’t feel that burning them would do anything more than throwing them away so I just tossed them into the big can. good luck, ∃. I hope it’s going well for you.

  4. Jen said:

    I live a lot in the year 2005. That was the turning point year for me, when I had been psychotic for a few years and ended up getting more suicidal then ever before. And then, went to the hospital for five months. I think about it a lot, because I guess I think about all the years I spent psychotic, a lot. But that year was the year that I got into the hospital and was not let out. Legally, a judge kept me in there for five months. It was how I got out of psychosis, and how I got correctly diagnosed, and how I realized I was sick. I do think that there are some negative aspects of going back in time to such periods, because it can be damned depressing, and oddly, I think it can make you sometimes long for what once was, because there was something special about your experiences that life afterwards sort of lacks. I don’t know if that makes sense. It might not be true for other people. I think sometimes I look back at being in the state that I was going to shoot myself in the head, and it had such intensity to it, that period, that my current life is quite mundane and mediocre in comparison. Of course, I’d rather be mundane and mediocre than blow my head off, but I guess what I mean is that there is a danger someone might not realize the good parts of being mundane and mediocre. Actually my life is a zillion times better now. Sometimes, also, if I think about my worst experiences while psychotic it makes me miserable, because it was all for nothing, it was so much needless suffering, and it was something that could have been averted with some pills and therapy that I didn’t have.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if this will help you in any way. I think it’s mature and responsible to examine your life, and probably the benefits outweigh, by far, the possible harm that can come from it.

    • said:

      Jen, once again, thank you. There are moments of my mania and mania-induced psychosis that I do truly miss. There are feelings I once had that I will probably (hopefully) never feel again, that I can’t put into words. That’s a metric for me: being able to put something into words. It was sublime because it can’t be articulated. The sadness, especially for me right now, is both in knowing I must fight the opportunity for such sublime knowledge and in knowing the destruction that can come with with not fighting. Like you I know that my life is so much better, but it is also sometimes mundane and mediocre. I am trying right now to feel lucky for the experiences that brought me close to death and lucky to be alive. I got to know and experience places that other minds don’t always get to visit. I suffered for it, but I have that in my tool belt now. I’m reminded of a passage from Mark Vonnegut’s Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only Moreso that I read a little bit ago (see the Reading Room).

      “I could pass off the things that happened to me when I was crazy as just a bunch of craziness, but the problem is, when I’m trying my best to tell the truth to myself, I’m not sure I didn’t bargain God down from a nuclear cataclysm to a relatively mild earthquake and stop my father from killing himself. I’m glad I got to meet and talk to Dostoyevsky, van Gogh, Beethoven, Freud, and Abraham Lincoln and continue to count them as good friends” (124).

      In many ways, we know what others might not. Sadly, places we’ve seen include hell itself. Luckily, we’ve come back to tell of it. I’m suddenly compelled to start getting loud.

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