My Life with Bipolar Affective Disorder
I made a film on the weekend.
The idea had come to me as I was walking to work on Friday morning.
The others wouldn’t be back until Monday, so it was something to do to pass the time. It was going to be a film about being alone in the empty house, and about myself, about them.
It used to be like that every night — where I used to live — in a neighborhood so poor, in an apartment so small with a horrible smell that did not disappear, an apartment without hot water, or heating. There, in that life, there was nothing; there was me at the kitchen table staring blankly at the wall, there was silence, isolation.
There is a contrast now, I wanted to capture it.
I filmed my weekend. I recorded myself and edited it over three days. And even though I ran out of food, it did not occur to me that I could have walked to the supermarket to buy something to eat. In fact, I did not leave the house at all, not once.
I drank a bottle of wine, but it had no effect on me. I drank a lot of coffee too.
My project swallowed me up into deeply focused concentration. Trying to stop myself felt like tearing velcro away from a felt wall.
Even cleaning the dishes, or wiping down the table, left my body screaming in resistance. Do not stop, do not stop, there is so much more to clean! There is so much more to do!
Watching, and re-watching, and watching again, and again, and again, the same clips, over and over, almost obsessively. My body clung on so tightly to the sort of comforting pleasure that each replay gave me.
On Saturday morning it took me six hours to remember to eat breakfast. And that breakfast, which had became afternoon tea, well those dishes were still there but it was 7pm. It left me in confusion as my eyes switched between the time on my phone, to the pan, the plate, the knife and fork on the table.
Accelerated. I was accelerated. Everything was accelerated. I moved with such urgency as if washing a cup was life or death, as if there was a clock, ticking down. Fifteen seconds to go, three seconds to go. Fast! Fast! Go! Go! Go!
And, I was in love. I was deeply in love. It was on that weekend that I realized I was. I was overwhelmed with desire to see him, and to tell him everything that I felt. I swore to myself in frustration. I wanted him to come back. “Where are you? Come home.”
At one point I found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror. I was making funny faces. I studied these distorted expressions. It was strangely hypnotic — exciting — “What am I doing?” I suddenly thought to myself in panic, “I don’t like to see my face like this!” I didn’t look in the mirror again.
I would have taken a pill, if I had been brave enough to face the depression that would have followed the next day. Instead, before I went to sleep, I hurriedly wrote myself a note and left it next to my bed to read in the morning. I wrote to myself, that if I were to sleep for less than four hours, I would take a pill.
But I slept well and woke up calmer than I had been the previous day.
I finished the film, and my housemates came home on Monday. Their company was nice, but a part of me wished they would leave. I had been having so much fun by myself.
I floated around all morning. I cleaned everything, and I laughed.
My housemates laughed with me. When I smiled, so did they. Each time I spoke, which was frequent, they shook their heads in good humor. Positivity and energy flooded through my body like rushing water — it felt so clean and refreshing. The water was purifying. It was lightly scented, it smelled like fresh linen. There was a spring, in my stomach, in my mind, in my hands and feet. It sparkled in the sunshine. It looked so beautiful. I could have bent down, cupped some of the cool water in my hands, and drunk until I was full.
Work in the afternoon was not stimulating. It was too slow. I sat in a hard chair and listened to my students speak. I taught five classes. I taught until 8:30. The boredom, the lack of excitement, drained me. I wanted to close my eyes or stab myself in the hand.
I got home at 9pm and they were all in the kitchen, they were cooking dinner and eating prosciutto and cheese.
“Have you eaten yet, Jeannie?” Antonio asked me.
“No. Where is Daniel?”
“He’s gone to buy some wine.”
Daniel returned with three bottles. “Are you already drunk?” he asked me as he opened the first one.
“Drunk? I don’t understand. What are you talking about?” I took the bottle of wine from his hands. I poured myself a glass, I drank it like water. I poured a second and I drank it again, like water. “Oh, would you look at that. Yes, Daniel, I think you may be right.”
The energy was extreme. Pushups did not help. Burpees made me want more. Sit-ups left me infuriatingly unsatisfied. It was an energy that wanted to be purged from my body, but how could that have been done in my bedroom at 12am? How frustrating! It was like love that was threatening to fade because the courage had never been found to do something about it, to declare it.
Why did I move out of that apartment on the sixth floor? I began to wonder. I salivated over the thought of Purgatorio ad Arco and all those stairs that there were to climb. Oh, I would have done anything in that moment to move back into my old room.
It was 2am, I was in bed, and I was thinking. I was thinking about my weekend. I was thinking about it so enviously, I was envious of her, the girl who remained there, living on within that memory in my mind. I thought about it as if it had been a holiday, as if I had gone away to a luxury resort, or to a party island, or to a little country town where I had met the person of my dreams — it was like that, it felt like something that had been so beautiful, something worth missing, something worth the nostalgia.
My eyes snapped open after just a few hours of sleep. I immediately felt the worry — I could feel it starting to seep through the thick clouds of fantasy in my mind. I got up. I cancelled my classes for that day, and focused on my writing instead. In the late afternoon, I forced myself to take a break and eat something.
And it happened that night, in the supermarket, while I was staring at polystyrene trays of sliced zucchini. There were mushrooms too, and a woman beside me was reaching for the lettuce.
I wondered if I was going to vomit, or collapse. I bought my groceries and left.
If only I could have seen where it had gone. I would have chased after it. I would have picked it up off the floor, gathered it up in my arms, and like paper mache, plastered it across my body, back to where it had been before.
I felt the difference as I walked. Walking without the full body cast of energy and brightness, walking without the plaster that had cracked and crumbled away while I was looking at something else.
I was left with a small frame, a frame that was too weak and frail. Worn away by excessive adrenaline. I felt exposed, naked, to be stumbling home like that, all my fragility on show.
I thought about the people I loved, and how much I needed them in that moment. But they were so far away, in other places, doing other things and they had no idea that I stood in that dark street, in confusion and fear, and that I was crying out for them, for help, to be told that I was going to be okay.
, J. (2019). My Life with Bipolar Affective Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/my-life-with-bipolar-affective-disorder/