( The above image belongs to my photo poetry collection: The Water Bride.) There are days when you can walk into my house at any time of the day, and you will think you walk into a page of an interior design magazine. My husband told his coworkers once, that he never knows what color the walls will be when he comes home.
In such times, I can easily complete 3 to 5 studio sets within one weekend. I even create my own photo poetry for each client setting, loving the results. Which is a hard thing to do for any artist who does their own set, costume, make up, hair – next to the initial photography work, lights, etc.
Back in my mid 20’s I had many of those very creative manic phases. Less and less now in my 40’s, where peaks are seldom and lows more frequent. During more manic episodes I was super productive, creative, worked all the time, didn’t sleep much, but nothing crazy ever happened. I produced some of my greatest works in times like that, made good money, lived well and loved my life. I was skinny, felt beautiful, fit and full of life. My manic episodes didn’t effect my life the way my dark episodes did. They felt normal. They felt like me. I was in charge, inspired, happy because I was inspired, and in bliss because I was productive and hands on. The results were great, and I was able to handle any project coming my way with joy.
It was to expect that none of those times would last forever. Even if they lasted for a good year or more. I already knew it back then. I knew I would fall deep and hard eventually, and that I would be lost to that world. Where a month before I have held press conferences for our marketing firm, I would soon only be able to recall those times by newspaper clippings and faint memories of better days. That world with all the joys hard work brings with it, its people, accomplishments, reassurance, creativity and prospects would be lost to me. I would be an outcast. The first few days will be ok. People think you have a bad cold or feel under the weather. They still call, and send well wishes. But all that stops eventually, and there is not a thing you can do about it. Which at that point is probably a good thing since you won’t answer phone calls, correspondence, and you will definitely not get the door. Your home becomes a cave, your safety net as much as your personal hell house. You will loath your bed at one point because all you want to do is sleep, which you can’t, but you are always, always tired. So there you are, thinking and thinking, with your head spinning, and your mind dragging you by your hair, further and further down the hallway of a place you know should be off limits. There is a safety switch the body turns on in case of danger or potential death. That switch is gone. Completely fried.
By then the flare up of an episode has already taken away the comfort every-day life with its routines provides. Your income, your dignity, all you valued, loved and needed fades away. The disease robs you of your identity, friendships, your social life, your job. Even those who love you might eventually not be strong enough to endure watching you drown if it’s a bad one. Your abilities, creativity, motivation, inspiration, talents are gone. Next to your appetite your sense of smell, vision, and hearing will be altered. You will hurt in places you never thought you could hurt, because there is simply no explanation for it.
Numbness will take over the joy and excitement for the most simple things in life, like the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning, of the earth after the rain. You feel nothing. The absence of all that is not the worst. One would think so.
It’s the absence of God I feel when completely thrown into the depth of what I call Nothing. Because there is nothing. My brain eventually takes me to a complete void. To absolute darkness, where faith has no place, and God doesn’t exist. In your mind there is nothing left but to end it. The logical answer to everything. To free yourself and your loved ones from your miserable, pathetic existence…..
Everything changed after eventually climbing out of this abyss, especially for those who make it through severe episodes like that many times. They come back differently and there are many great examples in history one can read up on.
It is weird, but I can see it in people’s eyes. Like from a war zone, they don’t look the same. I feel connected to them because they know. There is no need to hide, no need to act and we can just be. It is liberating and wonderful to talk without the usual sad or shocked looks. Because there isn’t anything you have to say. The nonchalant I am – so – sorry expressions or words are not nessecary. Just looking at one another makes us realize that we are of the lucky ones. We made it out.