Inside The Eye.
As a bipolar person, I am prone to what popular science has coined, “episodes.” The term makes it sound crazier than it is, conjuring images of mental lapses where people end up in hospitals for days, sucking Lithium through a straw.
“Cindy just got out of that rehab facility after her… you know… [whispers] episode.”
In a literal sense, the word can refer to short television slots. Which, as someone who has “episodes”, I can vouch this image is more correct than anything else. My brain will capture and force me to become an audience member of my own life. I’ve grown to understand them (mostly, anyway), and ride them out with a type of complacency. Not much fighting, just acceptance of, “oh, your chemicals are all brewed. It’ll cycle out soon.”
My brain hates this. He used to get villainous satisfaction from dragging me away, kicking; it was a way to validate his power. Not anymore, though. It’s routine when he comes knocking now.
“Alright, cranium. Let’s do this. You bringing popcorn?”
“You know, Carly. You’ve really taken the fun out of this.”
“Aw. So sorry to spoil your fun. This better be a good one. I was in the middle of making some progress. If I’m going to the sidelines now, I better at least be entertained. Seriously… you have popcorn?”
We settle on the outer rim of my pupil during the events, watch my world unfold in a grey veil where characters are 2-D and every idea is flat. Sometimes I’m a comedy, and I chuckle from how pathetic I look strewn on a couch like some discarded Cheeto. I can be a sad indie flick, where I wander the streets, choking on un-cried tears, or an uplifting survival story, where I fight past my demons and turn around quick. Most of the time, though, I’m a spoiled ending - aka, frustrating.
“You know this isn’t me, right?” I ask my cranium, stuffing about 500 popcorn kernels in my mouth. We’re perched in the eye, watching me sob on the edge of my bed for no particular reason.
“Well, if it happens sometimes, it kind of is you. Not fully you, but kind of you,” he says.
We had become friends, after he accepted his gradual transition from kidnapper. We’d bond over discussions of rationality, even though I wasn’t functioning that way. The night I realized he wasn’t against me was a busy evening in the bar I work. We were gazing, unamused, at a manic breakdown my misplaced cells were causing. Even as I sat removed, I could feel it. The claustrophobia of empty glasses; the fifty different tasks to perform; the quips of rude people. It was chaotic shrapnel through my spine; every cell in my body ramming my skull; angry bees swarming my veins. It seemed my body could seizure at any moment, and pop my head straight off my neck.
“Ask to take three minutes in the back,” I plead with my brain. “The lounge is under control enough for that right now. Please. I can feel the anxiety stretching out my fucking skin. I’m elastic about to snap.”
He rocks, back and forth. “I can’t. I want to for you, but I can’t. You have too much pride.”
“Fuck my pride! My thoughts are coming so fast, I’m not even sure they are thoughts. And it’s starting to make me irritable. You have to remove me from this situation for a minute. Please…” I touch his sticky, pink surface; a simple gesture I had never done before to show how much I needed him. My coworker began to ask me a question. My voice was venom before he even finished, and I growled “what?!” in his direction. I cringed from the outskirts.
“Look. I’m snapping at the people I care about.”
“Carly. I promise, I’m trying. Every time I get close, there’s that damn wall of pride. It doesn’t help that you’re ashamed, either.”
“I feel helpless,” I whisper. “But I guess the shame, the pride… that’s all my doing…”
“Yes, it is. Don’t worry. The mania should pass soon.”
Pass it did, but the effort from containing myself left me a withered balloon. I wasn’t a complete success at being incognito, either. “Carly, you’re sad. Why are you sad?” someone had asked earlier, as I watched espresso brew in a slated state.
“I’m not,” is what I said out loud, but what I spoke from my eyeball was much different. “Who, me? I’m fine. My insides are just prying at every surface I have, and trying to keep control is strangling the fuck out of me.” My hand had shaken as I grabbed the delicate cup. When I gave it to the person who ordered it, I shot a smile and syrupy “enjoy!”, wondering if they could tell I was about to jack hammer through the floor.
“You’re okay. You’re doing better than you think you are,” my cranium comforted.
When the brain shuts you out, takes control with a force you have to wrangle, the feeling is both frightening and awe-inspiring. I have to admire the power of it. The brain can live seven minutes after our hearts stop beating, so the fact it can override my control is nothing to be shocked over, only dismayed. And nervous. What will it do, next time? As far as episodes go, what happened that night is one of the worst manic states I’ve experienced. The frenetic energy coupled with energy expended to keep control exhausted me into two days of recovery. I dragged my skeleton around the first, defeated, and the second was questionable because I couldn’t tell if my mood was too happy.
So, what happens next time? Does my cranium allow me to keep my position, watching and understanding? Or will I become lost within him; lose control; come to myself days later like some escaped hospital patient who realizes they wandered twenty miles of snow without shoes. Therapy and medication says this will not happen to me. My own self awareness believes this will not happen to me. But when the brain doesn’t even need blood to keep making decisions, what do these three things know?