Hypomania is (not) hilarious

This is the sixth week since I’ve been out of the clinic. It’s been going quite well, relatively speaking. The months preceding that were such a mess that anything would be better. Mostly I’ve been enjoying a happy medium between depression and hypomania, with occasional ups and downs. There are still things I’m struggling to deal with, like remembering what you were telling me just now, but that might also be a side-effect of the medication. You win some, you lose some. The thought that the medication might be working outweighs almost any negative side-effect.

Most people don’t know much about Bipolar Mood Disorder or its treatment at all. A friend recently described another bipolar person to me as “literally crazy”. He didn’t know about my diagnosis then. He does now (I have forgiven you). I’m a Type 2, which means the depressive episodes are longer and more frequent than the hypomanic ones. It’s a lot easier to explain to someone why depression might be a bad state to be in, even if they have never experienced it themselves. Nobody wants to be sad, right? It’s much more complicated than that, but even if you can grasp the concept of a sadness so deep its paralysing, we’re getting somewhere. I’ve written quite a bit about my own experience of depression, but not that much about hypomania. Part of that is the difficulty of describing it, and part of it is the fact that when I’m most creative I’m usually in a hypomanic episode, so I don’t realise what’s going on. Retrospectively I can identify two poems that deal with it in some way: Quantum Mirror and Duality.

When I describe hypomania in terms of creativity and link to those poems, it might be hard to understand how such an episode may be a bad thing. The problem is that, just like depression, hypomania takes over your life. All I want to do is create, anything and everything. You’ve only seen the poetry because I’ve somehow managed to maintain some sort of good sense in publishing those that I don’t absolutely hate. But I’ve tried out other forms of creation too, and some friends have had the unfortunate experience of bearing the brunt of that. Like that time I wanted to make music so bad (dude, I am so sorry about the horror I put you through, although in retrospect it’s quite hilarious and sad). Shit, I still do. Let me make it clear that I don’t know the first thing about making music and I cannot sing. I should not be allowed near these things. And then I started painting watercolours. Not because I went to art classes or had some aspiration, but because I just desperately felt the need to create something, and the writing wasn’t forthcoming.

During this time you usually think everything you’re making is bloody awesome too. Like man, I’m a fucking genius. I own this shit! Why am I not famous? You’re almost always wrong. Very wrong. (Seriously man, I am so sorry). I’ve decided to share some of these LOLs with you, cringe-worthy as they are, so that you can see just how bad it can get. They’ll be appearing in the Dispatches from Crazytown from time to time, after I’ve had another episode of serious creative misjudgement. I try to rein it in, but guys, it is so difficult. Here’s the first disaster, from that time I played with Garage Band for four days straight and pooped out this gem. Feel free to judge me, I have already judged myself.

Click the picture for the link:

Terrified selfie
Tobogganing © Elle Warren 2015

“I want to say that I had the good sense to buy a car that I can afford, but that’s not the case.”

I concentrate so hard on all these things I want to do that I struggle to concentrate on the things I have to do. Like eat, and earn my keep, and sleep. My thoughts race all the time, so I come up with idea after idea and I want to put them all into action right then and there, so I end up committing to far too many things and not being able to execute all of them, which frustrates me. Because my concentration is so bad, my driving gets really bad, so I often catch myself going 170 km/h, which is bad any day, but terrible if you can’t remember stretches of the road. And then I remember how I came about this car I’m driving, which I bought brand new in December 2015. I am not bragging, it has always been my goal to buy a second-hand car. I just snapped one day and walked into the dealership and said, “I want to buy a car.” Being the sharks that they are, they were only too happy to help me. I want to say that I had the good sense to buy a car that I can afford, but that’s not the case. I was lucky that my employment situation, which was in flux at the time, worked out pretty well, and I am not royally fucked right now. Because hypomania makes you reckless and you end up doing things you really shouldn’t, like spending all the fucking money. And nobody notices because you seem so damn stoked with life that they’re just happy that you’re not depressed for a change. Except that hypomanic episodes usually precede episodes of depression. And when that wave hits, it’s like a baseball bat to the gut, and all you want to do is die.

La petite mort

midnight –
and the wolves won’t stop howling
and you aren’t here –
but your scent traces the windowpane
resisting the onslaught of another southeaster
you stay –
and i can’t help but breathe you in
lungs languishing in loving revolt
against the invasion of oxygen in the midst of this souvenir
you left behind –
while i lie here breathing you in
heart folding gently around some small token of sin
symbolizing the movement from sand to castle
you built –
but the foundation’s worn thin
and the crow is drawing near

View from Erebus

            for Zach

there’s no need to fill a silence that’s already full
    you are completely unexpected
shades trace the ruins of a once-vivid psyche
    blinded by every small hurt
yet there you are     unafraid
    an intimation of phosphorescence
    impossibly true
it’s okay not to know what to say
    except that you do
my recollection of this timeline is protean
    characterised by loss of character
somehow you’re the only thing
    i manage to hold on to

it takes hours to collect the debris
    of a melancholy mind
nothing is not the absence of feeling
but the utter negation of emotional capacity
    in a single soft motion
you tempered the fury
Nyx had left behind
and the clock keeps ticking
and I’m still here
    unfolding
and you’re still here
    silently holding

This Tree

this tree, it shakes under me
the flames at its roots feed on my feet
his crackling weakens my knees
and my grip is feeble

this tree, its branches tackle me
the sun in its leaves sets me free
it has a hold on me (how did he?)
and I am conquered

this tree, it envelops me
sends me into rapturous hyperbole
wipes clean my book of debris
and writes only me
                and he

S5 0014+81

I’m on a suicide mission to space
and there’s only seven seconds to lift-off
the coins in my back pocket sing
we will meet the milky way on mars
these are the things I will remember you by
even when I have forgotten myself

I nailed myself to the wall to withstand
the urge to keep my feet on the floor
in this moment I weep for you
carrying a burgundy burden below me
even though you do not know it

In the sixth second I steel my nerves
in the fifth I fasten my resolve
in the fourth I finally say the words
you cannot and do not want to hear
(though I have heard you whisper them to my shadow)

In the third I see a quasar
built on a hundred years in the sun with you
in the second a carrier pigeon is caught
in the combustion of jet fuel
lost in transmission

Out there it’s complete chaos
but in here nothing has changed
in the first second my knees buckle
under the pressure of a thousand heartaches
and I secretly hope you will catch me

Then a last great shake
as I take my place
among the most distant of them all.

This is not a drill

You never think that you would find yourself in a psychiatric hospital. Today is day two. I stand in line to get my long list of medications in the morning and evening. They take my phone by 10pm. They take my blood pressure twice daily. I am relieved that the walls are painted a pleasant earthy colour, and that the throw on my bed is a soft and loving shade of blue – the kind that I like – and not some stark orange or red. I’m starting to feel at home.

How I got here is not that important. That I am here now and that there are other people who are also genuinely trying to get better is what gets me through the days. Every single person in this place understands the relentless pain rooted in something so deeply hidden that you can’t access it even if you tried. Everyone knows that sometimes it hurts because you are empty. That you feel useless, worthless, insignificant, a burden to your friends and family. We all know the words to say to each other to lighten the load, even though none of us have internalised them. We try. I try.

I have already and am continuing to write about what brought me here, what is happening to my brain and my body while I’m in here, and how things are changing. Dispatches from Crazytown* is my experiment at documenting mental illness, treatment, and recovery. I am not crazy. Nobody in here is crazy. You could walk past any of us on the street and not know that we had been in a psychiatric hospital, because there is nothing wrong with us. We are human, and we deserve to be loved. If you have a friend struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or any mental health condition, reach out. Go visit them in hospital. Make sure they know you don’t give a shit how crazy they may seem, you’ll always be there.

*Crazytown is my brain, so named because it moves in a self-repeating loop on several different levels at all times. 

Cosmopolitan

a billion microscopic particles of light bouncing
simultaneously off my skin and that of my doppelgänger
end up finally cascading through my retina.
the enemy is at the door.
it is dressed as that natural ally of the sort of men
who read people like they read books
that they will put away on a shelf forty pages in
: featureless and anodyne it watches me
as i go through my ritual ekdysis
and am for a while naked.
it lifts eyebrows at the state i’m in
girl, your arms are way too thin
and your shoulders so slumped,
stand up straight!
and now i see my little ribs
carve their way down into charybdis
and then rip the whole thing outwards and upwards
revealing themselves as treacherous scylla.
i try to intervene in this never-ending war
but my heart has the final say
and i am defeated by her and her army –
who surely cannot be enough to protect her
looking as short as they do, and half-limp too.
there on the collarbone is a nice line
quite defined on which my greatest crime
sits beckoning. it is a circus up here
but they welcome me as one of them
until my gaze falls to see brazil get consumed
by a tribe of amazonian women
who have no need of men –
or have forgotten why we keep them around.
from behind their ranks a siren
screams in protest and causes an uprising
that reaches all the way to my thighs
from whence i see my feet –
immovable as they are –
find their footing in the same grotesque way
as the eagle grips its prey.
then I breathe it all in from my hip bones
to my chin and watch me
surrender under the onslaught of
a billion microscopic particles of light.

On This Occasion

This is my heart on a stained-glass platter. Please do not break it. I cannot afford a new one. It is torn and the glass is cracked, but it’s all I have. Take it, it is a gift.

These are my eyes in a ceramic pot. Please do not shake it. It makes me dizzy. They are cloudy and the one eye is black, but it’s all I have. Hold it, it is a gift.

These are my lips on a bed of velvet roses. Please water them often. I have spent a long time cutting off the thorns. They are small and rough around the edges, but it’s all I have. Nurture it, it is a gift.

These are my hands in a porcelain cup. Please do not drop it. I inherited it from my mother. They are weathered and the rim is chipped, but it’s all I have. Cherish it, it is a gift.

This is my spine on a black-and-white canvas. Please don’t neglect it. I have spent years trying to fix it. It is skew and the paint is peeling, but it’s all I have.

Keep it, it is a gift.

Another unfinished lustpoem

I open my eyes and there he is
like a fever dream gone nuclear
the razor sharpness in his eyes
tear the words from the back of my throat
to my lips where they dangle
incomplete like this space between us
there is a million tiny miles
I’m not sure I will ever get there
with these letters covering the curve
of my most attractive feature
then like any good hallucination he
morphs into a city of lights
and the thoughts that are stuck
in between my teeth like the fleshy part of a mango
turn saline and crystallise in place
I smile almost as bright as he does
when he draws the last bit of energy from
my heart is bigger than my hands
where I see his resting cradling
my words so they do not slip from my grasp
and end up on his tongue.