"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
la·ment Function: verb Etymology: Middle English lementen, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French lamenter, from Latin lamentari, from lamentum, n., lament 1 : to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively : MOURN 2 : what so many of us have done this week
For most of us who fight this illness, bipolar disorder, there are times in our lives when we sink into a depression that there is no word for. It isn't sadness. It isn't hopelessness. It isn't distress. It is so far beyond all of those things, that no word can contain the blackness of it.
I think the best way I can explain it is that it is like a craving, sort of. It's like when a smoker can't get a cigarette, or a heroin user can't get a fix. But in our case, we experience a vast sucking emptiness in our hearts, way past what we were ever designed to feel. Nothing, nothing can fill it.
It can even physically hurt, its so bad.
Why does this happen? It's because our illness messes with our brain chemicals. And although things that happen, things that we think, can sometimes trigger these changes, at the root of it we know it is completely biological and chemical. We are not in the dark room because we had a bad childhood or "have trouble coping." We are there because there simply isn't any seratonin or dopamine or pseudoepinephrine or whatever.
Our illness is cyclical, meaning that we go from "normal" to having too much chemical to too little chemical and back again, to put it quite simply. And some of us are sort of "stuck" in a portion of that cycle. People who are stuck in the "up" phase, or the "manic" phase, have high energy and production levels and need little sleep. At a bit higher level, people get grandiose and do risky things.
But the other end of the spectrum is those who are stuck in the down or depressed part of the cycle. For these people life is truly hell on Earth. Day after day, moment after moment, they struggle and fight just to perform the basic essentials of life. For them, something as simple as taking a shower is a monumental accomplishment and takes almost superhuman strength. Many times those around them don't realise this, and things are said and done that bring a lot of harm to a lot of people.
Being stuck in the depressive phase causes people to lose their jobs, their homes, their friends. And it feeds on itself, with each part of life lost contributing to the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
I know several people who spend horrible amounts of time in the depressive phase of this illness. One in particular, Kristine, was one of the most special to me.
I remember about two years ago, when Kristine got caught so solidly in the black room, as we called it when we spoke. Both of us had been there. I knew how terrible that place was, that airless infinitely lonely place in our minds that only people like us knows exists. And she fell into it like a face first train wreck.
At the time, she was a sign language interpreter. She loved what she did, and especially liked the fact that she was helping others. Kristine would always want to do that, to help others. But she found herself unable to work any longer because of her illness.
Her doctors tried drug after drug, meeting with only minimal and temporary successes. Sometimes she would cheer up, maybe even for weeks at a time, but inexhorably she was dragged back to that dark room, where the torture was.
Her life had fallen utterly apart.
Eventually, her doctors decided to use ECT on her. ECT, that's Electro Convulsive Therapy, or shock therapy. ECT is the last ditch stand for depression.
At first, it worked. She was tracking her moods on her calendar, using simple color codes - green, yellow, red - to gauge her state. First yellows, then greens happened.
But then the ECT began to wear off. They did it again, a total of over 20 times I think. Kristine ended up still uncured, but with a disturbing portion of her memory missing.
Yet, still she remained the wonderful caring person she was.
If you told Kristine about a slapstick scene in a movie, she would truly feel sorry for the person who slipped on the banana peel. It would never occur to her to laugh at someone.
Sometimes, when she was green, she would be impish. I'll never forget once when she looked at me with those too innocent eyes and said in her soft girlish voice to me, "You wanna see my tattoo?" After which she pulled her pants partially down (in public) to show me the tattoo on her buttock. And we weren't even talking about tattoos.
But most of all, I remember the times when one or the other of us were having problems or were stuck in the dark room, and we would call the other. It was her home I went to a few weeks ago, where I saw her artwork, where she invited me in when I was doing so badly that day.
It left a big hole when I found out that Kristine had killed herself last week. She had not told anyone, she just went out and did it, being as nice about it as she could. I won't go into the details.
She had struggled so, so hard. Superhuman. And nothing could help her.
She had gotten into a phase where all her days were spent in that black place, but this time, she wanted off the rollercoaster. She didn't want to dope up on pills that didn't work, she didn't want to be subjected to ECT again. And she didn't see any other hope.
All she had was unbearable pain, and she wanted to end it no matter how.
How I wish that she had sought help one more time. But I understand. She did what she did to stop the pain, pure and simple.
Kristine was not a Christian. The church had utterly failed her, and she wanted nothing to do with it. Yet her spirit was one of the most loving I have ever experienced. I like to think that in her case, God, who is just and fair above all, will know that this damaged young girl is really one of his own, and precious no matter how she reacted to the institutions of men.
I think justice would not be served otherwise. No, not at all.
1Jo 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.