It’s terrifying how fast things change.
One moment you’re struggling- cast adrift in a churning, raging ocean, and then the next you’re floating on gentle waves beneath a bright corn flower blue sky. Living with a serious mental illness diagnosis can feel a little bit like living with a mind prone to severe, unpredictable weather conditions; one moment you’re boiling hot and the next moment you’re freezing cold and shivering.
Christmas for me was bittersweet; the whole holiday felt as though it was tinged with nostalgia and creeping dislocation, but then yesterday I returned to work and felt strangely and unsettlingly “normal.” I use that word hesitantly and cautiously because I hate it; I think It’s one of the most dangerous and redu thoughctive words in the English language. However, in this case it sorta works. I was really tired yesterday, and sometimes wonder whether the symptoms bite less when I’m tired because I don’t have the energy to sustain their ferocity.
Anyway regardless, I had a good first day back at work, and felt relatively calm and able to ride my mind’s waves without too much turbulence. By the time I got home I felt relaxed and optimistic; perhaps this is the year, or the month/week, that I’ll crack this diagnosis for good and leave the nightmare symptoms behind me. Perhaps this is It!
Then I woke up this morning, and travelled into work, and by the time I arrived in the symptoms had been so bad that by 9.30am I’d already lost control a good few times. When I say lose control I mean the symptoms have been so intense I’ve had to pinch myself to stop myself from punching a wall, or bite my lip to stop from screaming- and when I say scream I really mean howl with pure fury. I suppose the concept of losing control is entirely subjective and relative, but some part of my psyche definitely came unstuck for a while. When that happens the symptoms/sensations are so intense it’s baffling- and yet that sense of bewilderment only compounds the general sense of helpnessness/powerlessness and related frustration which this illness seems to work to periodically promote.
It’s horrendous; and when I say horrendous the word simply doesn’t sum it up. I’m feeling slightly better now but after an intense bout like that it always feels like my mind is left a little bit bruised; like I have a weak spot which I have to tread very carefully around unless I step wrong and cause another avalanche. I’m also left with this baffled sense of, this condition is utterly ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous! It seems to indicate that my mind is some garish jack-in-the-box just waiting to be opened; a length of yarn waiting to be unravelled and then tied around ones own neck. I could go on with the metaphors but I hope you get the drift.. basically my mind feels disconnected, impersonal, obscene.
And it becomes all the more unlikely because I felt so good last night.. and relatively good on waking up this morning. I’m not denying the existence of day to day mood swings but it just seems incongruous to imagine that the mind could change it’s entire appearance so utterly and so swiftly; one moment I’m calm and the next I’m foaming at the mouth; hissing and spitting like a cat put in front of a fox. It’s diabolical.
But, I know why it’s happening, really. I have a good grasp on 95% of the phenomena causing these violent upheavals and fissures in the tectonic plates in my head. I just need to maintain that grasp; and not let my surity and certainty get knocked so easily.
For that is the key really- my great strength and weakness is being able to see both sides of all stories- but now, for myself, I need to work on only holding onto the side which helps me, which enforces me and sustains my little patch of relative peace. I need to stop giving the ‘other side of the argument’ time in my mind; stop letting it unravel me so. This is the key to my peace of mind now, and my mental stability.
I still refuse to label schizophrenia as merely an “illness” or a “bad thing,” because it is neither; it is none so simple and none so easily labelled. But it does have clout, and when my minds lines get tangled up in a way which isn’t sustainable dear god does that clout come down hard.
I wonder whether, looking to the future, my continued recovery and progression away from the worst of the ‘symptoms’ will be a process of leaving them behind, or learning to live with them. Or perhaps they are two sides of the same process- two ways of looking at the same outcome. I’ll leave these fractures behind because I’ll be able to step over them, instead of falling into them.
I live in hope.