Category Archives: bipolar
Content and language warnings on this one. Sorry, guys.
I’m in a weird place right now.
On one hand, I’m doing better than I have at this time of year in a while.
Fall and winter … okay, and spring … are hard for me. The whole range is loaded with difficult memories, and winter does all kinds of crazy stuff to brain chemistry. Crushing depressions studded with dizzying manias are more or less the norm.
While late summer is potentially the most dangerous season—that period when any Summer Mania shifts into agitated depression—but the winter is full of a trifecta of suck: crappy health, crappy brain chemistry, and really effing bad memories.
This year, I’m having less general trouble with the brain chemistry than usual. I’m not going to say that I’m not depressed; I am probably at least a bit depressed in the neurochemical sense. On the other hand, dancing and cirque-ing and having an actual supportive network of friends in meatspace helps, as does getting the house back in order and baking a bunch of delicious stuff all the time. Seriously, you guys, when something I cook makes D happy, the effect is weirdly magical.
Because of cirque, Winter Ballet Break doesn’t mean an abrupt halt to all the physical activity that helps keep the volume of the peaks and troughs in my brain chemistry a little lower.
I’m putting the rest of this behind a cut, y’all, partly so you have a choice about it, but also partly because it makes me feel less weird about writing about it.
I took a day off today — perhaps imprudently, perhaps not. I am an intensely driven person whose drive occasionally gives way to sheer, unrepentant laziness.
Fortunately, that rarely lasts more than one day. Also, I suspect it may simply be the fatigue that visits itself upon me from time to time attempting to masquerade under a different name: if I call it laziness, I can pretend it’s a choice up until it really cripples me. Maybe taking the rest before it reaches that point is a better plan?
After all, sacrificing one day in order to save four or five makes sense to me. It’s a more efficient way to reach what I’m driving at.
That’s not what I’m talking about when I say that driving is exhausting, by the way — I mean sitting in the car for a day and a half, most of it at the wheel.
They(1) say that the brain uses about 25% of the energy one takes in just doing its job. Given the relentless focus required to drive more than a thousand miles amongst apparently homi-and suicidal weekend travelers, I don’t doubt it. Seven hours behind the wheel makes me about seven times as tired as seven hours in the studio.
Anyway, today I woke up at 8:45 AM (All by myself! No alarm clock needed!), briefly considered hitting up Modern class, then essentially said, “Ah, frack it all,” and settled down to read.
This concerns me slightly, as if today’s scheduled class was ballet, I would have gone. As such, I’m questioning whether I shouldn’t just re-devote Mondays to ballet, which in turn makes me feel partly like a quitter and partly like perhaps re-narrowing my focus won’t kill me. At the end of the day, Modern is great, but Ballet is the thing that sets my hair on fire. Right now, budgetary constraints force me to choose between them. It’s not an easy choice.
I opted not to invade the Monday morning ballet class for similar reasons — I guess it smacked of opting for the thing that you really want instead of the things you want less (Modern, rest) but which are good for you. Apparently my Inner Virtue Ethicist mistook ballet class for the Easy Way, and since said IVE values doing what is hard, perhaps it’s confused. I should remind it that ballet is quite hard enough, thank you very much.
In fact, now that I’m analyzing it to death, my inner conflict about this morning’s class, and the resulting decision, seems rather dumb. When ballet is the Thing You Do, how can it ever be wrong to go to class? But perhaps a rest day was, in fact, in order. The cat certainly approved.
I plan to try Friday class instead, at the beastly hour of 9 AM, since this week I’ll have today and tomorrow as rest days.
Tonight we’re taking the truck up to Elizabethtown, so evening class isn’t an option.
In the long run, there’s a part of me that feels like it’s foolish to give up a ballet class once a week to take modern once a week. It’s difficult to make much progress on such a constricted schedule; meanwhile, I’m going like gangbusters in terms of ballet progress.
I feel like there’s a decision pending that I don’t want to make because it shouldn’t have to be an either/or thing, but will remain so until we get our finances really hammered out. I suppose I’ll talk to BB about about it on Wednesday.
In other news, I just learned that a piece I submitted to a scholarly(2) anthology of autobiographical essays by queer athletes has been accepted! So that, at any rate, is quite exciting.
- Whoever “they” are (weasel words!). Can’t recall who exactly and can’t be bothered to look it up right now; laziness pervades.
- I kid you not, Autocorrupt suggested “sparkly” in place of “scholarly.” Though, to be fair, I for one am at least as sparkly as I am scholarly.
And I am about as happy about that as it’s possible to be.
Spent a relaxing day looking over (and then frantically revising, because I can’t leave well enough) a couple of things I wrote for Dr. Dancebelt, sent them along, reviewed things and updated old reviews on Amazon, kibitzed on the Tweeters, chatted about some camp inventory stuff with one of my fellow camp leads from Burning Man (who is also one of my favorite people, full-stop), and spent a bunch of time doing laundry, folding laundry, doing laundry, folding laundry. Ate some food, probably going to drink some decaf chai now. Waiting for the last load of laundry to finish drying, then I’m off to bed.
There is much to be said for a quiet day spent reading, writing, and folding things (I like folding things; it’s one of those jobs that has a clear start and end point, and when you’re done things are better than they were when you started).
More or less decided what to wear to tomorrow’s performance, which (as it will be for most of us) is less rehearsed and will be seen by more people than anything else I’ve done in the vein of performing arts (probably including all previous dance performances) simply by virtue of being part of a free outdoor festival. It may involve quite a bit of improv, but IDK, not worried about it.
I’m in that place, mentally, in which things appear to be improving, but I’m taking my optimism with a stiff dose of caution. Tomorrow might be a trial — not because of the performance itself, but because I should probably be cautious about how much I actually wind up interacting with humans.
Getting back into the regular rhythm of ballet, on the other hand, helps immensely. Looking forward to class tomorrow. I hope by then my trapezii and lats will be done being sore, though.
I don’t like the manic phases of my bipolar disorder very much, for the most part. The early on-ramp can be pretty nice sometimes — who wouldn’t want to feel amazingly capable and confident? — but it passes quickly into what I can only describe as overconfidence of psychotic (in the literal sense — that is, out of touch with reality) proportions and leaves me with a serious distrust of any moment of confidence I experience. And that doesn’t even begin to address the fact that, most often, I experience dysphoric or mixed manias, which are agitated, angry, and uncomfortable.
That said, I think dislike my depressions even more. Or maybe I don’t; maybe I just think that I do, in the moment. The worst thing you’re experiencing right now is always the worst thing you’re experiencing right now.
Anyway, this is a depression like so many others I’ve experienced. I wake up every morning (or, today, afternoon — thanks, sleep meds) and lie in bed until I either have to haul my ass to class or, if I don’t have class, until I feel like I can no longer put off getting up.
Then I get up and start pushing the boulder uphill.
Often my depressions are agitated ones: I feel restless and like I need to keep moving; I feel vaguely angry almost all the time. Days during those depressions still begin the same way, though; it’s the end that’s different. I end those days dreading the moment that I have to get back into bed.
This depression is different. It’s the end of each day, really, that makes it different. Instead of dreading the moment that I have to lie down again, I look forward to it as a kind of reprieve. After I do the things that need to be done, or at least least the portion of them that I can manage, I can return to my bed, which is still safe and quiet. I find myself counting the minutes until I can justify returning to bed, even though sleeping is hard.
Normally I take some solace in pushing the boulder. It doesn’t matter that it’s just going to roll back down (and possibly over me) when I stop; it’s still evidence that there is something left of my strength and resilience; that I am still capable of getting up and living.
Here, too, this depression is different. With the exception of going to class, which I continue to do because I know that failing to do it would ultimately be worse for me, there is no sense of satisfaction in pushing the boulder.
If anything, there’s a kind of wariness. I start my climb and I burn too many matches; I dip into the next day’s supply.
After a while, I come to a day like this one, when I haven’t received a fresh supply and don’t know when one will come and I’m looking at a box with two measly matches in and knowing that today’s responsibilities will require more than just those two.
And all I want to do is stay here in bed and go back to sleep.
What will probably actually happen is that I’ll steal kindling from the cooking fire: I’ll build a kind of torch out of my remaining resources so any time I need a match, I’ll already have fire. In literal reality, this means running on an ocean of caffeine, knowing that tomorrow I’ll have even less energy than I do today.
The problem is that, at at the end of the day, this will leave me with even less with which to recharge myself, and then tomorrow I will have no matches and perhaps no cooking fire (in fact, I will definitely have no cooking fire if I don’t remember to save a match).
If this goes on long enough without some down time time to gather kindling and wood and without a resupply of matches, eventually a day will come on which I can’t push the boulder; a day on which the boulder and I stay in bed, camped at the base of the hill.
I write this in an attempt to understand what I’m doing to myself. In an attempt to grant myself a little grace for days like this one. In an attempt to consider whether or not it might be better to take the direct path of simply sitting with my boulder until more matches come.
Sometimes depression turns happy promises into bitter ones. In a good moment, on a good day, you promise your friends and yourself that you will come to this event or or that gathering. Then the appointed hour arrives and you find that your choices are to go and accept that the cost will be excruciatingly high … or to break the promises. Both these choices are bitter: both will leave you worse off than you were.
Today is one of those days for bitter choices.
That’s it for now.
I have, once again, rather fallen into the habit of perkily reporting on my ballet is adventures whilst staunchly neglecting one of the other legs of this ostensibly-tripedal blog: the bipolar part.
That said, I suspect that I often do this when I’m struggling. Keeping a stiff upper lip (which, no joke, autocorrupt wanted to parse as “soft, upset lip”) was a central tenet of my upbringing. I am a Yankee of the old school by birth and breeding; we’re supposed to be stoic and taciturn and to solve our problems by regarding them severely from beneath or beetling brows, or what have you.
I think part of me still believes that As Long As I Don’t Say It’s Happening, It’s NOT Happening.
…Which is almost hilariously untrue.
I’ve noticed that I do this to Denis: often he doesn’t hear that I’ve hit a rough patch until either A) I’m on the third or fourth consecutive night with less than six hours of sleep, B) I’m curled up in a ball.on the kitchen floor literally trying to hold myself together when he arrives home from work, C) I’m curled up as in B whilst freaking out about A, or D) I melt down completely, hit full-on fight/flight mode, and proceed to get in a fight with with the oven or the cupboard door or some other highly-threatening inanimate object.
I suppose, dear readers, that I do this to you as well. And that I have been.
As a whole Burning Man was great this year — but there was also a thing that happened which cut too close to old wounds and very much re-awakened the part of of me that is aggressively hypervigilant. This has made coping with the transition back to my normal routine immensely difficult.
Couple that with a couple of extremely-stressful situations at home, add a shot of hormonal chaos and the inevitable weirdness that crops up as the seasons change, and everything has gone right to Helena Handbasket (she’s a busy lady, that one).
So I haven’t really slept in several days, and now I’m debating whether I should try to go to 9:00 class or try to sleep. It probably says a great deal about the situation that I’m not so much worried about whether or not I can dance — in my current state, I’ve noticed, I always get a miraculous little hit of energy as I belly up to the barre — but whether or not I can drive.
Part of me considers it surprising that I can lie here and write about this lightly and humorously. It feels like hell. I’m getting through it a few minutes at a time, an hour at a time, by mindfulness: that is, by the practice of reeling my monkey mind in when it starts to go “OH G-D OH G-D I CAN’T LIVE LIKE THIS I JUST CAN’T I AM NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO SLEEP AGAIN ETC” with the knowledge that I don’t and can’t know the future, but I’m here now, and this is, in the famous words of Avenue Q, “…only for now.”
I remind myself that I might still feel feel like this in ten minutes or I might not, but that right here, right now, I can sit with this — with fury or despair or anger or terror or sorrow or wrath — and just experience it without either judging the experience or buying into the idea that it will never never end.
It will and it won’t.
The stream of arising phenomena is unending, and so it shall be until the universe cools or torches itself or we all reach Nirvana or Messiah comes (“… I apologize that I took so long…”)
In the calmer moments, like now, when I’m not actively frothing at the mouth, this is a comforting thing to think about. In the other moments, it’s at least something that lets me hang on until.
Meanwhile, I know that getting back to class on a regular basis will help, which right now feels like a Catch-22 (How can I get to class if I don’t start sleeping? How can I sleep of I don’t make all all my classes*?), but I remind myself: that’s only right now. It will come.
- *Physical exhaustion is still the only reliable way to manage my insomnia.
Anyway, I’m finally feeling feeling like I might actually be able to sleep a little. Maybe I’ll make class, maybe I won’t. That’s in the future ,and i can’t live there, but I can live here.
Anyway, there’s always noon class.
Bonne nuit, et bonne chance.
Today I was going to write about choreography, but instead I’m going to write about depression again.
In fact, I have an entire post about choreography almost ready to go, but I don’t feel up to finishing it.
So here we are.
This morning I woke up, which is to say that I finally and begrudgingly relinquished my grasp on a 10-hour sleep marathon, in a bad way.
Not that I’ve exactly been in a great way, so to speak — though I keep sorta faking it on facebook and in other areas of my life where it doesn’t make sense to let the depression leak on too many things, as one does.
It’s just that the sheer calibre of this particular depression has shot from “fairly mild” to “crushing” overnight.
By way of analogy, it reminds me of a thing that happened a couple of years ago. One day I was riding my bike up to the Highlands for one reason or another and was flabbergasted to discover that, literally overnight, an enormous sinkhole had swallowed someone’s front yard, a mature full-sized tree, and about a quarter of a fairly large intersection. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)
Needless to say, it was a shock. I had ridden past the same spot the day before, and everything was normal. This happens here, from time to time, thanks to a highly-porous limestone substrate and lots of underground water.
That’s kind of how this thing is going for me. Like the forces of whatever have been gnawing away at me from underneath, silent and unseen, and at last the surface has given way. So now I just wait it out, I guess.
The upside is that I wouldn’t say that it’s quite reached the “crippling” point. I am still capable of getting up and going to class and dancing. I thought I was supposed to teach today, but it turns out we didn’t have class because my co-teacher is in Massachusetts (should’ve known that; didn’t think to offer to teach class by myself — that’s probably okay).
I spent this morning at Open Fly making dances: one to Adele’s “Hello,” one to Jeff Buckley’s stellar cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” one of the few covers that I like better than the original artist’s version or, in this case, versions. The dance-making went well (if less modern and more ballet-influenced than I intended). I could move. I could balance. I could create. I could write stuff down, which I did a bit at the end. For a little while, I felt rather more … I don’t know, alive?
It’s weird how that works. The depression makes my body not want to move (which, btw, is the way you can tell when something is really, definitely, seriously wrong with me). Even speaking is hard right now. Dancing brings the body back to life for a while.
It’s like depression rolls a thick slab of glass across my experience of the world, and dancing pushes it back. As long as I dance, the glass stays gone. When I stop, it returns.
To be clear, though, dancing doesn’t eliminate the haze of pain that is forefront in my emotional experience. It’s just that I’ve learned that you can dance from the heart of pain the same way you can dance from the heart of joy.
And then, perhaps, sometimes you should dance from the heart of pain.
After, Denis collected me from the outdoor bench where I was slowly dissolving into inarticulate tears and took me out for brunch. While he was using the men’s room, I wrote myself a note:
When there’s joy, create from joy. When there’s pain, create from pain.
It’s not a profound thought, just kind of a reminder. Both joy and pain can be fuel.
I find all this comforting. Last night I was busy worrying if bipolar is going to derail my efforts to work in dance; if I am, in fact, a poor investment for any company, no matter how small.
But I think I can do this.
I can’t go work a desk job when I’m here (and definitely not if that desk job involves phone-based technical support … eee). But I can get up and make my body work; I can get up and be nice to the humans who dance with me and the humans who direct me as a dancer; I can get up and make art, somehow, with my body.
I can plumb the depths of my despair for dances the same way I sweep them from the heights of my joy.
And I can feel this without fighting it; without resisting.
In the car on the way to Open Fly, I think I apologized to Denis for falling apart or something like that.
He said it was okay; that maybe a huge part of the problem is that I work too hard to hold it all together. He said something similar the other night (last night? the night before?), when I couldn’t stop crying on the way home from a movie — that he loves my feelings, that he’s glad I have feelings.
I’m not always glad I have feelings, and I don’t entirely appreciate the fact that my feelings are all about the guerrilla warfare. On the other hand, maybe he’s right: maybe if I would just let go a little more often, there wouldn’t be so much of that.
For what it’s worth, dancing helps with the letting go. It’s hard to imbue your dancing with any kind of real emotional presence if you’ve got your emotions sealed up in some kind of sous-vide container and locked up in a freezer somewhere.
Hell, maybe they don’t call it “release technique” for nothin’, eh?
Anyway. So that’s what’s up, over here. Part of me feels like this is basically so much emotional exhibitionism (but, erm, if that’s so, then what the hell is basically all of modern dance?); another part of me feels like I’m still writing this at arm’s length because being entirely human in so public a context still basically freaks me the feck out.
So, yeah. Not sure if this makes even a modicum of sense. It’s just stuff. But, on the other hand, like Denis always points out: “If they were rational, we wouldn’t call them feelings.”
Soundtrack for My Depression:
Adele, “When We Were Young,” from 25
Adele, “Hello,” from 25
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah,” from Grace
Jeff Buckley, “Corpus Christi Carol,” from Grace
Leonard Cohen, “Bird on a Wire”
Leonard Cohen, “If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Coehn,”Who By Fire”
Hozier, “Take Me To Church”
Hozier, “Work Song”
The Beatles, “Julia”
…Oh, and basically the whole of Faure’s Requiem, but that’s a playlist unto itself.
…And also, if you haven’t heard Buckley’s version of “Corpus Christi Carol,” OMG, go listen to it. He sang most of it in an exquisite falsetto, clear and expressive and breathy only in exactly the right moments and sometimes tremulous; the rest in the upper part of his range, beautifully raw. Listen to his cover of “Hallelujah” while you’re at it, because holy. The man was a treasure.
And also, I so need to add “If It Be Your Will” to the contemporary ballet project I’m semi-secretly working on.
Edit: and “Who By Fire.”
I have, as is my habit, been fighting a depression that wins a little ground each day. My strategy, generally speaking, is to put a brave face on it in hopes that nobody will notice, and then, when I can no longer manage that, to beat a hasty retreat into the nearest isolated cave, emerging only to dance.
I’ve decided to pop the rest of this behind a cut, both because of strong language (“He said a-hole, Mom!*”) and because of subject matter that maybe could be a little on the triggery side for those of us currently wrestling mood disorders.
In terms of ballet and in terms of aerials, 2016 has been a good year.
I am a far better dancer now than I was at this time last year. In fact, I’m a far better dancer than I was six months or so back, when I auditioned a piece for a show in Cincinnati. It wasn’t accepted* but the act of auditioning changed how I thought about myself as a dancer and a choreographer: which is to say that without even realizing it I began to think of myself, unequivocally, as a dancer, and as someone who works in the ephemeral medium of dance. It made me buckle down and really focus on learning my craft.
The hard thing, the really hard thing, is that life being a thousand times better than it once was — while it helps — doesn’t stop bipolar disorder in its tracks.
Mania still leans on the throttle, sending the whole thing charging wildly into the unknown, fired by over-stoked engines.
Depression still roars out of the night and crushes me under its wheels. I still live a life in which, at times — more times than I care to admit — I’m clinging by the skin of my teeth; by the tattering shreds of my nails.
There are still too many days on which getting out of bed seems unthinkable; on which feeding myself is a chore I’d rather not bother with; on which even going to class (the one thing that I know will reliably lift me into the light, if only for a little while) is almost unbearable.
In some ways, I think of this in the same terms that I think of ballet.
Ballet is like bike racing: it doesn’t really get easier. You learn more and more steps; they become part of you — but the physical demand increases apace with your command of the physical vocabulary of ballet and your ability to use that vocabulary beautifully and expressively.
Just as the rigors of bike racing are absolutely, irrefutably worth it when you’re descending a gravel track at 30+ miles per hour with the wind in your teeth and no hope of any victory except the one over the voice that has so often told you, “You can’t,” the rigors of ballet are absolutely, irrefutably worth it for those moments when everything comes together, when the steps and the music and the soul all move as one, and suddenly you are the music and you can fly.
I do not expect ballet to get easier, so I’m not disappointed when it doesn’t. Like most dancers, I find a specific thrill in tackling challenging steps and I revel in hard classes; even spectacular failure in the service of attempting something difficult has its own charms.
Bipolar isn’t quite the same — I suppose there’s something to admire in the tenacity with which all of us, medicated or un-, hang on through its fits and starts, in the face of its slings and arrows, but there isn’t some beautiful craft to master at the end of it all (except insofar as the craft is life: but that’s a thing we all share, bipolar or not).
But it is hard; sometimes, in long stretches, unstintingly hard. And while the manias can hard — particularly the black, dysphoric ones — the depressions are probably harder.
So I write from the rails of a depression in which I am suddenly paralyzed by potent self-doubt; suddenly more than half convinced that I have no business pursuing the calling of my heart, that I am a deluded try-hard who will never do anything meaningful (even noting that I apply the term “meaningful” on a scale that has nothing to do with money or fame), and that I should just lie down and die.
I write from beneath the wheels of a freight train that, for reasons beyond understanding, wants to undo me — or perhaps simply from the wheels of one that has lost its brakes. Again.
I write not to ask for sympathy (which I usually find kind of annoying) or to fling my misery out into the world so others can be just as miserable as I am, but because sometimes the most powerful response I have found to just this thing is the act of naming it, writing it down, looking it in the face.
Later, when I’m recovering, I’ll come back and look at these words and wonder, How could I ever have thought that? (Just as I wonder now, about my own right to regard myself as an artist, How could I ever have thoughtthat?)
I will try to remember what it felt like to hurt so much for no reason; to not even be sure that “hurt” is the right word, not because of the magnitude of the pain, but because it is so very sourceless and alien — and I will not be able to summon the feeling.
But I will understand why I wrote this: to say, This is what is now, at this moment, and to do so clearly and publicly, to stop it rattling around in my head, so I can go outside and plant a redbud tree that my friend B. brought me from an Arbor Day celebration.
So I can get up and go to conditioning class tonight.
So I can finish cleaning the kitchen, or at least do as much as I can (thinking all the while, “For the love of all that is holy, how long can it take to wash a few dishes?!”).
So I can collect the tatters of my soul and get back to weaving dances with them.
So I can get back to dreaming.
Honesty is the first tool when depression comes thundering in. So this is my honesty. This is my island of grace. This is my song and my banner, though I try, now, not to see any of this as a battle.
But we go into the mission field, too, with a song and a banner, don’t we, to tend to the sick and the wounded.
I hold these truths to be self-evident:
First, that anything so preposterously introduced must, unless it’s the founding document of a nation, be either at least partly false or too frightening to face without a little bombast and a little irony.
Second, that winter is a stone-cold bitch, in both the best and the worst senses that phrase can possibly convey, and I — although I was born in the dead of winter, in the Month of Fevers — don’t really know how many more winters I can take.
Third, that I have been, as usual, wrestling internally and exalting externally; hanging on with a bloody-knuckled death grip and the skin of my teeth. I felt excellent (which, by now, I should know means at a minimum “hypomanic”) and then the edges, as they do, began to fray. My soul feels rope-burned.
Fourth, that against the best advice of husband and therapist I have been Doing Too Much again, but feeling trapped by it, and wanting to be at home, until now I just want to crawl under a rock.
Fifth, that bipolar alone is not enough; that the battle against my own feelings is one I’m losing. One I should lose — I wrote to Denis this morning that it’s like keeping a spring under tension; eventually, the spring has to be released or it will collapse — but one I’m still not sure I’ll survive losing.
I tell myself that memories and feelings themselves can’t kill me, but that overlooks the glittering irrationality of mixed states, of dysphoric manias, in which the part of me that feels trapped, backed against a wall, increasingly sees death as preferable to … what, surrender? Imprisonment?
The eternal strain either of living the life I do — one in which I work desperately to keep even the merest whiff of my own internal struggle from all but a few, even when it drains everything I have — or the life I should, in which I would simply be and devil take the hindmost… Either flavor of strain, over the long run, seems untenable.
I know the answer is to Be Here Now, but sometimes I can’t do that, either. Zen, mindfulness — these are excellent tools, but I don’t know that they can rein in madness.
This time of year, I find myself cracking, wondering how much further I can carry this. I know I probably don’t have to, but I don’t seem to know how to make myself stop. All the plans I’m making, the dreams I’m dreaming, seem hollow now; built upon the wind.
I write this here, I suppose, partly because I suspect that many of you will understand, but perhaps mostly because I have to put it somewhere. So I ask forgiveness for this burden, which you did not ask to carry, and hope that it might, at least, be a familiar echo that gives comfort even if it also stings.
There is a thing about trying to live with bipolar, a thing where sometimes, maybe often, it feels like walking a tightrope.
You’re on this knife’s-edge, and if you stop, you’ll fall.
So you keep “moving forward, using all [your] breath,” gritting your teeth and trying to relax your neck (which is weirdly like the first passé balance en relevé at the barre, come to think of it).
The only thing that keeps you upright is momentum (which is totally unlike that aforementioned passé relevé balance; you don’t have momentum to save you, just the dancer’s wordless prayer and good technique and a few hundred years of evidence that it can be done).
If you falter, you fall (presumably in flame, like the “…staaaaaaaars, in their multitudes, scarce to be counted…” — which is totally unlike ballet class; we mostly try to avoid self-immolation during barre, no matter how tempting it may seem).
Life with bipolar is coolly executing 32 fouettés as you feel your supporting pointe shoe slowly unraveling; it’s lifting the ballerina and feeling something give in your shoulder and continuing to gaze serenely up into her eyes as you desperately pray you’ll make it to the end of the pas de deux.
We don’t show it because that’s life. To some extent, life is a performance, and the show must go on. It is when your edges crack, when hints of Von Rothbart invade our Dashing Prince routine that the world spooks and backs away. So we hold out as long as we can, as well as we can. Seigfried is not also supposed to be Von Rothbart, after all.
So this is how I live much of my life, how I’m living right now. Bipolar tells me to stay in the house, but tomorrow I’ll go to class anyway. Bipolar tells me that I should give up on the tutoring job I’m applying for, but I’m going to fight my way towards that, too.
Bipolar tells me I’m going to fall, so I keep going, one foot after the other, across the chasm, never looking down.