Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nightmare Journeys: The Bipolar Mind

It is a topic that is at the top of the Do Not Share List when with regards to my family's pleas for what is Private. It is the cornerstone of my darkest fears, next to my fear of airplane crashes. It is terrifying, but it is who I am – I have Bipolar Type I Disorder.

Last night I dreamt about it.

Out of the menu of nightmares my mind can conjure up... broken teeth, airplane failure, going to school naked without having done my math homework... My Bipolar dreams hold the top spot for unsavory bedtime experiences.

Every couple of months, I get these dreams of the past. I dream of my past mind from five and a half years ago, from when I was Not Normal. The sensation is so familiar that these dreams leave me awake questioning my sanity and mental processing. As I sit here writing to you, my conscious mind keeps making mental checklists, doing a damage report and scouring my insides to check whether all is normal or whether my nemesis is back.

This was a dream about work. The subject of work is fitting, because that was when I got sick. Back when I worked at the World Headquarters of my Big Corporate Job. In last night's dream, I was to be doing an ethnographic interview of an interior designer. He was some hot young thing, fresh from design school and quickly becoming famous.

The dream started with a voicemail from my boss, who happened to be my Jr. High School Social Studies teacher. He was disappointed that I had not made the proper phone calls for several research projects. I had not contacted the people who had been recruited.

As I arrived at the apartment where the interview was to take place, I noted that everything was wrong with my personal performance. I had not read the discussion guide. I did not understand the objective of the research. I had not read the article on the interior designer. My junior research partner, The Intern, seemed to know all that was going on, and she kept giving me these patronizing and exasperated looks. The black camera bag was on the bed and I kept going over to it to try to skim over the material I had not read, but no matter how many times I did this, the information did not sink in.

Warning Sign #1 of The Bipolar Mind –
When you read stuff, it does not sink in.

The apartment we were at belonged to a woman named Renita who got me my research job three years ago. She had taken down all of her pictures and paintings so that this genius interior designer could redecorate her apartment. The apartment was dusty, and I was taking my time running a cloth along all the dusty cabinets and desks. I was trying to buy time so that I could figure out what to do.

Warning Sign #2 –
The Bipolar Mind will engage in menial tasks with hopes that they will bring clarity and cognition.

The Intern suggested that I begin the interview conversationally. That I should go up to this hipster designer and just start taking about design. But I hadn't read the article or the discussion guide! so I was a fraud and knew nothing of this topic.

Warning Sign #3 –
The Bipolar Mind often feels inadequate and fraud-like. It takes the utmost level of energy and concentration to try to integrate into normal life conversation and activity.

Shit. OK, I guess I will try to talk to the designer. I go up to him and say something. He looks at me and rolls his eyes and walks off to play video games with his buddies. Shit shit. It is now that I realize that I have completely trashed this interview, losing thousands of dollars for my company and my client. I start to worry about my impending doom once I talk to my boss.

Warning Sign #4 –
People with Bipolar Disorder often panic about the quagmire of their careers once they have recognized that they have completely effed them up.

The final blow is the realization that everyone in the room understands what is going on except for me. It is agonizing to see all of these people who are "With It" and who "Get It" because I am totally not with it and I totally don't get it.

Warning Sign #5 –
People with Bipolar feel very separate from the people who surround them. They recognize that they are processing under a different algorithm and it takes strength and courage to act like everybody else.

In the five years that I have taken my magic "Meds" (it's actually just one, but we call them Meds), I have had maybe two dozen of these dreams that take me Back. They suck. There is nothing worse than waking up and going through the ticker tape memory parade of what it felt like to be clinically insane.

Your brain Doesn't Work. You Can't Concentrate. You think you will Never Be The Same.

I found myself sitting outside on the stoop and going over the lists of other people who may feel like this. The people who have a memory in life that is so tender and foreboding that it pops up in dreams, just to remind them not to get too cocky in life.

I thought about my dad, wondered if in the future when he is better, if he will have nightmares about being paralyzed in a hospital bed with a breathing hole in his throat. How about people who accidentally kill someone? Those must be some wicked dreams. So, what do I do about this? I still feel in between sleep and daylight. I am still doing the internal damage report, assessing my C-Drive.

Well, I will go renew my prescriptions at Walgreens. I had to do that anyway. And I will write this blog. This controversial, tell-all blog where I spill the beans about my mental illness. Then I will post it on Facebook, and someone will wonder if I was not fully awake from my dream before sitting down to write (that someone = me).

I will walk around in an altered state for the rest of the day, with the colors being a little brighter, the light being a little harsher, and demonstrating my best behavior while sitting at my office desk. From time to time, other memories will crop up from the past, like petite deadly appetizers for my recovered mind. These memories will not be time and place events, but instead feelings - the feeling of not knowing how to pick out an outfit for work, the feeling of getting lost in an Excel spreadsheet, the feeling of not knowing how to carry on a conversation.

"I have no stories." This is what I used to tell my mom.
"What? No stories? What do you mean?"
"I do not know how to relate to other people. I do not know how to answer the question of 'how was your weekend?' I do not know how to connect. At all. I feel completely cut off from others as well as from myself."

It is chilling to think that, even with the nightmare of my father's illness, things actually used to be worse. Things used to be so lost, so confusing, so vertigo, that there was a time when I just wished that I would not wake up. I wished I would not wake up because it was simply too taxing to think though the appropriate outfit to wear to the Corporate Job, and I also had no idea of what I should eat for breakfast.


  1. hold on little one.
    do whatever it takes
    wear the Christian Louboutin's
    buy another pair
    and know that i'll tell anyone that shakes their head
    to fuck off.
    until they've literally been in your shoes.
    those shoes.


  2. I love you. I still believe in You. I forgive you. Oh! And, remember Larry, none of this shit is your fault. - Franklin <3 <3 <3