My first experience with mania. I hope it helps someone, somewhere, in even a small way.
|Author Note: I have tried my best to capture the thought process that I cannot explain to a rational person, not properly.
Please be warned, however, if you do not have this particular mental illness, that in my experience, it frightens and horrifies people to get a glimpse into a bipolar-afflicted mind. I hope that this story will help to bring about greater understanding and compassion for those of us who suffer from this illness, but I urge anyone who finds themselves uncomfortable with the material to stop reading, because it isn't going to get better.
I can't sleep. I might be three, maybe four years old. Maybe even younger. It doesn't matter. I can't sleep.
I can't sleep. I hear grown-ups laughing downstairs. Laughter, so much laughter, it grates into my brain. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents. Laughing, talking. Noisy. I roll over to my other side, curl up, try harder, still can't sleep.
Can't sleep, can't go downstairs, there are Guests, I should be sleeping, I will get in trouble. I hear them laughing, they must be laughing at me. Happy laughing grating noisy guests. The noise builds and crashes over me, thick and soupy, splattering burning drops into my mind that spread like stains on cloth. I roll over, twist around, kick my legs, pull the pillow over my head, and I still can't sleep.
I can't sleep and it must be the noise. Maybe it's the bed. Maybe the noise. The bed. The noise. It coils and tenses and then it tangles, the noise and the bed and the anger and the desperation. I don't know that word yet, desperation, but I know the feeling. It snarls in my guts and chest and head until I can't sleep.
I can't sleep. My body thrums, hums, pulses with it. My heart races and I toss and turn and roll and squirm and kick my legs. I should sleep, I need to sleep or Mommy and Daddy will be mad at me. Laughing again, and the desperate angry tangles fill me up again: can't sleep.
Can't sleep, can't sleep and they're down there laughing. I'm here in this bed-prison, it's not fair, they're laughing, I want to go downstairs, I want to sleep, I want and I can't. Stupid bed. Dumb bed. Stupid, dumb bed. It must be the bed. The bed, stupid dumb bed, that's why I can't sleep.
I can't sleep and tossing and turning isn't helping. Hiding my head, squinching my eyes shut tight until I see colored flecks, hugging my teddy bear, counting sheep, nothing works. I can't count very high anyway. I still write 'twenty five' as 205, because it's 20 and 5. Even if I could count to a million, I can't focus on the numbers, can't focus on sheep, can only think about the voices and laughter and that I can't sleep.
I can't sleep, nothing works, I can't think about anything but not sleeping and the laughing and it's driving my mind in spins and twists and dips and up, up, up into the desperate need that makes my heart race and my fists clench and my teeth grind. Up. I can't sleep, so I kick the covers off, and then I'm up.
I'm up. I take revenge on my bed, revenge for the laughter and the inability to sleep and the desperate, fearful, spin cycle of my brain. I yank the blankets off and throw them on the floor. Yank the sheets off, first the flat sheet, then the fitted sheet with the elastic that snaps back when I first bunch it in my small fist and tug. But I am determined and I am up.
Up. The sheets come up and off and fly to land on the covers. Laughter chases me and I hop on the mattress, the light foamy child's mattress, plastic-textured in case a kid wets the bed. It doesn't bounce well, just a hiss of air and so I wedge myself against the wall and kick it. The mattress comes up.
I'm up, and desperate and hungry for something I don't know or understand, something I never will fully know or understand: something I will stifle with medication and therapy and intoxicants in later years, something that will scream out of me and tear apart every relationship and friendship and opportunity for the next twenty-five years. I don't know that, though, I just know that I'm up.
Up goes the mattress, off the lattice of springs in the white wood box of the bed-frame. I pick my way through the springs, careful not to tear my skin, or perhaps not careful, perhaps getting pinched by the springs here and there and biting down the whimpers so my parents won't know that I'm up.
I'm up, though, and nothing can stop me. There's a second mattress at the end of the bed, this one tiny, toddler-sized, fitted in so the big one won't slip around on the frame. I examine it, curious. It's as light as its larger predecessor, and much easier to toss aside, up, up, and away.
Up I go, navigating through the springs, desperate and not tired, more excited as I move around. More awake. Buzzing and shaking with that desperate energy; that angry bee trapped in a small glass, slamming against its sides in a futile effort to get out. Every muscle, every cell, vibrating at high frequency because I'm up.
I'm up, and things blur. Time shuffles. I beat a dolly against the mattress, tear through the toys stuffed in the old wooden playpen too small for a baby, throw things around. I drag the little mattress to the end of the bed, on the floor, and sit on it. I flex my hands just the way the organist at church does, pretend to play the piano when I hear a few notes of music and more laughing. Bit by bit, the laughter fades, the music dies, my interest in the make-believe piano-playing falters. But I'm still up.
Up again, hopping over the toys, perching on the edge of the bed-frame to dangle my feet in the toy-pen. I find my loyal teddy bear, Bunny, and I hug her and then I peer at her. There's something about her nose, a tiny little nick in the leather covering. Who knows how long it takes me to tear all the leather away, to peel it back, obsessive and determined and desperate. Who knows, who cares; I'm up.
I'm up, awake and swimming in the vivid technicolor soup of my perceptions. A little mermaid, not the pretty singing sort but the vicious, hungry kind with sharp teeth. I claw the leather away, squint at Bunny bear's nose, and decide the shiny brown material beneath the leather must be chocolate. I lick it, then I bite it, disappointed at the plastic taste. I toss the bear aside, and then a riptide of guilt sucks me in and I race to make amends to my poor friend. I hunt through the covers and pick her up.
Up come my parents, checking on their small child. The guests have gone home, the house is darkening, they are going to bed late. My father sticks his head in the room and stares at the mess.
"You're awake?" he asks.
Part of me shrinks back; the rest is proud of my mess, fierce and desperate and awake. I cradle my bear, perching on the narrow edge of the bed-frame among the destruction, and nod.
I don't remember him being mad. I don't remember him yelling or spanking me. I think he picked me up and sang to me and tried to get me to go to sleep, or maybe I continued to jitter and hum with wild energy the rest of the night until someone did yell.
I don't remember the rest. All I remember now is that caged demon snarling and raging and so desperate to escape now that it was awake, tearing the bed apart, and how my teddy bear lost the leather and gained a scuff mark on the plastic of her nose.