If you have thoughts of suicide, please call 1 (800) 273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Crisis Hotline, or call 911. Please know, admitting help is not a failure. Life can be beautiful, you just have to live it first.
When I laid awake for four days, all I did was think. Not a moment, not a second passed where I wasn’t thinking of something, trying to answer some such question that was branching out of the one before it. A million questions it seems.
At some point the thinking became too much. All encompassing really. I’d felt this on small scales before but never quite the way I felt it this time. I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to. I tried, I really did. But I just couldn’t.
So I wrote.
I wrote every thought I had for four days.
I still can’t bring myself to read over them. I’m not sure if they would shed any light to what I was feeling. I’m scared, honestly, that it’ll be a trigger for me to tail spin into another panic attack, to have another psychotic break, that maybe I’ll really lose it.
I think I understand now what they’re talking about when they say things like diving into a rabbit hole. I guess I understand what a rabbit hole is now.
It’s strange when references from someone hallucinating suddenly make sense to you as a seemingly coherent person.
That’s a first for me.
I understand the head space, I mean. I get what happens when you don’t control your thinking anymore - when you lose sense of your “self” - when you don’t control this, when I can’t control me.
I thought a lot about what that even meant.
Who am “I”? What does it mean to be “me”? Am I anything? What if I’m nothing?
And that’s how I came to zero. Zero was this concept - I became obsessive about it really. I don’t know that it was ever founded in anything real. But for me, zero was me, reduced to nothing. And I wanted that. Sleepless, dreamless me wanted that. I wanted it because then I could ask, “Now what?”
What was my new One? Where did I start over again?
I went through this cycle obsessively for days, documenting it on my phone in a series of increasingly less coherent notes.
I kept reaching zeroes and I kept finding new ones. I kept answering my questions and I kept finding new ones. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep because of this. Why were there always more questions?
I think at some point - and probably before I even knew it - I was trying to find a reason to be alive. I needed a reason to keep existing because something happened to me that made me believe that life was not enough, existence itself was not enough. Why, if it all ends anyway?
I think that was my real question.
It’s funny, you know. “Why?” was my favorite question as a child. I remember distinctly being three or four, before Pre-K, constantly asking my mother “Why?”
Why was the sky blue?
Why was the grass green?
Why can cartoons do things I can’t?
Why are you cooking that?
Why can’t I eat this?
I remember getting frustrated, infuriated sometimes, moved to tears and tantrums when the answer was one I found to be insufficient. You couldn’t tell young me that the sky was blue just because it was.
That didn’t make any sense.
No one thought to explain to a child that it had to do with lightwaves and receptors in our eyes - that in fact we only perceive it to be “blue,” that there are instances in which other animals do not perceive it this way. In fact, there are colors we can’t see, there are lightwaves that we can’t even perceive because we’ve never even seen them. There are animals on the earth that see things vastly different, in wider spectrums - and in smaller ones - than you do.
Because no one thinks to tell a child, “You’re just an animal, like every other living thing on this earth.”
I guess because they think it sounds...pessimistic.
Well, at some point I figured it out anyway. And I figured out other things. And I just kept learning, and learning, and learning. And yet, it always persisted, “Why?”
I left for the Philippines with this question in my mind.
At some point, before all of this happened, I had decided that pursuing a Master’s Degree was going to be something I would seriously consider in the not so distant future. I had considered it before, but never found the time - I was busy searching for happiness. You can imagine how that goes.
So, the night before my mother and I left for the Philippines, I sat down at the kitchen table of my Aunt’s house where I spent my summers as a child and I began typing away, into my phone, what was supposed to have been my essay for my graduate school application.
I was trying to write this story about my own history, who I am and what drives me, and how I came to this conclusion that grad school was going to somehow give me something to satisfy that drive.
I wrote seven coherent paragraphs before I realized, I didn’t know anything about myself. Certainly, I didn’t know enough about who I wanted to be, what I wanted in life. I didn’t know anything.
So I stopped writing. Unfortunately - or fortunately? - the same building blocks that make me a person with Bipolar Disorder also make me a person that is completely incapable of being inauthentic of long periods of time. I will literally have panic attacks that drive me to quitting jobs, moving to new cities, ending friendships or in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide. I literally can’t live with myself if I don’t feel like “myself.”
So I stopped writing.
I thought, well, I’ll go to the Philippines, my ancestral homeland. I’ll get a better sense of who I am. And then I can finish this essay.
And I went. Two and a half days of travel over one ocean and five countries.
And I saw.
And I let life happen.
I came home with one last question still lingering in my mind.
And I wrote. For four days, I laid awake and thought and wrote.
What started out as my graduate essay became the increasingly incoherent ramblings of a person having a full on mental break.
The last thing I wrote before I was hospitalized was, “Be good, be safe, be real. Want to be real :(. Please. Please. Please.”
I just wanted life to be good. I just wanted to live it. I just wanted everything that made me happy, that made life worth living, I just wanted it all to be real.
The trouble was, after four days of no sleep, weeks of poor eating - days of no eating at all - I didn’t even know if I was real.
And then I had a dream it seems. A dream that I was me.
And that’s a story for another day.