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The Pain That Comes With Bipolar Disorder

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I fully awaken behind still closed eyes. How my cat senses this is a mystery. She was still and quiet, sprawled sleeping over my side. Now she wakes and begins climbing over me, back and forth, loudly demanding breakfast.

I see what I will see when I open my eyes and then I open them. The room is filled with grey light from another grey day in this grey, rainy place that I hate so very much.

My eyes rest on my curtains backlit by the grey. I trace the bucolic country scene, with cows and trees and men and women in 18th century garb who dance lightly and happily on my antique French toile curtains. I curl a smile, thinking how much I love those curtains. They were so expensive. Outrageously expensive. They remind me that once, when opulence wasn’t opulence, I saw them, and I wanted them and I bought them. I’m always thankful, so thankful I was able to do that and that I did that.

A cloud passes over the grey and the room goes darker grey. Tears spring forth. I come to a full knowledge Pain is back. During the dark peace of my sleep, she patiently located the tiniest of cracks in the walls I’ve so carefully and diligently erected against her. She stealthily and cunningly infiltrated my mind and now pervades my every thought. She owns me. All of me. I’m defenseless.

Pain begins to wrap me with her heavy cloak. I feel an ache traveling slowly from my head, down through my body, leaving a tight band around my chest, out my arms to my fingers, down my thighs and calves and then to my feet. This is the visceral ache no amount of aspirin can touch.

I roll over and close my eyes and scrunch up my face to show Pain how angry I am she’s come back. My tears push through ferociously, sliding over my nose, down my cheeks onto the pillow. I sob. Tabitha jumps off the bed and saunters out of the room, knowing she will not get her breakfast anytime soon.

I sob for a time and then I wail. I shout angrily to God, accusing him of yet another betrayal. He didn’t keep Pain out, again. But even as I scream at him, I know God doesn’t control Pain. She’s not birthed of free will either. She’s just there. Like a chronic illness of any other sort. Pain exists in the unraveled raveling’s of the chemistry of my brain. I didn’t create her. I didn’t choose her. Nobody put her there. She’s just there.

So, I pull back to the silent tears, which still come fast and fierce. My nose fills and fluid runs out and joins with my tears, small thick rivulets that feed into a raging river of suffering. The pillow underneath is soaked with the fluid of my soul.

After a while, only a short while it seems, I come back aware and find nearly an hour has passed. I roll over and get out of bed. Within seconds, I hear the paw patter of three cats rushing upstairs to greet me, circling me and filling my heavy head with a cacophony of frustrated protestations urging me to get on with it.

As I move across the room, I watch them race down the stairs ahead. I smile a resigned smile as I carefully descend, reluctant yet absolutely determined to push through another day.

I step through the morning routine. I feed the cats, change their water, open the curtains to let the grey flood in. Any light is better than none I suppose. At the foot of my mother’s bed, I shake her leg gently to wake her. I return to the living room and wait. I try to blank my mind, but Pain pervades. The tears return, quiet, steady and slow.

When I hear my mother finally swing her legs over the side of the bed and put them on the floor I go to the kitchen and begin preparing her breakfast.

My mother takes a very long time to orient, nearly an hour to get herself up and leaned back in her electric recliner. Only then can I carefully place the tray of tea and sausage and eggs on her lap. She methodically lifts a forkful of eggs from her plate to her mouth, staring straight ahead while she chews, willing herself fully conscious. I smile at her my sad smile. Sometimes she smiles back, but mostly she looks at me blankly while she attempts to blink away her stupor.

After she’s settled, I settle to write. Pain sits very close, her arms draped around me, her head resting on my shoulder. She watches intently as the words from my innermost person turn to black on paper. Pain smiles, sometimes giggling gleefully, as I carefully assemble, pull apart, then reassemble the words and sentences and paragraphs that form the chapters that most best tell the story of her life.

I embrace Pain. I honor Pain. Only when she is satisfied, I feel her and know her and accept her completely does she feel safe to take her leave. For a time. I don’t know where she goes, but she leaves my mind and my body, and I can rest and be real me without Pain. But only for a time. And then Pain comes back. But I can always take comfort in knowing she will leave again. For a time. Maybe only for a short time, but maybe, hopefully, a longer time next time.

I Persevere. And life goes on.

Getty image by Alpgiray Kelem

Originally published: February 2, 2022
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