Cage Fight

It’s about to get dark y’all – click away if you’re looking for ‘chill vibes,’ the keystrokes that follow aren’t for you. For those who remain, I write to release. Buckle up, keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle, and let’s see if we can’t extract something helpful.

It’s the weekend and this is the story of how the pressure pummeling my sinuses since Monday transformed from physiological to spiritual and nearly suffocated my soul in the process.

Last chance to turn back, no apologies, you’ve been warned.

Monday: wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep, walk the dog, read two chapters of Great Expectations, 10 min workout, cold shower, coffee, work by 6. Open the lobby door with a smile, hit the floor with intent, lead meetings with purpose, rewrite strategy, engage, motivate, empathize, energy, email. Power thru a sinus infection. Leave when the work is done, not earlier. Puppy to the park. Cook dinner. Couple hours on my MBA. Can’t sleep. Read. Twitter. Wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep…

The descent started Friday night. Or was it last week? My therapist tells me the ascent – when we climb carelessly – is the beginning of the fall. Balance, he cautions, is the key. Easy to say, but harder to practice when you’re managing bipolar disorder without meds.

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From your side of the screen this routine might throw some flags, but I hardly notice, I feel good. On Tuesday I take a small risk and ask a girl to dinner. She accepts. On Thursday, over salmon specials, we chat for three hours, part ways with a hug and talks of round two. Excited. Can’t sleep. Journal. Wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep….

Friday feels fine, mostly. Take one extra energy supplement to be sure. I need to finish the work week with a bang, but I can’t shake a swirling undercurrent of fatigue and it starts to show.

I snap at my boss in the morning team meeting when I feel slighted. Moments later, I direct lingering frustration towards two co-workers when I learn I was left out of a problem solve.

Smile. Everything’s ok. Apologize and keep moving. Reflect on the week, plot the course ahead. Call it quits after only 10 hours. Hit the pool for some self-care.

Wiping a bead of 93 degree sun-screen infused sweat from my brow, I brush the corner of my eye. At the same time, a painful thought bubble bursts in my brain. The simultaneous sting strikes my conscious like a Mike Tyson uppercut. I don’t know if I’m crying from physical or emotional pain, or both. Toweling the sun screen from my left eye, I regain sight but can’t shake the thought – all this and I’m still alone.

Edge of the deep end

It escalates quickly; of course you’re alone you phony, who could ever be with you, you’re unloveable, you’re intolerable. That was 17:03 Friday afternoon.

I leave the pool for safer surroundings. I prop myself up on the bathroom sink but can’t raise my eyes to the mirror. I pace in my apartment, mind racing. Looking for an escape, I cycle through available options:

  • try to land a second date?
  • write it out over a beer at the bar across the street?
  • keep it lite, watch the World Cup
  • power thru some studies
  • light some candles, take a bath, slit my throat

Wait, what? Where’d that come from? It’s just a thought, it’ll pass. It doesn’t mean anything, I’m fine, get back to the list, find something to do.

Second date isn’t an option, football doesn’t interest me, I can’t focus on my studies, or anything for that matter, writing is off the table. WTF is wrong with me? Suicide hasn’t been in play for years now, I thought I beat it.

Need more options. Are there any strip clubs in Paris? Where’s the nearest cash machine? I need to slow down, open a beer. Need something stronger, stores are closed. Maybe I’ll drive to Tulsa, connect with old friends. Bad idea, too much temptation.

I’m afraid

I feel boxed in by frantic thoughts on the offense. I’m fighting them off, but then, suddenly, utter exhaustion smashes thru like the Kool-Aid Man. I collapse on the couch, it’s 20:00, everything stops. Self-loathing wears me like a body suit.

Thin black shell

This is why you’re alone, who could ever be with you like this? All the work you’ve done? Pathetic. You might as well spend your whole paycheck at the strip club, that’s the closest to love you’ll ever get. Do yourself a favor and take that forever bath, wash the stain that is you off the face of the earth.

Despite being twenty pounds lighter this year, my body presses into the sofa with all the weight of the universe’s Biggest Loser. Paralysis keeps me from taking action, consciousness fades in and out. Wake up, no alarm, uncertain sleep….

I breathe in, rise, feet on the ground. I’m still here, the fight continues. Rely on my routine. Walk the dog, read, 10 min workout, cold shower, coffee. It’s not enough, the assault continues. It’s only 06:30. Headphones on, Kanye at volume. Writers block, can’t study, it’s 08:00. Text kids I love you, check IG. Get some calories, start laundry. It’s 10:00, pool’s open, seek sunshine.

But the sun bakes me blacker, I can’t escape, I phone a friend. The message comes back from my therapist as a question; ‘can you love yourself, even now?’ I bury my face in my towel as a tear rolls from my left eye. My suffocating soul gasps for air, I catch my breath, I whisper, ‘I love you.’

My soul, sensing safe harbor, lends me strength to stand. I know what to do for the first time in 24 hours, it’s time to write.

And here we are, the pressure vessel that was my mind has mostly released and I feel calm. Clarity seeping back in.

Three things before I wrap up with a final thought:

  • Don’t try this at home. If you are suffering from bipolar, depression or similar disorder, seek professional help. I’ve been through several rounds of medication in the past and have a decade of therapy under my belt. I’m not playing at hero and you shouldn’t either.
  • When I say I’m ok, I mean it, this isn’t a cry for help. I write to document a reference point if I should ever go thru this again, and, hopefully, to encourage others in a similar struggle.
  • I understand that this level of authenticity is not only tough to stomach but also could be weaponized against me for a variety of unsavory reasons. The only thing worse would be my voluntary silence. My truth is my strength and I knowingly speak it into existence.

Final thought:

The demon is your defense, he warns of danger and will be heard. The cage is your real enemy and is entered by choice with closed ears

Let me know if you’d like to talk, I’m here.