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Sisyphus’ Lament

I don’t like the manic phases of my bipolar disorder very much, for the most part. The early on-ramp can be pretty nice sometimes — who wouldn’t want to feel amazingly capable and confident? — but it passes quickly into what I can only describe as overconfidence of psychotic (in the literal sense — that is, out of touch with reality) proportions and leaves me with a serious distrust of any moment of confidence I experience. And that doesn’t even begin to address the fact that, most often, I experience dysphoric or mixed manias, which are agitated, angry, and uncomfortable. 

That said, I think dislike my depressions even more. Or maybe I don’t; maybe I just think that I do, in the moment. The worst thing you’re experiencing right now is always the worst thing you’re experiencing right now. 

Anyway, this is a depression like so many others I’ve experienced. I wake up every morning (or, today, afternoon — thanks, sleep meds) and lie in bed until I either have to haul my ass to class or, if I don’t have class, until I feel like I can no longer put off getting up.

Then I get up and start pushing the boulder uphill. 

Often my depressions are agitated ones: I feel restless and like I need to keep moving; I feel vaguely angry almost all the time. Days during those depressions still begin the same way, though; it’s the end that’s different. I end those days dreading the moment that I have to get back into bed.

This depression is different. It’s the end of each day, really, that makes it different. Instead of dreading the moment that I have to lie down again, I look forward to it as a kind of reprieve. After I do the things that need to be done, or at least least the portion of them that I can manage, I can return to my bed, which is still safe and quiet. I find myself counting the minutes until I can justify returning to bed, even though sleeping is hard. 

Normally I take some solace in pushing the boulder. It doesn’t matter that it’s just going to roll back down (and possibly over me) when I stop; it’s still evidence that there is something left of my strength and resilience; that I am still capable of getting up and living. 

Here, too, this depression is different. With the exception of going to class, which I continue to do because I know that failing to do it would ultimately be worse for me, there is no sense of satisfaction in pushing the boulder. 

If anything, there’s a kind of wariness. I start my climb and I burn too many matches; I dip into the next day’s supply.
After a while, I come to a day like this one, when I haven’t received a fresh supply and don’t know when one will come and I’m looking at a box with two measly matches in and knowing that today’s responsibilities will require more than just those two.

And all I want to do is stay here in bed and go back to sleep. 

What will probably actually happen is that I’ll steal kindling from the cooking fire: I’ll build a kind of torch out of my remaining resources so any time I need a match, I’ll already have fire. In literal reality, this means running on an ocean of caffeine, knowing that tomorrow I’ll have even less energy than I do today. 

The problem is that, at at the end of the day, this will leave me with even less with which to recharge myself, and then tomorrow I will have no matches and perhaps no cooking fire (in fact, I will definitely have no cooking fire if I don’t remember to save a match). 

If this goes on long enough without some down time time to gather kindling and wood and without a resupply of matches, eventually a day will come on which I can’t push the boulder; a day on which the boulder and I stay in bed, camped at the base of the hill.

I write this in an attempt to understand what I’m doing to myself. In an attempt to grant myself a little grace for days like this one. In an attempt to consider whether or not it might be better to take the direct path of simply sitting with my boulder until more matches come.

Lastly:

Sometimes depression turns happy promises into bitter ones. In a good moment, on a good day, you promise your friends and yourself that you will come to this event or or that gathering. Then the appointed hour arrives and you find that your choices are to go and accept that the cost will be excruciatingly high … or to break the promises. Both these choices are bitter: both will leave you worse off than you were.

Today is one of those days for bitter choices.

That’s it for now. 

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