Sunday, January 9, 2011

On being bipolar, on being a survivor, on just trying to live...

Grit and glamour. I was born for this sort of messy talent. I used to be some sort of messed-up god in my own eyes, so torn down and raw and fresh in every moment. I lived for what destroyed me. I resented the mundane. I came headflung into the mindfuck of my own bipolar: so vibrantly alive in every bit of my decay. I knew I was alive by the amount of pain, I repeat: by the amount of pain I was enduring at the speed I was enduring it. It became so easy - switching addictions, making memories, weaving stories. It never left me. The writing was mine, and my voice mattered. It had to matter - the thick of me broke apart with every moment. It wasn't easy being around me, but it never was - and it only got increasingly more and more difficult. And this - this I need to get off my chest: I wake up every day wondering when I'm going to start loving myself - I wonder when I'm going to be at peace with my life, when I'm going to live without feeling this gap I'm routinely trying to plug up with the stressor of the year. "The Escape Artist," I once entitled a poem, writing stream-of-conscious about some of my most difficult experiences, still burning triumphant at the end of it. I felt alive. And maybe that's what I need to get off my chest: how absurdly this all crept up on me. My own, slow, mundane dying - my own quiet climb into the predictable, into the lifeless, stressful monthly routine of bills, into the shittalking of work, into the "sensible" things where I began working more than I found myself actually enjoying life. Where I was so focused on proving to the world I could provide some sort of verifiable form of success, that I could make it - that I could refute the statistics and my labels, that I could stifle the bipolar, that I could ignore the doctors, that I could put the trauma and the trouble behind me, that I could be just as normal as everyone else.

Well FUCK everyone else. And I say that with all due respect to everyone else, but fuck everyone else. I am only one person. Or rather, I am too many people. As the statistics go, we are the summary of the five people we spend the most time with. And I've grappled with this - in too many senses to count, shouldering the burdens and the responsibility of all my potential. I made too many compromises to fit into my surrounding environment, into the environments that construct themselves around me, until I hit the point that I began writing myself out. Where every voice inside my head was telling me to be someone I'm not and I can't help but think like this:

“There is no escape. You can’t be a vagabond and an artist and still be a solid citizen, a wholesome, upstanding man. You want to get drunk, so you have to accept the hangover. You say yes to the sunlight and pure fantasies, so you have to say yes to the filth and the nausea. Everything is within you, gold and mud, happiness and pain, the laughter of childhood and the apprehension of death. Say yes to everything, shirk nothing. Don’t try to lie to yourself. You are not a solid citizen. You are not a Greek. You are not harmonious, or the master of yourself. You are a bird in the storm. Let it storm! Let it drive you! How much have you lied! A thousand times, even in your poems and books, you have played the harmonious man, the wise man, the happy, the enlightened man. In the same way, men attacking in war have played heroes, while their bowels twitched. My God, what a poor ape, what a fencer in the mirror man is- particularly the artist- particularly myself!”
- Hermann Hesse

And I think of all the labels people give me and the labels I fail to align with, the person that people would so desperately like me to be. The person it could be so easy to be, but so difficult. How flaky I became to everything and everyone that meant something to me the more I became sucked into the internalized lie: I became a walking repellant, the "should"s in life. The irony of the gifted: everyone is a critic. I think some days, most days, that it would be nice to be sane and alive - fulfilled. Rather than stuck feeling like this:

"I should have known right then that it would always be the same - I had to be madly in love or utterly revolted. No happy mediums for me! […] No compromises in life for me - I wouldn’t settle - I’d rather not go out, just live with my dreams."
Lauren Bacall, By Myself and Then Some

And I'm stuck focusing on the dysfunctional - something I used to triumph. I still remember the professor I had an altercation with who said I had the type of presence that commanded a room, that I had a talent of making the traumatic, the heart-breaking, "beautiful." I recall my friend turning to me and saying, "Victoria, every time I hear you read a poem, I want to cry because the subject is so sad, but I want to hear it again, because you write it so beautifully," and how everyone lingers onto the words I have to rip out of me. Xylophone trauma, orgasmic gonzo psychology - living in the terrains of a deliberately suicidal mindset, a guerilla warfare with russian roulette. Will I wake up manic today? Will I be okay? Will I be so severely depressed it takes me an hour to get out of bed? The survivor survives - er, lives.

You begin to hate the term survivor, because you think you survived nothing (I think I have "survived" nothing) - "survivor" implying triumph over the elements. You think, "No, I carry that shit with me everyday." There was no triumph - there was years of chaotic re-integration into "normal" life, there was learning to live with it. There was advocating for it. There was struggling to speak for others when even your own voice shook. There were too many tears - but you are, I am, not a victim either - if only because you wake up everyday to live with the truth, no matter how unbearable it becomes, how restless and uncontrolled you feel.

Either way, it feels as if you're letting some massive crowd down.

"The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees."

I am more than the moments that have made me, you want to tell yourself. This moment is for me, you want to tell yourself. "I am bigger than the sound," you'll believe - half-desperate. But the moments do not escape you - they cling with expectation, even your own expectations, which are at some point, a recognition that society has engrained it in me that no matter who or what I am, I'll never be enough. And there are times, frequently, often, mostly all of the time, when I don't want to tell people who to be, what philosophy to follow - I don't want someone else to feel their extremities need to be fixed, their existential line-swaddling death-defying creation exhibition needs to be stifled. I don't want to politicize my identity - I'm not out to sell my life. I'm not out to be a teacher. These words are not commodifications. My life is not a recipe for a tried and true survivor, a last-ditch flashlight and matches effort towards freedom. It's not to be admired, it's not to be dismissed. It's just meant to be lived, and honored for it's living. It wants its own grace - in the stumbling over air sense, lip-synching disaster sort of way - it wants its own room to fall asleep ablaze, and demands its right to have rights.

Essentially, my life wants to fucking fight and have a fighting chance in its never-ending fight. It wants to know there will be people fighting alongside. My life wants to know it has a voice that's needed and valued and can be left well alone. My life wants to light up and chill out. It wants intellectual discussions and valuable, trustworthy friends. It wants "understandance," as my 10-year-old self wrote in her first poem ever. My life would like your life to live its dreams, as my life would like to live its dreams. My life would like to focus on healing and spreading happiness. My life would like to be bold for you, as it is very entranced with the concept of being boldly and inherently one's self, no matter how times this mission gets thrown overboard. My life would like to get drunk with your life and drunkenly spew translations of Rumi poems, because, trust me, that could really turn out fabulous... I would like to live aesthetically - in the sense that we all remember that beauty is important, and that everything can be beautiful and that we should always always always find beauty. I would like to be beauty - in all my dangerous, unkempt, reckless, moody, raw, confused, nostalgic, fucked-up, half-redeemed, genuinely trying, but still laughing, destructively creative, well-intentioned self. And I would like you to be yourself. I would like all of us to be our beautifully untamed selves: the rarest form of existence that seems to know what to do best.

1 comment:

  1. "You begin to hate the term survivor, because you think you survived nothing (I think I have "survived" nothing) - "survivor" implying triumph over the elements. You think, "No, I carry that shit with me everyday." There was no triumph"

    God, i could have written that myself. Thanks for sharing this with me on tumblr. <3