Madness will push you anywhere it wants. It never tells you where you’re going, or why. It tells you it doesn’t matter. It persuades you. It dangles something sparkly before you, shimmering like that patch on the road up ahead. You will drive until you find it, the treasure, the thing you most desire.
You will never find it. Madness may mock you so long, you will die of the search. Or it will tire of you, turn its back, oblivious as you go flying. The car is beside you, smoking, belly-up, still spinning its wheels.
—Marya Hornbacher from Madness: A Bipolar Life
♦ ♦ ♦
I just finished Hornbacher’s account of her life with bipolar disorder. Part of me is furious. Part of me identifies so completely with her life that I want to buy copies of her book and give them to everyone I know. “Here,” I want to tell them. “This is what the inside of my head looks like.” Part of me feels sick and crazy and wants to binge or drive really fast until the screaming in my own head stops. Part of me just wants to punch something.
So, I guess the furious part is winning. Here’s a woman who survived anorexia so severe she once weighed 55 pounds, raging alcoholism, drug addiction and rapid-cycling, mixed-state bipolar disorder. She was hospitalized over and over again. She even received electroshock treatments from the same doctor who gave them to me. I should be compassionate. I should be empathetic. I should get her life.
But all I can think about is that she was diagnosed in her twenties and ignored every recommendation that was ever given to her. Stop drinking. Stop working so much. Pay attention to your moods. She ignored all of it until her illness was so advanced she had no other choice than to finally take some responsibility for her life.
What I wouldn’t give to have had a diagnosis in my twenties!
Of course, I may have done exactly what Hornbacher did—blow it off and let the madness run riot. Of course I would have, because that’s part of the illness. (Professionals call it “lack of insight,” which means the inability to recognize symptoms as symptoms.) And that’s what pisses me off.
There was never any chance of stopping this freight train, never any chance of catching up to the mirage of sanity. I knew that when I was eleven, but I keep forgetting. I fool myself into thinking all this work I do, all the Observing and Monitoring and Substituting, will lock the craziness away and let me be normal. Always, in the back of my mind, I hold out that someday the monster will go up in smoke. But these memoirs that I’m reading, as research for my own book on bipolar disorder, keep pounding a different stake through my heart. “Snap out of it!” the Van Helsing-book yells at me. “Bipolar isn’t the monster—chasing after Normal is the real monster!”
Uhhh. My chest hurts where I’ve pulled out the latest stake. Maybe I can figure out how to banish the magical thinking without needing a pointy two-by-four every single time. Maybe I can teach myself to just enjoy the drive instead of keeping an eye out for the mirage. Maybe, someday, I’ll finally accept this illness as the shot-gun rider that it is. Maybe. Someday.