Exeunt

•January 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

An unanticipated wealth of reflection has proliferated here, on this blog that, even after all this time, I still quite like the look of; and I surprisingly find that I do not shy away from its tribulations in hindsight. I feel I have been, on the whole, remarkably accepting and positive about the misfortunes that turned my life into something so foreign, something so unremittingly complicated, just over five years ago. The aegis of this virtual space has almost always been subliminal. It may have lacked a clear focus, but I found it supportive in an immediate sense; and the format of an open record keeps you, if not exactly honest, then at least obliquely pertinent. I’m happy to have a record of the time.

I’m also happy to have returned here to append a modest epilogue to this half hazard scrapbook; this diary; this whatever. There was undoubtedly much I could have written down between 2010 and 2013 that had to do with the ongoing struggle to maintain my mental and physical health—the missteps, and the successes—but the cyclical nature of dealing with bipolar disorder, the sustained note of managing HIV in this very capable and successful age of care, the regular semesters of university, these all may have simply produced an interminable spiral of already voiced concerns. Doubts and stresses have a way of proliferating amongst themselves when you allow them close proximity. I never wanted to find myself incapable of moving forward.

I do wish now that I would have written about Italy. I don’t know now why I didn’t. My computer was functional while I was there, and I had an Internet connection at my residence; but although my time in that country was about books, and at times some very inebriated brains, it had very little to do with bad luck. Rather, it was something of the opposite: my time there was a high point of a most fortunate experience. Dark chocolate gelato during a heat wave in Venice, and chilled Prosecco in the sweltering courtyards of Siena, both examples of distilled moments of privilege and an almost unbelievable array of beauty, interpellated with reading and writing about the novel, changing spaces, and hope. I suppose there wasn’t too much to say besides “wow,” and “thank you” to the forces at large in the universe.

I can count the weeks to the end of my undergraduate career. I will know where I am headed for graduate school in two or three months. I think this chapter of challenges is closing, and I have a record of successes to take with me beyond. It’s been an exhausting but fruitful journey. My next project will be different; I think I have bigger fish to fry than personal dilemmas. I have words to superimpose, and to trace, onto a different sort of record, and I intend to do it in my right mind.

Farewell.

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medication

•December 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’ve swallowed what’s been at hand since 1999. Big, little, bright, dull, happy, mean, and psychedelic: they’ve all gone in, all gone down, and I’ve taken whatever next has followed; no matter the circumstances.

It seems ironic to me now. I took a multi-coloured handful half an hour ago and I’m waiting to feel their effects. As a grown up I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for chemical influence to take hold. I’m an expert at waiting it out.

What’s been at hand—the nature of what I ingest—has changed substantially over the years. These days I am supplied with things to swallow from the establishment, from the engine that works to keep its subjects alive and ticking, and instead of measuring out my dose in pleasure, it’s necessity that keeps me focused on the regimen. I need the pills to live.

But it’s always felt that way. It’s only now that it’s true.

I have little rituals and routines to keep the practice up these days. I have a clever little box guarded by a flying monkey that keeps my tablets safe and easy to find. I’ve become a master at gobbling them surreptitiously at dinner and in the bathroom. “Supplements,” I say, if anyone sees me. With the whole population so keen on staying healthy with whatever presents itself as effective, no one asks. I don’t know who wonders, if anyone does. It shouldn’t be surprising that we need assistance to live. I have needed assistance from the beginning. I have never been truly self-sufficient. I don’t know anyone that has.

It’s just that my methods have been conspicuous, and at times antisocial. I have taken my crutches and gone to the corner, out of sight. Well, perhaps not so out of sight. At times I’ve been perfectly vulgar, but the intention has always been to remain on the sidelines, far from the field of communal attendance.

Two to stay level. Four to stay well. One to stay positive. Two, three, four to sleep regularly. Occasional additions to keep my head on straight. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything at all.

It used to be one to smile. Two to dance. Three to dissolve into motes of music. And if I didn’t feel anything I’d demand a refund.

Small handfuls of assistance, measured out.

This is the litany of the bipolar brain: demands for reprieve emanate from poorly articulated crises, but they are acute. Now that I know what been going wrong the medication has a lot less of an allure. The mystery has been vacated. Asking for pharmaceutical assistance has become old hat—no longer occasional. The festive spirit is absent. Festive can, in fact, be a restless station on the way to trouble. Better to stay calm. Swallow unobtrusively. Sleep soundly.

My prescription is open ended.

mark undisclosed

•December 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Jacques Lacan threw a flashlight down the well. It spoke out from under the quiet, black water: “I think of what I am where I do not think to think.” A limpid, rippling shimmer up to the mouth of the shaft.

He writes of the preponderance of the self, manifesting unannounced to our internal psychic organs—webs to fill the cavern: crowded and complete blanknesses that thrive to motivate you. Action can often spring from blind intuition. What is it that we mean to mean?

What am I?

Certain categories generate these questions more readily, and more consciously, than others: gay, bipolar, infected, infectious, radical, unsatisfied. More. These all marginalize. Inhabiting spaces that cluster on the boundaries of the norm provoke the sinuous curl of the mark. The mark surrounds you.

I existed for a long time on the periphery, where reality pixilates, and coherence deresolves into component iotas; and vast, unsolved expanses lie bare to be considered by the thought of what I do not think to think. Access to this kind of understanding is restricted, but you can bang on the door.

Let me out.

Or

Let me in.

Because standing on the boarder is as isolating as fuck.

Returning to school has been an entry to the interior of something established: an institution. Inside there are new examples of old hierarchies to contend with, and through all that I remain a visible minority. I am thankfully not often the oldest person in the class, but I am frequently close. Young people, confidently taking steps towards goals that I am still becoming reacquainted with, surround me. So I am enclosed but not quite of the experience; my parameters are differently drawn than my compatriots. I am forging an identity out of a disembodied age, under the premise that there is enough time to beat out a beginning, and inaugurate a different path, with enough left over to distinguish a career. There’s nothing for it. There’s no other way I can go about it now. I have come in and I cannot help but be exceptional—rare, conspicuous. It often feels like a solitary project, reinventing purpose in my mid-thirties, but still I am intimately accustomed to being incongruous.

The ages begin to differentiate as you advance the level of commitment to a degree. People take breaks. People return after long absences. This is one of the reasons that the prospect of grad school is so appealing; I will still be senior, but not quite so senior. I may have classmates who have accumulated some experience beyond the lecture hall, the residence; beyond money transferred to their pockets from their parents’ bank accounts. I may begin to make real friends.

Not that I’m knocking the few that I’ve garnered over the past few years. I’ve made a handful of connections. The summer I spent in Italy I joined forces with a brilliant young woman who has proven to be a fast and invaluable comrade. In her mid-twenties, we are separated by a decade, but she has lived, and she has priorities that I can relate to. Kicking about Tuscany and Rome in the brazen heat of August, we survived on a steady diet of novels and Prosecco. We worried about the quality of our writing and out thinking. We mediated on the value of our intelligence, on what it takes to distinguish oneself in academia; and in the shadow of the Coliseum we picked up sexually ambiguous pretty boys to go dancing with.

Maybe I’m not so grown up.

These past few months we have both been furiously compiling and revising our applications for Master’s programs—freaking out in whispers over our glowing laptops. We have been meeting spontaneously in the cool hollow of the library. Too stressed out to even check our messages, we convene through the sheer force of probability; we’re just so often there.

But sill, projecting myself out, and looking back to what I’m in the middle of, an elaborate complex of adumbrated vows directed towards the future, I am aware of the unanswerable vacancy that produces my own consciousness. What manufactures the distinction of my choices? How have I delineated the limits of myself? These are particularly poignant queries for the bipolar brain, where physiology plays such an important part in the discrepancies between what you do and what you mean to mean. I do not know where I disentangle from the illness, or how my flaws and my merits relate to it, besides that the meds make it plausible to say that I am chemically balanced at the fringe of the spectrum. Is there such a thing as a purely disembodied mind, in experience if not in fact?

I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I know that I’m ready for the next step. I’m going for the centre, however rare I might be there. I intend to look out instead of in when I contend with the next acute quandary. I am going to project labyrinths of surety from the vacancy at the heart of the mark.

It is myself.

magical thinking

•December 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I can’t say that it’s been continually breakneck—a barrel roll towards the finish line, getting bumped and bruised along the entire stretch—but it has been treacherous at times. At times I have had to pull up short and diagnose my internal organs with a psychic tuning fork, searching for a resonance inside that harmonizes with the standards I formulated idealistically at the outset. Have I broken anything? Is everything still in the right place? Am I built for this kind of stress? Any anxiety that I might have had at the beginning, on the brink of academic adventure, has dissipated along the trajectory to the finish line; but new concerns, and old ones, manifest as patches of resistance. Where I thought I would break, I held together: attendance, deadlines, list-making, prioritizing—my ability to execute these endeavours all surprised me. Continuity, dedication, responsibility: these were things traditionally foreign to my methods of living. Yet I have pulled them from the hat by the ears. I have presented them to the audience with a showman’s clever, illuminated pride.

But tricks become a trap when they start to produce a sense of complacency; when they develop into a sense that slight of hand can produce real magic. I am, as the doctors’ say, still ill. The boundaries of medical possibility have not evaporated in a pyrotechnic burst. There is no trap door from this stage.

It is easier to forget than you might think, even though avoiding disaster after encountering it at close range puts a healthy fear in you. That trip to the hospital five years ago broadcast a powerful announcement to my faculties of self-awareness, stentorian and incontrovertible: the universe survives through change, so you must too. I paid attention. It was hard not to. Things got better. Life became more optimistic. I felt equipped, even if not entirely stable; and I made choices, set parameters, that were mindful of a new set of distinctions: this is salubrious, that not-so. Trigger is a very sensitive word: it can spring the mechanism of disaster under just the slightest pressure. This cage is designed to collapse on the bird.

You are the bird.

My whole life used to be a trigger. Many of the ways that I know how to live, that I feel comfortable in living, are not remotely good for me; but they are persistent habits that do not change easily. Especially not when the how of how you live your life can set you off, towards unidentified destinations. I was diligent after the serious scare, and I made changes that affected the way I interacted with everything and everyone. It was tremendously isolating, and frequently not a lot of fun. But as time went on, and I enjoyed relative stability for longer and longer stretches, I started to make concessions, allowances, and I started to strain back to the past, to what still feels like a beatific state of indifference when I could get away with doing whatever the hell I wanted. An illusion of course: a master designed it: the mirrors and the trip-lines all completely invisible, even when they surround you.

So I became lazy about my mental health. Bipolar? Yes, but high functioning! I take my pills, mostly, and mostly on time, and I only stimulate myself chemically on special occasions. It’s not reckless if I’m in bed by 2. AM or PM, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m made of stern enough stuff. I can manage. I can weave through these obstacles. I’ve learned the trick.

Illusion. Delusion. Phantasmagoria.

I’m glad now that I didn’t write here this past summer after the gravity-defying edifice of my behavioural misdemeanours and seriously jeopardized emotional equilibrium disassociated, disassembled, and disintegrated around my suddenly exposed self. I don’t know if I want a detailed record of that time. I had been ignoring the signs and I thought that I could cope. What had started out as mild depression in the beginning of the year, devolved; and as I turned to old behaviours in some attempt to resuscitate a version of myself that no longer has any integrity—if indeed it ever did—all the imperatives in my life became desperate. Everything that I did for a while was a frantic search for a way out. I felt desperately out of control, freakish, and alone. The world pressed in and I didn’t want to take part anymore.

It is called, clinically, dysphoric mania: a mixed state. Tapping both ends of polarity at once. It’s a horror.

I called out, and the audience came to my aid. My girls—my brilliant, loving girls—stepped up.

There was also a visit to the psychiatrist; an adjustment of medication; a recommitment to managing myself. I had to stop everything for a little while. Settle down. Become reacquainted with reality on more neutral terms. My head had been full of compelling magical thinking all summer, and slowly its power was revealed to be artifice.

All in time to step into my last year of undergrad: new concerns, old problems, performances to enact, and a list of things to do. I have learned a great many things in the past three and a half years. My intellectual boundaries have shifted, but my priorities remain fixed. I am going to make this work. If there are miracles to accomplish I will do so with what props I have available—it is an interactive experience, life. I need the most mysterious manifestations to coalesce into something I can grab hold of, and I need to reveal a better example of wonder. What has to happen this time is not just to appear, but to be, fully present under the lights. Every source of illumination is a guide.

I want to do something no one has ever seen before.

the final

•August 20, 2010 • 1 Comment

When faced with stress of any sort my first instinct is to turn to drugs, so I arrived at the university’s Exam Centre with a Grande Starbucks in hand, even though it was 6:30 in the evening. Standing in the elevator, riding up, one of my fellow passengers turned to another and said in mild disgust: “Everywhere you go that you find students you smell coffee.”

I sipped as unobtrusively as possible.

Three months have slid past. It hasn’t exactly been a blur—I’ve been acutely aware of the passage of time, and it has been neither fast nor slow, but rather at a fairly steady pace. Some of that time that could have been a little more wisely spent, to be sure, but I did my work when it was supposed to be done: I read all the books before the lectures; I handed things in on time; I broke the patterns that had haunted my modus operandi the first time I took a shot at higher education. And I enjoyed the course, my great re-entry into methodical learning. I consider the whole operation a restrained success.

At least I hope to. There remains the small matter of the final exam—my first institutional evaluation in about eleven years. I understood what was being asked of me, I wrote it as best as I was able (despite contending with a monumentally mucus-laden melon—I came down with a killer cold about 24 hours before the test and dragged myself to the final with a pocket stuffed full of tissue), but I could not even hazard a guess as to what kind of results will come out the other side, after the professors pen has scratched through the various points and pit-falls of my three essays. It will be interesting to see.

Other than that I have decided that I need to be busier. There hasn’t been enough keeping me occupied these past few months, well, to be honest, it’s been more like the past year or so, and a mildly suffocating lethargy has descended over my days. Napping has almost become my occupation, and I begin to worry that I have lost the ability to do more than one thing at a time, fun things like breathing and walking. I haven’t followed a faithful exercise regime since last November and I am at the point now where when contemplating the accomplishments of others in almost any professional field I am filled with abject awe.

It’s time to become a more active participant in life again.

bedroom

•June 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

snapshots

•May 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment