magical thinking

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.

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~ by A Mundi on December 5, 2013.

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