Nostalgia for madness

I don’t know if I’m down or whatever.  It’s a Friday night and I’m sitting here on my own, feeling quite quiet and inert, without the rain to listen to, smoking and occasionally making tea, aimlessly flicking through web pages, flicking away again. I am a little lonely at the moment, and it makes me wonder if I am down more.  I only really feel lonely when I’m down.  At other times, being alone doesn’t bother me.  I enjoy it.  But I’m looking forward to my yearly invite to the Community Mental Health Team Christmas Party, where, for two hours, the local mentals like me can stand around drinking fizzy pop and playing games.  It is invariably the only invite I get at Christmas.  I’ve never gone.  I think hovering and being roundly patronised might tip me over the edge.  This year, though, maybe I’ll go.  Free food.  It’s not to be sniffed at.  It’s to be eaten.

Sometimes I think I was more interesting and alive when she was actively mad. It is stupid, but I miss it. When I stumble across reams and reams of my ramblings, filled with lyrical words and plans and ideas and follies, I feel so nostalgic. I loved more, and more intensely. I had more friends, I had more of a life. Was more daring. More passionate. I do miss it.  A large part of me wishes I had never taken medication, never medicalised something that, for most of my life, I thought was just a part of me.  With or without medication these days, I am viligent, as is everybody around me.  I am grateful for that, for that care.  But I miss it.

Would I have died?  Or driven everybody away?  I know it caused problems in my life- I cling to that knowledge, because it is important to remember.  I lost jobs, I lost friends, I had the steadfast love of a few people, but it was tested.  Their ability to cope with me- and it was coping, which makes me shrink in shame- was often stretched to its limits.  People worried about me, and most people who cared about me expected me to die.  Rob- my ex boyfriend- said he didn’t want to make plans for our future because he didn’t think I’d be around to see it anyway.  That was hard to hear.  I was very lucky he didn’t walk out on me.  He would have been right to.

But the actual processes of “healing”, well, that did as much damage.  That I should ever have taken medication is now up for debate, and that in itself was so trying.  The sicknesses, the shaking, the physical transformation, the exhaustion and slurring.  At least without it, I was myself.  With it all, I was someone else.  I was, “manic depressive”- it defined me, I still, to an extent, even with having that diagnosis taken away, am defined by it, and allow myself to be.  If they are wrong and I never needed medication, that is what I resent the most.  It killed all the thoughts in my brain.  Everything became about The Illness, and I am now even more self obsessed because of it.

During the summer, I had a bit of a taste of it again.  Laughing and free, creative, embracing strangers and strangeness, fearless, spending money like water on little presents for people, on dinners.  The agitation and shaking was horrible, and it all went wrong, all turned paranoid and raging and scared, then a crash.  Robert dealt well with it all, except the crash.  He hated that I didn’t feel, could barely cry, move, speak, feel anything but leaden misery.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  It was frightening to him, having lived three months with someone who found it hard to stop moving, stop speaking, who couldn’t sleep.

But having stopped taking medication recently, part of me hoped it would happen again.  It hasn’t, and I am vaguely disappointed.  I had been afraid of it happening, knowing, in my more clear moments, how destructive it can become.  But it is the thrill of the taste- the first taste, the sweetest one.  Almost worth it for the gorge that would make you ill.

If I could control it, keep it at a manageable level, I would live my life like that, forever.  It would be exhausting- and I know I am exhausting when I’m like that.

I do miss it.  I wonder if I am just missing someone younger.  Maybe this is just growing up.  Rose tinted spectacles.  I often loathed myself after high moods.  I often acted in ways that were profoundly humiliating and sometimes hurtful to people who cared.  I could be incredibly irritating and insensitive. Hideously, relentlessly self obsessed.  Loud and inappropriate.  Some people absolutely hated my guts. When I had mixed episodes I was a full on nightmare of agitation and despair for weeks on end and when the dust settled and I came back down I spent so long apologising.  It fuelled the savage depressions that followed, and fuelled the ones I have now.  The most prominent in feeling in every single one of them is guilt.  And some of the guilt comes from those times.  But these days, even with odd things, like remembering how I thought Satan lived on my wall, hearing voices telling me to kill myself, believing I was being followed,  I think, “Well, at least it was interesting”.  Forgetting, conveniently, how scary and isolating it was at the time.

I know recently I have accomplished more than usual, I’ve just done it slowly.  When you’re a little high it’s so quick- you stand back and look at what you’ve done, and it’s there, within the day, even if its ruinous, nonsensical.  If it’s not done by then, you skip it, you move on- Something else!  I enjoy thinking in the long time- languorous dreaming of house boats and people, and what I want to do, where I want to be, who with, and when.  I work to getting there.  It is important to me.  I know if I was really unwell, and it is sickness, that I may not get there.  That this quietness is better for that.  When I wanted to be a writer for a career- and I still do, truth be told, in my heart of hearts, I just feel I will never get there, not enough for me to make a living from it- it wasn’t so bad to be mad and up and down.  It made me unreliable, yes, but the up bursts, they could be handy.  Madness is novel to lots of people.  They care less.  As a nurse, though, it’s a health hazard.  I need to control it as much as possible.  In that sense, I want to.  I want to be a great nurse.  I can’t do that if I’m actively mental.

But sometimes, I miss you, mad Seaneen.  I hope you are still inside me, somewhere, without having to be coaxed out by something fizzing in my brain.  I hope I can coax you out with something else, with not caring about looking silly or being laughed at, or of failing.  Just don’t be afraid anymore.

12 Responses

  1. I have found myself being nostalgic in a similar fashion lately. I think perhaps I just miss being younger. It’s hard to tell because mentalness was quite inextricably entwined with my adolescence and early twenties.

    My partner wants a houseboat! it would be great.

  2. I know totally what you mean!
    I look back at the people and places I used to go, things I did and wore before I went totally mad and had to go on medication, and everytime I look back I miss it soo much, just the fun the carefree feeling and I guess being naive too, blissfully unaware of any damage or doing something silly.
    Tho if you gave me the choice between being or not being diagnoised I never know what side of the fence to sit on.
    x

  3. could be age related but probably not, anyway it’s good to be able to recall who you were and what you did – beware of strangers who might try and diss you with the put down “that’s just euphoric recall”.

  4. a beautiful beautiful post, you are still you, in both quiet and noisy times x

  5. Beautifully written, Seaneen, and I think a lot of people who have their illnesses more under control will be able to relate.

  6. I remember when I was first ‘discovered’ they put me on Stellazine, it turned me into a bit of a zombie, still mad inside but too tired to do anything about it. I looked back fondly on being manic cos at least back then I felt alive. Eventually I came off the Stellazine and without tranquilisers to hold him down my inner lunatic leapt up high (as a kite) and continued with his work. Seaneen, you’ll not stop being you because you can’t be quite so mental for professional reasons (you can always be a bit more mental in the evenings and weekends). You will be surrounded by mentalism and you may find that ‘mad Seaneen’ far from fading away will actually help you with your work. ‘Mad Seaneen’ may well stay with you through the road trip of life, just make sure you’re the one who’s driving.

  7. This is powerful, beautiful and sad.

  8. This is so interesting. I watched my husband become psychotic due to bipolar disorder, and when it was finally over and he finally accepted that he had indeed needed to be medicated, I was so scared that he’d want to go back to the mania he’d experienced before he crossed that line into psychosis. Because he was so productive then, and so filled with confidence and purpose. I’m grateful, though, that he’s accepted the loss of that part of himself — since you never know when you’re going to cross the line into true insanity, it’s not safe to start down that path.

    I myself am in a Twelve Step program for food addiction, and I’ve definitely had similar feelings re: ignorance is bliss and all of that. But it’s not. The eating was fun until it wasn’t, and it wasn’t fun for a long, long time before I started the Twelve Steps. The fantasy is alluring, though, but I know it’s just my addiction trying to suck me back in.

  9. I get wistful for my highs too. If its any consolation I still think your’e a bit mad.🙂

  10. Beautifully scribed. Because you’re still young I doubt that the sense of loss you feel is due to ageing. I’m going to risk it and say that its the old you that haunts and prompts your personality nostalgia. Trouble is do you want all of the old Seaneen back or just the good bits?
    We constantly reinvent ourselves because you can’t cross the same water twice.
    Maybe.

  11. after the madness has gone, i sit with this strange clarity for days and at that time i can recall and write in detail how glorious or not so glorious the episode was.

    i’m amazed at how in touch you are with a state so powerful that it can become blinding.

    medication has erased any hope of a long spin of mania and i’ve been left with momentary highs that, though quite enjoyable, quickly dissolve into mad thoughts. no fun.

    if i could ride the high longer and control the path so that it doesn’t reach psychosis, i’m sure i would have written a novel or two by now. shucks.

  12. a friend sent this blog to me.
    i can totally relate. going off the meds for the first time in years. “I loved more, and more intensely. I had more friends, I had more of a life. Was more daring. More passionate.”
    so far:
    my house has never been so organized and my photography never so creative…
    it is sooo good to feel again but i’m terrified of the downside that is sure to come.

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