“…really ain’t no excuse in me
hanging around in your kinda scene.”
Jimi Hendrix, “Manic Depression”
“C.L. Grigg of St. Louis came up with a fruity concoction he named ‘Bib Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda’. A doctor’s testimonial promised ‘an abundance of energy, enthusiasm, a clear complexion, lustrous hair and shining eyes’. Mr. [Grigg] later came up with a punchier slogan ‘You Like It, It Likes You’ and a new name: 7Up. His ancestors took the lithium out of the soft drink 50 years ago.”
“…kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.”
Bruce Cockburn, “Lovers In A Dangerous Time”
Recovery is about epiphanies — little truths made into strong emotions by the very fact we missed out on the frigging thing in the first place, which means we’ve been living in one direction when a simple truth would have had us going in the right direction.
Manic depression makes you confused, it feels like depth but manic depression is a very shallow disease, it’s ‘horizontal’ not ‘vertical’ like a cancer. When you get cancer you know where it is and roughly whether or not you’re going to survive it. Someone with our disease could, quite literally, be dead ten minutes from now (don’t do it) or we could survive wrapped up in a ball in a corner until we’re ninety-nine. Depression is a thin coating, it’s a thin sheet of reflective ice concealing an ocean. It corrupts our ability to Reason, and without that ability we can’t defend ourselves against the thoughts inside our heads, so we find excuses we can live with. People with our disease are excellent at rationalizing unreasonable behaviour to fit situations we can’t understand.
So. Small things would happen at work, change of managing editor or an emphasis on new editorial directions, and — even though I was in a good, well paying job, working with a few people who I could respect and have beers with — I would feel threatened because the disease prevented me from reacting rationally to these relatively minor situations. So, in a state of fear, I would quit and fuck off for the first available job, usually something I knew I would hate and where there would be no beer (my mother remembers these situations because I would call home with: “everybody freaking hates me, I can’t deal with these ignorant bastards!” a few days after telling her what a great job I had).
The last full time reporting job I had was in Toronto. It’s still the largest trade magazine of its kind (technology) in Canada, and the second largest in North America. As trade magazines go it was pretty frigging sweet. I had a desk, a computer, a phone, some taxi-chits and an editor who let me write about stuff I found interesting. I was late every morning, usually by an hour, and my stories where usually submitted ten minutes before deadline and I had to take at least one day off out of every eight because of a depression, but — dammit — that was cool because I was in the Cool Kids Group so I could hide my illness by pretending I was your basic Office Anarchist.
But then our little family-owned company, which published seven or eight magazines, got taken over by one of those huge conglomerates bent on total media domination you read about in fewer newspapers these days. Suddenly I had to deal with rumours of layoffs, new benefit packages to choose from, friends leaving for other newspapers, old bosses leaving, new bosses being introduced and new cubicle and floor designs (“Where’s The Motherfucking Printer?!?”). My epiphany, and this was ‘in hindsight’ two years in the making, was this: Of course I was going to freak out and quit, I had a major disease which I had let fester for twelve (at the epiphany point) unmedicated years…. so how the fuck else was I going to react to situations like that?
I was stunned for about five minutes. After I came to I started applying this New Concept to dating relationships which I had ended, and it fit. Every time conditions would change, I was out the door. Or, worse, I would just shut down and wait for someone to either fire me or leave me for someone not acting like a morose loner planning a high school shooting. Suddenly I realized, there were a million choices in my life the disease had prevented me from rationally making decisions on (if you know a woman named Illona, please apologize to her from me. It doesn’t matter if it’s my Illona or not, for what I did all Illona’s everywhere deserve an apology).
The disease makes you believe, unconditionally, that you are in charge. So when you’re staring into that reflective ice covering thinking it’s you making the decisions based on reason and deliberation in fact — unmedicated or newly medicated — every decision you make is corrupted by the disease.
Every decision I made from 1988 until 2003 was a left turn because I have a disease which kept me from understanding the gravity of my disease. When I left home to make my mark I was a (relatively) naive kid. I left my little adopted village and moved to the city. And now, eighteen years later, I’m back and exactly three blocks from the home I left. Not to be too brutal about it but that’s a long way to travel just to move two hundred feet. Something else I’ve recently learned: hometowns are great for having family around, but holy shit I hate having to see the ghosts.
All of which is is to say you must take the pills, take the pills everyday, take the pills no matter what, take the pills until they find a cure, take the pills if there is no cure, take the pills so it never seems rational to kill yourself, take the pills so you can live. When you remember you forgot to take them, get the fuck out of bed you lazy, sick bastard, walk to the frigging bathroom and take the damn pills. Take the pills because otherwise every time you go grocery shopping you’re going to run into the girl who took your virginity. Seriously, what the fuck is with that? Who’s running this freak show?!?
— God: “Hey! Mr. Mann! (back slap) Glad you’re starting to feel more comfortable with your self. Taking the pills? Great. Hey, look at that, you’re well enough to be writing again. That’s great. Yeah, that’s cool, cool. Yeah… hey! Isn’t that your first time over there? Didn’t you really fuck that up as well?”
Honestly, Christ, what the fuck is that?!?