October 25, 2021
Getting to "Well", Part I
I started a journal in 2016, after I moved to Louisville. Well, it wasn’t just a journal it was all kinds of shit. The story of my childhood, the history of my abuse and trauma, and then some really funny shit that happened to me along the way just living out the frantic trek of my bipolar existence. And I said a lot of good important things that people needed to know, mostly about what it’s like to be mentally ill. And I said a lot of funny stuff, and some sad stuff, about online dating and men and relationships and casual sex. And I explored, in nauseating detail, the affair I was having with a married man with whom I was so madly in love I couldn’t see straight.
I was so so so sick in Louisville. It's when the bipolar took me over. I lost job after job. I had no income for a year. I ran out of food twice, two days once and three days the next. Never would I ever have imagined that would happen to me. But through the love of my mother and my friends, and the work of God through the hearts of people, like my apartment building accountant who carried me for $3K in back rent for over a year, and the manager of the pizza joint up the street, who, when I told him I hadn't eaten in three days, made me chicken fettucine (best in town) and sent me home with a pizza that would last me two days. And there were so many days when I'd get the mail and there'd be a card from a friend with $100 in it, so I could buy food. And people sent me Amazon boxes, and Omaha Steaks. I could go on. I could go on and on. My time in Louisville was the worst three years of my entire life. The hardships I faced were enormous. I lost everything. But I wouldn't trade one minute of it. I wouldn't change one thing. Absolutely not. Never. The bad things make me better.
When I was so so sick, I tried so hard to be "well". All along, all my life in fact, I have desperately sought to be “well”. “Well” means being “even”, appearing outwardly functional, and experiencing a moderate level of peace of mind more frequently than the swirling manic madness which possessed my brain.
I would try really hard to do all the stuff I was supposed to do – like sleep hygiene (what a joke), diet (what another joke), militaristic medication compliance (I excel at this one and I really like that about me) supplements (easy peasy), and exercise (biggest joke of all!). I didn’t hit on all that, clearly. I was too depressed to do the things that would help me not be so depressed. But I religiously saw my psychiatrist and diligently partnered with her to try a variety of different medications. I spent at least an hour a week with my counselor. I need to give myself credit for working really hard on the stuff I was able to work really hard on. I did my best. Every moment I did my best. But most of the time, my best just wasn't very good. And I made no progress the first two years. All I did was slip and slip and slip back.
While I was writing about all this stuff and plodding and persisting and persevering my way through my life in Louisville, and wanting so badly to be “well”, I would wonder if I’d ever really get to well. Would I ever be stable enough that I could say I had my happy ending? Because I was writing a fucking book (it was a book now, no longer a journal) and a book has to have a happy ending. Or at least some sort of substantive closure, like an effective suicide.
But when I thought about getting to "well", I’d get really scared. Because without Pain (who is my Bipolar Depression) and Suicide (who is Suicide) who am I? If I don’t have a tragic story to tell, what is my story? I didn't realize it at the time, but we all have a story, a fascinating story. Being mentally ill is just a part of my story. I'm more than my bipolar. But I digress. I'll write about hope and healing later...
I see now I never separated myself from my illness, from my morbid obesity, from having been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and from all the other bad shit that happened to me, and all my bad decisions that made me so bad, and all the bad shit I did to myself. I was all bad shit. I had no identity apart from being all bad shit. I was just a big bunch of bad shit walking around, smiling, engaging in witty intelligent conversation, charming the socks off people, finding very young men to fuck voraciously (which I do not regret for one moment!) and just pretending to be OK. And that worked for YEARS. DECADES.
But after a while, I couldn’t pretend to be OK anymore and it showed. People saw my Pain. I said scary stuff about trying to kill myself. I was weird and I said the wrong things at the wrong time that didn't make sense and I made people really uncomfortable and people started to avoid me. And I noticed. And sometimes it hurt, and other times I just thought, "fuck it, I deserve it. No one wants me. I don't even want me."
I met a couple in a crowded bar on New Year’s Eve 2018. I didn't know but I kind of knew the end of the affair was imminent. They were such a lovely couple. They looked like regular people. They looked like the people I saw walking arm in arm along Fourth Street Live, the people that lived in my building. They were heroin addicts. The husband had cirrhosis and was waiting for a liver transplant. Their problems were HUGE. But they were so kind and so kind and I needed their kindness so desperately. I told them I wanted to do heroin, too. I told them I wanted to do heroin with them. They said NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! And I pleaded a bit, but they were firm. And then they proceeded to love on me, telling me over and over I was good and worthy and that once I got back on track, I’d realize drugs weren’t a solution. I knew that! But I didn’t care right then. I wanted Pain to go away. Thank God for those two heroin addicts that sat with me on New Year’s Eve and just fucking cared. That’s it. They just cared. Addicts know their shit. And they have good hearts.
So, I woke up on January 1st, and pushed through that day. And the next. And a few more. And then the affair ended in February. On fucking Valentine's Day. Jesus. And then, predictably, the bad shit got the best of me. I couldn’t see anything good inside, I couldn’t see I had any worth. I was nothing, just taking up space, not needed, not wanted, better off dead.
Of course, there was this little tiny piece of truth (a.k.a. God) deep within my center that recognized I had worth and in a very faint voice, encouraged me to see it through and stick it out until my appointed time. But she was easy to ignore. Her voice faded away while I carefully counted out the number of Klonipin I was going to take, knowing full well it’s nearly impossible to overdose on Klonipin. But still, I didn't want to take too many, and I wanted to be able to tell the EMT exactly how many I had taken when he asked. I wanted to kill myself, every waking moment, but I didn't want to actually die. And why didn't I want to actually die? Because I was pretty sure I was going to go to hell, and hell was probably some degree more painful than just sticking around and living out my life.
Sometimes, when I was a bit more serious about wanting to off myself, I’d mix the Klonipin with vodka. Because if you mix a lot of Klonipin with a lot of vodka you can go into a coma. So that was sort of like dying. I mean, it wasn’t a full out full-on commitment to suicide, but it was closer than just one mind altering chemical at a time. “Double up to double your fun!” I thought, then began with the hysterical laughter.
Let me tell you, the suicidal mind goes through some interesting permutations which feel so logical and believable and even smart as all hell. And funny! I thought up shit when I was trying to kill myself, knowing full well my half-assed attempts would never succeed, that made me laugh so hard, I'd wet myself.
Like I’d think about how I prayed and prayed and prayed for a husband, and even through God says stuff about giving you the desires of your heart he never gave me a husband. OMG that was so funny! God lied! Did he just lie to me? Or does he lie to everyone? Just to me! I know it! He answers everyone’s prayers except mine! God LOVES to fuck with me! JUST ME!
So since God wasn't any help in the husband department, I just went out and got myself a bunch of husbands! But they were other women's husbands! OMG! I'm so fucking smart! Smarter than God! I showed him I sure did! But then that one other woman's husband that was the only man I really wanted, then I lost him. No more husbands! None of my own, and none of anyone else's either. But that was OK, because I was past my pull date anyway. Time to get on with the business of executing this suicide. Sheesh. Focus, Coco, focus!
When I was counting out the Klonipin and mixing the vodka crans, I also played out this interesting theory about being the first pancake – you know the one that doesn’t turn out, so you throw it away? I was the first pancake, and God accidentally didn’t throw me away and I accidently got born because God wasn’t paying attention because he was making all those good pancakes and he forgot to throw away the bad one! ME! So I was born a bad pancake, already flawed and fucked up, and misshapen. I wasn't an even golden brown. I was splotchy white and uncooked and gummy in places, and crusty around the jagged edges.
I was born into a family that reminded me every day, in words and deeds, that I was a bad pancake, born a bad pancake, and I should just go ahead and douse myself with butter and syrup and set myself on fire, because I’d never be a normal pancake anyway. Lost cause. So I'd eat and eat and eat to make up for feeling like such a bad shitty bad throwaway pancake and I got really really fat.
So one half assed Klonipin overdose evening, that whole ludicrous bad pancake scenario played out in my mind and I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop. And then I sobbed. For me, crying and sobbing go together. They're partners. They take turns.
That was the night I fell off the rolling office chair and couldn’t get up, so I slept on the cement floor for a few hours. And when I woke up, I couldn't stand up. I crawled all over the room looking for my phone. When I fell, it got chucked across the room, and it was broken. I had insurance but I didn’t have the $100 deductible I needed to replace the fucking thing. Who was I without my phone? Who is anyone without their phone? So that set me off on another riotous laughing spree, while I crawled back across the room to the bathroom and started the approximately half hour-long process of using the toilet and side of the bathtub as leverage to pull my still obliterated 350-pound body to an upright position.
I laughed a lot that night. And sobbed. But I do remember mostly laughing. Because I imagined how funny I looked. And I even laugh now writing this. And I remember even though I was in a world of hurt, and pretty fucked in every way, particularly with regards to replacing my phone, I remember how good it felt to laugh. But how fucking tragic the things I found so laughable. Alas.
To be continued...