My Bipolar life reflects this kind of suffering. It is difficult for me to raise my head from out of my foxhole and say to the day, “I am prepared for you! Come bring what you may for today I know that my mind will not betray me!”
For stretches I will cautiously crawl out and get on with tasks and breathe a prudent sigh of relief, not to long not too deep. A rush of chaos may come and bowl me over. And like a mole crab on the shore I will have to flip myself over. If I am lucky and haven’t been buried under an avalanche of errors and terrors that accumulated over time I may recover my sanity sooner than some times. If I am not I may just lay in my filth and let the depression from my failure pass. Sometimes I just hope to die. I have not met one episode that played itself out the same as any other.
I am premourning. I don’t know how to prepare myself for the inevitable passing of my Mother. I can’t write death in the same sentence. The superstition of death and it’s happening is too strong. I focus on my Mother’s attributes and her pain. I tend to her needs. Each ice cube is another minute, hour, day here. I record her meals, the measly bits of food she will force herself to eat. I attend to the pills that are suppose to be keeping her alive and are suppose to be taken for however long she stays with us. I deal with the household chores her weakened state prevents her from addressing. I schedule the times with her friends so that I can be healthy and get out and she can see others and we’re not sequestered in this house.
I don’t spend time with my friends. I don’t want to hear the sympathy the bullsh!t clichés that people say that have no meaning. I know that people are taken aback by this situation. I know they don’t know what to say. I know I do the same thing when it comes to other people being in the same circumstances. In some ways I’d rather hear my Brother’s inappropriate anger and demands than to hear manufactured comfort we’ve been trained to say.
“It will be alright.”
“You’re Mother appreciates what you’re doing!”
“I know how you feel.”
“You’re so strong.”
“Call me if you need anything.”
Joan Didion wrote in “The Year of Magical Thinking“…a soul-stirring meditation on grief in all its unimaginable dimensions:
Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be. … Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life. Virtually everyone who has ever experienced grief mentions this phenomenon of “waves.”…”
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”