Liz Baker

A numb state of mind

Emily Mann's life runs in circles, she wants to break them

I wake up. Not in tears over the excruciating school day that lies ahead, not chipper and making my green smoothie ready to #TackleThisTuesday, not happy to see my friends; I just wake up. I wake up most mornings in a numb, catatonic state. I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel sad, I’m not angry, and while I am exhausted, it’s not what I’m thinking about; the thing is, I am not thinking about anything.

Having lived with mental illness for nearly 7 years now, I myself am sometimes even shocked to the sparse emotions I feel, I think to myself, if I’m sad should I feel sad? If I am anxious, shouldn’t I feel clammy and terrified? But instead, I just feel numb.

I get dressed, and this numb, emotionless feeling state has brought on a wave of despair, hopelessness. A wave of depression has set in. While I’m happy to feel engaged again, I wish I could feel something other than sad. Intrusive thoughts accompany this wave, nearly everyday something along the lines of “You are fat,” “You are not good enough,” and my most frequent visitor “This is all your fault.”

Self conscious, I go through my day, trying to ignore these intruding thoughts, but careful to hold onto my thoughts enough so I don’t slip into a pit of dissociated feelings again; because any feeling is better than the blank state I am so familiar with. Now, slowly but surely, comes my other extreme, I can always expect it after a deep dark pit. A rush of anxiety sweeps me off my feet; and I am carried away in endless thoughts of impending danger, “Everything is going wrong,” “I don’t know what is happening,” “I can’t doing anything right, this is wrong,” and the worst of them all “Everything is out of control.”

This sensory overload will send my brain into a panic and ultimately defense mode and this will send me to another extreme: emptiness, desensitized, and dissociated.

The next week I will feel elated with life, but it won’t last as long as my usual drab feeling. But I will hold onto this high-like, ambitious, and euphoric week, as it is the one time I find myself full of energy with no sleep, full of hopes for tomorrow, and happy.

Finally, after what might have been a day, a couple of days, or even a week of a fast sudden switch or a gradual shift of mood, I have seen each extreme: nothingness, depression, and elated, on-top-of-the-world, ambitious but anxious and restless self, I am left exhausted. Only to start again.

I can not control this

I can not control my emotions or feelings

I can not control my illness

And while most days it controls me, I refuse to let that be the end game. I will someday control my illness. I will live a life under my control, a life full of happy moments and sad moments too, but a balance of the two. I will live my life in a straight line, always moving forward, and while it may go up and down, it will no longer be cyclical.

I am not my illness and the confusion that comes with it. It is okay that I’m not always feeling a certain way, I am not supposed to stay the same. Having bipolar depressive disorder does not mean that one week I am the terribly depressed Emily, one week I am happy Emily. It means I am Emily everyday of my life, every day I wake up numb or every time I wake up and feel like I can change the world – I am still Emily.  There is no need to apologize, to feel ashamed or embarrassed or change myself. There is no need to keep myself from getting close to people in fear of them seeing me for my disorder because I am not my disorder, and neither are you.

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