The other night I was feeling ambitious and I decided to keep a journal, if only for one night, of my thoughts and actions as I battled insomnia and a rather nasty bout of suicidal ideation and depression. That's one way of saying that I was incredibly unhappy and wanted to kill myself and couldn't sleep. So I took out an old composition book that I used in college and began writing. These are some of the thoughts I managed to smear onto the page.
The first entry was at 1:12am and the last was at 6:37am, when I detected the heavenly aroma of coffee floating in from downstairs. My father is always up early and to bed early. The smell of coffee carries with it a lot of meaning and even emotional currency, at least within this context. It means that I made it through another night, a bad night. An escape route that presents itself, away from the night and into the day. Usually for me the night is a fine place to be, but sometimes it feels as if I'm not going to make it. No music, however beautiful, moving, romantic or sad can deliver me from the guts of nights like that. Nor can any movie, book, thought, or action. I've tried. Except sleep, which comes only when I fill my gullet with pills. Thankfully, I usually have pills to provide such a deliverance. But sometimes, the pills don't work. I'm not sure how fucked up I have to be to still be awake, my mind racing and my stomach churning, after taking 6 lorazepam. It can't be good, and every word I'm writing now is the truth, so let it sit the way it is.
I've gone for late night walks before. The "heavy breathing" walks that Kurt Vonnegut talks about in Bluebeard. They're dangerous. Too many cars to step in front of, mischief to get into, and crimes to commit. It's better, I've found, to remain not only in my flat, but in my boudoir. My bedroom is neat and orderly and makes a nice cage. It also provides an amusing ironic counterpoint to the mess in my head. And the bed is nearby, like a time machine ready to deliver me into another day and away from 3 o'clock in the morning.
In order for a mind to function well, or even properly, boundaries and rules are required. Heaven sent habit and routine that act as rungs on a ladder, or more dramatically, as rappelling equipment that a mountain climber might use. Without discipline, the mind begins to look like the brain; soft, gray mush without definition.
I'm not sure where mental illness fits into this, because I'm not convinced that I'm ill, despite a team of psychiatrists that have told me how crazy I am, over many years. I believe in science and medicine, but it feels like a pleasant fiction, like religion. My cross is a brown prescription bottle, my Bible is the DSM-IV. I recognize the brash, hurtful cynicism of that point of view. And it exists more on an emotional level than an intellectual one. But it turns like a knife in my innards, exposing the viscera of my being to a harsh light where everything is exposed. People can see, as I can, every humiliating flaw. So I turn to the intellect and beg to hear a comforting word. "It's not your fault," I tell myself, "you're sick." It feels like a weak, pathetic man's lie. For me, at least, the intellect withers when exposed to the brutal power of emotion. And as you can see, emotionalism can provide a "reasoning" power all it's own. It's not as raw a I like to imagine. It makes a persuasive argument that is not flattering, to put it kindly.
I've decided that for the last 10 years or so, I've been craving the peace of acceptance. To accept the notion that I am something unchangeable, that I am defined by disease. What a blissful release that would provide. But I can't do it. I can't look at the mess that I've created, the life I've ruined, as something that just happened, like a hurricane or tumble down the stairs. The uneasiness that I endlessly feel is partially about my inability to reconcile two perpendicular thoughts. The first is that I'm a compassionate, thoughtful human being struggling with an illness that is more or less out of my control. The second is that I'm an overwrought, reckless, idiotic bumbler who is mentally as healthy as your average person, but who is weak. I want to embrace the former and shun the latter. But I can't, and that's why I can't sleep without pills. I can't stay awake without them, either.