The Great Act of Normalcy

Written by Jandy

God could topple from the sky, seraphim ablaze, snowing charred feathers, ashes, and viscera and I wouldn’t care. The world could rend in two, hellgate’s demons and their gnashing maws closing around my throat, swelling beads of red; shadows rising like thick black smoke, engulfing me in its quiet embrace and I would sink in solace.

This is ennui. This is the pit of existential despair. This is the murky depths of depression in which I drown without care.

My mental illness takes form as night and day. Weeks and months. Light and dark. Euphoria and despair. I’m two different entities in one, alternating more frequently than the seasons. Psychiatrists call it Bipolar Disorder. But psychiatrists have called me many things. I call it a living hell.

My days, weeks, and months are cleanly divided into depression (the darkness) and mania (the light). Depression transports me into a glass ball. That’s how most people with depression describe it – the dreadful sense of emotional isolation and inconsolability, partitioned only by a sheet of glass (mental illness) so thin that one could almost be a part of the world, but not really. In the glass ball, I inhale the thick miasma of apathetic torpor, sleeping but not sleeping, awake but not really.

Then there’s the euphoria – the mania. The glass ball shatters into a billion brilliant shards, each glittering fragment reflecting the vast and lustrous world; shimmering worlds within worlds, panning out into an endlessly rich landscape. It is the best feeling in the world. I am god, I am powerful and indestructible. But it doesn’t last long. It endures long enough to give hope – the hope of a cure, then vanishes as suddenly as it came.

This is reality. Glass ball or not, the functioning society expects one to fit into it like a jigsaw puzzle. Not a single edge misaligned.

Thus the world is my stage. Tiptoe unto the stage, blinking in the glaring lights and take a bow. I am two personas and the façade is my play.

I put on my best performance on the train, anchovied between other straphangers and silently choking on anxiety that throttles my being to the core. I put on a great performance at the workplace, typing away at my desk while a steady stream of suicidal urges nudge my consciousness. I smile and laugh with my coworkers, while resisting the urge to crawl into a hole and die.

Mental illness is perceived on two extreme spectrums – either as a poor excuse for lacking emotional fortitude or as a severe crippling that should be circumvented with fear, like a contagion.

So when I’m in my “glass ball”, wishing to die, curled in a fetal position in bed nursing an invisible wound pulsing like a physical ailment – calling out sick from work is inexcusable. Even when I’m in a state where I can’t leave the house, I am not allotted sick days for being mentally ill. Because again, it’s either about “getting over it” or “being too crazy to fit in the professional environment”.

Get over it or lose your job and everything you own.

So I go to work, sit at my desk, and endure wave after wave of suicidal thoughts while staring blankly at the computer. I can’t concentrate. I can’t work like this.

It’s easier to sit in a mindless stupor, languid and stupid, wasting time and effort, than to say that I have a mental illness and that I need time off.
It’s easier to say that I have the flu, than to say that I have an episode of depression. When it’s really bad and my cognitions are warped and the world is a distorted nightmare full of terrible people, it’s easier to say that I’m an irritable bitch, than to say that mental illness distorts my thinking. When it’s really bad and a coworker mentions that I look tired, it’s easier to say that I lost a few hours of sleep, than to say that I’m depressed.

By the end of the day, I am exhausted. All mental effort goes into my play, my act, the façade of being a normal cog in a high functioning society. Instead of spending the remainder of the day doing something restorative and enervating, I go home to wallow in solitude. The cycle continues.

Because of the stigma or lack of knowledge surrounding mental illness, I am further entrenched in the depths of despair.

It’s Groundhog Day. Today will repeat again tomorrow – the ennui, depression, and apathetic torpor, all raining around me in the silence of my cubicle.

Unknown and unnoticed.

May the earth rend in two and swallow me whole.