Friday, April 06, 2007

A Fallow Mind

While the medical establishment can probably describe the biochemical reactions that occur in the human brain to create a transition from a legnthy depression into a normal or manic state, somehow descriptions of chemistry don't capture the experience of living through it, of being a casual observer as your own mind goes from being in solitary confinement in the dead of the night to capturing the tiniest inkling of light and life. There's an indescribably beauty to that...but it's tempered by the most ominous of horrors--the constant whisper that said inkling may be gone as quickly as it came.

On my morning commute, I drive through several large corn fields that have obviously been rather dead over the winter and I've found a certain sense of kinship with them. I feel as though my mind has been largely dead for the past year or two, that where a garden more spectacular than most once grew, a plain field of dirt remains. When a bipolar mind is flowering with ideas and enthusiasm, I think it obtains an Alice in Wonderland type of exaggerated beauty, something so fantastic and energetic that sustaining it is beyond the capacity of anyone I've ever met. But once you've experienced that type of beauty in your own head, watching it whither and die with your sanity intact is perhaps the height of mental cruelty, an experience so savage and devastating that it's no wonder to me why bipolar has the highest rate of suicide of any mental illness. A life devoid of such beauty hardly seems like a life worth living.

Over the past few years, a part of me has stood by and watched as my mental garden went from being lush and succulent, verdant with ideas and inspiration to the empty mud slab it is today, or perhaps was yesterday. I've survived seeing the most beautiful thing I've ever seen die. I've endured watching truth and wisdom and inspiration fade from the most pleasing symphony I've ever heard to the most bereft, foul, aching silence. Where once there were fruit-bearing trees of thought so laden with their own harvest that they could barely keep their branches off the grass, there's nothing. Not even the skeletons and the decay of what once was remains. What beauty there was has been eaten by the deadened ground. And for the longest time, there was nothing. No music. No thoughts. No ideas. Nothing. Silence and darkness.

But just as the manic beauty cannot be sustained, so too is the darkness fleeting.

In talking to Brendan about this, I told him that my mental garden is still just a slab of mud but now there's life beneath the surface. It's as if I can feel the roots of those future flowers starting to grow, like there's an energy and a vitality there that's been missing for so long. There's no guarantee than anything will grow and whatever growth I have now could just stop at any time, but I don't think that it will. Something's changing....slowly, but it's changing nonetheless. For the longest time, I felt that not only was my mental garden gone, but that it was gone forever because even when I'd try to plant some thought in my head, to harvest even the smallest yield from my mental fields, there was nothing. It could give me nothing but death and decay, rotting corpses of thoughts that had once inspired me. Whatever I tried to plant died and eventually, I just gave up trying.

Those thoughts and dreams and ambitions and inspirations...they aren't dying anymore. If I could just remember how to dream them now, I think they'd find fallow ground. And I cannot begin to tell you how exciting that is.