Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dead Inside

I have, for several years, described myself as "dead inside" but it's hard to explain to other people exactly what that means. For such a finite term as dead is, a feeling of being dead inside is terribly complex. My two favorite bands, Tool and Ludovico Technique, both have songs with the over-arching theme of being dead inside, and I've been able to relate to them although they're vastly different songs with different themes of inner deadness. Let's start with the Tool song, Bottom.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the type of mania you don't usually hear about when people talk about Bipolar disorder. I had this month-long episode of rage mania that was frightening, to say the least. It was a constant, overstimulated, adrenaline-fueled, heart racing episode of palpable rage. And in that time, I did my best to channel it, even if it involved driving around with Bottom on blast, screaming along to the lyrics that at the time spoke to my soul: "Dead inside/Hatred keeps me alive/Loneliness keeps me alive/Weakness keeps me alive/Guilt keeps me alive/At the bottom." I was fueled entirely by my hate and anger all while wrestling this angry demon in my head, which the lyrics "If I let you, you would make me destroy myself/In order to survive you/I must first survive myself" seemed to so accurately describe. I don't pretend to know Maynard James Keenan's personal connection to the song but this song is one of my personal descriptors of my mental illness.

Living with a mental illness sucks, but the medication can be worse. At my highest dosage, I was on 900mg of lithium, which isn't the highest adult dosage, but my doctor deemed it was the right amount based on seemingly endless blood work. Lithium is supposed to even you out, make the cycling between mania and depression less frequent. For some people, it works. I felt like a zombie. I tended to cycle more toward depression, and never had any highs. I didn't feel passionate about things any more. A lot of the time, I didn't feel.

When I hear Ben V.'s lyrics for Dead Inside "Draining/Regenerate this spiraling mind/how will I be alright/when I'm Dead Inside... Balance/was a trace/of something misplaced/before all was uneven" it reminds me of my struggle with Bipolar, that deadness I felt while on lithium, that desperate search for myself because I felt lost inside myself, behind the medication haze. Eventually, I made the decision to come off lithium, with the support of my doctor. I am not a medical professional and my experiences may not be the same as yours. Always consult your doctor about medications! Being off lithium has been the best thing for me, honestly. Yes, I have manic episodes, and downswings into depressive episodes; that's just life for someone with Bipolar disorder, and that's why I keep this blog, so I can learn about my disease and share my experiences.

I still describe myself as dead inside. I'm in general a pretty happy person. But there's that part of me that lives in moral ambiguity, that part when mania takes over and I become a little reckless, that part that just doesn't care. Am I being succinct in describing this part of me? Probably not. As I said, it's a terribly complex feeling. The connection to music during rough patches, though, has been monumental.

Just being able to identify with the lyrics and know I'm not the only one that feels dead inside, but can function as a human, is immensely comforting. I could take the entire day and dissect each song line by line and explain how I relate to it, but I won't. Just know, Maynard and Ben, that your music has touched me and means the world to me, more than you can know.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting A Part of Me Back

Lately, all I've wanted to do is live, eat, sleep, breathe art. I almost feel like Ricky Fitts from American Beauty when he says "I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in." I  feel more alive and more mentally awake than I have in a very, very long time. Maybe it's a combination of factors that has brought my creativity back to life-- being back in academia, listening to music that opens up my mind to different thoughts and challenging the status quo, stimulating conversations with people I truly respect. I've gone out into the world and found beauty and sometimes it's so much it makes me weep, whether it's music, or a piece of art, a statue. If you've been following along with this blog, you'll have seen I've been much more active in writing, and if you follow me on social media, you'll see I've started photography again after not really doing it for a very, very long time. 

My mind has been so active, nonstop, for months, and sometimes it's hard to organize and channel those thoughts constructively. Long drives help. Listening to music helps (but often adds to the overstimulation-- blessing or a curse?). I've done a lot of introspection and reflection on the past also. There was a long period of time in my life now I realize I was simply too dead inside (I'm still dead inside) to even feel any passion for anything. Was my passion killed by the medications meant to even out my bipolar disorder? Probably. Was it killed by trying to live for others and not myself? Definitely. Was it dampened by being in unhappy job after unhappy job? Absolutely. 

What I know and what I am certain of is that life is a constant journey of exploration. I want to dive into my academic studies, I want to make art and have stimulating conversations. I want to lose myself in music. I want to challenge my way of thinking and perceiving the world around me every day. I feel free, I feel alive. I feel like me again.