We have this 65 pound black Lab puppy, Athena, technically a year and one half, but she’s a Lab, and so is still silly, uncouth, and exasperating. She eats everything—cat shit, deer shit, even our other dog's shit straight from, well, the dog’s butt. We call it "soft-serve." She is especially fond of Tupperware, beer caps, and soggy baby diapers. Last night? A habanero pepper which left this insane pooch unfazed.
Athena is in constant, frenzied motion as is her tongue which is where my day begins: that long pink tongue lapping up pancake batter from the mixing bowl. Floury glop caked on her muzzle. My husband shrugged, "What’s a little dog slobber?" and continued on with the pancake making. Not an hour later, to my son’s wailing horror, Athena had chomped up his Storm Trooper figurine into plastic slivers. I promised my son we’d go to the Evil Empire for dinner since it was giving away Star Wars figures in the Happy Meals. This pacified him until we came home with said Happy Meal (miniature Millenium Falcon inside), set up dinner camp in front of a Star Wars Movie, briefly left the room, when all of a sudden, wailing horror once again. Athena ate the Happy Meal, chicken nuggets, ketchup, cardboard box and all.
I am, thankfully, medicated which evens out what should be funny little bumps in the road (The dog ate my homework! Really!), but which, to my Bipolar brain, often feel catastrophic, or at least feel like the harbingers of certain catastrophe. Everything devolving, decompensating, dissolving. Chaos. My brain doesn’t like disorder or disarray. Which is why the Eating Disorder continues to be so seductive—if I can’t bring the house into order, I can at least impose marshal law on the body, rigid rules to which I adhere without deviation. And voila! The body obeys, whittles itself away to nothing, becomes a shadow, or the shadow of a shadow. But of course, by perverse reversal, the body begins to revolt—hair falls out by the brushful, skin turns papery and dry, blood pressure gets wacky, the heart weakens. Deficits and decline and for too many, death.
Dr. B. would say my Dog Day is the good kind of problem to contend with. Without question, he would remind me of where I was just a few short weeks ago: IT turned manic and I stopped sleeping, had wild mood swings (that is went from hysterically depressed to suicidally depressed), felt like I was on amphetamines, and was stopped cold in my tracks by anxiety.
And then there was The Garage Moment. I’d just come back from grocery shopping, and felt hopelessly manic, felt myself inching towards the edge again, unable to see through the confusing fog of escalating desperation and circular rumination: WHY WHY WHY does this happen? Is it some switch in my brain that flips? Is it the mere and sheer basic interactions of living a “normal” life? I think about my friend with 4 kids under seven and she IS NOT losing her mind. Or my other friend who has a 4 and 2 year old, and just got tenure at the college and just finished her book and SHE IS NOT CRAZY. So WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why can’t I hold it all together anymore? This type of thinking, ruminative and hyper-critical, is often referred to as racing thoughts, as a flight of ideas, as distorted thinking. My husband likes to call it, “Fucked Up Thinking.”
So there I was, in the garage, all circuits bypassing the smaller ways to hurt myself. Instead of obsessing over cutting, over the small pain, over the immediate but passing satisfaction, I sat in the car, the garage door closed, the engine running, and what I thought was: maybe if I sit here long enough I can go the carbon monoxide route. Since by agreement my meds are hidden from me somewhere in the basement, and it seems I will never be successful at cutting my wrists, maybe this was/is a new path. So I sat there for a good fifteen minutes and then whatever sense was left in me got the better of me, and I got out of the car, got all the groceries out of the trunk and went inside as if nothing had transpired.
But of course, what got me out of the car were the groceries. One bag in particular containing a splurge, no-no buy for the kids: Froot Loops. This was the simultaneously awful and wondrous irony—suicide and Froot Loops. How could I contemplate them at the same time? Two absolutely opposing positions in the universe. Dark death in isolation vs. the sugary light of kids. My kids. They needed me to turn off the engine, to go inside and put away the milk and the cereal, to stay here and keep my promise that I would carry on. My daughter once drew a heartrending picture of this abstract idea (which hangs in the bathroom): a mythologically terrifying, double-horned, green and black monster (IT made concrete?) with the caption, STAY HOME MOMMA! That is, no more hospitals, no more ruminating on ways to die, no more wandering over to the Dark Side. Perfect timing: my son is imitating Darth Vader. Breathing in and out, in the heavy forced way, but unable to keep a straight face. Sugary light. Ketchup face. Sticky fingers. And Athena next to me on the couch, quiet and still. That tongue now licking my hand.