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  • Writer's pictureScott M Williamson

darkness awaits the new... (mental health memoirs, part 4)

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

When depression and anxiety co-exist, and they take turns messing with your mind, it can be particularly challenging. These mixed episodes occur most often with me in the summer months.

Medication can help manage these, but whether or not pharmaceuticals can help eliminate them I can't say. And certain meds don't work for certain bodies. And most have side effects.

I started taking lithium last fall after a mid-summer hypomanic episode which lasted longer than any I'd experienced. Besides helping tame the mania and balance my neurons a bit more, lithium carbonate has a history of helping prevent suicide. But boy, does it have side effects.

(One of the historic challenges of treating mental illness is getting patients to comply with medications which affect both body and mind, sometimes dramatically).

If depression, mania and suicide are a strong tide, then good medication can help you ride the waves,

rather than fighting against the undertow or treading water until you can't keep your head up. If your body doesn't accept the medication, it can feel like a bad trip on top of food poisoning.

And even when they do work for you, those persistent neurological gremlins, depression & mania, do not disappear. For a glimpse inside the "memoirs of my madness," here are some unedited entries from my journal this month:

2 Sept | Will I end up in an asylum or psych ward, too suicidal to be on my own anymore? Nights like this such a question is neither melodramatic nor rhetorical. Having a mixed-episode again - irritable, frustrated, mad at the world and I can't catch a break. But what would bring me joy right now anyway? Tired of feeling like a victim to this unpredictable storm system...

3 Sept | Irritable today to the point of exhaustion. So tired of the daily crying, the daily questioning of existence, the hatred for the modern world and the base, narcissistic veniality of humanity. I have little will and zero faith. This has been the darkest period of my life. Each time it appears to improve, I hit another wall, experience another setback. F*@%!!!

4 Sept | I don't want to be here. Where once my passion and idealism helped carry me through, now I just feel contempt. I used to always be able to access a glimmer of hope, a strand of faith but unrelenting pain has hardened those positives into cynical fatalism. Nothing helps. Not medicine, not therapy, not emotional support. I don't want to be alive...

Before suffering another series of fainting spells and seizures that very same day (because who needs only one chronic illness at a time?) I did manage to find a glimmer of humor, thanks to John Malkovich (playing another version of himself in Hollywood's finest sequel in recent memory, Red 2):

Why don't they just dip our balls in honey, and stake us to an art farm?!

For Rosh Hashanah, I shared some of "Coming Up on September" by Marge Piercy on FB, and then drafted the start of a poem in counterpoint with it, reflecting on where I found myself at the start of

another year.

Not the 'green tangle of vines'

nor butterflies, whether they be crimson or white;

no 'time to let the mind search backwards' even if raven be involved.

No time for 'great door' metaphors.

We've had enough of song and silence

and will be breaking those clay pots.

No 'last tomatoes'

for the 'fruit of our lives'

is impatient for 'harvest.'

Let's stick to the ripeness,

Marge, the rot and all that's left

undone these waning days.

At least my new year seizure moved my eminent EEG up, so now I'll get to wear one at the end of Oct. for 24-hrs while the neurologists monitor my cray brain. Last week was another good one, at least, and I'm grateful to have two awesome classes of music students at WLU this fall.

I'm not giving up.

That Marge Piercy poem is included in the new Reform prayer book for Rosh Hashanah next to this:

At the end of the journey

the old moon flickers out

and darkness awaits the new.

Now, in the stillness,

we can feel it being born.

Remind us: the horizon will be bright again;

the waxing crescent will rise.

Heal our hearts.

Gather us in

from the darkness.

Restore the light within us.

(I started sharing this particular blog to shine light on mental health. Feel free to share. We are not alone in this journey. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or a hotline. )

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