I don’t sleep much these days; or when I do, it’s never at the right time of day. I stay awake because my mind never shuts off, not until the chemical cocktail eventually decides to kick in.
So, I write when I can’t sleep. This blog averages about a post a month, but that’s only because I’ve deleted, hidden, and thrown away countless notes, drafts, and poems I’ve been too scared to share. I’m too scared to share them because of the fallout every time I post something. For someone who so desperately needs all the extra love, it still hurts to be the object of so much care. The last sane parts of my brain yell at me to reach out, to share, to try and let others see what I’m going through and connect; but the paranoia and the demons inside tell me to hide, that no one cares, that every single thing I’ve ever been told is a falsehood/lie/flattery/lip-service/anything-but-genuine-love. One of the many horrible things about this disease is that it tells you that everyone that’s ever loved you, anyone that’s ever cared, is just lying.
It’s hard to feel loved when your mind tells you that it isn’t real.
I still have some sanity left, so I want to take the opportunity to say why I write about my mental health. It’s depressing, it’s not fun, and I know a lot of people don’t want to see it. It’s easier to pretend that someone isn’t sick if you don’t look at them. It’s not comfortable to talk about, normal people don’t experience the world the way I do; and that’s okay. I’m not special because of this, I don’t want to be a martyr, I don’t want to be a slave to this, but this colors everything I see and feel.
I want to tell you this because I’m scared that one day I won’t be here to say what I was feeling now. I’m scared that I won’t have the courage, and that I’ll have let so much of what I saw in this world be left unsaid because I was afraid it would upset people. I write because I’m afraid that there might come a time that I won’t even remember what happened to me. This is my testimony. This is my confession. This is my testament.
I initially started this blog to tell my story here in Israel. Slowly, it became more than just writing about life here in the holy land. My life changed; but being bipolar didn’t stay across the ocean, and I relapsed. Then the pandemic came, and things got worse. My old home is embroiled in civil unrest over police brutality, and the flames only seem to get worse every day. I’m starting to question whether I should change my normal routine of reading the news every morning because it just means that the nights are spent waiting to see what hells dawn will bring from back home. I’ve been out of work for months now, trying to get better, but I don’t know if it’s getting any better. I’m taking more pills. I have to balance how much water I drink so I can stay hydrated enough to not die from either dehydration or liver failure, but not drink so much that the pills that keep me alive lose their ability to keep at least some of the madness at bay.
I have good days, but the bad ones sink me. I went outside for the first time in 48 hours just now to walk my dog, but I still spent more time in bed than out of it.
But why does any of that matter? Why am I telling you this?
What does any of this matter?
I say that to myself pretty much every day, and I don’t have an answer anymore. I used to say faith, or family, or hope; but it’s getting harder to hear myself say those when the sheer amount of screaming in my head tells me the opposite. I once wrote that someone told me that suicidal thoughts are like birds. On good days, you see and hear one, but then it goes away, and you keep walking along. On the bad days, you’re stuck inside your car in the parking lot while thousands of birds around you sit on power lines around you, yelling and cawing at the tops of their lungs to just do it, do it, do it, do it, do it. End it all. It’s deafening, it’s so loud you can’t scream loud enough to drown them out. You lose everything in your body trying to scream to hear anything but the birds but they keep cawing and cawing and cawing, telling you it’s time.
I tell you this because you need to hear it, I say it because I’m not alone in hearing the birds. Suicide is one of the biggest killers for people in my age bracket, and even more so for those that suffer from mental health problems. I’m also selfishly saying this all because I want you to know that my life is more than instagram photos on the beach, or photos of kosher restaurants, or videos on my old illegal balcony. I have to say these things because I have to put it somewhere that I felt these things, that my life existed and it hurt. I have to claim some part of the world’s history for myself to yell out that I was not living in a dream. That I am sick but that I have a voice. I have to tell you this because to not say anything would be to pretend that nothing happened. That I never lost my mind at work and had to be taken by an ambulance to a mental hospital. That I broke. That I was on the edge, but that I also had times where I had hope. I have to write these things down because I have to tell my truth, no matter how ugly or imperfect it gets.
Those that now me know that I wasn’t always this gung-ho Zionist Jewish pioneer, settling Israel one major city at a time. I grew up Catholic, and there was always was, and still is, something, comfortably appealing about confession to me. The idea that you could simply unburden yourself of all of your sins, all your problems, all your dark thoughts and ultimately receive salvation. In Judaism, we believe that forgiveness doesn’t exactly work that way. You have to ask for forgiveness from whoever you’ve wronged, and then ultimately from G-d.
But what do you do when you’re the victim and the victimizer? Both the agent and object of sin? What if you don’t feel forgiveness? What if you don’t feel anything anymore?
I like to believe that I’ve lived a relatively victimless life, but I know that’s a lie. I know that I’ve hurt my friends, my family, the ones I love, and most of all myself. I’ve ignored people, I’ve been cold when I should have loved, angry when I should have been compassionate, and hasty when I should have been patient.
And I mean all of those things for myself as well.
I know that my biggest sins are those of envy and jealousy. I look at my friend’s lives and see glimpses of what I imagine I could have had. I see smiling faces, happy couples buying their first house, parents holding their new child, and I feel nothing but absolute envy and hatred. I hate that I don’t have those things, and I hate myself for not being in a place to have them. I hate that I may never have them. I hate that I may never know the happiness I see in their eyes. I hate that there are people out there don’t close their eyes and see the montage of regrets and shame that I see, that there are friends that don’t know what it’s like to have had the noose around their own neck, that they don’t know what it’s like to have people in the back of an ambulance look at you wondering whether they’re going to have to sedate you or fight you to stay still. I write about the episodes in my life because otherwise all I have left in my life is the hate I feel for myself. Who am I supposed to ask for forgiveness for that? If hating your brother is a sin, where does looking in the mirror and wanting to punch the face you see land?
I write because I selfishly want all of the hate, all the fear, all of the pain, and all of the sadness to pour out of me and onto this page. I just want it to go somewhere. I want this screen to be my partition, and for you to tell me that all will be well and forgiven in exchange for a few words and actions. At this point, I don’t even want the forgiveness, I just want the cold embrace of the confession booth where I can whisper about every demon in my mind so that they can just leave my body and float away to go wherever it is that the things that damn men go.
Besides the ups and downs that most people know about with bipolar disorder, there are a lot of other side problems that can make life really difficult. One of them that I’ve been suffering from for the past year or so is called cognitive impairment, which is basically difficulty processing thoughts that leads to memory loss, decision-making difficulties, inability to concentrate, and learning difficulties. This past year, I’ve noticed my memory slipping, especially whenever I’m closer to or just after an episode. I have trouble recalling events in my life, people, even what I had been doing maybe an hour previously. Sometimes I lose the ability to focus on what I’m doing, I’ll forget that I’m washing dishes while I have a plate in my hand. I’ve been indecisive, but it’s gotten worse as time has gone on.
I don’t remember almost any of my life prior to college, minus the traumatic things burned into my eyes. Law school is a blur. I have to look at pictures to remember what I was doing after law school.
I don’t remember my wedding.
I don’t remember my mother’s voice.
Sometimes it takes a phone call to remember to anyone else’s voice.
I’m afraid that there might be a day that I won’t remember writing this.
I don’t know whether this problem will get worse, whether I may end up doing something in the future that makes it worse, or some kind of treatment might erase even more from my mind. So, I write these things because I want to remember what my life was like. I want to make sure that when I do forget these times, that I at least have some kind of record to remind me of what my life was like. I can only hope that if it get to that point that I’ll at least be happy, and only looking back at this to remember how far I came from.
What I Expect
Inevitably, whenever I write, I get the same kinds of responses. I know that a lot more people read than say anything, so all I can really judge it on is how people respond. I get so many well wishes, and as much I say they’re hard to hear, I really do love them. Life here in Israel, especially these days, can be so lonely. I used to make fun of all of the Anglos that came here and immediately sought out some little bubble so that they could speak English and have friends. I thought I would come here and be the conquering hero, learn Hebrew, and make Israeli friends and never be the American who’s been here 30 years and still speaks with an accent. I know now how arrogant I was. My Hebrew is ok, but what use is it if you’re stuck at home without a job and you don’t know anyone?
Honestly, I don’t expect too much from any of this. Not because I don’t believe anyone reading this doesn’t care, but because once I put it out there it’s not me anymore. Its a snapshot of what I was. Its something else. I write because I need to, because otherwise the words inside will devour me from within. I put this out there because I need some way to just let everything that’s killing me out. I’m typing this because I just want you to see it. If you choose to comment, or share it, or do anything with it, I would love it; but I do this for me. This is my testimony. This is my confession. This is my testament.
Once again, sending love from the holy land, hoping that you enjoy it, and promising that I’m going to stop throwing away those drafts.
I need to show the real me. Simply me, without any reservations.