It is April of 2016 and I can tell my bosses are getting frustrated with me. I work solo in a kitchen most of the time and it’s a demanding job. I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar for years and I’ve made it clear to my employers that I suffer from it, but most people don’t understand the toll of the disease unless they experience it first- or second-hand. My moods are erratic and I have great difficulty keeping my voice down most of the time, partly due to a recent car accident I was in that somehow nerfed most of my hearing in one ear, and partly because I have no filter. I’m late by a few minutes just about every day even though I live a 15-minute walk from the restaurant. I am aware that this makes me look like a huge dick. I live with two Ph.D. students who like to pretend that I don’t exist and I’m 98% sure I scare them. It’s very lonely. I’m preparing to move further North with two acquaintances of mine whom I’ve known for a couple of years; we get along pretty famously the few times we’ve hung out. I feel something building in my mind but I’m not sure what it is. I call in sick a few times because I can’t help but give in to panic attacks and fits of weeping, and this new thing where I’m hearing the voices of my dead friends. My boyfriend is a stoic young man who I accuse of apathy and reticence almost weekly. I am incredibly emotionally needy and I feel alone and misunderstood by everyone in my life. I drop a group of friends whom I’ve been spending lots of time doing loads of cocaine and getting wasted with at after-hours clubs because I regain some modicum of respect for myself amidst a life that I feel is quickly spiraling downwards.
It’s May 1st and I wake up after a day of moving things to our new house and working. I feel like my life is about to head somewhere better and I shower in preparation for work and choke down some coffee. Thirty minutes before I’m about to leave my boyfriend breaks up with me and I ride the bus into the Annex with tears streaming down my face. I feel simultaneously empty and full of a mix of emotions that I can’t put a name to. I wipe my eyes and clock in to work because it’s a Saturday and we’re busy as fuck- there’s no time for my feelings because there is work to do. I break down anyway in the basement as I’m filling a bus bin with food to restock the kitchen upstairs. There is nobody around except for the security camera above my station and I feel self-conscious despite the fact that I know nobody is in the office to witness the feed. The world goes fuzzy and muffled, and at some point one of my bosses is hugging me and I sink into her arms and cry. She tells me I am strong and that it is okay for me to feel hurt. I must have told her what happened but I have already forgotten. I somehow manage to make it through dinner service and head home to cry and drink wine with my housemate in our clusterfuck of a living room. We haven’t unpacked much of anything yet, so the room feels just as cramped and boxed-up as my brain does. A few days later I text a friendly bank teller whom I’ve known for a while and we get drunk and fuck. He becomes my rebound and he secretly drives me insane. Over the course of the next few months I see him pretty regularly.
I try to kill myself a few times. The first time, I’d just gotten home from a long night out that ended in me showing up at my ex’s house because I asked if he was still up and he said yes. He doesn’t let me in because there is a girl in his bed and he doesn’t want me to know- but I already know because I have the magic power of unbearable empathy and can read people like books. He acknowledges and confirms this with a nod and a sad look and I scream at him outside because he hasn’t given me any closure on our 2.5-year-long relationship and I feel like I’ve been suddenly and easily replaced. It is a cruel thing for me to do but I’m so upset in this moment that I couldn’t possibly care. It’s early in the morning by the time I get home and stagger into my housemate’s room because I don’t know where else to go. They wake up confused until they notice that my arms are bleeding. They hold me close in their lap as I cry apologies for getting blood all over their shirt. I go back to my room but at some point faint in the kitchen and I come to with both housemates holding me and wiping the blood off my body with wet paper towels. I feel embarrassed because I didn’t cut deep enough to finish the job and imagine that I am being judged for the shallowness of my wounds. They are leaving for Montreal and the cops are coming to our house because I posted a suicide note online, which was seen by a caring person who notified the authorities. I am furious. I’m carted off to the hospital in a cruiser and each time this happens I ride an adrenaline high as I sit in emergency, numbly laughing at the absurdity of the news ticker as other sick, injured, and dying people surround me, shooting awkward glances at my bloody, cut-up and cigarette-burnt arms. I know they think I’m insane and I wonder to myself if that’s true. Each attempt I find myself in an isolation room for over 12 hours and I muse to myself and the transient flow of doctors and specialists who visit me if they are trying to bore me to death. I awkwardly text my boss about what is happening and she tells me to take care of myself. I tell the cops not to call my mom but they do anyway and she frets over me and says she had no idea it was so bad. I laugh and weep at the same time and one of the doctors says my arms are “gross”.
The summer is hot and brutal and the weather takes a lot out of me. I spend a lot of time trying to distract myself with my housemate by playing videogames. I somehow manage to keep working in the scorching kitchen but I’ve started slipping. I forget things all the time and cry almost constantly. I call in sick to work more and more and during some shifts I have to hole up in the office because I think some malevolent force is following me. I hear voices and see things moving out of the corner of my eyes. I’m terrified and my boss is trying to calm me down and anchor me in reality. She lets me cut my shifts as I try to sort myself out. I’m exhausted and it finally occurs to me that I am having a Real Crisis. I catch myself falling in love with one of my housemates and hate myself for it. My rebound is just about to expire as he catches me kissing them at the end of one night and is understandably furious. I feel ashamed and terrible so I lock myself in the bathroom at home and down all of the pills in the medicine cabinet and steal the bleach while nobody is paying attention. It takes a lot of pleading to get me to open the door and I become enraged that an ambulance has been called, so I cuss out my rebound and tell him he is dead to me. I frantically lament the idea of returning to the hospital gurney. For some reason they always put me in the same room despite there being 6 isolation rooms in emergency. I wonder how many other suicidal people have sat in here alone with unwashed wounds, waiting for hours on end in this antiseptic and bleach-scented purgatory. It’s darkly funny to me how they don’t clean or dress my cuts despite asking to see them over ten times. Everything is funny to you when you’ve just tried to end your life. The doctors act like I am inconveniencing them so I put every iota of spite I have into my voice as they ask me the same questions over and over and over. When it’s all done with I’m told I have a follow-up appointment and a doctor hands me a little card with the date and time. I shirked it the first couple of attempts but finally it is my hatred of hospitals that sets my resolve to avoid this situation in the future, and I attend my appointment a week later. They sit me in a room and evaluate me for an hour, leave me to wait for another, and then come back with a diagnosis and a sheaf of paper. I have Borderline Personality Disorder with comorbid Bipolar and they want me to call some numbers on the printouts they just handed me that look like something I could have done with five minutes on Google and thirty seconds of access to a printer. Internally, I stab myself in the eyes. I imagine stuff like that a lot. They stress that it will be hard to get in contact but to “keep calling” and “eventually” someone will answer and put me on a waitlist that “might be up to eight or more months” long. I feel insulted and discouraged as I take a cab back home and I do eventually call and call and get put on the lists. I wonder how long it will be until I get a call and get in to see a therapist.
It’s a warm September day when I walk into work and my bosses sit me down and tell me that they are letting me go because they care about me and because I am completely unable to function at work and need to take better care of myself. I try not to cry as I sit there accepting this but traitorous tears roll down my face anyway. I feel weak and vulnerable and now I’m unemployed. I text my housemate-now-partner as soon as I leave the restaurant and they offer to take me out for lunch before they go to work. I am madly in love with them and want to be with them but my bones feel like lead and my internal compass is pointing me home, immediately home. I spend the rest of the day crying in my room. The following days I am mostly too depressed to even speak or sit up. I feel like my life force is draining out of my eyeballs. I self-harm again at a bar in front of my friends and nobody stops me. I am not sent to the hospital. I am convinced that I am worthless.
In the following months I wait. I wait for a call so that someone will help me without me having to be sent to the emergency room. I break my hand punching a hole in my bedroom wall and am filled with anger and hatred for myself. I wait in agony as my partner does all they can to soothe me and there are nights when we are lying in bed and I hallucinate the skull on a poster in my room coming out of the paper towards me, and I am scared. I daydream about meeting with Death and he is exactly as I picture him- skeletal and wreathed in flowing black robes. He holds me closely and I think of him as my true father. I beg him to “take me home”. I find peace in his presence and he tells me in his deep and beautiful voice that I’m not done yet and even though I know I am only imagining this it makes me cry bitterly because it feels so unfair. I am desperate to feel the embrace of eternity stretching out into nothingness but I refrain from hurting myself. I rearrange my room so that I don’t have to see the skull when I am in bed. A number of times over the months my partner has to pin me down in bed because I’ve convinced myself that there is something wrong with the bones in my arm or the organs in my abdomen and have to cut myself open to make sure I am okay. I continue to wait.
It is February of 2017 and I haven’t hurt myself in months. I still have frequent episodes and the world is even more strange and frightening to me than it’s been in years. I obsess over the news and worry that the world is going to end. My partner is tough and kind and takes care of me when things are especially bad and I spend a lot of my time in bed trying to gather the strength to get up or eat something. I’m typing a 2000+ word account of the horrifying year I’ve had and hoping that it will help someone, somewhere. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to meet my new GP and I’m hoping that she will help fast-track me to some kind of treatment so I can stop sitting at home with my worries and finally receive some help. I’m tired and sick with stomach ulcers. It feels hopeless but I’ve made it this far and I have to try to stay strong for the people who love me. I have to see where this thing takes me and hopefully I’ll be able to tell the tale in similarly grisly detail another year from now.