Smoke

firsthand experience of bipolar disorder

By Michaelina McGee

My name is Michaelina McGee.

I am curious
I am impulsive
I am human
The professionals say that I am bipolar
Type 2
Hypermanic, deep dips of depression
I am a rollercoaster going off of the track

When I am up ^
I am up ^
UP UP UP

Get ready for take off….
Flying through the sky
I am high above the clouds
I am on a rocket ship
5-4-3-2-1
There is no gravity
I am floating

BOOM, CRASH, SMASH

I am somewhere
I am nowhere
Broken off
In a pit of darkness
I am absorbed into the hemisphere

System Failure
I am shutting down
I am drifting into a black hole

I am brought back to earth
The Lithium runs through my blood
Emotions normalize
Once again I am brought back to reality

(I wish I was ordinary)

Dancers: Michaelina & Alexandra McGee
Videographer: Rachel Jones
Video Editor: Thomas Carpenter

“What am I doing?” I asked myself. I was spilling the pills in and out of the bottle, watching the white tablets fall through my fingers. I felt as if I was stuck in a smoke filled room, unable to see through the cloudiness, unable to breathe with the pressure of the walls caving in. My body ached of sadness and I did not know why.

My life is a perfect white egg from the outside. I grew up with a family that provided me with more opportunities and more love than I thought was possible. I have the world at my fingertips, but my hands are frozen and turning blue at the tips. I was ashamed because I have spent my summers in Italy on the Amalfi Coast, lived in New York City and studied acting, went paragliding in Germany and swam in turquoise waters in Bali. I am ashamed because I have so much and still feel so empty.

I put the pills back in the bottle. I took a sip of water and closed my eyes. This is not the furthest I have gone. I remember past times when the smoke filled my lungs, stinging my eyes, and numbed my nerves. Times when I couldn’t see my family’s arms outstretched or feel the warmth of their embrace. Times when the pills found my stomach, and not the bottle.

They are constantly asking me “Why? You have everything anyone could want.” They want something to explain why I can’t get out of bed. Something like trauma, a creepy uncle, hidden needles, a monster under the bed, anything. How can I explain that the monster isn’t under my bed? That you cannot see the issue because it lives above my shoulders inside my head? I try to explain that I am bipolar and that I have had a ten year long eating disorder, but ignorance interrupts and shouts laziness! Immaturity! Hypochondriac! “Micha, why can’t you stop binging and purging? Why can’t you just be happy?” The conversations go on and on.

Although most of these people do not understand my mental illness, I have been fortunate enough to have received treatment and proper medication, but many people are not. Individuals struggling with similar issues are scared to vocalize their feelings because of the stigmas that attach themselves to a diagnosis like fleas on a dog. The people that struggle with mental illnesses feel ashamed. Such as, “depression” which reeks of lack of motivation, and “schizophrenia” which sounds a lot like dangerous and violent.

Medicine has progressed so much in the past century, and yet mental healthcare is lagging several decades. Mental health is the silent partner to physical health. It is brushed under the rug and hidden from view, something pushed to the back of the shelf to never be shared at the dinner table. Most feel too uncomfortable to address such a weighty subject, but “ignorance” can’t be spelled without “ignore.” Silence is not golden. Silence is deadly.

I have swallowed the smoke for many years, letting it fill my lungs until they became black as coal. My words were locked in the closet banging on the door to get out. Yet, I was resisting and the door remained locked. I have decided I need to break it open. It is time that the situation is addressed. I am not ashamed of my illness. I have decided to take the reins and control where my life is going. I believe that I am unique and special. There will be times where I will struggle; this is a constant battle and I will continue to fight. Yet, by opening my eyes I can see the clear blue sky.

I want you to know that if you are in your bed right now and the smoke is filling your lungs, there is a way for you to breathe. It is time to open the door. Do not limit yourself and do not be ashamed of who you are.

"Silence is not golden. Silence is deadly."

Credits

Writer: Michaelina McGee
Web Producer: Will Halim

Title Video by PHIHO (YouTube Standard Licensing)
Featured Image (splitting Tree): NIH.GOV

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
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