This bipolar II. This many-sided creature. This life of mine. This brain constantly in conference with the racing heart, reminding me to slow down, stay calm.
Remember the first time you were ever on a Ferris wheel? Remember when you got to the very top and just sat there, the entire world at your feet? You felt like you could reach up and grab the sky. Your entire body tingled with the intersection of joy and indestructibility and fearlessness and that good anxious recklessness. So damn excited to be alive at that moment. You could do anything.
Now imagine feeling that every day for a week, or a month, or a few months. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, without a break. So that everything you do feels like THE BIGGEST MOST AMAZING THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE IN YOUR LIFE!
The first week or so, it’s great. Until it’s not.
Because then the insomnia sets in. And you’re stacking days on top of one another, adding a new one before the last one ends. And you have to write the entire book tonight before you can sleep or eat or leave the house or do anything. But first you have to call your friends and your sister and the guy you just met and tell them all how much you love them. Tell each one that you’ve never felt this way about any other human being in the entire world and you’re so lucky and so glad and so grateful to have such an amazing, magical person in your life. And you believe it because it’s true.
You don’t know how to live like this but you don’t know how to stop, and the need to persuade your body to give up is visceral.
Until it isn’t. Until everything about them — the way their voices trail, the way their mouths move when they chew, the fact that he crosses his legs at the knee, the way she speaks about movies she’s never seen, the way they refer to celebrities by their first names — starts to make you feel like your blood is filled with snakes and you want to scream awful things at them about how the sounds of their voices feel like teeth on your skin and how much you hate their mother or their apartment or yourself. You want to bury your hatred in them, but you’re never quite sure who you hate the most. You, it’s always you.
You know how you can get a song stuck in your head? Imagine hearing that song even in your sleep — waking you up in the middle of the night to ensure you’re aware of the lap it’s running in your head. Then imagine you have to find out everything you can about that song and its singer. Where it started? Who wrote it? What inspired it? Why? You have to do all of this before there can be quiet in your head, before you can rest, before you can sleep.
Now imagine you do this with clothes. You can only wear 7 for All Mankind jeans or Citizens of Humanity because they were both created by the same people You know this because you researched and Googled and Wikipedia-ed everything there is to know about them and those are the only jeans you can wear now so who cares if they’re two hundred dollars?
And then Oprah gave her entire audience James Perse T-shirts. She said they were the softest things she’d ever felt on her body, and it’s Oprah so you have to have them too. So you stay up all night and you order these shirts because Oprah said they were the softest she’d ever felt and you want to feel them. You want to know what they feel like and online shopping is the worst thing and the best thing that has ever happened to you. Because if you can’t sleep because you can’t stop thinking of the perfect jeans or the shirts so soft they made Oprah moan, then you can just buy them and try them for yourself.
And imagine you do all of this each night for many nights. And then the packages come because of course you did overnight express and you feel crazy and stupid and silly and irresponsible and you’re exhausted because you know this isn’t normal. You know this isn’t how normal people are and you don’t know what’s wrong with you. And you don’t know what to do. And you don’t know how to live like this but you don’t know how to stop, and the need to persuade your body to give up is visceral — it crawls through your being and your brain wants to stop it but your brain can’t because your brain is tired.
Imagine you don’t fit anywhere, not even in your own head.
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigerian-born American spoken-word poet, writer, and mental health advocate