The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing me that “being comfortable” was a terrible thing.
Let’s start near the end because the beginning is a bit of an amalgam of crazy decisions and I’ll need you to understand a few things before I tell you all of that. And under no circumstances am I looking for sympathy. I made terrible decisions.
That’s the “fun” part of mania… looking back on the list of terrible decisions, chronicling the people whose lives I essentially ruined, and realizing that hey – I would have done it differently if my brain was working right. Yet I can’t ever DEFEND myself. Because I did those things. I have evidence I did those things. And since no one has a test that declared me “manic” or “unable to make good choices” then I am just stuck with the results. I can’t claim “it wasn’t me” because it was. I do not deny any of it. I can’t.
My wife asked me once near the end of it all, “What do you picture?” as though I had future orientation in any of my thoughts. This was long after I had told her I planned to divorce her but also that “maybe I should have ECT” even though (and I swear this is true) the only instruction in my advance directives is “Under no circumstances should I receive ECT.” In a one-week period in June, I also considered adopting children, moving to Belgium, and giving up my therapy license to become a barista.
She asked, “What do you picture?” and without hesitation, I told my wife of 13 years the following story: “I will be alone, living in a rented townhouse, shuffling around in a bathrobe and slippers. You will be with whomever you get into a relationship with next… a woman with whom you’re not having as much fun as you did with me but certainly someone who is stable and calm. And the two of you will come over — your new wife will like me because I’m likable — and you will bring some sort of food. And I will take the food you give me and put it in the fridge because I only eat occasionally. And the three of us will sit on the furniture I bought impulsively once upon a time that I will be paying off until 2022 and we will talk about how things are going. I will tell you both about my part time job working at Barnes and Noble and mention that I am excited because I feel like the recent medication regimen is working. I’m still tired, but my thoughts are calm. How are things going for you? And you will tell me you’re happy and things are going well and then you’ll ask me if I need anything. And I’ll smile kindly and say no. The food is enough. I never learned to cook, see. Thank you both so much. And you will hug me and leave and feel sad for how far I’ve fallen but encouraged that I seem okay. That is my future without you.”
I rattled this off as if it had already happened… as if this was the state in which we already found ourselves and I was simply describing reality.
My wife stared at me and stood speechless. She had just handed me a tupperware container of some sort of pasta because I had lost 35 pounds and given up food other than toasted bagels and goldfish crackers. “You need to eat,” she always said when she gave me food before I would drive 45 miles to my rented townhouse. I always thanked her, petted the dogs I had given up because I did not have the money, time, or sanity to care for them, and headed out to my car. But that day, she said, “Why? Why would that happen?” And I shrugged because I didn’t know. I didn’t know how any of it had gotten to that point. It was decision after decision after decision that both seemed completely out of control and yet, in my head, seemed like the ONLY decisions I could really make.
That was near the end of 2017. All of this started on January 14, 2017. It was, to say the least, a long year.
But the key to all of it was that, at some point, I started to believe that being “comfortable” was a terrible thing that I needed to avoid at all costs. It turns out that I am incredibly efficient at feeling uncomfortable. All I need is a little mania.