There were a lot of low points, but the butter knife rant stands out.
It was June 14 and I had tried to reconcile my life to some degree, attempted to make decisions with as much conviction as I could muster. The act of making a decision, I always say, is sometimes all that is necessary to alleviate the discomfort or depression.
I am full of shit.
Earlier in the day, I won a bamboo plant at a retreat I attended at my university job and then returned home to my wife telling me that she had called my therapist to ask what to do with me. She acted as though my previous night’s ranting about how the culpability of my past indiscretions would naturally lead to me finding a future career in Elizabeth Warren’s cabinet was somehow… wrong. “You are not okay,” she told me.
So I did what anyone in my position would do. I toasted a bagel.
I had a softball game to get to and I had had enough of this nonsense. She didn’t know anything, I told myself while the toaster heated up. She had no idea about what I was actually feeling or thinking. She was just hurt because I told her I wanted a divorce.
I stood there, waiting impatiently for the blandest food on earth to warm up, and it all crested over. I marched back into the living room wielding the butter knife in my hand and pointed it at my wife from across the room while declaring how little she knew about me, how maybe I’m not crazy at all, and how she couldn’t possibly understand. I waved that butter knife around like I was conducting an 80-piece orchestra. It added emphasis to my point, I thought to myself. I cared so much that I had an instrument to add to my conviction!
This is what no one tells you, see. No one ever tells you that you will hit a point where absolutely everything you do will fall into one of two categories: Understandable and completely batshit. There was no middle. There were only those two options. And, unfortunately, waving a butter knife to emphasize your sanity does not fall into the first category.
“There is no difference between mania and falling in love,” the focus of my attention once said to me, pretending that the microphone on her headphones was part of a TED talk she was giving me while I sat on the other end of the video chat knowing I wasn’t going to sleep that night. I thought she made a good point at the time. It made me feel better, really. Everybody’s been there, I told myself. It was the typical story I’d seen a hundred times. A client who came in depressed meets someone and suddenly doesn’t need counseling anymore. Love was chaos.
Except I have proof of the descent. There are entire days that I stopped making sense. There are whole paragraphs that I wrote wherein I perhaps thought I was being deep… or thoughtful… or something akin to meaningful. And yet, when I read them, I have to squint to try to understand. Sentences are lacking verbs. Some of them stop in the middle of a thought.
Later, my wife will tell me that sometimes, she would ask me a question and I would start eight different sentences, cease talking, and then look at her like, “There. That answers that.” Similarly, I thought once that I had fully explained something while driving in the middle of nowhere Missouri only to have the person I was giving all the words to say, “You do know that you literally didn’t say anything, right?” in response.
So then I tried music. “Here,” I thought. “I can’t express myself correctly so here are 82 songs that best describe my feelings. Please listen to all of them and give me feedback. And please ignore the 2000 word essay on Coldplay I just emailed you; I just had a lot of thoughts about “A Rush of Blood to the Head” that you needed to know, like, right now.”
Do you know what the world looks like at 3 a.m. when you are awake and you can only think about the silliest possible things that double as the MOST IMPORTANT THOUGHTS you have ever had? That is an experience. They aren’t ruminations; most people who are awake at 3 a.m. are stuck with ruminations and I’ve never known a rumination to be pleasant. But my 3 a.m. thoughts are like, “Hey. Have you ever heard the song “Anna Begins” by Counting Crows? Because I think it holds the secret to empathy.”
Again. This is not okay. This isn’t actually an expression of anything other than mania.
The people who loved me… I can’t really say enough about them. I have always been so paranoid that everyone will see me as “crazy” or something. And yet, none of these people saw me as crazy. I don’t think it was denial; I think they genuinely saw me for who I was and tried their absolute best to understand. It’s just slightly impossible to expect them to “decipher” me when often times I wasn’t even talking.
Eventually, I returned to the kitchen and normally, I would have quickly laughed at myself for having done what I did. I didn’t laugh, though. I buttered my bagel and wandered into the bedroom, shaking my head with a slight hope that by doing this shaking, whatever had taken hold of me would fly out of my ears and be gone for good.
Then I got in my car, turned up my music impossibly loud, and allowed myself a beautiful 45 minutes where I didn’t have to try to communicate with anyone.
I remember thinking I could drive for days like that because it seemed to be the only time I even understood myself.