headshot

Stigma Fighters : H.M. Jones

Two Sides of a Coin

How do you describe what it’s like when a loved one asks you about your bi-polar tendencies? You don’t want to scare them or stress them out. But telling them that you’re as unpredictable as a coin toss is not what they want to hear. Is knowledge power? Will it help them help me? Let’s toss a coin and see…
Heads: Mania
I remember a Crystal Meth commercial from the 90’s that showed a young woman clawing at her skin, hunched in the corner of a blue toned room. I think it was supposed to portray the fact that meth users destroy their bodies with the drug, allow it fall apart through wakeful stress, picking and scratching, chemical poisons rotting their brains and teeth. But when I was a pre-teen (pre-diagnosis), I just thought, I know how that feels. I’ve been caught picking at things incessantly, scratching my arms nervously, doing dishes or writing a book until two in the morning because I cannot sleep. I remember asking my mom: “Is meth a drug?” She said it was. Well, I’ve never done drugs, but I know how that poor girl feels.
Yesterday, I felt the fleas of hypomania bounding across my skin and started to worry. I have to take care of my kids today. I have to teach class and submit blogs to various sites. I have to do edits on my book. I have to be grounded today. And I did all of those things, in a wild frenzy between running in circles around my seated children, making weird faces and dancing like a crazy person. They are amused by the later way in which I channel my mania, playfully. They are annoyed when I channel it creatively, to meet my goals. I’m singular, zoned in, tuned out until I type the last word. Then, bam!
On to my next move, always biting my tongue, sucking in seething frustration at every annoying comment on Facebook, every temper tantrum my kids throw, every probably innocuous comment a neighbor makes…Always at the edge of an eruption that I keep contained by wearing myself thin, always worrying it will be too much one day, that I’ll be an explosion.
By the end of the day, I’m signed to blog for five different sites, have my book edits done, created a book trailer, cleaned the entire house (even scrubbed the toilets), ran three miles, taught a class, made play dough with the kids and took them on a hike, and I’m still not worn out. I’m hungry though, always. I’m supposed to be watching my sugar and caffeine but all I want is cookies and chocolate and coffee.
Tails: Depression
Nothing matters. I’m only good at things that don’t matter: writing, teaching, thinking…None of it matters in a world where people don’t read a full blog post, teachers are being taught how to let computers teach and you don’t have to think past the worlds you create on headache inducing screens.
No, Hannah, that’s not true. People are still thinking, still reading, still creating. People are more compassionate, more understanding than they were even five years ago. Things are changing. You just have to change with them.
Fuck it. I make next to nothing writing and teaching. I don’t even help support the grocery bill. The things I paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to learn are never going to actually give me back that return. I should get a real job so my kids have chance at going somewhere on vacation someday.
That’s not even true. You’re getting there. It takes time to establish yourself. Your kids like hiking, the beach, making play dough with you, gardening, playing board games, going to Goodwill. They don’t care that you’re not taking them abroad. And when your writing finally pays off, they will be old enough to appreciate those trips. You’re doing fine. Just keep going. Go take your vitamins. No, don’t open your laptop. Facebook makes it worse, you know that. It makes you feel like you’re screaming into the void. You can’t do that when you feel like this. Go write something. Put on some music. No, not Elliot Smith. Turn that shit off, Hannah.
Shut up, rational self. I LOVE Elliot. He gets me. You don’t. You suck. “Haven’t laughed this hard in a looooong time. Better stop now before I start crying! Go off to sleep in the sunshiiiiine. I don’t want to see the day when it’s dying!” Yep. He knew. The sunshine is a lie. People are fake. I don’t want to make eggs. I’m going to eat Oreos.
No, don’t do that. You need to eat food that will give you energy and will be good for your brain. Oreos are not the food to do it. When the kids wake up, you should go on a walk. Maybe find a yoga thing online. That will help get your mood up. Do some yoga before the kids wake up? Hannah? It’s sunny. Open the window. Your flowers are blooming and smell…Hannah? Hey, oh, no. No, hey, stop crying. It’s fine. It’ll pass, okay? Hannah?
Nothing will ever be okay. I’m only alive because my kids need me.
No, you’re alive because you normally love life. You’re just..you’re not yourself today. Regular Hannah loves life, remember? Call your therapist. It’s time to go in. Hannah? You’re not sleeping. Nope. Open up your eyes. No going back to sleep. The kids will be awake, and you have things that need to get done, even if you can’t remember why you wanted to do them. You said you would do them, so do them. And call your therapist, okay? Fine, eat the damn Oreos, but call him.
Grunt. Chew, chew. You’re right, they’re awake. I should smile. I’m not calling a therapist, though. I don’t have money for that shit, remember? I’m not good at things that make money…
Call your therapist, Hannah. Money is not as important as your sanity. Possibly stop buying oreos and coffee and you will be able to afford therapy better. And smile, anyway. You should smile. They love you.
I don’t know why, but yeah, they do.
And you love them.
Yes. I do. I’m just so…tired. I guess.

***

When I wake up, I often wonder what side of the coin I’ll fall on. Will it be heads or tails? Sometimes I land on the side of a coin, that thin metal space where my normalcy sits. It might be a trick to get there, but I often manage it. Practice does make perfect, and I’ve been at this for decades. I’m sorry if you didn’t want to know this. But I really am…managing. If you don’t know me like this, it’s because I’m making it work. Because, with help (therapy, exercise and writing), I live life successfully as a full-time mother of preschoolers, college instructor, author and wife. The highs and lows suck and that’s no lie, but my life is worth the fight.

*   *   *

H.M. Jones is the B.R.A.G Medallion author of Monochrome, just picked up by Gravity, an imprint of Booktrope. She is also responsible for the Attempting to Define poetry quartet and has contributed a short story to Master’s of Time: A Sci-Fi and Fantasy Time Travel Anthology, due to be released July 2015. A bestseller only in her mind, Jones pays the electric bill by teaching English and research courses at Northwest Indian College. Jones is also the moderator for Elite Indie Reads, a review website for Indie and Self published books. Besides buying enough second-hand books to fill a library, Jones loves to spend time helping her preschoolers grow into thinking, feeling citizens of this world, run, weave, pull with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family and attempt to deserve her handsome husband, who is helping pay the other bills until his wife becomes the next big thing.

H.M. can  be found on her Blog, Facebook and Twitter

If you enjoyed this post, please take a few moments to leave a comment or to share with your friends using the little share buttons below.