I am excellent at pretending. Pretending I am interested in whatever the current topic of conversation may be; when, in fact, I am entirely, momentarily (hopefully), hollowed out, numb, incapable of communication on anything other than a basic level: "Yes. No. Okay"; when all I want is the conversation to end, as soon as possible, as painlessly as possible, but for it to do so would involve me being able to talk, to explain - a dark irony not lost on me as I stare at the tabletop.
It's our first date...
I am excellent at pretending. Pretending I'm happily joining in, laughing along, when, in fact, I am grossly irritated and impatient, overwhelmed by the noise in the restaurant, ready to explode at the slightest imagined slight. I am unpredictable. It's our first date and I'm wondering if she has noticed these things. Should I tell her that often I'm not myself. It doesn't define me but I worry she'll think I'm making excuses for myself, so I sit there, silently, stupidly collapsing before this beautiful girl.
Bipolar Disorder has taught me not to judge people...
I am understanding. A mental illness with the effects that Bipolar Disorder has will force perspective on a person. I have a first-hand understanding of human vagaries, how we are all beholden to our moods, I have to. I have to. The illness has taught me to not judge, to consider the root cause of peoples actions (tip: it's rarely personal).
I have learnt, the hard way, that to be forgiving of others indiscretions, their aggressions, is a hugely worthwhile discipline. I am a fighter. After each break down, or set-back, I recrystallise, and attempt to rebuild relationships with family, lovers and friends, forge ahead with my work. I'll never give up and for this I am proud of myself (it's important to focus on such things when you have a guilt-sheet as long as your arm).
"Are you ok? You don't like me, do you?"
I'm thinking these things, watching her eat dessert, pretty elegantly actually, I observe. And then I'm recognising the fact that making an observation like this is usually a sign that the depression is lifting a little, that my brain is preparing to get out of bed. This glimmer of hope leads me to consider the things I've been telling you about, and which bits, if any, to tell her about , when she quietly says:
"Are you okay? You don't like me, do you?"
I want to tell her how being depressed numbs me to a degree that I am incapable of liking or disliking things on the level I think she's talking about. Or maybe I'll quote Kay Redfield Jamison speech at her:
"[people] imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief"
I want to tell her I'm not always this way...
And hope that by simply illustrating the differences between one of the side-effects of my illness and something she has presumably experienced she'll get a better idea of why I am so monosyllabic tonight.
I'm not always this way, I so desperately want to tell her. I want to tell her that my brain often fizzes like the drink she's sipping, that the world vibrates with infinite possibilities, endless beauty, a thousand profound connections a second. Much of this can contribute to my mania but, just like the negative stuff, some of it is me, too. I want to tell her how I don't feel pity for myself, quite the opposite, I am often proud. Mostly, I just want to tell her.
I carefully explain some of these things to her...
So, emboldened by the sight of great food and her smile, shamed by bringing her out to look after a seemingly sulky child, then, buoyed by a momentary, magical lifting of the numbness (as predicted earlier when watching her daintily nibble cake), I carefully explain some of these things I've talked to you about. And, of course, she reacts with loveliness and grace. She tells me she thought something was up, and tried not to take it personally, and how she understands, she really does.
I am relieved but cautious as most people I let into my life say they can "deal with it" until they have to deal with it but, as we step out onto the street, and she grabs a single finger, I remember that the worst that can happen is that I will learn a little about this person, and so, on some level, about all people. Let me tell you, that is more than enough.