I walk a fine line between flying and drowning. Every day I wonder if I’ve pushed myself too far, or not far enough. Every day I worry if I have slept enough, rested enough, socialized enough or too much, if I’m a little high or a little low, if I’m climbing higher or falling off a cliff I didn’t even see until I walked off the edge. Every single day, I balance. Every single day, I wonder.
I know the people closest to me wonder, too. They come to a party I’ve thrown with a home-made Captain Hook birthday cake and candy hanging by streamers from the trees in the “Neverland” back yard, the children flouncing around in fairy wings and pirate hats, and they wonder. I can see it in their faces, mirroring my own suspicions, and I wince. I wince as an incredulous anger surges through me, Will I ever be able to do great things without toppling over the edge?
Because when you’re Manic Depressive, every time you do something grand and a little over the top, it’s not just Isn’t she great? Look what she did! Instead, it’s Oh no, is she going to crash, or is she just about ready to pick up and fly off with a pair of those fairy wings? Yes, I see it in their eyes. Because they love me, because they care, nothing is ever what it seems with me. Everything I do is parenthesed and questioned and, well, suspect.
It sucks, frankly. It never stops sucking. It never stops frustrating me that I can plan a party for months and it still looks manic. Why? Maybe it’s because my brain (even on meds and in control) doesn’t have an end point. I think “Neverland party,” and the possibilities float above me like bubbles off of a wand on a windy day. A brand new world unfolds in the “the Neverland party,” and once one layer of infinite possibilities is explored, another world morphs into another infinite possible. My imagination has no limit, no parentheses, no endpoint. If there is to be a Captain hook cake, then there must be little cutouts of Wendy and the boys floating above it . . . tie them to the chandelier . . . they must be made of black, glittery cardstock . . . they must hang from clear fishing line so that they appear to be flying above Captain Hook . . . his cannon must be pointed at them . . .
This endless stream of possibilities is wonderful and amazing, but it can also drive me crazy. My brain keeps producing idea after idea, bubble after bubble, and I can become obsessed with my four year old’s birthday party that was not supposed to be a big deal this year. I can choose; I know I have a choice. I can chase this Neverland rabbit down into a hole so deep that I will stop sleeping, stop eating, stop mothering, stop everything but Neverlanding. Danger lurks here in this Alice moment: my mind taunts me to dive into that rabbit hole, sail by the winds of stardust, sparkle into the moon . . .then crash and not be able to get out of bed for a month.
But this Alice knows better. I used to try to drink the gush down, panicked I might miss something ingenious. Now, I am finding a way to tame this infinite thinking, lasso into submission a flood of Wonderland, rainbow waterfalls and dancing fairy dust. I can see it now like a fire hose of glitter and sparkles and spastic. I watch it flood out, drenching the sidewalks of my consciousness. I choose when to approach this tumult, take a drink, and then dodge the flood. I know that hose will always be there gushing, to sip from without getting washed away.
This discipline evolves slowly after years of my own drownings in floods of possible imaginings. Now, after all these years, I understand how special my mind is, how unique, how spectacularly capricious my imagination insists on persisting. Not everybody drinks from a fire hose stream of ingenuity. And fewer, still, know how to tame the fire hose into trickles of spark.
So the next time I wince, I’m going to tell myself and the people I love: the fire hose keeps on gushing, but this girl’s got the lasso.
Welcome to Wonderland.