Present Day, April 30th, 2017

I live my life in constant conflict with myself. If not constant, nearly. My recent encounter with a kidney stone once again provided a stark example of this reality.

There is my personality, and then there is my illness. Not the kidney stone one. The other.

My personality is one of those somewhat hard care, highly driven, perfectionistic, some use the label…Type A personalities. That means my thinking is often characterised by a spirit of “suck it up.” Other phrases that commonly spew forth from my mouth are, “life’s not fair”, “deal with it”, “it is what it is”, “quit complaining and move on”…you get the idea. Worse yet, you have probably encountered someone like myself and these past few lines immediately brought them to mine. Double worse yet (if there is such a thing), you also are such a person.

Then there is my illness. Bipolar. Which, while once would have provided me with the identifying label of being a manic depressive, the more I age just provides me with the label depressive. I find my bouts with depression to come more frequently and more intensely. And they are polar (see what I did there…) opposite to the mentality of my personality.

In fact, the reality is that the depressed person has a counter to each of my spiritual pep rallying cries –

“Quit complaining and move on”but I don’t want to.

“It is what it is”but it shouldn’t be.

“Deal with it”but I don’t know how to.

“Life’s not fair”but it should be.

“Suck it up”but I can’t.

As a parent, I know the frustration of seeing a child down in the “mulligrubs” and unable to coax them out of it with a little cheerleading. Unable to do that for myself? Well, that’s just plain debilitating.

So I wrestle internally. At times my personality gives way to a greater sense of compassion for the other in front of me, and on very rare occasion the person inside of me. At those times, I find it in me to just be present rather than to be a drill sergeant. On other rare occasions, I am successful at picking another up by their bootstraps or even pulling myself from a plunge towards darkness through more tender and kind words of encouragement. Most of the time? I just wrestle.

Wrestle between a personality that is telling me not to cry over spilt milk and an illness that just wants to crawl back under the covers and cry.

Friday, August 26th, 4:30 p.m.

I felt grimy. Dirty. And with good reason. I had not showered or bathed for more than three days.

I have always been somewhere along the continuum between vain and neurotic when it comes to personal cleanliness. And unnecessarily so. Truth be told, I simply don’t stink. Short of five days in the woods, body odor is just not something that tends to overtake me. All of which had made this particular period of my life all the more palatable.

However, after a morning of work, followed by a day on the run from authorities, 10 hours on a train, being taken into protective custody, sitting in the psychiatric emergency ward before being transferred for admission to a psychiatric unit. Sleeping for the first time in days, and then navigating my way through the first eight hours of awake treatment…it was time.

I entered the bathroom in my room, turned towards the shower, and noticed a few things. There was a shower head protruding from the wall with a smoothness and angle that practically mocked anyone who would attempt to grab a hospital gown and hang themselves from it.

There was a roughly half-dollar size silver button just above waist high for me. It reminded me of the kind you find in state or national parks where I have so often camped. Which immediately made me think of two things. One, this was going to be a timed shower. I would depress the button, and the water would run for a given period of time. At which point I would have to keep pushing the button to enjoy any extended shower (though I would soon learn that unlike a campground, two or three depressions provided quite a lengthy cleaning). Two, there was no temperature control.

I found this reality fairly frightening. I like very hot showers (and even hotter baths, something that I was obviously not going to be enjoying anytime soon). There was no way they were going to allow the type of self-lobstering I do at home in a room occupied by any number of patients over time with different temperature preferences and tolerances. I figured I was in for some cold showers. I was wrong.

I was smart enough to depress the button for the first time from the side, and let the water run for a bit to warm up. Future applied application of this first experience would let me know that a good first run through would really get the water up to temperature.

There was no shower curtain. No ledge or lip to the stall. Just a strip of drainage located in the floor where you would expect to find a tub wall or shower ledge. No chance of tripping I guess. I laid down a towel on the other side of the drain strip to serve as a bath towel for when I finished up (Another one of my “things”. Have to stand on some form of textile material when I get out of the shower. No feet on tile for me.). When I thought the water was warm enough, I stepped in.

For the next few minutes, I almost felt human again. The hot water hit my oily hair and began washing all the surface dirt from my body. I lacked my 3 in 1 body wash or post-shower cologne, but none of that mattered at this moment. I just bowed my head, stood under the refreshing rain, and for the first time in days began to feel muscles relax.

And then I sobbed. A good ol’ fashioned, eye draining, gut-wrenching sob. Which almost felt as good as the shower.