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Hello out there...

These journal entries chronicle my experience with bipolar


disorder. I will continue sharing my journal entries with my facebook
community and the world at large on a weekly basis in an effort to
overcome the myriad mental health stigmas that plague our nation.

~Amanda

Fall 2007

An email to my meditation instructor:

Chris,
During the last meditation, in which we went deep into our loneliness
to uncover the wall that divides us from our true heartspace, I
confronted a horribly dark time in my life. Last fall, exactly a year
ago, I suffered my first manic episode. I was subsequently
hospitalized twice for severe mania and psychosis last November and
December. After spending nearly two months in a state of total
disattachment from reality, at the height of which I was completely
euphoric, delusional and hallucinating, I quickly dropped into a deep
and debilitating depression which lasted nearly 8 months. Although I
am now stable and managing very well, the memory of my
depression is still fresh and vivid in my mind. I seldom visit those
memories, but today's meditation forced me to face the heart of that
matter.
Depression, for me, was a period in which I lost interest in everything
that once mattered to me, struggled with reading, writing and
concentration, could not formulate ideas or hold conversations, had
no desire to get out of bed, lost touch with almost all of my friends,
and had no hope for myself or my future. It was a time of intense
loneliness; I was isolated not only from the people around me but
also from the self I thought I once knew. I thoroughly believed that I
would never again feel joyous or excited about anything. Mania had
already shaken me to my core, and I now felt that I had no core. For
a few months I thought of nothing but suicide, and became even
more depressed that I could not summon the courage to actually kill
myself. The closest I came was Valentine's day, when I took 3 times
my usual dosage of Ambien with the desire to finish the entire bottle.
The thing that stopped me was the fear that rather than killing myself
I would just induce a coma and end up with brain damage, worse off
than before.
That day is what I recalled when I began to confront my loneliness
today in class. I've confronted that day only once before, earlier this
semester in lecture when we meditated on feelings of hatred.
Although I believe the purpose was to let go of any hatred we
harbored towards others, I instead encountered that night of intense
self-hatred. I tried to shed light on those feelings, to turn the
darkness into light, but instead I spent the next week or so
remembering that pain and realizing that while I have moved out of
depression, I have not even begun to confront it.
Today I explored that loneliness again. At first I felt it as a knot in my
stomach and an ache radiating from the bottom of my chest. Then,
when you told us to rip open the loneliness, I felt and pictured total
blackness coursing throughout my entire body until I was completely
engulfed in a dark abyss. I can't even really describe the complete
lack of light that I felt and saw; it was infinite and bottomless and so
pitch dark that I can only compare it to what I imagine blindness to
be. Yet I felt that this darkness was somehow contained within me,
as though it was totally unconnected to anything external. I can only
guess that that feeling indicated how my loneliness stemmed from an
internal separation. By the end of the meditation I had managed to
confine this darkness to a smaller space, it no longer consumed my
entirety. However, a sense of that gaping abyss remains. While
eating dinner with my friends tonight I realized that I felt completely
disconnected from them, and when my friend came in my room just
now I felt oddly out of place in her company, as though she could
sense the darkness in my naked heart. I felt as though she had just
discovered a part of me that I never share with anyone (not many
people know why I was so distant last semester or that I'm manic-
depressive).
I was attempting to write about this in my journal before I decided to
email you but I couldn't explain how I felt. I realized then that I cannot
confront my depression on my own. And I cannot unlock my true
heartspace, that true Self, until I am unafraid of the layers that
conceal it. So I suppose I am asking you how to face my loneliness.
I would be grateful for any help, advice, or wisdom you have to offer.
Also, what was the name of the poet and the poem you read today?
Are there any other texts you would suggest?
Thank you so much for listening, it means the world to me.
Amanda Powell

4/28/08, Upon returning from Barcelona

Listlessness and anxiety have begun reclaiming me already. I’m


writing because I don’t want this semester to fade into a dream,
already it is beginning to feel unreal. It was a semester of pure
hedonistic bliss, a semester without anxiety, without the unbearable
oppressive weight of the future constantly bludgeoning me.
Ciutadella, haven of new age hippies and dredded-out jugglers…to
me it will always signify idealism and idleness, those two traits of
philosophers, those two traits which are notoriously absent in
American culture. The Spaniards amble, they stroll and siesta; work
is not life and life is not work, rather, the two coexist. Sometimes I feel
we become blinded here by ambition and utter selfishness. I realize
I’m making sweeping generalizations, but I’m simply attempting to
identify what’s missing all of a sudden.

5/13/08, Reflecting on my 51/50

A poem from Madrid:

Stark white walls


Cold linoleum beneath my
bed, the only object in the room.
My body lies immobilized
by the frequent onslaught
of tranquilizers,
Yet my mind continues to race.
RAGE
I yell,
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE!

Tranquilizers cannot stop the mad flurry, the incomprehensible noise


that has become my reality. The hallucinations and delusions form a
world that is entirely my own. As in Midnight’s Children, I have
become the artist who can no longer distinguish life from art. The
physical world is not concrete, nothing is tangible because I have the
power to morph it all with my mind. And as I lay there yelling I am
certain that I am starting a revolution, that I am mobilizing my
generation to shed the blanket of apathy that smothers us; I have
become a cause to rally behind. I can change the apathy, for I am
Salim, I act as the radio which connects all 1000 magical children.

Is it the next day? I have been so heavily sedated for so long now
that everything has become a blur. The drugs, however, have not
stopped my racing mind. …

I have entirely abandoned the notion of time as hours, minutes and


days. My mind runs on lyrical cyclical time, registering only themes
and patterns as the schedule of my days. And indeed everything is
connected. I am reading a book on Hindu gods and so my
relationship with him becomes the story of Shiva and his consort
Sarvati…

I rub my back up against the barred window and slowly slide down to
the floor, as though I am performing in a Cabaret. I make my way
around the room and end up on the bed frame, using the 2 inch
wooden side as my balance beam. I step forward on my right food
and without thinking twice I lift my left leg into an arabesque. As I
balance precariously on the bed frame I know that this is the greatest
performance of my life; the camera in the corner of my room is
broadcasting it all on television. As I begin to dive into a ponche the
door flies open and a 300 pound black nurse body slams me to the
bed. “Is this what you want?!?” she shouts. I laugh, for what does it
matter if I’m being pinned to the bed? All of reality has become so
illusive that I don’t believe physical pain exists outside one’s head.
“Just as long as it’s not the needle,” I reply. So of course she goes
out to the nurse’s station and returns with yet another sedative. I
scream- it is not the pain that scares me but the fear of a foreign
substance dissolving my pure elation, taking away the voices and the
visions.
---

I later turned the beginning of that entry into this poem:


A poem from Madrid

A sterile tundra of
linoleum beneath the
bed, the lone object in the room.
Her body lies immobilized
paralyzed by the onslaught
of tranquilizers
They cannot stop the flurry
of incomprehensible noise
Reality
Hallucinations
form a world,
entirely my own
She is Salim
the artist who can no longer
distinguish
life from art.
The physical world transmogrifies
nothing remains concrete.
She lies there yelling
Certain
of revolution
of a generation
shedding the apathy
that smothers us
She is the radio connecting all 1,000 magical children.

---
7/1/08
Rhetoric is really nothing but the process of slowly dissecting an
issue in order to negate or affirm its validity. It is the nihilistic process
of grasping to define and delineate the raw essence of a thing. And
yet it holds inherent contradictions, for the process perpetuates itself
almost into the realm of nonsense; we attempt to defy all categories
and stereotypes until nothing is simple, and nothing is true. At what
point do we draw the boundaries? When is it advantageous to accept
a concept, an institution, a term, as it is commonly known? What is
the difference between the degrees of productive versus constrictive
analysis? When, if ever, do we trust common knowledge?

4/5/11

The brain constructs this myth of a concrete reality just as the ancient
Greeks constructed the myth of Zeus and creation, or the Vedas the
myth of Brahmin, Shiva and Vishnu...just as all great civilizations
have constructed epic narratives to imbue this world with meaning.

Just as creation myths make the mystical more accessible to our


linear mindsets, our brain's conscious mode of perception situates us
within a reality that can be readily articulated within the confines and
artifices of language and society. But what happens when we expand
our awareness beyond such artifices? I imagine an entirely new
dimension awaits beyond the shackles of conscious thought.

4/24/11

Isn’t it funny that we use the same word, “dream”, to denote both the
involuntary visions of a subconscious state and our goals and
ambitions in life?

---

My idea with this piece is to kind of create 2 different narrative


structures, the narrative of me coming to terms with, and starting to
understand, my experience with insanity as well as the human
experience, while simultaneously revealing more about the past as I
come to terms with it. In the end the structure will resemble 2 circles
looping in opposite directions to come to a common center ground.
Another motif I'm trying to get at is the inadequacy of language/
language as merely the first degree of human communication. I figure
that will then bring in a degree of irony since I am, in fact, attempting
to convey this point with language. Also, perhaps most importantly, I
want to highlight the universality of mental "illness" as a condition that
everyone experiences to some degree during their lives. I believe that
society's perception of mental illness as a dangerous thing that must
be eradicated only leads to further shame, anxiety, and worse on the
part of the mentally ill. Bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, and other
illnesses, are conditions that patients must learn to work with, rather
than against; they are inextricably intertwined with an individual's
personality and sense of self. Rather than seeking to eradicate such
situations, we as a nation and a people must come to terms with the
collective mental state. I'm not entirely sure what that will look like
yet but I'm getting there. Let me know what you think!