There is an age-old question: when a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? And the answer is simply whatever you believe the answer to be. The question and answer revolves around where you believe sound starts: at the “sound” wave the tree makes or at the vibration of the ear drum? We could and do make the same arguments about conception, and even childhood. And we each have our own answer, our own decision to make when it comes to what not only is right, but what is real. (I thought next we would debate Schroeder’s Cat). The truth is there isn’t a right answer for anyone but the one trying to determine the solution. For you sound may start at the beginning of the wave whether it is heard or not, for others the vibration of the ear drum makes sound real.
Perception is reality. I believe that may be one of those truths up there with two plus two equals four. There is no way to debate it, no way to make an argument against it, it is simply the cold hard truth. I imagine that someone much smarter than me could probably make an argument that perception isn’t always reality, but none has ever worked for me.
But like most things, perception and therefore reality, can change. Life flows, it moves and it changes. And for some that requires that their realities change as well. Often I believe reality changes because of cause and effect, except when we are talking about someone with a mental disease that by very definition breaks all the rules that life itself has laid down.
My reality changes with my disease. And since my disease changes everyday, my reality literally changes every day. Literally, specifically, completely. For those who don’t suffer from a mental disease, this idea may be a little far-fetched. How could any human remarkably not just change their mind, but their whole being in one moment? How could day change to night without a sunset? How can darkness literally steal over the earth without any wind?
I like to explain my depressive cycle like this: imagine a literal weight, one you can touch and feel, pressing down upon you until your very struggle to stay upright changes you? And it isn’t a weight that necessarily feels like a cold pressing on your lungs, but rather a fully formed, comprehensive, and total suppression of everything that you are.
When I am in my depressive cycle, like I am currently, the weight upon my legs literally makes it difficult to walk. I walk slower. I can’t lift my knees as high. My arms don’t swing like normal; usually I am pumping my arms as hard as I can and moving smoothly across the pavement. When I am in my depressive cycle I walk slowly, surely, with my head down. The weight on my neck keeps my eyes on the ground. The words that I would normally happily give, are instead bottled up and suppressed by the weight in my lungs, my throat, my very stomach. It is like I have gained two hundred pounds over night, and a whole other person is literally holding me back, keeping me from the normal freedoms that I enjoy.
There is simply no easy way to describe this amazing change. And it is amazing. What is beautiful today, tomorrow may be oppressive or even dark. The sounds that are sweeping today may be harsh tomorrow; the same sounds, the same instruments, the same song. It changes based solely on the day I am listening. My whole perception changes, naturally and I have no way of noticing it until long after another change has begun. In fact, it took me years upon years, to see that what I loved simply changed. (I was looking through my art one day, and couldn’t figure out why I thought some of the pieces were worth buying…it was really upsetting. Then after looking at the different types of art, amazingly different styles and colors, I realized that taste literally changes.).
Of course, don’t get me wrong. There is one thing that does not change – my children. The absolute love I have for my children, the pride, the joy is much stronger than any disease. I may be quieter with my praise, and more prone to being angry when I am in a low arc, but the love for my children never waivers. This is the only thing that stays constant in my world. My love of art, books, genres, music, television, movies changes. What I need to see and feel one day will never be what I desperately need to see the next. Even today I am listening to Verdi, when two days ago I was listening to Adele and the Rascal Flatts. While some music teachers may be able to find the correlation, listen to “Life is a Highway” and then something like the incomparable “Ava Maria”, there simply is too many differences. Yet, were I to try to listen to the Rascal Flatts right now, I think my ears would bleed.
Life is not easy for anyone with a mental disease. But to have your life, your reality, your perception change in time with the rising sun, is amazingly frustrating. And not for just me. But the car driving behind me, the man waiting for me to unload my groceries, and even the bartender waiting for simple decision.
Tomorrow this whole cycle may flip on its ears, and I will walk with energy and verve, I will sing in time to the music, and I will wear sunglasses to avoid the bright sun. I may go to the park and play with my children, or watch a movie on television way past my bedtime, or maybe I will find the ability to simply sit still and breathe. There were times that I am convinced that my bi-polar makes me unique, and certainly keeps those around me on their toes; but these days all I can imagine is the absolute confusion my precious children, who have no concept of disease, must suffer. How do you know who your mom is going to be when they pick you up? Willing to slide down a slide, or only waiting to get home to bed.