I’ve been struggling to turn any of the drafts sitting in my WordPress dash into posts in the last few weeks. I’m super low on energy just now and have spent the last week and a bit shunning most day-to-day social interactions and doing what I can to conserve the energy I have. I know that this is a herald of a down-swing, how severe that down-swing is depends – I’ve found over the last few years – on how rested I am. Until it reveals itself I’m living, fairly happily, as a hermit.
Today I went swimming, it’s one of the few things I do no matter where my mood is, and universally makes me feel better. When my head is under the water and my whole body is working to propel me forward, my mind goes quiet. I was struggling today and felt as though I was a car revving in neutral – no matter how hard I pushed I just couldn’t seem to generate my usual speed and ease in the pool. I think perhaps I’m carrying a virus and it’s wiped out my (physical) energy reserves. I felt heavy, almost as though I couldn’t float. Which reminded me of an opinion I held as a child.
I could never understood how people who could not swim, drowned. For me, floating is second nature; I can’t remember a time I couldn’t float. I relax my muscles, let go, and I float the surface of the pool. I recall asking my mother why non-swimmers didn’t simply relax and wait to float. Of course, drowning – and floating – are rather more complex than that, but it did get me thinking about the commonly used metaphor of struggling with mental health issues as being like drowning.
Right now I’m rationing out my social life, pushing myself to meet up with friends at least once a week even though all I want to do is stay home and listen to music. It’s a bit like trying to take big lungfuls of air when sinking below the waterline is an inevitability. I recognise these last gasps of air will sustain me when I simply cannot socialise, but taking them hurts; my lungs are already beginning to burn, my muscles ache, I want to let go and let my head dip below the water’s surface.
As you drop below the surface of a pool, sounds become muffled, the water presses in around you, your body is suspended – neither floating nor drowning. Just hanging between the surface and the bottom.
Cyclothymia can be like that.
Part of the world and yet separate. Seeing the same landscape as everyone around you but through a lens which distorts and refracts. Hanging between sane and crazy, floating and drowning. Half-welcoming the silence and calm that comes as you dip below the surface, half fearing it because after a few moments – or days – luxuriating in that silence your lungs begin to burn and feel like they will burst, the surface feels too far away to reach before you let go of your breath and suck down a lungful of water…
But I’m not drowning quite yet. At the moment I’m floating on the surface, sculling along with my ears below the waterline, only conscious of the water lapping against my cheeks, sounds coming to me distant and echoing…calm, quiet, alone.