I regularly experience something I believe is common to all mental illness. When I’m stable for longer than a week or two, I become convinced I’m cured. Or, even more often, that there was nothing wrong to begin with.
Just last week I was thinking about how I should probably wrap this blog up, since I’d been stable for the best part of 6 weeks and clearly never had cyclothymia to begin with. In fact, I said to myself, I probably did more harm than good talking about my supposed experiences of an illness I never had.
The brain gremlins are back. I nipped into town this morning to pick a couple of things up and, I planned, to go to a coffee shop and finish a book I’d been reading. On the way into town I crossed the road against the lights (i.e. at a pedestrian crossing, I crossed on the red man) and I had to start running halfway across because a bus I hadn’t spotted was coming my way, fast. A woman waiting to cross on the side of the road I was heading for screamed at me; “IDIOT!” I strode away, my big sunglasses hiding the fact I immediately started tearing up. I collapsed in on myself. Everything came crashing down.
I got through the rest of my brief shopping trip by not meeting the eye of anyone, thanking cashiers profusely without looking up from my wallet, keeping sunglasses on to cover my just-about-to-cry eyes.
I got home, closed the curtains on the day, crawled into a ball on the sofa and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, my go-to Mean Reds movie (for obvious reasons). I sat there, numbed, watching and watching. My hands didn’t stop shaking for 3 hours.
After a few of hours at home I decided I needed a bottle of wine to make it through the evening and nipped out to the shop round the corner. On the way home a woman was walking towards me with a little dog in her arms. I smiled at the dog, as I always do when I see animals heading my way, and she saw me looking. As we drew level her face broke into a smile and she said a cheerful “hi!” to me. I couldn’t lift my eyes to her face, I rearranged my face as fast as I could to form the word ‘hi’. But my face didn’t get there fast enough and the word died in my throat.
I got home. Back to a shaking mess by the time I got in the door. Started descending into a panic attack. Why? Because a beautiful woman with a dog had said hey to me, and I didn’t reply, so she must think I’m nuts, she must think I’m a weirdo, and actually, wasn’t she one of my neighbours? Oh god if she was one of my neighbours she probably already suspected I’m crazy, and now she’ll be sure, and she’ll talk to her flatmates about that weird girl upstairs, and oh god why didn’t I say hi? Why didn’t I meet her gaze with a friendly smile?
No, not cured. The brain gremlins were just sleeping.