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            At 5:31 on a Thursday morning I sit here to write something.  After several hours of outdoor adventures in frigid midnight weather, with fog so thick one can hardly see five feet ahead, my mind dragged my body into the house that sat on the small hill.  Two lights were on in the living room, dim lamps that illuminated my piano and the details of the expensive cushions that adorn the two white sofas.  Something inside was brewing as I wandered around each room of our home—our home—and imagined myself elsewhere.  Why would I do such a thing when there are so many “nice” and “pretty” things to look at in the home in which I live with a mother, a stepfather, a sister, a step-sister, a step-brother, and a golden retriever? 

            I did not notice I was dancing as though I were a prima ballerina whose feet were too noisy until my mother sauntered in, pale and eyes slim, to remind me that it was past three o’clock in the morning.  I looked blankly at her as if to say, “Your point being?”  Instead of provoking any sort of unnecessary and greatly unwanted conflict, I nodded my head and promised to go to bed immediately.  She turned her back slowly and I heard her bedroom door shut.

            My world came rushing back—philosophy, psychology, research, conversation, debate, romance, nature, history.  I wanted to jump out of the house and go back to that spot I had been earlier with an old companion, that one special place only we know about on the top of a mountain that is only one in front of even more massive mountains preceding it.  The fog shifted in patterns that in my mind looked like the Northern Lights.  Street lamps from the neighborhoods far below looked like giant fireflies resting peacefully in the night, giving off rays of luminosity as though there was no reason to be afraid of an impending storm.  Huddled under blankets, our teeth chattered and our bodies shook.  Sarcasm, jokes, and secrets were revealed and considered as my toes started to lose all feeling. 

            Trudging back to the car was an arduous task, and I felt a deep sense of loss.  I was leaving the mountains, any chance of escape from the world of humanity as we know it now.  Back to paved streets and professionally arranged landscape costing upwards of one thousand dollars.  My mind raced and I felt the urge to drive faster, as if that would somehow shift my attention away from the delusional thoughts that I, Amanda Anderson, would one day save the universe from total destruction.  You see, tonight (or should I say this morning) I can honestly say that I have a mission in life: to live on behalf the world.

            Absurd as it may sound, it’s a thought that has visited me quite often in my long moments of solitude—and isolation.  Though I want to die, as I crave to leave my body and never look back, I so want to thrive and move ahead and accomplish everything I can humanly accomplish.  My only despair is that it’s too late, for right now my life feels like a ship wrecked at sea, only a handful of survivors clinging to life.  The waves rise and fall, as do the remnants of a once mighty ship. 

            That mighty ship was me, my name, once again, being Amanda Anderson: the overachieving daughter, the do-gooder, the rule-abider, the athlete, the helper.  Somewhere along the way the ship lost reliable sailors, and the plagues that can ravage a whole crew were taking a toll on a significant portion of my being.  Soon I became the drama queen, the crier, the bulimic, the compulsive exerciser, the personification of depression—and then madness.  Anxiety so crippling I could hardly move; mania so intense I could not stop moving; depression so incapacitating I could not speak. 

            “Which Amanda will we meet today?” asked my family and friends.  Would it be Amanda the Jester, Amanda the Melancholy, Amanda the Feisty, Amanda the Fraud, Amanda the Problem Child, or Amanda in person?  I often wondered that myself when I woke up each morning starting in the fall of my last year of high school.  “Who the hell am I?”  The question resounded in my brain, bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball in a Wimbledon match.  Going through the motions of “life” was torturous.  It still is, I admit, and the ways I cope are not always the “correct” or “healthy” alternatives. 

            I overdosed on my Klonopin (a highly addictive benzodiazepine) a few nights ago after tearing a ligament in my ankle that provoked frustration where frustration already sat like a ticking time bomb ready to explode into mass chaos.  I crashed down the stairs and swore loudly, and my stepfather told me to stop being a baby. 

            “You cannot ruin another holiday,” he said angrily, his eyes brimming with wrath and panic.  Another holiday.  The memories of last year’s holiday came rushing back so fast I could only slam the bathroom door in his face and stare at my reflection in the mirror.  The blackness that surrounded me exactly one year ago pounded my head and flushed out any happiness or faux sense of well being.  It was starting again—the panic, the hopelessness, the dysphoria, so cruel in its nature of squashing my mood like an ant yet catapulting my physical self into an energetic frenzy.  I crumpled onto the floor and the tears I needed would not flow.  It was as if a dam had been set up as a preventative measure for when the lake would eventually exacerbate its own strength and destroy everything in its path. 

            There was the bottle, calling to me.  “Take me, and this will go away.”  My intention was not to die; it was more what the folks in Brave New World would refer to as soma.  “Take a gram, don’t give a damn,” or something like that.  I did not take one tablet.  I took almost the whole bottle—I believe 20 pills at least.  It was late evening and I drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes forgetting who I was and where I was.  My sister asked the age old question, “Are you drunk?”  I would have exploded with rage had I not been so near fatally sedated.  My head knocked against the wall as I left the room where she sat watching me with fearful eyes.  Collapsing on the couch that most nights serves as my bed, I closed my eyes and drifted into the unknown.

            Would I wake up in the morning? 

            Clearly I did, as it would not be possible for me to be writing down all of this nonsense at a ridiculous hour.  Somehow I felt proud of having survived.  As everyone constantly points out, I am so “tiny” that it makes me extremely sensitive to medications.  The same can be said for alcohol of any kind. 

            Which brings me to another confession.  While house-sitting for my aunt and uncle, having their home all to myself for nearly a week, I sat down last Friday night and began to experience the dysphoric energy tickling me in the head.  I asked myself, “Is this depression?  I feel death everywhere.  Is it mania, though?  I feel invincible and unable to ever fall asleep again.”  My fear of “in-betweens” and gray areas overcame me like a rush of blood straight to the head when I do my notorious one-minute headstands.  Taking Klonopin at that point had never occurred to me, at least in terms of taking it in potentially lethal doses.  I bolted for the freezer where I knew my aunt kept a bottle vodka.  Surprise, it was my favorite brand, and before I could stop my hands, they grasped the cold bottle tightly and undid the cap hastily, pouring an entire 10 ounce glass.  Who drinks straight vodka? 

            I did.  A quarter of the way there, I was relaxed and at ease, but it was not enough, for there was still some disquietude lurking in the shadows.  Halfway there, and I was rolling on the ground, laughing and drooling over how pathetic it is for one to be drunk alone.  Three quarters of the way had me calling everyone listed in my cell phone, save for my parents.  Empty glass had me on the floor in the foyer, where one of the best friends I’ll ever have stood looking through the glass door, calling my name.  I reached up a limp arm and unlocked the door.  She reached her strong arms down and carried me to the sofa, asking, “Why, Amanda?  Please tell me why?”  I heard myself babbling some nonsense about wanting to have fun.  Was it really my voice I heard, or did I imagine it?

            As you can see, I was so intoxicated I was on the verge of doubting my own sanity, which I quite often do, but never to this extent.  I know at one point I sprinted to the sink and saw the contents of vodka and lettuce enter the disposal, a burning sensation tearing apart my throat, refusing to stop until about three minutes on the clock had ticked by…tick, tick, tick.  I was put to bed after insisting on brushing my teeth (I actually did a better job of brushing my lips and chin than my damaged whites).  The good friend named Sarah slowly got up and I saw her look at me one last time through the tiny slits in my heavy eyes, and then there was darkness again. 

            This is not a short story narrative that has a conclusive and hopeful ending; this has become my life.  Yes, I do have a life, and while I desperately want to find a way to get rid of it as fast as I can, I paradoxically want to cradle it in my arms and nurse it back to health.  I want to bring the sunken treasures of the ship back to land and heal the wounded seamen who survived the catastrophe.  I want to travel, read books, write books, be an advocate, be a playmate for children who need playmates, stand up in a court room to defend the Constitution, be a good daughter, be a player in the game of life. 

            Admitting my troubled days as a manic depressive and delving as far as I can into the depths of my perplexed mind is painful and paves the way for nostalgia of a life that once was.  It is, however, a life that was and never can be again.  I can remember what it was like to have some sense of security and trust with myself and not worry about what dilemma I would get myself into next.  I remember being able to love unconditionally—and, most importantly, loving myself.  I have a long road ahead.  I’ll follow the wrong yellow brick road and read the map upside down.  I will meet people who will desert me because I am.  For all I know, I could be dead just days after this has been written.  If my death is of my own doing, the most important and crucial detail everyone who cares about me must know is that it would be only because the pain of living had outweighed the will to live and defy death. 

            I’m trying to ease the pain that living has caused me, and not only that, I’m trying to search for my own health.  The fight isn’t over, and maybe it never will be.  The only thought I can come up with to end whatever you may call this bit of words is the epitaph from the grave of the great poet and writer, Sylvia Plath.

 

Even amidst fierce flames, the golden lotus can be planted.

           

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