Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

When I first met her, I didn’t think I’d like her.  We were supposed to be friends, we’d both been told.  We’d both been told we’d like each other.

She has blond hair, and she’s thin.  Her teeth are perfectly white.  I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m judging her.  She knows I’m judging her.

At the end of the day, I write my friend.  He used to be in the lab—he knows how it used to be.  He knows me.  I tell him that I don’t know if I’ll like her.  He tells me to send him a picture of her in a bikini.


There’s nothing like going crazy.  Having already gone crazy and then recovered and forgotten what it felt like, I feel uniquely qualified to say it.

In my head, I try on metaphors:

Going crazy is like drowning in a deep warm ocean.  At first, it shocks your lungs.  Your limbs flail and you struggle against it.  You fight.  You fight so damn hard.  But eventually, you sink too far and you just give up.  You let it wash over you, fill your alveoli and stop your heart.  You let it have you.

Bipolar disorder is the color of water.  Bipolar disorder is the heat of the sun on a day in December.  Or July.  Or both, all at once.  Bipolar disorder is wanting everything in the world at the same time, wanting everything and knowing—without question—that it’s already all yours.

Bipolar disorder is pain.  On your couch, in your car, in your bed.  In the shower, sitting in your seat at the dinner table.  In your head.  Pain that moves down your nerves and makes you hot and shaky.  Makes you not eat or sleep until you’re nauseous and immobile.  Makes you so much less than what you ever wanted to be.


Sometime after I fell in love with her—in the passionately innocent way that only girls can fall in love with their friends who are also girls—I told her about the crazy.  We both have chronic illnesses.  We both have friends who didn’t want to deal with chronic illnesses.  We were both dealt shit hands, and we spit in the face of the dealer.  She’s better at it than I am.  But sometimes, I can get a good shot in too.

Still—I never wanted her to experience it for herself.  To see the crazy unleashed in full-force, wild-eyed and swirling patterns of dust around my existence.  Didn’t want her to see how it could consume me, steam-roll me, hold my head underwater just to see me squirm.  Didn’t want her to see how it made my legs shake and stomp, my teeth clench up in my mouth, my hands curl into fists until my nails leave half-moon patterns in the skin of my palms.


Bipolar disorder is a devil, a demon.  Real-life, with hot hooves that burn you and sharp horns that gore you, right through your abdomen, and pin you to walls.  Think back to all of the literature you can think of, all the ones about Satan and his minions.  Animal-shaped and furious, they dance with you—grab your hand and spin you around and around.  You are dizzy.  You are exhausted.  You sweat through your clothing.  You don’t know if you’ll make it.  You’re not sure you’ll survive.

Do you even want to survive?

The sole purpose of a devil is to tempt you.  To hold your hand out toward all the shiny things you think you could be.  You want to smoke weed, drink too much alcohol and fuck.  You want to run—as fast as you possibly can—in the warm streets on the darkest nights.  You itch in your own skin.  You are uncomfortable.

You want to be uncomfortable.  You want to lose yourself.  You are tired of holding it together.  The devil tells you that you don’t have to.


I didn’t want her to see it, but she did anyway.  She knew where I was headed.

My head lit up, hair messy and undone.  The previous day’s clothing, my fast words spewing out of my mouth.  A sideways wicked smile.  I was unraveling.

“Tell me how you’re feeling.”

I tell her I don’t want to.  That I’m sick of people who leave when I’m sick.  If I pretend that I’m not sick, I rationalize in my fucked-up head, then people will have no reason to leave.  I don’t want to get her involved with the nasty tangled web of my mind.

But she jumps in.  “I’m not going to leave.  I just want you to be honest with me.  I just want to help you.”

So I tell her about the monsters in my head.  Tell her I’m drowning.

I cannot see, in my own mirror, how crazy I am.  How crazy I look.  But in the reflective pool of her concerned face, I can see it clearly.  Because she is scared, I suddenly am too.  She’s pulling me back out.  And then, I do something I’ve never done before, not with any other person.  Not really.  I let her.

When I write that I feel run-out and done-for, she writes that she’ll pick me up.

When I say I’m glad she’s in my corner, she promises she’ll be princess of my corner forever.

When I remember that I once thought we couldn’t be friends, I think of how stupid I can be.

Here, with her, there’s hope between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Posted by AnotherChanceTo on April 27th, 2010
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4 Comments a “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

  1. moonflower says:

    Beautiful, I love love love this post. You nailed the ongoing battle with our mental illness and those that love us and how really hard it can be to let someone else in on the secret.

    Courage, you has it.

  2. Left of Lost says:

    Oh my goodness, I am covered in goosebumps. This is fantastically written, so lovely and vivid. Hugs to you.

  3. brittany says:

    oh love. it amazes me how you can perfectly write how i feel. i love you.

  4. bipolarlawyercook says:

    I tell her I don’t want to. That I’m sick of people who leave when I’m sick. If I pretend that I’m not sick, I rationalize in my fucked-up head, then people will have no reason to leave. I don’t want to get her involved with the nasty tangled web of my mind.

    This is so true, and so brave of you to go forward and tell her how you feel, regardless. I didn’t do this the last time I had my breakdown, and I’ve been a year coming back. You should be SO proud of yourself.

    Brave, wonderful, you.

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