This Time You’ll Listen To the Movement In Your Body

It starts on a Saturday morning.  I slump out of bed and remember that I forgot to take my pills the night before.  So, I shake one Lamictal into my hand, and open the package that holds my birth control pills.  The last one I had taken was Wednesday.  Thursday and Friday are still there.  I stand still.  Completely still.

What was I doing Thursday, I think quickly?  What was I doing, what was I doing?  Then I remember: Joey got dizzy at work.  Joey hadn’t been eating because he was sick.  Joey hit a car on his way home.  I put him to bed and went out to get him Ensure, Mucinex and a milkshake.  Ate dinner in bed with him and fell asleep—intending to get up later.  But I never did.  And it never occurred to me that I hadn’t taken the pills.  Two nights gone, no pills.


You know, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t such a big deal.  So what?  Just take a pill.  It’ll be ok.

Except it’s not.  Except this drug, in particular, is carefully titrated.  Except it will take me four weeks to get back to my dose.  The first two weeks, I cut my pills into quarters, swallow ¼ of what I should be taking.  The next two weeks, I cut them into halves on a cutting board in the kitchen.  Swallow them there, exposed by the subtle blinking of the fluorescent lights.


It’s fine, I tell everyone.  I’m fine.  I’m fine.  I’m fine.  I repeat the words over and over again.  I’m fine.  My best friend, my psychiatrist, my mother.  I’m fine.

And I am, honestly.  That is the simple answer, the short answer, a true answer.

The longer answer is: I’m fine, and I’m working mighty fucking hard to be that way.

The challenges of my every-day life are magnified by the absence of my chemical crutch.  There are late-night papers to be written, for the first time since I was last crazy [and God, that doesn’t feel like a coincidence].  My car breaks down for what I declare is the last goddamn time.  Buying a new one takes time, and I sometimes feel trapped in my house.  I am flailing, sometimes, before wrapping myself up in a blanket or a book or a bath.  He doesn’t know it, but I am mentally flailing, until I turn on my left side and push myself back into him.  Wrap yourself here, I want to tell him, and it’ll stop.  Just trust me, I know it will.

But sometimes, the pleasures are magnified too.  I fall hard for a new friend, the rare girl in my life.  Sitting next to each other in the lab, we giggle in fits and talk shit in lowered, hushed voices.  When we aren’t together, we send text messages and our inside jokes accumulate like snow on something rolled down a hill.  Food is suddenly spicier, and my eyes water and my unmyelinated nerves scream and I choke down glasses of water and margarita until I have the slightest buzz.  Then saunter off, wobbly, smiling, laughing.  Sex is faster, and I ask for more dangerous things.  I am light-headed, or held down and fighting, falling halfway off the bed and upside-down.  I try to follow the lines of control—who is in power now?  Me?  Him?  Both or neither?  The answer is always best when it’s unclear.


This, of course, comes to the heart of the matter.  At times, when I am most vulnerable and open, when I talk about the past, I have to analyze what happened then.  What went wrong and how can I stop it?  Can I ever say with 100% certainty that it will never happen again?

In the midst of this aching vulnerability, I see the truth: that I could have stopped it.  That is, and will always be, my burden.  Bipolar disorder may have lowered my threshold, but I still crossed it.  There were a million outs, and I could have taken any one of them.  Sometimes, I did—ignored a phone call or pulled myself, turning, out of one of their grasps.  But not without turning back, tossing my head over my shoulder, smiling that old smile.  The memories are so seductive because they make me feel like I was good at something, once.  These days, sometimes, I feel like I can’t win.  But back then, dammit—I was good at something.  But I was very bad at maintaining control.

These days, I’m much better, but I still feel the tugging, the desire to spin out of my own control.  I’ve long theorized that these desires came from a lifetime that required control—oldest child, high school valedictorian, successful woman on the path to being something people dream about, something people would kill for.  My professional life, and everything it has taken to get this far, has required tremendous control.  I’m not surprised I want to lose that sense of power in other places.  I’m not surprised that I want to find myself swept away by whim, by emotion, by anything that I don’t choose.

So I am sitting, filled with want.  I want to kiss someone on the collarbone.  I want to reach out my pinky and wrap it around someone else’s.  I want to be able to pull someone’s hand and go somewhere dark.  At least, that’s what my wild mind tells me.

But I step back, smiling, and walk away.  No, I say.  What you want is to find yourself not knowing where you are.  You want 60 seconds of confusion, you want 15 seconds where you don’t know what is going to happen next.  You want the tiniest flicker that something unexpected will happen.


Which, unexpectedly, happens.  We’re sitting around, watching TV with friends.  One of them offers to roll me a pure tobacco cigarette.  I accept, with his promise that I don’t know what I’m in for.  That it will be incredible.

So, we share it back and forth, a simple kind of intimacy that I’ve come to appreciate and relish.  I pull the smoke down into my lungs—I am inexperienced, and bad at it.  I’ve smoked enough times to know what to do, but not nearly enough times to do it without choking or looking very unprofessional.  I feel nothing.

So, he passes it back to me, and says the rest is mine.  I draw in heavy, hold the smoke in my lungs until I’m coughing, suddenly nauseous and very dizzy, disoriented and confused.  I have no idea what will happen next, but I do know that I need to sit down.  Violently, my ass hits the edge of the porch, and I reel back.  The nausea subsides, but the dizziness, the haziness, the brilliant confusion lingers.  I pull Joey in behind me, and I fall backwards into him.  I fit perfectly there, and I remember that love is a choice, and that we have chosen each other—not just once, but many times.  The night is lovely, suddenly.  Everything that was wrong, everything that has happened drains away.  It will come back.  But for a few minutes, I’m out of control.  And I haven’t ruined anything.

I’m fine, I say to myself.  I’m fine.

Posted by AnotherChanceTo on September 7th, 2009
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1 Comment a “This Time You’ll Listen To the Movement In Your Body”

  1. Harold says:

    Wow. Amazing writing. Loved this.

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