Two years after being hospitalized, I’m still not 100% certain if I’m bipolar or not. I mean I’ve had two different psychologists tell me that they think so. That I “exhibit” the key characteristics. They’ve said so after sessions where I’ve talked too much, but felt like I was only starting to describe how I felt every day. How it started as depressive episodes in High School when sat on the corner of my bed without moving for hours. I used to blame it on the music I listened to. Elliott Smith…Daniel Johnson. I used to think I was just a moody teenager that needed Lexapro. I was labeled as manic depressive and hurried along my merry way. The first time I recognized my mood swings was through the daily fights I engaged in with my mom. We’d both circle each other like angry bulls until something caused us both to explode. I’d lock myself in my room and punch the walls. My little brother was the first to ask if I thought I was bipolar. I took it as an insult. How would he know that about me without me knowing it myself? He hasn’t said anything to me that honest since. The chemistry in my head darkened as I transitioned into college. While all of my friends explored and found themselves, I could only see myself make choices and act from some distant prison inside my chest. I started hearing my mouth spewing words I didn’t recognize and didn’t mean. Even as I asked my body not to scream, not to feel so panicked I couldn’t breathe, not to hurt itself, my body did as it pleased. In a way, it was like walking away from a good friend after seeing burn your bridge on purpose. The more control I lost the more impulsive I got, too. While my mood shifts were brief, their consequences stretched on like scar that refuses to forget. At least I started to learn more about myself. Then came the insomnia. Around that time my eyes started to refuse any rest.
I’ve always been able to stay up until three or four at night and wake up the next day without an alarm before the sun comes back. The truth is both sides of me need each other. That is the half that is overwhelmed with love and warmth for the people and things I care about and the other half which tries to inflict as much pain as possible onto myself and all those around me. I’ve never gotten a formal diagnosis. I’ve tried. But not really. A work schedule that required my attention twelve hours a day didn’t help and I’ve always been bad at talking to anybody about these things. At complaining. Not knowing my diagnosis all the way is like walking through a pitch-dark room and then realizing you’re standing in a tunnel instead. The goal posts running away from you. When I told my parents about the first time the psychologists said they thought I was bipolar, they said I was just stressed. Underneath the tug of war between my mind and my body lay my being, urgently needing to be liked and loved by everybody I came into contact with. It’s more than a little pathetic. At times I feel like my personality is just a combination of performances meant to seduce and entertain while I cringe inside. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I wonder if I am actually sick or if this is just actually doing all the heavy lifting for the rest of my personality? My game of avoidance came to an end one night after my band played a show in Somerville. That night throughout our set, I drank my favorite emotional trigger. Towards the end I stopped playing some songs halfway through and fell on top of the drumset. My bandmates’ fury outweighed their concern so I snuck away after the final song to another bar next door. I don’t really remember getting home, but I know that it took multiple people to restrain me from running into my bathroom or locking my door. They thought I was a danger to myself and called for an ambulance. Am I just a piece of shit looking for an excuse not to blame myself for all the things I’ve done? Are my feelings just another easy way out? I question this and then remember there’s nothing easy about this.
Esteban Cajigas is a writer, musician, and MFA candidate at Antioch University Los Angeles. His short stories and poems have been featured in publications such as Venture Magazine, Foliate Oak, and others. Esteban also previously wrote for The Boston Globe as a correspondent and The Suffolk Voice as Editor-in-Chief.