You talk about your bipolar and you tell me you understand what it’s like to live the way that I do, that there are ways to fix me. I don’t doubt that you do understand the bipolar aspects of my condition, I believe you when you say you can empathise with this small part of my disorder.
I think you do understand what it’s like to sink so deep into an indelible sadness that you can’t remember which way is up.
You understand what it’s like to be manic. To be reckless and invincible. To be high on your own chemical cocktail.
You understand what it’s like to misplace your capacity for empathy, for connection with another human soul, for guilt and morality, to become distant and cold with no provocation.
You understand what it’s like when your anxiety paralyses you and steals away your choices. When the idea of contact with another living being is too much to bear. When the world outside your walls feels too big and terrifying to face.
You understand what it’s like when basic questions (what do you want to eat, where do you want to go, how have you been, are you okay) may as well be asked in a foreign language about the principals of nuclear fusion.
And I too understand.
I understand that your ignorance is well meaning, that your desire to preach to me is a product of all your best intentions but please, for the love of God, don’t try to tell me that you know.
You don’t know what it was like the first time I watched the sky catch fire, when ash settled on my skin and in my hair and I tasted it on my tongue like toxic snowflakes.
You don’t know what it’s like to steer your grocery cart though an isle littered with corpses while generic pop music plays in the background and a mother scolds her child for sneaking candy into the cart.
You don’t know what it’s like to have to add an extra 20mins to the time it takes to do your make up in the morning for the days when your reflection won’t stop screaming long enough for you to do your lip liner.
You don’t know what it’s like to go to sleep freezing because you know that if you wake up to a heated room it will be to the smell of smoke and burnt flesh, to flames and terror so thick you can’t breathe.
You don’t know what it’s like to compulsively count your fingers and hope there’ll be more than 10 because you’re not dreaming, it’s not a dream, but you still can’t wake up.
You don’t know what it’s like to scream until your vocal chords bleed because your flailing limbs hit nothing but air but they still won’t let you go.
You don’t know what it’s like to watch your mother’s face melt away when she kisses your 8year old self goodnight. To be the monster clawing it’s way out from under the bed. To watch the clown masks on the wall laugh and laugh and laugh until you can’t remember a time when it wasn’t ringing in your ears.
You don’t know what it’s like to come to love someone who’s never existed.
You don’t know what it’s like to never escape the whispering.
You don’t know what it’s like to scream yourself awake night after night haunted by the sense memories of atrocities never committed.
You don’t know what it’s like to watch the road fall away into deep chasms of endless darkness in front of the car your loved one is driving.
You don’t know what it feels like for the grief to always be fresh because years can become hours in the space between heartbeats.
You don’t know what it’s like to lose days or weeks at a time. To misplace your memories. To not recognise your own face in mirrors and photographs.
You don’t know what it’s like to look at someone you loved the day before and see a stranger. To not know where you are in your own home. To forget your favourite colour, your favourite song.
You don’t know what it’s like to lose control of your body, to watch it move and speak and act without you.
You don’t know what it’s like to remember an emotion while completely disconnected from any capacity to actually feel it.
You don’t know what it’s like to feel the rain burn holes in your skin, to watch it sizzle and fall away in singed, bloody chunks leaving your bones brittle and bare and burning.
You don’t know what it’s like to be trapped inside your own body, incapable of speech or movement.
You don’t know what it’s like to slip into someone else with all the ease and frequency of slipping on a different dress. What it’s like to wait for the day when you slip down into the cracks between all the fractured pieces of your psyche.
You don’t know what it’s like to lose the ability to differentiate between reality and everything you can see and feel and hear and touch and taste. To not know if the horrors exist in your world as they do in the hellscape of mine.
You don’t know what it’s like to be afraid that one day everything you are will be swallowed by the nightmare you’re becoming.
You don’t know what it means to wake up afraid, each and every day of your life.
You don’t know what it means to quietly hope for the day that you don’t wake up.
Don’t tell me you understand what it means to live with my illness, all you know is what it means to live with yours.