Rebuilding Bridges

By Jac Morrison

When I was in grade school, I had a hard time speaking. Whenever I’d try the words would bundle up and lodge themselves in the back of my throat until I forgot what I was even trying to say in the first place.

I think if someone had taught me how to use my voice as a kid, I wouldn't be writing this.

but they didn't, so here I am.

My mother keeps her sadness hidden beneath down comforters, rocks it to sleep with small yellow pins.

My mother and I are mirrored versions of one another; undeniably the same and undeniably opposite.

I take after her in the way that my sadness can consume me

but unlike my mother I do not quiet when it calls, instead

I call back.
scream, even.

I have been ill my whole life. When I was a kid I cried and cried until the other children bullied me out of elementary school; chased me around the schoolyard and called me crybaby. When teachers asked why I was upset I would tell them I was afraid.

afraid of what?

I'm still unsure.

These days, I am not much different. When my sickness consumes me there's not much I can do besides cry. When this happens it's like I am right back in elementary school -- words trapped behind my tongue like flies on duck tape. Now that I am older it is much more volatile. The swarming in my throat doesn't just die out anymore, it redirects itself:

re-manifests, and consumes me, pulls on my puppet strings and turns me into someone I don't recognize.

But it is me all the same.

I'm learning that when your brain is sick it can make you cruel.

Cruelty is easy;
cruelty requires no empathy,
cruelty is defensive,
cruelty builds walls and toughens skin.

In the past I have refused to acknowledge the way my sick brain can make me mean.

Anxiety manifests as outbursts of misdirected anger, insults made out of frustration, tantrums and snap decisions.

Sadness makes me cold, empty, uncaring.

Mania lets me walk over people without realizing, helps me become enthusiastically selfish, watches me burn all my bridges at once.

If I want to live a life where my mental illness doesn't wreck everything it touches -- I have to accept that my actions are my responsibility, regardless of their fuel.

It's okay to make mistakes, to be emotional, to be radically yourself in a world that tells the mentally ill that we are less valuable than our peers; but it is imperative to keep yourself accountable, even at your worst. It was not until I took responsibility for the ways I acted while I was ill that I began to learn how to stop these behaviors in their tracks. Through it all, I learned to forgive myself — to harness my mental illness, and to prevent it from ever poisoning my life again.