The Anniversary of a Mental Meltdown

          Another March 30th, 31st, and April 1st have come and gone. For me, it’s the fifth year since surviving those first two days with the noise in my head at its highest crescendo, so much so that the third day offered me my fifteen minutes of fame in the design of two slit wrists and a brief stint at Lakeside Behavioral Health Center (trust me, the irony for the day and my condition refuses to go unnoticed). Now armed with the memories of thin bloody lines of fire searing just below my hands, reuniting with a lost cousin and former classmate both conveniently scheduled for discharge in mere hours, spending my so-called free time in the Bird Cage (a fenced-in landing practically Super Glued off the side of the hospital like an overripe mole, provided for smokers to indulge themselves and the tease of what freedom looked like), and food unfit for Shawshank Penitentiary (who serves overcooked turkey and dry stuffing at the blossoming of spring?), I can analyze what’s been gained since then with more profound detail. For example: unlike five years ago, my relationship with my mother is considerably calmer and more manageable. How has this been achieved? Conscientious lack of communication, immediate execution of diffusion tactics during emotional explosions, and doing whatever’s deemed necessary to keep her sated and me sober. Also, my ex is no longer in my life, a complete figment of a past reality—a fact that makes me feel extremely vindicated. I’ve acquired my degree in English/Creative Writing and published both a story and poem. And mentioned last only for the savory, dramatic effect, is Kevin. His placation to my feelings and needs is so sincere and absolute that I’m steadily more convinced that it’s actually genuine. It seems a miracle and a gift to once again cross paths with another human that deems me worthy of maximum love with minimal criticism. Monday, it appeared that the weather itself was celebrating with me as well, holding down a smooth and mild 65 degree/mostly sunny day that virtually demanded that it be enjoyed by all who were able.

            It never fails each year: something about this date that always compels me to visit the zoo. A little while of exploring Overton Park to find a place to read proved that damn near the rest of the city had the same idea: a line of at least 16 cars stretched from the entrance gate to the fork that takes one to the art school instead; countless vehicles had to park out of the lot onto designated grassy areas.  For a moment, my contentment faltered. Where was I supposed to go to enjoy the contemplative peace and clarity this day was offering me without interruption? Suddenly one of my few escapes in Memphis flashed across my mind: Elmwood Cemetery. So I packed a small lunch of the previous night’s dinner and journeyed to the headstone of a favorite relative. Under a tree close to her grave, I could feel myself relax into the colors of the day: gentle greens, rich and dry browns, bold yellows, and splashes of vibrant plastic flowers. Later, as I roamed the grounds contemplating both foreign and dated names, I noticed no more than four cars slowly cruising by me, a number that actually piqued my curiosity. I smirked at the idea that these individuals might have shared a similar spark to my own wavelength, seeking out the balance between humanity and the universe that most humans choose to avoid.

         By the evening of April Fools, I finally understood that I was witnessing an example of a good day in a good life was going to see Silver Linings Playbook with Kevin at Studio on the Square (any movie theater that serves decent wine and a quality choice of Indie movies will always be a top choice). What makes this movie so perfect about mental imperfection is that it gives a true bipolar person the one thing he/she craves, weeps, screams, cuts, and repeatedly attempts to die for: a realistically relatable (albeit most likely short-lived and sporadic) happy ending. It’s as if someone reached into my story and molded a male version with tweaked circumstances and finally printed it. In honesty, there is a sliver of regret and envy that I didn’t get my version out first, but the discovery of this success is the same to me as my discovery of George Saunders, and is far louder. My reality is true and deserves its own speech; Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Pat Jr. and Saunders’ Tenth of December are my solace as I continue to work. If The Hours is the movie that comforts my darkness, Silver Linings Playbook is the movie that coaxes my lightness. If I will it, if I want it more than the sadness, I can find my middleman, my balance between the extremes. Or at least bask in the glow of its random and minutes-long expiration dates, that every once in a while (mercifully) stretch into hours.

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