I can’t think back to a time when my feelings weren’t INTENSE. No matter what I felt, I experienced it with an exclamation point and it often swung like a pendulum between mildly euphoric and mildly depressed. I was never clinically diagnosed as bipolar because the logical part of my brain is still able to trump the spontaneous one, and seizes control no matter how many hormones surge through my veins.
I’m a few rungs below bipolar, which means I love with ferocity and abandon and I celebrate tragedy with equal pomp and circumstances. Melancholy is a vacuum which sucks up all the sadness from the ether and engulfs me in it, what they call in Yiddish “weltschmerz” when the weight of the world is placed solely on my shoulders. My empathy for fellow humans is strong; I feel bad for everyone and cry along with any catastrophic symphony. I cry when I hear a song, watch a commercial, read a stranger’s blog, or see a mother mistreating her child at the supermarket.
As easy as it is for me to activate my water works, I can easily flip flop and step, temporarily, into a millennial’s shoes, throwing up rainbows, surprising myself with how thoroughly enamored I can get with life, and sometimes the beauty of every molecule of life brings me to tears again. One of my hobbies is taking macro photos of flowers. As I zoom in on the galaxy of veins on a velvety rose petal, with the thorns lurking on the horizon, the metaphor of it all feels so heavy. Life is so magical and I’m always afraid I’ll miss it; it’s going so fast. I want to make sure I taste it all and savor the flavor forever in my mouth, but it’s fleeting and I am like a child who doesn’t want the party to end, only my party is life.
The same way I want to hold on to a majestic moment, I can’t seem to loosen my grip when the panic strikes. My feelings become too raw, like the skin after you ripped off a band-aid too fast thinking it wouldn’t hurt and instead it left a damp piece of skin missing the other most layer. Do they make lidocaine for metaphysical pain? Sometimes I want a diluted version of my emotions.
Doctors have prescribed pharmaceutical solutions to me but I’m too much of a stubborn naturalist and hypochondriac (as a rule, I avoid anything with a warning label). I am too skeptical to trust a “one pill fits all” solution. Pills are so American. Immigrants just apply a superstitious solution to any problem or use Vodka to numb the senses. The minute you feel a sore throat, suck a lemon. Still there? Maybe Vodka will help. Got a rash or a pimple? Rubbing alcohol applied should solve it, otherwise, we headed straight to the E.R. Americans have acquiesced to self-medicating since Geritol hit the markets in the 1940’s. Where a sugar pill used to do the job, opiates have taken over since the birth of our Prozac Nation. Being “on” something is now the norm rather than the exception. I don’t want to go down the tempting, chemical easy road.
“This is who you are,” my husband reminds me of this on the days when I feel it all “too much.” The world is too loud, everything is coming at once, the list of things to do gets longer and I want to shut down. My brain, permanently dialed to problem solving, gets frustrated when my emotions get the best of me. My husband is right to suggest these powerful emotions define me as much as my thick hair and loud mouth. These are the emotions I channel into my writing and they drive the thoughts to beyond just storytelling, they allow me to tell a story with heart. I often wonder if I was more balanced, would I be a more boring writer? If I wasn’t overly in touch with my wild swinging emotional life? Would I be able to make poignant observations about fellow humans, recognizing empathetically a familiar plight?
Mostly I wonder, would I ever feel such potent joy without having dipped beyond my comfort level into depression? I’ve never taken happiness for granted; I greet each jolt with open arms. I just wish it didn’t occasionally make me want to throw up.