Today is Sunday and I’m sat in bed this writing this. My thighs are aching desperately from the squats I accidentally did whilst photographing war graves in a local cemetery on Thursday. Apart from the clear recollection of a couple of phone calls with friends on Friday and the grim memory of gerbil dentistry yesterday my mind is a fuzz of just out of reach experiences. Since Thursday I have little I can recall with certainty and it hurts in more ways than one.
I feel hungover though it’s almost 22 years since I last had an alcoholic drink and I have that vague uneasiness that I’ve done something daft, offensive, apology worthy or all three that often followed a heavy and prolonged drinking session. I feel a little lost, a little restless and, mostly, floating around the edges of my life but not quite part of it.
This is my experience of bipolar memory loss. Whatever preconceptions people have of mental illness and the mentally ill they never think about how, for some of us, losing chunks of our memory and forgetting our lives as we’re living them is our normality.
I spent yesterday morning at the local city farm taking photos. I know this because I have a hazy warm spot; the feeling of being in the sun and talking against a background of animal noise. I also have 250 or so photos detailing what I did there. Though the photos can’t give me a memory they can give me a link back to my own past.
I’ll struggle a little today. I’ll feel as though I’ve lost my loved and loving people. I’ll have to work a little to regain a better sense of myself. I’ll have to not give myself a hard time over what offences I may have caused. Sharp as my tongue can be I’ve had no clues from people since then that I was other than polite but there is still a lingering “what if?” wandering around my head.
This is, personally speaking, the most isolating factor of bipolar disorder. Poor mental health separates the affected and unaffected by marking us all by the experiences we can’t or don’t have. For some of us they’re experiences we don’t know we have.