It’s a rainy Friday in April. I open the door to my friend Imma with, “So, this is what the mentally ill look like on their day off.” She smiles.
Standing there in flannel penguin pajama pants covered over by a beige nightdress and striped navy hoodie, I look like I’ve spent the night sleeping on the street.
“Please excuse my appearance but I figured I’d keep it real”, I say, pointing to my oily, unkempt hair and the dark circles under my eyes that match my disposition.
Imma is here to shoot some photos for a University project. Her theme: mental illness. Little does she know that the illness she’s assigned me to model for, Bipolar Disorder, is the one I’m currently being assessed for in my latest journey through the wonderful world of modern Psychiatry. Life is never without a sense of irony.
I lay across my bed as lifeless as possible. I look sullenly out the window at a world I have little interest in. She clicks away as I alternate between open and closed eyes. I am tired and depressed. I don’t have to act this out.
We switch to a seated shot where I am to change between manic and depressive facial expressions within seconds, while Imma rapidly shoots my mood shift. This is harder. I have difficulty accessing the mania today. I try to conjure up my mood from a few days ago and, although the smiles look contrived, she manages to catch some pretty good shots.
We sit on my couch and go over the photos together. She clicks over to the shots of me lying on the bed, despondent. I choke back tears. I am looking at my mother. My earliest memories are of walking into my parents room to find my mother sprawled across the bed, depressed out of her mind, staring off into the distance, barely aware that I am there beside her.
As I stare at this photo of I, this mirror of she, I feel a deep acceptance of my decision not to have children. And I realize that as much as we try to be different from our parents, there are genetic factors that we can never outrun. In this moment, it becomes clear that if I am to continue to break these patterns and have a different life than the one my mother has had, there are tough choices to be made.
I am going to try out medication. It is time.