It was serendipitous that I found myself listening to Rob McGinley Myers’ Anxious Machine podcast this evening. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have found a more pertinent piece to emotionally and mentally prime me for starting this blog. I had been on the cusp of writing for a very long time, but I needed a push through my writing anxiety. Today I wanted to write about what I had listened to, and my aspirations for this space.
McGinley Myers is a podcaster and is diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Unlike bipolar I, he doesn’t experience the psychotic symptoms of full mania such as delusions or hallucinations. Instead, he experiences hypomania, a milder form of mania. The symptoms of hypomania include extreme productivity, creativity, self-belief, and heightened irritability, etc. and coupled with subsequent depressive periods. In this podcast he talks about his experience through the onset of a hypomanic episode, which had not been diagnosed, and his eventual crash into depression.
I think he’s an extremely compelling story teller; his retrospective on the turbulence brought by the onset of acute mental illness is extremely powerful in its relatability. Among those who suffer with mental illness, I think there’s a shared understanding of the turmoil experienced. The descent into major depression is paved with an unloving kind of shame, disappointment, and worthlessness. One of my favourite authors on the topic, Andrew Solomon, describes it as a lack of vitality. I describe it as a weakness in my ability to be human; McGinley Myers calls it a restlessness from “not quite fitting in” your own skin. I think we all share a certain kinship through facing the same demon in a different skin.
“I’d spent an hour on my bed just hating myself. Which feels like hooking yourself up to some sort of electric torture device, and running a low current through your body, just enough to be painful. I can remember the days I spend laying in that bed, attached to that electric torture device. My brain was running a kind of mathematical calculation, over and over, the result of which was always the same: You. Are. Worthless.”
Near the end of the podcast he describes a point in his depression where he attempts to make an audio recording of himself, as a last effort to simply do something. I found his imagery so powerful in the way it captured such an intimate portrait of another human’s private suffering, while also being a stark reflection of my own unspoken experiences with depression. I found his words still stuck with me even week later.
“But when I turned on my recorder that day and tried to talk about how I was feeling, it was like the microphone transmuted that moment of worthlessness, into something of value. It’s like the mere act of recording imbues the moment with some sort of significance.”
I think for a while I knew what I wanted to do with this space, but I struggled materialize exactly what it was. I think tonight found my manifesto in McGinley Myers’ story. Like him, I want to transmute my private chaos with mental illness into something of significance. I think this is not simply self-serving act, but is something that has power in its capacity reach others about an intimate, visceral, shared experience.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll stick around.