It is Christmas Eve, and my daughter is spending it with her dad this year, so I find myself alone on the eve of the big day. I have put away our Christmas elf, Felicia, whose antics my daughter delights in for 24 days every December. And I have written her a goodbye note from Felicia. I have wrapped the presents from Santa and have filled her stocking, because even though she will wake up at her dad’s, Santa will still have stopped at our house on his way round the globe. And I have sprinkled reindeer food and glitter across the lawn so that when she arrives home in the morning she’ll be in no doubt that magic is indeed alive and well, and that good things happen to people who do good things.
That’s what I want her to believe, for as long as possible, because of course, I know that it isn’t true. Good things don’t always happen to good people. Sometimes there is no magic to be found. But she doesn’t need to know that. Not yet. We had a good day today, my girl and I, and by good, I mean I didn’t wake up wanting to end my life. And I managed to get through the entire day without benzodiazepines (Valium to the uninitiated), so that was good. At the moment that is the barometer – not wanting to die, and not needing to sedate myself to cope with reality.
We made a gingerbread house, my girl and I, and we made some mince pies with orange-peel pastry and some chocolate brownies and then we parceled them up and drove all over town delivering them to her pals. Later I painted her face like a butterfly for a carol concert she was going to with her dad, and then we made a little picture frame together. We even went to some shops, and it was OK, I coped, I didn’t have conniptions at the crowds. So, that was another win. And then her dad arrived to pick her up and off she went, skipping down the path in her bobble hat, with her butterfly face.
And now… well now it is just me. Alone on Christmas Eve. I have a fridge full of food, olives, salamis, gammon, cheeses, crackers… every delicacy imaginable, and I haven’t eaten a thing. I don’t know why I bought it all really, it’s not like I didn’t know there’d be no one to eat it. I guess I just went into automatic pilot, I kind of forgot that I don’t have any family. I guess at Christmas even the most hard-bitten of us hope for a miracle, hope our lives will suddenly take on the feel of a Bisto commercial, our homes brimming with family and friends. And laughter, and love.
The reality of course is nothing short of pathetic. It is history repeating itself, the years I watched my bipolar grandmother sitting alone with piles of food bought for non-existent family to eat. The years I used to see her put Christmas cards that were 10 years old out because as time went on she received less and less, until eventually, the only cards she had were the ones she’d received eons ago.
And every day I wait for the salt to rise… the lithium salt in my blood that one of these days will make me feel human again. Salt just like in the picture accomanpanying this article, that can be found in piles in the Andres. The goal is to reach a gram a day. A gram of toxic salt to enable me to have a normal life. It’s starting to do its job, I’m no longer manic, but what it has left me with is the enduring soul-destroying depression that feels like I am viewing the world through a cracked lens. It’s worse at night – in medical terms that’s called ‘diurnal variation’ – when symptoms worsen at certain times of the day.
But I guess it also has to do with the time of year, because there is nothing more gut-wrenching than being alone at Christmas. Than knowing that no one loves you. That you are special to no one. The fact there are barely any presents under the tree for me tell me that (and that’s not me being materialistic, it’s just presents symbolise presence – of people who love you). My silent phone tells me that. My Facebook feed tells me that. Tells me that while everyone is having fun and feeling the warmth of their families this Christmas Eve, I’m here, alone. Like always.
People tend to love you when you’re manic. Like the ‘friend’ who was happy to surf my alcohol-fueled manic wave with me last week, until of course – obviously – the alcohol magnified the burgeoning psychosis. So, after dumping me at A&E the ‘friend’ vanished with nothing more than a text. Not even a goodbye. And nothing since. I forgive him for being scared, because quite frankly, I was fucking scary. But to light the touch-paper and then not even give enough of a shit to see what the damage was. Well, frankly, that’s just cowardice in the extreme.
But hey ho, lesson learnt, one must choose one’s friends wisely. Particularly when manic. But also probably in general. I have been lucky this week as some pure-hearted people have been checking in, and coincidentally, or probably not at all, they all work in mental health. So I guess they get it, and they don’t frighten easily. The rest of the world has continued to turn, and people have lives and families and shit to be getting on with. No one wants to be around a manic depressive at Christmas. And if they say they do, they’re lying.
And so I sit and wait, wait for the salt to rise along with the sun….