You wake up one day, the world is different. That’s a lie, the world has always been different. Something is wrong, something is always wrong, and you don’t know what. You are eager to find out, ready to leap off the cliff that stands before you if only you could find its edges. You can’t find its edges. Maybe this cliff doesn’t have edges. Maybe you are wandering a desert in a planet with no oceans and no forests. Maybe you are lost for good.
The world moves slowly and you move fast, jumping through traffic with no intention of dying and this time the world respects your intentions. This time you get away with it. No scars or broken bones to show for it, only horns honked and insults hurled and shouted by the people in the cars who just don’t understand, do they? They don’t understand that you’re special, you have powers of which no one can dare to speak. You are special, you feel it in the music in your ears even when your iPod breaks.
You try to tell a teacher at school about the coffee machine plotting with the stapler to kill you, you laugh it off. Everything, once laughed off, becomes sane and normal and no one has to know just yet. They will all know soon enough, and so why does it matter if you’re still pretending to be sane? Maybe you are sane, really sane, the last sane person alive.
You dreamt of earthquakes as a child, disasters to kill your enemies and bring you new life. You always were a prophet of Biblical proportions, you could always hear God, you just forgot how briefly. And when you remembered, well, that’s when the world really fell apart.
Go to school in Ontario. Go to school on an airplane. Bring your voices with you free of charge, and feel them buzzing in the air as no stranger tries to talk to you. You don’t need people, you will realize, as you lie in the Ontario snow until your fingers turn purple and stare at the shapes forming in the sky. The psychiatrist you see through the school tells you this is mania. You decide you like being manic.
There is depression, outlined and mapped by your classmates and awareness campaigns and the antidepressants that everyone seems to be taking but you. You take antipsychotics, a luxury of difference. You go off your antipsychotics, because you are unhappy. Unhappy isn’t quite right. You are empty, numb, devoid of all human emotion and feeling. Being human is only one pill left not-swallowed away.
You receive clonazepam, you are told to bring ID to the pharmacy because some people abuse this drug. You decide you will be one of the people who abuses this drug. You google how to get high off it and you take a few extra pills on top just to be safe. You draw pictures, because isn’t that what people do when they’re high? And then you fall asleep, closing your eyes for just one second to awaken the next day in the afternoon.
The voices would like it if you burned your rather long fingernails. You get out your lighter and hold the flame to a single fingernail, which burns in such a painful way, but you do not mind. You do not mind when Satan tells you to cut the words, I AM FREE into your arm, and you do not mind wrapping a towel around your bleeding arm so you can go into the snow and the trees and light your meds on fire, a symbol of your new freedom. You bring your can of spray paint, and your lighter, and of course, the burnt offering: your medication. But this time the world does not allow it; the wind curls and hisses and kills the flame, all you end up with are flecks of red paint on the altar you constructed out of twigs lining the trails.
You tell your psychiatrist. This too is mania, this too is forbidden. This too is illness, and illnesses are to be cured. You don’t believe you have bipolar disorder. You go back to your dorm room and sob incessantly. It is true, then, you decide. You are sad and you are happy and both reach to unfathomable depths, both must be made smaller and safer and easier for others to digest.
You write a song about concrete and coloured glass in your first stay in a psych ward. Concrete is what you are to be, strong, sturdy, boring, bland. Coloured glass is how you imagine yourself at the height of your powers, fragile and dangerous if broken, but beautiful, spiritual even.
You tell everyone in group therapy about your disease, your mania. The leader of the group asks why you want to be manic so badly, when you are not, have not been, and will not be. You are confused as to why stating the diagnosis your psychiatrist gave you counts as pretending to be something you are not for some unstated nefarious purpose, but don’t worry, you are about to get a lot more confused.
You stop reading. The words do not dance, but lie dead on the page. You cannot discern their meaning. They are not meant for you anymore. You learn how to speak the language of angels, to see numbers on a hunk of metal and transform them into prophecy. You are good at picking dates. You are exceptional at deciding what will happen on these dates. The only small glitch in your self-made matrix is that nothing ever goes as you predict it, but small matter. Nothing ever goes how the doctors predict, either.
You return to Vancouver. You leave for Toronto. This time the voices include a newer, far more prominent member: God. You have remembered how to hear God, and the voice sounds like rainbows and raindrops and metal and mental symphonies, and you try to put the sacred words into the mere ordinary words of your tongue and you fail, because the language of humans cannot contain the language of God.
At the new university in Toronto, things are different from the last time you were in Ontario. Things are brighter, like you’re living in heaven already. Your fourth and fifth hospitalizations happen over the course of one month in Toronto, and when you’re not busy attempting suicide by overdosing on loxapine, you are talking to God on park benches and composing songs to express your devotion. You are not supposed to eat pork, God himself tells you. You tell the hospital. They tell the cafeteria and you wind up with a piece of paper that in large bolded letters says NO PORK next to a rather bland slice of pork on your plastic tray.
You ask to speak to a chaplain. You are told it would make your illness worse. You write down the words of God. A nurse asks to photocopy them, and you comply. You fly back to Vancouver, and you feel boxed in by this city. You felt boxed in by Toronto, no ocean to run to in times of trouble. But there is something more sinister about being boxed in by your home, about rather than being unable to run instead realizing the futility of running. But there is consolation still in the way the trees meet the sky where God must live.
Things could’ve continued like this forever if it weren’t for entropy. There was a time when you went to the forest to talk to God, there was a time when you jotted down prophetic wisdom on your cellphone. There was a time when you were a prophet and the world did not say you could not be, a time when you had hope for the future.
There was a time when you walked in Eden and spoke directly to God. The time passes, as all times do, but it feels more bitter and harsh than the passing of anything else.
You refuse to take your medication, you feel suicidal. The police come, the security guards come, the nurses come, the doctors come, the hospital comes directly to you, to the chair in which you are sobbing, and strips you naked, locks you in a concrete windowless room with no sky and no God.
There are no poetic words for trying to kill yourself, you are surprised to find. You go to kill yourself, and your iPod dies, the earbuds won’t work just right, and you are left alone. You always seem to be alone. You thought there would be music when you killed yourself, but there is none.
After gulping down the pills you gulp down charcoal, feeling a disgust that sticks to your bones. You wish to be dead. Someone asks how you are feeling. You say, Disappointed I’m not dead. You mean it.
That makes for your sixth and seventh hospitalizations. There are more to come. There is always more pain on the horizon. You are a wounded animal that knows when it is about to die. You have your intuition. You have your magic. You have your voices. You cannot scream without risking a seclusion room, and so the voices scream for you.
God comes back wrong, behind a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant standing next to a truck unloading boxes of locally made tofu. You have a vision, your feet leave the Earth and you travel to another planet where God fronts a band of Mormon missionaries singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It is the least incomprehensible thing that happens to you while you are up in the sky.
The new God tells you every single person on Earth will die horrific, violent deaths unless you obey him. You make a blood pact with God to kill.
You are not a violent person, you think. You insist on keeping around containers to carry spiders away unharmed. You were nearly brought to tears by a high school debate over whether or not dropping a nuclear bomb could be justified.
You couldn’t stop thinking about all those bodies, all those lives, all those people on fire, burning and shrieking in pain as someone else’s cruelty kills them.
You can’t stop thinking about it now, for it is, after all, what you see in your continued visions. Piles of bodies. Piles of suffering impossible for any one human to ever fully comprehend.
And only you can stop it. With violence, with blood, with the perpetuation of the very same atrocity you strive to stop.
You never actually kill someone. You tell yourself you will do what God commands. But no matter the threat, no matter the cost, no matter how high the stakes of your disobedience, you cannot bring yourself to carry out an act of violence.
In compensatory obedience, you go for walks clutching sticks. Sometimes you swing the stick around, feel your power. You do not know who you are. The voices do.
You go for walks in the middle of the night in your pajamas and slippers, winding up in New Westminster. You shatter a glass on the floor to cut out the eyes infesting your muscles. You do crazy things. You are a crazy person.
Healing isn’t found anywhere you might expect it, you begin to suspect you won’t find healing at all. You confess the secrets of your traumas at the prompting of kind and gentle voices, you sob in Mental Health Team bathrooms.
You go back and forth. You are a prophet. You hear the voice of God. It is the highest blessing. You are a visionary. You have seen God. It is the deepest curse. You are traumatized. You have cut off parts of yourself that manifest themselves as voices. It is a way of surviving. You are ill. You hallucinate. You need medication.
With every new theory it always seems clearer and clearer. It is biological, it is psychological, it is spiritual. You are always right, to the exclusion of every previous version of yourself, until you are wrong, and then you are perfectly right to the exclusion of that previous version, and on and on spins your mind and its theories.
You keep searching for answers, there are none. You identify strongly with the Book of Job. You live, you suffer tremendously, your friends tell you that you deserve it, you cry out to God, God shows up in a whirlwind only to say, I Am All Powerful And Cannot Be Questioned, you are granted relief. You miss the whirlwind, and so you start scratching your skin again in the hopes the sores will regrow so that you can summon God back to Earth. But God is not summoned, and there are no more visions and you walk the sidewalks at night with only the neon light of gas stations against sunsets and storm clouds to guide you home, and you are hardly a prophet these days, and something inside you is starting to heal.
You awaken one day, not from a nightmare but from a dream, a true rarity of experience. The voices are a still calm as the day begins, and you are grateful, you are bitter, you are whole.