I have bipolar II disorder. It is a total nightmare. Also, it is difficult to explain what it feels like exactly. I reckon the way I always thought about it, in a simplistic sort way, is that I have a foot in two parallel realities. Probably everyone does to some extent, though what do I know? I ain’t other people. At any rate, it is nauseating to not know which reality to belong to when you are experiencing them simultaneously. In one of them you are alone. Which one does everyone else live inside of? Often it is difficult to know for sure.
It is a rough hand to be dealt, and often it steers me into making catastrophically bad decisions about uh “finances” and “”romances””, and so on . . . the negative impacts of which I don’t realize until later. And when I do, it always feels like waking up from a bad dream. I cannot connect myself to my previous actions, though I am still responsible for them of course. A lesson is learned, but the damage is irreversible.
Sometimes, when the trip gets real heavy, which occurs every few years like a dark tide rolling over my soul, I become paranoid that everyone I know hates me and I start to question my own memories and perception of reality. It is a bad beat, no doubt . . . and incurable too! Oh well.
Anyway: A SCANNER DARKLY is one of my favorite novels, and there many passages that come close to articulating this godforsaken ailment that several of my friends and I suffer from. Here is one of them:
Back at Room 203, the police psychology testing lab, Fred listened without interest as his test results were explained to him by both the psychologists.
“You show what we regard more as a competition phenomenon than impairment. Sit down.”
“Okay,” Fred said stoically, sitting down.
“Competition,” the other psychologist said, “between the left and right hemispheres of your brain. It’s not so much a single signal, defective or contaminated; it’s more like two signals that interfere with each other by carrying conflicting information.”
“Normally,” the other psychologist explained, “a person uses the left hemisphere. The self-system or ego, or consciousness, is located there. It is dominant, because it’s in the left hemisphere always that the speech center is located; more precisely, bilateralization involves a verbal ability on valency in the left, with spatial abilities in the right. The left can be compared to a digital computer; the right to an analogic. So bilateral function is not mere duplication; both percept systems monitor and process incoming data differently. But for you, neither hemisphere is dominant and they do not act in a compensatory fashion, each to the other. One tells you one thing, the other another.”
“It’s as if you have two fuel gauges on your car,” the other man said, “and one says your tank is full and the other registers empty. They can’t both be right. They conflict. But it’s–in your case–not one functioning and one malfunctioning; it’s . . . Here’s what I mean. Both gauges study exactly the same amount of fuel: the same fuel, the same tank. Actually they test the same thing. You as the driven have only an indirect relationship to the fuel tank, via the gauge on, in your case, gauges. In fact, the tank could fall off entirely and you wouldn’t know until some dashboard indicator told you or finally the engine stopped. There should never be two gauges reporting conflicting information, because as soon as that happens you have no knowledge of the condition being reported on at all. This is not the same as a gauge and a backup gauge, where the backup one cuts in when the regular one fouls up.”
Fred said, “So what does this mean?”
“I’m sure you know already,” the psychologist to the left said. “You’ve been experiencing it, without knowing why on what it is.”
“The two hemispheres of my brain are competing?” Fred said.