My father called my boss at Capital One and told him I would be back to work within the month. By the end of March, I was back living in my apartment in Richmond with my boyfriend and going to work. My boss, Pat Jernigan, was remarkably understanding and accommodating. Looking back I would classify him as the patron saint of managing employees with disabilities. The folks at Capital One really seemed to want me to get back to normal. I was surprised that they were so willing to help me.
One of my perpetual mistakes with my illness is that I underestimate it. I always think I’ve been through the worst. No, I think that I’ve BEATEN the worst, and that only happy days lie ahead. It took me many years to realize that my illness is as organic as my body. As I combat it and learn to contain it, it grows stronger and finds alternate ways to chip away at me. It lives, and it wants to live on. It will destroy me if that means it can thrive. The illness will not be suffocated as long as I am breathing.
What I am trying to say is that in April 2000, I jumped back into my life full-throttle, unaware of the chronic, lifelong grip Bipolar has on its victims. I pretended nothing had happened, and I did not give my brain time to recover fully.
In April I took a trip to Reno with my boyfriend for four days. For some reason, maybe a very good one, traveling between multiple time zones is difficult for those with my insomnia issues. For those who have trouble “stopping the clock,” messing with the clock can prove pretty detrimental. It’s one reason spring and fall can be tough times for me, because of the daylight savings time change.
Anyway, here I was with fresh open brain injuries that no one could see but that were present nonetheless. I was not giving my brain the peace and quiet it needed to repair itself. My mom tried to talk me down from going to Reno, but I had to prove how healthy I was, or thought I was.
Within the first twenty-four hours in Reno, I knew I was in too deep. I started to feel electric again, and could not sleep. I remember crying to Andy that I was sick again and would never get better. He assured me that I would get better, and I lamented unfairly that no one would ever love someone as sick as me. He said quietly, “I love you.” I thought cruelly, “Not you, the real guy.” Even in my manic state, I knew we were not in this relationship for the long haul. Although Andy did well handling the crisis in February, I don’t think he had the stuff to partner with a Bipolar for a lifetime. While I had doubts someone of quality would want to marry someone with a mental illness, I need not have doubted. I would find my prince in due time.
From Reno I called my mom and spoke with my therapist too and said I had to get back to Virginia, and quick. They booked me an early flight and I stumbled frightened through airports in Reno and Chicago and DC. I told the flight attendants I was sick and was going home to meet my parents and they took good care of me. When I was in Chicago, I bought my parents a colorful coffee mug. In that action, I knew that buried under the bitch that was mental illness lived a loving, thoughtful Hilary.
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