The Submarine Hatch

Damn, have I been depressed.

The preamble:

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, a doctor once told me to call it, is an energetic roller coaster of emotional nonsense that lives in my head. And though I’ve been very public about it (Sedona, Manic Depression, Moms in Boxes), I still have a sense of weirdness about it all. A couple weeks ago, after a real bad low (which I’ll describe here shortly), I said to my friends, “I hate this stupid mental illness. It’s embarrassing. Nobody ever has to go on an apology tour after a diabetic flare-up.”

I wish I had written something between the last post and now, something lighthearted and inspirational to break up the weight and breadth of these deep dark dives; but perhaps posting these pieces on top of each other is the perfect scenario. Perhaps the continuation of the last story is a much truer tale than what you’ve seen on social media, and maybe that’s a necessary exposure.

Here’s the truth: depression is ugly and sad, and it’s exhausting not only for the person experiencing it (me) but also for the people who love and support me, whose literal task it sometimes is to keep me actually alive. And to YOU, I am sorry. I’m sorry I’m like this. I’ve said it a thousand times and I won’t stop because I know I ask way, way too much of you. I’m sorry you’re the heart I wear outside my body so that when the one in here breaks . . . lifeblood still flows.

And by, “I’m sorry,” I actually mean “thank you.”

Thank you for being on the journey with me. Thank you for reading these many, many words. Thank you for being a ripple and a reflection, a purpose and inspiration, for being witness, friend, teacher.

The next … however long I write … is going to be a triggering, dark, deep and honest dive into where my brain and heart have been these last several months. I will discuss suicidal ideation, which is a primary symptom I experience, in detail.

I share this because I think it’s important to show the way out of the dark.

Triggering an Avalanche:

It began in Arizona, when I learned some heavy truths about the shady, painful circumstances surrounding my birth and estranged biological family. My brain decided I was worthless and should jump off a cliff in Sedona.

My established practice, and my muscle memory, spirit, heart – my absolute humanity – decided I should hike it out. Or at least hike into the spot, if the moment came.

The hike, the sky, my spirit … all of it renewed my hope and revealed deeper truths about the purpose of my life. I chose myself, I chose to live, and I chose bliss.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but now that nine months have passed I can see clearly it was the beginning.

Without going into too much detail, these are the order of events that culminated in a total emotional breakdown and ego death:

I went through a grueling and exhausting legal review in an attempt to adopt two of my nieces, which was an unearthing of deeply held poverty mentality and early childhood wounding.

In March, quite suddenly and without cause, my career took a turn. I was ousted by my Board President more or less overnight, and suddenly had to face a major crossroads in an area I had felt very safe, secure, and stable. I loved my job. And I needed it.

(Thanks to the support and encouragement of my people, I did decide to pivot and entrepreneur my way to an even better, even bigger career, though! I founded Magical Yoga Org one month after I was “eliminated.”)

Then the house of cards really began to fall.

My dear cousin/sister’s life fell apart and she came to stay with me. We unearthed trauma we had never touched before, and it took us both for an emotional nose-dive.

Meanwhile, one of the nieces I was trying to adopt ran away to live in hiding with drug dealers. The State not only failed to follow their own policy, contributing to her ultimate evasion, but also scapegoated me, personally. I embarked upon a fruitless and very public wild goose chase that resulted in total exhaustion and depression for me . . . and no fifteen year old to be found.

Then, the State removed me from the case entirely, so I lost not one but two nieces-would-be-daughters. They cited instability both emotionally and financially, on the heels of the job loss and missing teenager.

(Somehow, during all of this, I managed to write a request for and receive startup grant funding for Magical Yoga Org, though the actual check came months later than expected.)

So, my financial situation digressed to the point that I came “out of retirement” to pick up bar shifts at my friend’s late-night establishment; the hours and environment were exhausting and further contributed to my mental decline. It was a welcome break from my own weekend bar habit, though, and did help me save money and drink less, over all.

During all of this, my biological father’s sister (so my aunt), reached out about a property that was in probate in Georgia, of which I was owed some part. She and I developed a relationship and she flew me out to Virginia to meet her and my uncle. It a life-changing for the better moment. Amazing experience. I was so inspired by them, and by the potential snapshot of what my life could look like in 10, 20, 30 years . . . I came home full of new ideas and a desire to start my life over.

When I returned home, I experienced another personal heartbreak. It’s deep and it’s not at all healed and I don’t know how to fully write it. But it was the final weight of this revelation and pain that brought me to my knees.

The Fall:

I am a particularly romantic person. This bleeds all over my life, drips like nectar from the words I speak, pulls people to me like a magnet, manifests in fire and the sway of my hips. It’s passion, and it is wild and free and magnificent . . . but it is also deeply reverent, a profound and solid belief in destined, lasting partnership.

And at the same time, I am a particularly lonely person. I exist with very little close family, and zero family members I didn’t make in my own uterus, within hundreds of miles of my home. The things I love to do are often done alone, in the mountains or my own sanctuary. My friends are the best, most supportive and wonderful people I could ever dream of – I called them to me through a thousand lifetimes and together we stand strong, beautiful, proud, compassionate … this is my chosen family and I’m grateful to have them. But the truth is they’re busy, too, and have actual families of their own to care for and spend time with. I eat dinner alone most of the time.

So you can see I’ve set myself up for dichotomy already. Perhaps this is a bipolar thing to do. Perhaps it’s more of a reflection of an inner state type of thing. In any case, it’s extra lonely thanks to the contrast of the VERY LOUD desires and beliefs in my heart.

When I told him I still loved him, he didn’t believe me. He was rehearsed, distant, cold. A stranger. And when I compared myself to the girl he does love, I was awash with disgust like bile, jealousy and fury rising from within like poison.

I wish I didn’t break so easily. But the whiplash of discovering my own hidden inner feelings and then the pain of a door slamming on them in the next instant was debilitating.

To process and adjust to a new life I didn’t ask for, to watch it unfold like a psychopath on social media because gods-know it’s an insidious thing to “spy” and see your nightmares played out in reel-time, to be immersed in a sickening nightmare reality I didn’t even sense on the horizon … this felt like a faith crisis.

I felt my soul crumble inside of me.

Unlike the day in Arizona, nothing called to me, “come outside and climb. Think it through. Feel your feelings.”

There was only deafening silence interrupted by hours of tears and listless, restless, blurry-eyed sleep.

I wrote things like “I should move away and become a heroin addict,” to my closest friends. I obsessed about ways to die even as I forced myself through the daily motions of life. This is what “Suicidal Ideation” means, by the way. It means being FLOODED with THOUGHTS of killing yourself, very specifically, nearly constantly.

Here’s what I mean. I went for a bike ride on a beautiful day, rode six miles in and sat by a tree to meditate. I looked at that tree and tried to guess how high it was. Not high enough to kill me by falling out of it, but definitely high enough to hang from. Do I know how to tie a noose? I bet the internet does. How far to the hardware store for rope? Would I just loop it over my shoulder to ride back here with it? How do I get up there to tie it off . . . a ladder? Well NOW how am I supposed to get a ladder all the way in here? And then even if I do, I can’t have just anyone finding the body. That would be traumatizing. Do I call the cops right before I jump (or kick the ladder or whatever I do . . . is the bike tall enough? *checks* No …), do I say, “I found a body,” then just hang up? What a pretty, sparkly day. The water sure is gorgeous here. It’s a good place to die. But not today, it’s too inconvenient.

Snap photo. Get on bike. Ride home.

And this continued to digress, to get worse and worse until I could not go even a few minutes without imagining my own death. Unfortunately, this symptom isn’t well-received by folks who love me when I tell them. They don’t like it. They freak out. So I was planning on keeping this largely to myself.

But Drunk Brittany had a different idea. The first night my son wasn’t home after a very long and emotionally-torturous couple of weeks, I had an innocent and sweet dinner with my best friend and her kids. They went home; I went to the bar. And proceeded to pour myself about half a bottle of tequilla.

Not only was I belligerently drunk (and scantily clad), I was also loudly sharing my suicidal ideations.

Mental illness is embarrassing.

That night, I begged my good friend who drove me home to kill me. I asked him to shoot me, to throw me off a roof, to run me over with several choices of vehicles, and goodness knows what else because this man loves me and didn’t go into gory embarrassing detail with me about it afterward. But he did wake up my best friend, his wife, and tell her about it in the middle of the night with actual tears in his eyes.

So the next morning when I texted the besties (again, I’m so blessed, honestly) that I drank too much and didn’t remember anything, therefore I am an utter failure who deserves to die an immediate death . . . they already had a plan.

They came to me. Jen got here first and crawled into bed with me, held me and we cried together. She said she didn’t want me to die. When Emily arrived, Dawn (and Kyra, apparently) were also on the phone and the three of them tried to convince me to go on a trip. One “trip” idea was the mental hospital or the emergency room.

At one point, I asked them to please not call him. I remembered a time earlier in our history when he was suffering in his own head, and he called me. Of course, I went to him then and always, and just sat with him and did what I could. I didn’t want to “use this” as some kind of “game” to “get what I wanted.” I was embarrassed and horrified, triggered and self-loathing. It felt like I was manipulating everyone . . . even though I didn’t actually call anyone or ask for anything, I felt like a toxic drama queen.

Turns out, they already had called him. And he essentially said, “Not my problem.”

Which was a rather earth-shattering bit of information to receive. Later, he did offer to “help,” but it was more of a … self-preservation thing than a compassion thing.

So I had to suddenly deal with this simultaneous crumbling of my own strengths and defenses – right? I have a practice for this. I work HARD to prevent this from happening. I have lists, protocols, devotion, spirit guides, nutrition, a gratitude practice, redirection techniques, exercise, a child, friends, work I am passionate about – yet I had failed myself. I was in paralysis, unable to “do” any of those “things.”

And! I felt the final vestiges of familial support I falsely relied upon wash away in the flood of my undoing. I was, officially and finally, “Not anyone’s problem.”

So things got real dark. I didn’t know what to do, but I did recognize the irony of my situation, especially on the heels of the actual launch of a national suicide prevention nonprofit.

It’s like, earlier, more-healed, psychic Brittany saw this coming and built a surefire trap for future, crazy-eyed, broken-hearted Brittany ensuring I’d survive and go on to tell the tale.

So I put one foot in front of the other. I did a minimum of one work thing, one health thing, one yoga thing, and one social thing every single day. It all tasted like ashes. I cried at the beach. A lot.

Everyone thought the stimuli would fade. The triggers would lose their punch and the hard edges would fade into a gradual life adjustment. I would find my stride and my passion again, and it would all be okay. Maybe I didn’t even feel “the way I think I feel right now,” they said.

A long time, the symptoms continued. They asked, “What is your PLAN? What will you DO if these thoughts keep happening?” and I said, honestly but also laughingly, “Step one: stop telling you guys I’m obsessing about death. Step two: make it better.” It didn’t get better, and they didn’t stop with Suicide Watch.

If anyone is reading this wondering what to do if YOUR loved one falls into a dark cave … do what these women did. Show up, physically, even and especially when you’re not invited. Lay down and cry. Let your friend stare ashenly and gray-lipped as you all try to act normal for weeks at a time – but MAKE THEM COME. Or go to them.

Tell them there’s help. Doctors, medicine, hospitals, yoga, mountains, nature. Offer to make the phone calls, have a list of shit you’re actually ready and going to do if things don’t change. Watch your friend every day for signs of withdrawal and hopelessness, and just BE WITH them through it. Remind them “it can’t rain forever,” and “this is temporary. Soon, you’ll have all new problems!” and “the tigers in your head aren’t real,” and “I love you,” and “I love you,” and, “you’re not alone.”

Stick it out. It doesn’t always look like tears; sometimes it looks like laughter. Or silence. Or drinking an entire bottle of tequilla. Give them time, give them love, reach out for support for yourself on the other side, and just keep offering them water . . . eventually, they will drink.

The Submarine:

One bestie, an elder bestie, mused that I needed a mental reset. She could see the gray had taken over. She asked if I’d ever consider trying mushrooms in a safe, controlled, intentional environment. As I drove away from her house, another friend called and blurted out that they had been struggling mentally, too, but wanted to try these mushrooms they’d been given. They had enough for two of us.

I took the medicine.

While it was a euphoric “trip” for my magical-mystery-tour buddy, it was an emotional one for me. I cried a lot and spent significant time in a quickly-rushing stream packed full of fish. The fish were swept along, all of them, no matter how they fought or didn’t. None of this mattered; nothing mattered except that each fish had a little moment of life, a moment of connection, a story to tell. Nothing mattered and every single story mattered and in the end all the fish die. I tried to escape through a hatch, because now it’s a submarine that is somehow also sinking. The hatch was a blue/red glowing circle with words that simply said, “This is fine, too.”

Then I laughed and cried and tried to explain, which made us both laugh a lot.

In the end, I woke up feeling relieved.

Just relieved.

The stimuli hasn’t faded; I am still very “upset.” My heart is broken, my pain and jealousy are almost at the surface . . . but these are now manageable human conditions. I can feel myself rearranging around the hole in my chest, readjusting to a new reality full of changes I don’t like and I didn’t order.

I can sense a way forward.

This was immediate. It was like a powerful dose of medicine. I can’t stress enough that I did not awake happy; I awoke with a sense of relief as though the symptoms of inescapable, deadly depression had been lifted. I awoke with the capacity to claw my way out of the cave.

I think suicide watch ended then. We’ll have to ask the besties.

The Slow & Steady Climb:

My aunt from Virginia then visited for a week, two days after the Spirit Medicine came to me. She and I are estranged, remember, and forming the foundations of our lifelong relationship. She’s having a massive spiritual awakening, coming into her own as a witch, and exploring a brand new life of her own after sixty years.

It was a lovely trip full of adventure, oceans, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and besties, oh! my!

When she left, so did the distraction. Would I be okay? How do I make it out of this cave, again?

And then I remembered another gift, another Medicine. A local healer offered a couple weeks ago to gift me a session.

I just returned from shamanic reiki and crystal bowls . . . and the overarching, repeated, assured and delivered message from Spirit to me, through this man, and his Medicine, was:

“You are loved. You are so, so supported. There is structure and support all around you, seen and unseen, and so much compassionate love. You need to know this.”

There was a gaping hole inside my chest. It was black and impenetrable, and it siphoned away my joy with every forced breath. Today, the music, the light, the Medicine and the clear, wide-open path ahead … touched that spot. It briefly filled with light; all chakras and energy came into glorious, bright-white alignment. I received downloads and messages, dreams and a friend. I saw a door I will soon pass through.

And my faith was restored. I didn’t plan for any of this. I’ve made a lot of mistakes; most of the time, nowadays, thanks to my foolhardy stubbornness and insistence on constant divination. Or, in other words, I’ve become a know-it-all stubbornly devoted to my own idealistic worldview, to such a degree that my own romanticism nearly killed me.

Yet, the structures of light and love that I have been calling into my life, cultivating and caring for, devoting myself to … for all this time … rose up to support me. To love me. To catch me when I fell.

Today, the Healer said, “You need to know this about these ‘highs and lows,’ you have. Know that you are in a new place now. Your lows are so much higher – they are your old highs.”

And he’s right. I remember what the low used to feel like, almost . . . and it was ugly. More embarrassing than a black mini-dress and too many shots at the local bar, definitely. And longer-lived.

How do I make it out of this, entirely? I’m not sure. I think I know. And I’m going to do all those things and document the heck out of it so WHEN they work, I can remind everyone else how to get out of the cave, too.

For now, I move slow and steady. I do the things I love to do, I speak my truth to those with hearts to hear it, I choose myself and my son, and I put one foot in front of the other. I follow the light when it shines and I let gentle momentum carry me along when I can’t see it . . . all the fish end up in the same place, you know.

It’s their story that matters.

This is mine.

And it’s fine, too.

2 Comments on “The Submarine Hatch

  1. You and I walk a similar path. I am in awe of your eloquent and concise description of the ever-changing face of bipolar disorder. I love you and thank you for putting pen to paper and expressing what we often attempt to conceal. You young lady are a shining light in a dark world. I love and respect you Brittany.


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