There are times when you feel like the best in the business, and other times when you're certain that you're a complete and total hack and should start looking for an office job. But in the end, the ups and downs even out. So why was everything in such upheaval for me? It had been weeks since I felt comfortable in my own journalist skin, and that frightened me.
"You don't have to do that," I insisted, my voice mellowing as I returned, almost instantly, to my old self. Manic episodes can fade away as quickly as they arise. "I don't want her to worry."
Even during this time when I hardly recognize myself, there are still shadows of the real Susannah, a person who cares what her family and friends think, who doesn't want to cause them pain.
Though my behavior was worsening day by day, it was still difficult for her to reconcile the old image that she had of her daughter as trustworthy, hard working, and independent with the new, unpredictable, and dangerous one.
"Her EEG was completely normal," Bailey protested, looking through my file. "MRI normal, exam normal, blood work normal. It's all normal."
"Well, she's not normal," my mom snapped as I sat there, quiet and polite with my hands folded in my lap. She and Allen had made a pact that they would not leave Dr. Bailey's office without getting me admitted to a hospital.
Unlike before, there are now no glimmers of the reliable "I," the Susannah I had been for the previous twenty-four years. Though I had been gradually losing more and more of myself over the past few weeks, the break between my consciousness and my physical body was now finally fully complete. In essence, I was gone.
Though it had been eight years since their divorce, it was still hard for them to be in the same room with each other, and this shared journal allowed them to maintain common ground in the shared fight for my life.
Morrison wrote down "tenacious in her attempts." I seemed to realize I wasn't getting it right, which frustrated me deeply. It was clear that, for all my other impairments, I knew that I was not functioning at the level I was used to.
The raw panic makes me uncomfortable, but the thing that truly unsettles me is the realization that emotions I once felt so profoundly, so viscerally, have now completely vanished. This petrified person is as foreign to me as a stranger, and it's impossible for me to imagine what it must have been like to be her. Without this electronic evidence, I could never have imagined myself capable of such madness and misery.
I had asked him many times why he stayed, and he always said the same thing: "Because I love you, and I wanted to, and I knew you were in there." No matter how damaged I had been, he had loved me enough to still see me somewhere inside.
In many ways, during that recovery period at my mother's home, I associated the pills—and the fights they engendered—with her. In a practical sense, I needed her to portion out the pills because it was far too complicated a task for me at the time. In a more emotional sense, though, I began to feel that she, like the pills, embodied my contemptible dependence.
Perhaps because the diary provides physical evidence of my budding self...I can in essence begin to remember what it was like to be her, unlike the earlier Susannah from those paranoid diary entries before the hospital, who was more like a figment of a shadowy memory, so distant that she might have been a character in a horror movie.
We didn't mean to exclude others. My dad and I had gone off to war, fought in the trenches, and against all odds had come out of it alive and intact. There are few other experiences that can bring two people closer together than staring death in the face.
It was one thing to live at my parents' house for a few months, knowing that I had my own place just a train ride away. Now my only home was with my mom; it was like a complete return to childhood.
When I worried about being fat forever...I was actually worried about who I was going to be: Will I be as slow, dour, unfunny, and stupid as I now felt for the rest of my life? Will I ever again regain that spark that defines who I am?
Buoyed by this new ability to explain, I began to research the disease in earnest and became obsessed with understanding how our bodies are capable of such underhanded betrayal. I found, to my frustration, that there's more we don't know about the disease than we do know.
"He's talking about my brain," I whispered, although I didn't understand then what these slides portrayed. All I knew was that a very intimate part of myself was on display in front of a hundred strangers. How many people can say that they've allowed others to literally see inside their heads?
What I was almost immediately drawn to is perhaps the biggest mystery: How many people throughout history suffered from my disease and others like it but went untreated?
Evil. To the untrained eye, anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis can certainly appear malevolent. Afflicted sons and daughters suddenly become possessed, demonic, like creatures out of our most appalling nightmares.
But this is all the more reason that psychiatrists and neurologists are finding ways to break down the barriers set in place between psychology and neurology, urging for one uniform look at mental illness as the neurochemical diseases that they are...
While he may be an excellent doctor in many respects, Dr. Bailey is also, in some ways, a perfect example of what is wrong with medicine. I was just a number to him... He is a by-product of a defective system that forces neurologists to spend five minutes with X number of patients a day to maintain their bottom line. It's a bad system.
The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability.
The friends and relatives I interviewed would never have used the term skittish to describe me, but every now and then, when I'm on the subway and the colors seem brighter than normal, I think, Is it the lighting, or am I going crazy again?
Psychology professor Dr. Henry Roedigger calls what happened with the FLIGHT RISK band a form of social contagion: if one person remembers incorrectly and shares this with others, it can spread...
Did I harbor this false memory? Was I the one who spread it? I am sure I remember vividly seeing the words FLIGHT RISK on my arm. Or am I?