Once upon a time I did something Really Stupid. I was at a summer writing conference with a friend. I decided that I could swim across a lake with all my clothes on (including cargo shorts and sandals) without anyone knowing what I was doing. And the sun was setting. It seemed reasonable at the time. I came very close to drowning.
I wrote it off as a fluke. A bad reaction to a new medication I was taking for Depression (cetalopram). I wrote a short story about it, chalked it up to being the Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Done and forgot about it.
Until this week.
When I realized that there could be an alternate version of the story:
I was at a writers' conference with a friend of mine. I was supposed to meet my friend to work on an assignment, but I couldn't calm my mind enough to think properly1. I couldn't imagine trying to work on a joint project.
I was also filled with nameless creeping rage. I was angry about nothing in general. And everything. It was not a comfortable feeling. I was not used to being angry. My entire body was zizzing with rage2.
So I decided to go for a walk. Really I wanted to go for a run. Which was odd, because I NEVER wanted to go for a run3. I think I left a note. Maybe not.
My goal was to walk around the lake on campus. I had no idea how far it was, but I knew that my friend had gone for a run and said there was a nice path all around the lake4.
Unfortunately there were also biting flies. The flies were so thick that every time I clapped my hands, five flies fell dead to the ground. When they bit, they drew blood. I began to run.
When I reached an abandoned stone chapel halfway around the lake I went in and the flies did not follow (although there were no doors or windows to keep them out.) Whenever I thought of continuing around the lake or turning back on the path I could not bear the thought of braving the flies again.
Each time I left the chapel, the flies descended on me. Whether I continued on, or turned back they were waiting for me5?. I thought about swimming across the lake instead. I was a strong swimmer. There would be no flies. I had even told my friend earlier that I could totally swim across the lake. And there would be no flies.
But that would be stupid. Because I wasn't dressed for a swim, and no one knew I was down at the lake, and the sun was starting to set and I didn't know how far it was and I hadn't been training for a long lake swim, and besides there was no way to get down to the water's edge because it was a sheer drop...
So I decided to walk/run back the way I had come.
Only the flies were herding me in a different direction. Whenever I followed the path they would attack. When I went toward the lake they would leave me alone. They led me to a stone staircase leading down to the lake. I decided it was a sign5?.
I would swim across the lake6.
I was wearing cargo pants with giant pockets that filled with water as I waded into the lake. The water was warm. The flies were gone. I noticed that my sandals made it difficult for me to kick very well. And I didn't want my glasses to get lost, so I swam with my head out of the water.
I swam until I was half-way tired and figured I must be about halfway across the lake, but when I looked back to the shore I could see that I had made barely any progress. I decided to continue on7.
When I was actually in the middle of the lake I was so tired that I was no longer swimming horizontally. I was swimming vertically. My hands were slapping the surface of the water. I was breathing in loud, open-mouthed gasps. This, I thought to myself, is how strong swimmers drown.
I was a trained lifeguard. I never swam without supervision. I had watched many training videos on near-drownings. And what I was doing right now? The vertical swimming, slapping the water, gulping for air... physiological responses to immenent drowning.
I panicked. I swallowed water. I went under.
When I was underwater I could see a vision of a little girl floating in the water with the outline of an innertube around her. She had fallen through and was underwater. Her hair was floating around her and the sunlight sparkled through the water5. It calmed me for some reason.
I remembered that I could float.
I made my way SLOWLY back to shore. Floating on my back. Calming myself by pretending that my friend was watching for me from the shore. That he would not let me drown.
When I returned to shore I had no energy left. I don't know how I made it up the hill to my dorm. But I refused to go up the stairs to my own room and stayed on the extra bed in my friend's room. I don't even know if I told him what happened. I slept.
Why I didn't take my sandals or my shorts off? Especially after going under... I considered it at the time and rejected it. I really liked my sandals. They were expensive. And it would be too embarassing to walk back to the dorm in my underwear.
Here is a partial list of symptoms of Bipolar Mania from the Mayo Clinic:
Grateful Crap: surviving my own stupidity/possible manic episode
meds meds meds (150mg venlafaxine, 100mg lamotrigine, 450mg bupropion)
dark in my room
taking it easy
Quaker, teacher, parent,