Dante Alighieri wrote an epic poem called Divine Comedy. The first part of it is probably most well known, and that is Inferno. The short version is:
Dante ends up lost in a wood, and despairs that he cannot find the way to salvation. Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a “deep place” (basso loco) where the sun is silent (l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by the Roman poet Virgil, and they begin their journey through Hell.
The inscription on the gates of hell is “Abandon Hope, all Ye Who Enter Here”.
Dante and his guide Virgil travel through all of the circles of Hell, each set aside for a particular sin, and each sinner being punished and tortured in a specific way.
At the centre of Hell, Satan is imprisoned in ice, weeping and trying to escape, but his escape attempts trap him further. Dante and Virgil escape through the centre of Hell by climbing down Satan’s fur and pushing through to the other side of the earth. Dante feels the change in gravity and is afraid they are going back to hell, but they emerge on the other side just as the dawn is coming.
I’ve documented my manic episode. Now, this is my inferno. Now it’s my turn to journey through hell. At the beginning of the week I could tell I was “falling into a deep place where the sun was silent”. Imagine that. Imagine a hole so deep you couldn’t see the sun. How trapped would you feel? How claustrophobic? How long could you hold on to hope?
And since then, I’ve been descending through hell. At first, my concentration started going bad. Well, it never really recovered from the manic episode. Then, my motivation started lagging. It started to feel extremely difficult to just get out of bed, to go to class. Unless you’ve felt bipolar depression, you will not understand how futile it feels when someone tells you to just go to class, when you know that you have very precious little energy and if you expend it on class, what’s going to keep the dark thoughts at bay during the night when you’re not in class?
I am constantly tired. I have trouble sleeping at night, I keep waking up, I stare at the wall. Because of this, I spend a lot of time during the day in bed, staring at the wall, or the ceiling.
My thoughts are slower, it takes me longer to think of the words I mean. It makes me feel dumb. I don’t understand things, no matter how many times you explain them.
There is a pervasive sense of agony. You know those old commercials, “depression hurts”? YES IT DOES. My body shakes and my throat clenches and I can’t eat and my chest aches and I can’t breathe and I can’t cry.
And I constantly, constantly, just want to lay down and give up.
No, not “call the ambulance” give up. I’m committed to something on Sunday which is enough to pull me through. I see my doctor on Monday and she will likely hospitalize me then. I will lay down, give up, let the professionals take over, and get through this.
It will end.
It will end.
I feel like it won’t, but
It will end.
And thank you to my guide “Virgil”.