The Third Sunrise: A Memoir of Madness
I am twenty-seven years old as I write these words. I was twelve-years old when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I spent nights in psychiatric concrete rooms; I wrapped the thin blanket around my body until I could breathe. Until my body stopped shaking. I lay on the bare concrete floor, wondering, always wondering, what my family was doing. Were they having dinner? Did they miss me? Did they understand I could not control my moods? My actions?
I was very sick for a very long time; in and out of the psychiatric hospital. I was given different medications. Some of them caused weight gain, others an inability to walk, and none of them worked well enough. Most of them did not work at all.
I struggled with anorexia and bulimia during this time, before the addiction took over my life. My thought process was simple: I could not control my mood, but I could control my body. I slowly disappeared. And then, age fifteen, I become well, as well as I could having lived the life I had lived. I found medication that worked. I made my way into college. I fell in love! I lived in a beautiful condominium with my beautiful partner. And then I remembered the little girl locked away. The little girl that was me.
Then came the addiction−The reaction to the realization. The sickness that was, perhaps, worse than bipolar disorder. As I write these words, framed pictures, my prized record collection, and a bookshelf full of my favorite literature surround me. I chose the color of paint that envelopes the room; a light green. The carpets, fresh and new looking, are a darker green. Sometimes, I light incense and I look around at my new home, my new life, and I sort of smile, sort of grimace.
It is all very strange. A few years ago I would not have appreciated little things like the curtains I have chosen, no, I would have hung sheets from the windows, dark blankets, so I could continue using cocaine while the rest of the world went to work. To school. To play!
I would have called the liquor store at exactly 9:00 a.m. when they opened−the phone in my hand ten minutes prior. Shaking. I would order two litres of cheap red wine and a bottle of tequila. I would pace while waiting for it. I would have called my drug dealer the night before and three times further as the night progressed. I would call again at 6 a.m. and...again and again and again. Until I had seizures and my body became inflamed with hives landing me in the emergency room. Again.
Carpets? Well, I hoped they were the softer sort so it hurt less when my legs gave way and I fell. My father tells me now: “Natalie, you had a weak pulse...I found you in the bathtub.” And I woke up in the hospital angry. I craved death and it kept escaping from my hands. I wanted, above all else, to escape from my past. I wrote of this experience in my memoir:
From The Third Sunrise
“Everything looks hazy when I scratch open my eyes. I am lying on a bed of some sort (wait...a stretcher?), and I have tubes in both arms in various places. Something is attached to my lower parts so I do not involuntarily piss myself; I have lost complete control of my kidneys. I realize, through the haze of what is the sickening yellow of the hospital, the blue of the sheet that separates me from other patients, that I am alive. I look to my right and see my father, his head is in his hands.
Dad! Daddy! I want to reach out to him, but I cannot talk nor move. The two nurses who stand beside me talk closely, in whispers. I watch as my father gets up from his small chair, I watch his face, dim and sad, sadder then I have ever seen it. I am sick, and he is sad. I almost died they tell him, but they will not tell me how close I got, lest I add just a few more pills next time around.
He will ask me later, “Are you proud of yourself, Natty?” and I will smile a sick and twisted smile and tell him, “No, I failed. I am alive.” I will mean these words. I am these words. He walks away from me, and I keep waiting for him to come back, but he does not.
Hours pass maybe, though I am not sure. As I slowly regain consciousness, I listen as the nurses talk about school and make private jokes that only they understand. Ha-ha! I muster the energy to turn on my side. I rip off whatever is stuck to my arms. I take out the IV, my hands shaking, my body not cooperating. They turn to me. Stop, we will do it. “Screw you!” I slur, and I continue my manual labor, even though my body will not cooperate. “Where is my dad? Where is my dad?”
They tell me he is coming back, but he does not. They tell me to keep still, and I tell them I want my pants back. I am nude under the sheet. Could they not have put me in hospital pants at the very least? They have attached things to my legs, and
I rip them off, angry in my confusion. I am alive. Why? They tell me they will put my pants on for me, and I tell them to go screw themselves because I will do it myself. After all, if I cannot even die properly, I can at least put on some goddamn pants. The nurses will not let me walk to the psychiatric ward and, truth be told, I cannot walk anyway. My body does not belong to me anymore; it is littered with handfuls of pills, and I am still alive. I am still alive! They drop me off, whispering to the nurse at her white station. She glances at me, and I smile for her, Polaroid perfect. This is, after all, one of my shining moments.
Three years sober, I am no longer the child in the concrete room, nor am I the woman abusing drugs with the blatant intent to die. I am a writer. I write about mental health and addiction. I wrote my memoir The Third Sunrise: A Memoir of Madness two years ago. And now I have books with my picture on them; books that detail the pain and shame and...Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice. Exposing my life within the chapters. All of the awful bits, but the good parts as well.
Three years later, having walked a scorching hot road that has slowly cooled, I have a simple life. A life possible only because I am sober and take care of myself. I have a beautiful puppy and the silly green walls I mentioned; I hang pictures on them and my hands do not shake from drug withdrawal anymore, no, they write and they paint and they cook! They are, in essence, recovered.
For better or for worse the book exists and, above all else, I hope it might help someone, anyone, as much as it has helped me to write it.
Buy The Third Sunrise Here:
Natalie Jeanne Champaign blogs for Mental Healthy: Mental Health Blog
You can learn more about The Third Sunrise: A Memoir of Madness at www.thethirdsunrise.com