It would not be entirely true to say that you did not see it coming. All your life you tell yourself, “I am not him.” You somehow believe that it will not happen if you’ve convinced yourself enough. But today is different; today, it is somebody else you must fool.
You enter the room with lights that give the walls a jaundiced glow. You pull the wooden chair back and take a seat without an invitation. The unease with which you had initially entered the room dissipates as a sense of familiarity washes over you. “I see that you’re back,” he says, the levity of the statement betrayed by his voice. Being here is a bad idea, you now think. “I’m not ready,” you reply. But you cannot will yourself to stand and leave. “But I need to understand, I need to change,” you continue.
This office reminds you of his office—the one you would always be in when you were a kid. Sitting across the table in the same place where your seat would have been in his office creates a sense of nostalgia. You remember that the last time you were there was before all of the problems started.
“What you are feeling is normal. The way you are acting is expected from a person with your condition.”
Going against your nature, you begin to learn, is like being an army without a David, or a David without a stone. The enemy is known, the towering monstrosity, what has to be done is clear, but how do you fight something that you are ill-equipped to go up against? Do you just hope for a miracle?
“It has a ninety-two percent inheritance rate.”
You grow restless in your seat. It has a certain ring to it, you think. Ninety-two percent. There is some beauty to be found in its apparent inevitability. It seems as though any efforts short of medication are pointless. You resign yourself to this fact and accept it without resistance. How can you do otherwise, knowing that ninety-two percent of your being is predisposed to succumb to the sickness and eight percent, that seemingly insignificant eight percent, is all you have to build on. What worth is there in knowing your enemy when that knowledge is accompanied by the daunting insuperability of your victory?
When your grandmother was on her deathbed, you often heard her being told to fight with her spirit, that the spirit is stronger than the body. Would that your spirit not be so bound to mortal mesh, that spirit be enough to overcome what the mind has yet to triumph over. It rarely ever is. You see, your similarities go far beyond the disorder that you share. You, unlike anyone else in the world, are the most like him.
“Just tell me what I have to do to not end up like him.”
“It is not that simple.”
You are taken back to the time your mother told you that it was always okay to be like him; that she had to go away for some time and that she’d be back for us. You saw what it could do, the effect that it had. You cannot come to terms with having his temper. Every she did was met with aggression and anger. “Don’t you love me? How can you tell me that you do and still treat me this way? In your eyes, all I see is hate.” Hearing, more than once, the same words that your mother used to say scared you the most.
“It is difficult,” you start to explain, “when certain parts of the problem are found to be appealing by so many people. The energetic, manic and lurid side of the coin is something that people enjoy and affirm. Those people, you see, only experience that from me. They are not there when the coin flips and shows its destructive face. That is reserved, as the world would have it, for those closest to me. That is the side that burns bridges. The irony does not end there, sadly. The very thing that pushes them away keeps them steady at the same time. Looking back, it seems as though his family did not leave him because they knew that he was the way that he was through no fault of his own. That was enough to make them stay. I do not want to have to put anyone in the same position.”
“As you know, awareness is the key to progress. That is the difference between you two. As difficult as it may be, you must always be aware of what you are doing, and, more importantly, what you are feeling. This is necessary at all times unless you opt to take medication.”
What is it that you value more, the freedom to think the way you do, as precarious as it is at times, or mental and emotional stability through drugs that suppress your nature? Most of who you are is influenced by your disorder. How you react to stimuli, how you overthink the tiniest things, the way you shut everything out when you are in pain. You give up your destructive qualities along with your creative traits in exchange for relationship security. You give something up to protect the ones whom you love, but give up the very things that made them love you in the first place.
As you sit there, you struggle to come to terms with what it means to “change.” Again, going against your nature is not an easy thing to do on your own. What do you do when letting yourself be is no longer an option?
“So what is it going to be?”
“I don’t’ really have a choice. They’re too important.”
“Well, then I guess you have your answer.”
You sit in silence for a couple of minutes, letting what you already knew before coming to this place truly sink-in. You cannot take the easy way out. A certain sadness and longing for what is to come settles over you. Will you succeed where he failed? You wonder if you are his second-chance.
“I am not like him.”
“We shall see.”
And it had to be you. You — who is considered to be the most like him; who knows what it feels like the most; who never gave up on him.
“I’ll give you some time to think. Just let me know when you are ready to leave.”
The silence of being alone in this room is different. It pressed up against you, surreptitiously whispering, “ninety-two percent, ninety-two percent.” You take deep breaths, and mentally recapitulate everything all that had transpired moments ago. It will not be easy to do it. Eight percent must be, needs to be, strong enough for everything else. “I am my own enemy,” you mutter to yourself. As if the simplicity of it should bring some comfort. But why is it that all it brings is an inescapable fear? What is it that scares you? What is it that precludes any efforts of improvement that you have made thus far? It is much easier to be who you are. He did not have the strength to want to change. Wanting to change is more difficult than being led to divorce those close to you, it would seem. As if your biological urges have no reins. It is different for you. You have seen what this sickness has done, and you have that which he never had. You were able to see what you will become if you let it happen. He was only afforded the luxury of knowing what he was and what he is. You know what you will become.
You take a look around. You promise yourself that this would be your last visit. Asking yourself if your choices are right. You walk to the heavy wooden door. Put your hand on the knob. And with a deep breath, you leave the room once and for all.
How is it that you feel more burdened than when you came in? Should the weight not have gotten lighter? Now that everything is clear, you can discern between a rock and a boulder. What was vague, what you tried to escape, is now clearly in your thoughts.
You realize that ninety-two is just a number and that a disorder is just a name; that your body does not bind you to who you should be.
You are your father’s son, and that is something you cannot escape—but something you must reconcile. Although he let his sickness get the better of him, you are prepared to not let the same thing happen to you. You are stronger than he is because of this, for you are not doing this for yourself alone. It is for those who witness the coin being flipped, once, twice, even thrice in a single day. For those people who would hold-on to the coin, keeping it steady. This is for your mother, your sister, and your brothers. You will be strong; you will not allow them to go through everything again. And finally, it is for your father. You believe that there must be a reason as to why you were given the same illness, and in such full force. You believe that you can, somewhat, redeem him by enduring and changing what he could not. Maybe, by going through everything that he did, you can learn to finally forgive him.
On the journey home, you ponder if history is really bound to repeat itself. But this time you will be prepared when it does because things will be different. You know who you are, and what you need to do.
I am who he is, but I am even more.