This is about forgetting and remembering
We’re moving in a couple of weeks, and I cannot remember how to move. Like, how to pack things. Here’s what I remember: Do not overfill book boxes, or the movers will be upset and/or injured. That’s the one rule that has stayed with me, probably because I broke it so many times, according to Scott. Scott cares a lot about the people who move us. I mean, I do too! But I feel like, these are the same guys who’ll hoist a dresser over their heads like it’s nothing, what’s a few books? Sure, I can’t lift one of these boxes after I’ve filled them, but after this gym-free pandemic year I am as weak as a kitten.
Scott is so good at moving, it’s like he’s been rehearsing for this. He knows all the steps; he knows the sizes of boxes we need, he remembers how long it takes, how to protect our artwork. The moment the new lease was signed he leapt into action. Meanwhile I’m just standing in the middle of the room, puzzled. I completely excised this stuff from my brain after the last move, it seems. I considered it useless knowledge, and discarded it. Or maybe I’ve blocked it all because moving is the worst.
Some things I forget right away, other things will never leave me. Thirty years ago I accidentally banged my shopping cart into someone else’s and the woman shot me the filthiest look. (Filthy/angry, not filthy/sexy. If only!) I have yet to recover. Every dumb joke I’ve ever made that landed poorly? I can recall with upsetting clarity. But I couldn’t tell you offhand how much to tip the movers. (Thirty percent? A hundred? Just take all our money!)
I’ve been going through Henry’s old artwork and I can remember each and every item we’ve got, from when he was a toddler into his teens. I remember him creating each piece, I remember us exclaiming over it, and now I’m going to forever remember yesterday, when I held every scrap and half-finished booklet and school-assigned collage, and agonized over whether to keep it or throw it into recycling. (There are so many.) (I kept most of them.) But I can’t quite recall how the tape gun works.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder a few months ago, I remembered, weeks later, that I had been diagnosed as bipolar years before. Not just once, but twice. Twice! Ten years ago, and five years before that. The first time I disregarded it because the psychiatrist seemed so in love with her own abilities that I was sure she was seeing bipolar where there was none (“I’m just too charming!” I recall thinking) but the second time I definitely made a decision to simply forget about it, change doctors, and never mention it to anyone again. I tucked it away in this weird brain of mine, in the same place where I remember how to fold paper around wine glasses so that they don’t shatter.
A friend recently shared her own bipolar II diagnosis on Facebook, and the responses she received provided me with some clues as to why I might have buried my own diagnosis: people can be eye-wateringly stupid about it. Her friends were telling her that she wasn’t bipolar, that bipolar people are selfish and awful and un-self-aware, destructive drama queens. I’m not sure why it’s still cool to paint all people with bipolar symptoms with the same brush, or to disregard the fact that it’s a disorder with a spectrum of behaviors. But the stigma is still there, which is I guess why I feel compelled to tell you about it. So that if you’re in this place as well, you don’t feel so alone. And so that I don’t forget.