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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
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    Bipolar Fantasies of Disappearance: Why I Always Return

    My Bipolar Fantasies of Disappearance, And Why I Always Return
    by Carin Meyer, bpHope
    November 10, 2017

    Disappearance is easy in Alaska, but after decades of wanting to escape into the wilderness, I know now why I always come home.

    He simply got up and walked into the wilderness. His name was Justin and he was teenager living with a mental health condition, an affliction that affects so many of us, so he walked into the Chugach Mountains, the vast front range that towers over Anchorage, Alaska. He was never seen again. I was 13, with my own budding manias and depressions, and thus began my first fantasies of disappearance.

    A few years later, during a family crisis, I too walked into the Chugach wilderness with no intention of returning. I packed a backpack with the things I did not need?a few poetry books, a journal, and a pen. As I hiked to the end of a well-worn trail, I turned into the woods and walked, my fingers touching the pink petals of the fireweed along my path. Like the fireweed, my eyes were also pink and wild, and the sensation of the flowers tickling my hands was the only feeling I could understand. In that peculiar confusion that only comes with one of my bipolar episodes, I hiked deeper and deeper into the woods, until I sat down a few hours later on the forest?s soggy floor, wet and exhausted from my own effort to go missing.

    One day ? several years after I returned from that attempted escape ? a middle-aged woman opened the door to her car while waiting in a construction zone on the Seward Highway, and walked into a forest on Alaska?s Kenai Peninsula. After a massive search, she walked back out to the highway a couple of weeks later, starving and confused, but alive. I was 20, young and suffering from that same affliction, and I too?again?wondered if I could just walk away. In my mind, it was an alternative to a sudden death, and felt, somehow, like it would end the pain without the startling and dramatic devastation of a suicide.

    I have bipolar disorder, type 1, and was diagnosed when I was 21 years old, nearly two decades ago. During my life, I have tried to escape multiple times. At one point, I tried to run away, barefoot, along a muddy river in Alaska?s Arctic. But every time I tried to ?walk into the wilderness,? I turned around several hours later, when the frenetic energy of my episode subsided into resignation and the overwhelming desire to live and return to the people that I love.

    Sometimes, escape meant driving towards my family?s cabin, in the interior of central Alaska, only to turn around before I even reached Glennallen, a halfway point along the eight-hour drive. At other times, it simply meant driving to the end of the road, where civilization ended and wilderness began. I would stare into the darkness of the trees, my hand on the door handle, trying to make the ultimate decision: to get up and just walk away or to stay and just ride it out. For me, escape was much more than just a slow way to die. It was a path to withdrawal, to isolation from the relationships and external stimuli that often overwhelmed me.

    In other ways, it was a test that gave me?in the midst of an uncontrollable bipolar episode?some semblance of a choice over my own life or death.

    Would I survive? Would I rely on my outdoorsy upbringing, or on the wild plants my mother taught me about as a child? Or, more likely, would I return in just a few hours, stabilized by my sad adventure? Or would I try to waste away slowly, chewing on the shriveled remains of last year?s cranberries and drinking from half-frozen mountain streams?

    Like most Alaskans, I have always known that open places are close by?places where I could get lost if I wanted to, places that are nearly untouched, places safe from humans. I hold on to these places in my heart, and somehow, nature soothes me, softens the pain, and distracts me from the wildness in my own brain. Despite the grizzly bears, the moose, and the threat of exposure and starvation, I am reassured by just the act of walking through the tall grass and wildflowers. It reminds me that I am sometimes safer there than in my house, alone with my own thoughts.

    ?Your mind has been hijacked,? my therapist says when the bipolar takes over. ?Ground yourself in reality by using your senses. What do you see? What can you smell? Tell me about something you hear.?

    In the wild, my brain naturally goes into survival mode, as I watch the trail in front of me, as I dodge tree roots and rocks, as I listen for noises in the brush. This carries me from the chaos of my own emotional wilderness to the very real world of my surroundings, where I eventually resign myself to the world of the living. Slowly, the fantasy of disappearance leaves me. Although the initial desire to disappear seems akin to the desire to die, the very effort of walking, my hands touching the plants around me, makes me want to live. And, so, I always turn around.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    British Columbia
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    Re: Bipolar Fantasies of Disappearance: Why I Always Return

    Makes me cry....



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