It starts in the fall of 2016. Up until this point I had had some issues with anxiety/depression, and huge issues with sleep, but nothing that I would have considered to be an emergency. All of the sudden it seemed like accomplishments were becoming less frequent. Before this, when I was happy, each thought that came about in regards to an obligation was accompanied by a bit of energy that could be used to do it. That energy stopped showing up and the list of things that needed to be done began to grow as the likelihood of those tasks being completed began to shrink. I think of it like a car. Before these issues, when the car was required to drive a certain distance, gas would simply appear in the tank. Now, those same distances were required, but the gas no longer appeared. In this metaphor, the gas is provided by the subconscious, or just “the sub” as I like to call it. When you’re hungry, the sub gives you a bit of gas to go to the kitchen or order something. When you’re hungry but depressed, that gas never arrives. What then? Can you create your own? I’ve come to think of consciously-generated fuel as will power, and I didn’t really seem to have any at that time. The truth of the matter is that the sub was getting sick and, as a result, I started slowly dissolving into a pathetic mess. After sleep and motivation were gone, the disease began to target my self-worth. By the disease, I mean the bipolar disorder that at the time I was unaware of but would soon be diagnosed. The pattern of life I was developing mostly consisted of doing nothing or crying. At this point my life sill wasn’t necessarily all that bad, because I would only spend a few hours per day in a truly horrible place and would otherwise just be numb and fragile. This would be changing soon but the issue was still manageable enough that I didn’t do anything about it. In this time period, a typical day would begin with a skipped class and inactivity until around 5 o’clock, when I would retreat to my room and cry for a while about nothing and then just be numb again. My sense of self-worth was very low but I was yet to have any suicidal thoughts or full disconnections from reality. It was bad of course, but nothing compared to what was to come. In the context of the future that I’m now aware of, it’s hard to see this time period as so terrible, though it was certainly worse than anything that had preceded it. In the fall of 2016 I was introduced to Dr. K. We tried a few standard ssris and I took them religiously, thinking that they could bring back an older version of myself but they didn’t work very well. We tried a few different combinations but my decline was accelerating at an alarming rate. Each day of this time period would be the best day I would have for months to come. The episodes of tearfulness and misery became the standard mode of my life. I kept these things mostly private from those I knew well because I found them to be embarrassing and extremely confusing. After a while of this, in the springtime, a new type of episode began to emerge. It was one of infinite bliss and unstable happiness. My self-worth inflated to an amazing degree and I was filled with what felt like an infinite love and sense of connection to all things. I would create things at an alarming pace that all turned out to be of terrible quality but at the time seemed to me to be far more important than anything else in the history of the world. These were my first true experiences with hypomania. These episodes would break ferociously. I remember walking to campus in a state of absolute ecstasy, being extremely impressed with myself and all of the amazing things I would come to accomplish. My genius was absolute and my understanding of the world was absolutely messianic. The introduction of mania made for an incredibly ridiculous life, in which I was either overflowing with energy and ecstasy or begging a god I didn’t believe in to bring about some accident that would kill me. Neither version of the brain could remember the other, and I never seemed to spend any time in between them. I told my doctor of these things and he asked me to more elaborately journal during these moments, which I proceeded to do. When I next went to visit him he said he thought I might have a bipolar disorder and wanted to try a different tact medically. One med, Latuda, was very successful but left me with an unacceptable side-effect called akathisia. When I went to see him after a few weeks we had a lengthy conversation about my sense of the future and my hope for recovery and he regretfully informed me that I was ill to a point at which out-patient treatment wouldn’t be enough and it was time for me to be admitted. On the day I was admitted, I remember laying in some sort of examination room when a nurse entered and asked how I was feeling. Through tears I informed her, “I’m never going to be happy ever again.” I meant that. I was sure of it in ways I’ve never been sure of anything else. At some point before the Latuda I had begun to lose my relationship with reality but it was now gone entirely. I had no sense of what was real and was entirely possessed by the darkest thoughts imaginable, or perhaps even worse than that depending on who is being asked. For those who haven’t been depressed, these types of thoughts remain beyond imagination. When entering the ward I was presented with a line on which I needed to sign my name and write the date. I paused at the part of the paper that required the date and looked up to the nurse in confusion. Her and I were both visibly surprised by the fact that, not only did I not know what month it was, I also didn’t know whether it was 2015 or 2016. I can’t explain how or why, but I simply did not know. It was like looking at a bill at a restaurant and your brain just refusing the put in the effort to calculate a tip, except mine couldn’t even put in the effort to tell me what year it was. In that hospital I felt as though I was joining the ranks of those to whom I was truly similar. The broken and unproductive elements of society who were unable to do anything other than consume resources and spread misery and chaos. I looked at the outlets that fed energy to the medical machines, the nurses and the attendants, the food we ate, and the light that let us see it and saw them all as a waste. Why wouldn’t they just let us destroy ourselves? Why did they insist on keeping us in places where suicide was impossible when it was obviously the best thing for anyone who ended up here? I’ve never in my life spent so much time staring at a clock. The issues with sleep had made a vengeful reemergence and the time spent in the hospital truly felt like an eternity. I remember looking out of the window at a woman walking to work and thinking “I will literally never do that. I will never have a job. I will never contribute. I will never be useful enough to have to be anywhere ever.” When I was discharged, things improved in the sense that I no longer had to live my entire life on one hallway but my life was, to me at least, objectively and inarguably worse than death. I remember saying to myself that I would trade literally anyone’s life for my own. I would become anyone else and do whatever they had to do as long as it wasn’t this. I spent most of my time daydreaming about eternal nothingness. If I were to, today, right now as I write this, compile a list of reasons to not kill myself, it would be long to a point where I would get bored with the task. At that time the list consisted of two things: my family, and the girl I loved. One of the things I’ve come to realize about the disease is that it is a logical genius, and was able to provide me with an unending collection of reasons why those two elements did not belong there. Its mission was to empty the list. As for my family, one of its favorite arguments was that, over time, I would come to bring them far more harm than they could currently imagine. I would suck the goodness from their lives as they tried to care for me, exhaust them emotionally, consume their resources, and burden them infinitely. I would spoil our family’s good name and make them hate me. In a net, long term evaluation of their pain, it would be best for them to deal with my death for a few years and recover rather than have me drain them of life until I finally submitted at a later date, which I was convinced I would. As for my girlfriend, the argument was a bit different. The disease didn’t need me to necessarily excuse my suicide to her but rather find a way to remove her from my life. It told me that she only stayed with me out of a moral obligation, that she resented me secretly for how unimpressive and obviously useless I was. It told me that if I truly cared about her, I would end things between us and allow her to be free of that entanglement which, according to the disease, was something she wanted but could not bring herself to execute. These were two on the list of endless arguments in favor of me emptying the list of reasons not to do what the disease wanted me to. Both elements of the list stood stead-fast, but the disease is a beast against which arguments cannot be won while it still exists, the arguments are perpetual. The memories of that summer are quiet because I wasn’t quite there when they were made. I spent nearly the entirety of every day inside my own head, consumed by some mixture of panic, pain, dread, anger, or sadness, among others. I would wake up in the morning and simply think to myself “I can’t believe I have to do this for another day. I can’t. I can’t fucking do this anymore.” I remember thinking about how I wouldn’t wish it upon my very worst enemy. This was a punishment far worse than death, and yet somehow I had ended up inside of it without ever having committed any obvious crime. I remember sitting by the river with my best friend. This was my favorite place, next to my favorite person, and I felt nothing. It was gone and so was I. That summer moved forward into the fall when I was introduced to a physical miracle by the name of Seroquel. It brought me the most consistent sleep I had had in years, but the dosage was high to a point where my life was extremely muted and I was very dull. Next to depression, this was a miracle. When the dose of Seroquel was lowered and my mind was clearing up I began the process of trying to move these experiences out of my memories and into words and music. Unfortunately, I had never done any sort of recording before so I truly had no idea what I was doing. I was starting from scratch, with no outside help other than google. I learned how to use the different pieces of equipment very slowly, and still had only ever played piano and guitar. I listened to drums more closely to try and figure out how best to use them, as with bass, and finally started using other instruments to supplement the songs. Altogether, the process was absolutely grueling and nearly drove me out of my mind. I can’t even count how many times I worked from the early afternoon until the waking hours only to delete everything I had done. If I had to put a number on how much time was actually put into that album, including the learning process, I would start at 500 hours. Over the months I began to think of Sewing Kit as a potential weapon against future depression, thinking that when the next episode hit and the disease asked “what value do you bring?” I would have something to gesture towards and be able to confidently say “I made something that was worth making.” And that’s that. That’s Sewing Kit.

© 2023 by Roland Faunte