The attacks of the black brain start with losing something. Usually it is my keys or my wallet, but it could be anything misplaced or forgotten: a passport, a phone, a book or just a place I can’t find. I feel stupid and frustrated. I will tear up my household looking for the lost items, or cruise with increasing wildness for the lost location. Tension builds, until it overflows in a splurge of pure anger. I will start to throw things. Books and clothes will fly as I rampage through the house. I swear a blue streak. “God damn, God hates me!” If I am in a car, I will pound the steering wheel, or begin to drive like a maniac. I swerve around other cars, slam gears, and speed down some innocent drivers. I am yelling epithets. “You motherfucker get out of my fucking way!” It is very exhausting.
After a fit like this I have to rest and recover. Sometimes I don’t recover not for many days. If certain things happen, I know that this is the beginning of an attack of the black brain. I sit or lie down in the dark. I hate lights being on. I want total silence. No TV. No answering the telephone or responding to door bells. If it is daytime I seek the darkest room or close all the shades. Light bothers my eyes. Brightness is painful. All sound is bothersome like scratching on a black board. These are the first things I notice in a string of psychical responses.
I notice how my body becomes stiff and sore. Every movement is hard to take. It is as if all my muscles were in a state of semi-cramp. I am slow and get slower as the attack deepens. Food tastes bland and unpleasant like eating cardboard. I really don’t want to eat, but I eat anyway. Hunger gets no satisfaction. Always a nail bitter, I pick at my fingers even more, ripping the nail down to the quick compulsively going from one digit to the next. Last my brain hurts. The right side of my brain develops a dull ache above the eyebrow. I wonder if I am having some form of epileptic fit.
All my thoughts turn negative. All is sorrow or pain. All I can think about is how I would be better dead. Life is not worth living. Plans for suicide crowd my head. I could drive off a bridge, slam into an overpass, or run into a tree. Hang myself. Immolate myself. Poison myself. Each plan is mulled over in my head. How quick would it be? How gruesome would the suicide scene be? The more gruesome it is the better is the bitter image. Would I be a messy pulp, a decapitated corpse, or just a dead body surrounded by a halo of blood, excrement and piss?
Poison is the alternative I least like, but it always gets consideration. Since my first actual suicide attempt was to poison myself with 150 aspirin tablets, I know what it is like to ingest a potentially poisonous potion. I can relive the nausea and the disorientation tasting the bitter memory. Yet usually I reject poison because I recall the trauma of my stomach being pumped and the sad hospitalization of my survival. No something more violent is called for. Blowing my brains out would be a good way to go. I would place the gun in my mouth and fire up splattering my mind all over the wall in a veil of red blood and white particulate. The body would slump to the floor in some awkward position. The gun would slip from my lifeless fingers. The corpse would lie there until the blood dried and the nauseating smell of putrid flesh pervaded the room of my execution.
Once the decision was made and the trigger pulled, there is no undoing. There are no seconds for remorse. Death is immediate and irreversible. I wallow in this sour soup of suicide savoring each aspect of my demise: the color and character of each move, the feeling of resolve, and the last glimpse of life.
When all this transpires all I can do is go to bed and sleep. If anyone disturbs me I am rude and abrupt. I used to say to anyone who came into my sleeping area and ask me to do something. I would mutter “I prefer not” recalling Melville’s phrase from his story “The Scrivener.” I preferred the isolation, soundlessness, and darkness of my nest. Here I would ponder my evil thoughts, dream violent and frightening dreams. Tidal waves drown me. Earthquakes crush me under tons of fallen concrete. Bombs obliterate me. Often my dreams were about spiders and snakes, crawling and wriggling over my inert form before they bite me with their lethal venom.
In one of the worst attacks I ever had, I dreamed a giant black widow spider crawled over a wall to get me. The red dot on its underside showed like a ruby. A long hairy leg reached out to explore my face. This went on while hundreds of baby black widows scuttled around my bed and body. They were tickling me with all their legs, but I could not react. I was paralyzed. I could not force my arms or legs to move. I would strain at the effort. Nothing would happen. All I could do was turn my head toward the approaching monstrous black widow, which stung me on my nose. The big red dot covered my eyes as the black widow struck. Poison flowed through my veins. I could feel it spread slowly down my nose and around my eyes and mouth. It was cold and viscous. I imagined it a gelatinous green, which froze every particle of my body as it spread. I tried to scream, but no sound would come out. The freeze was fast approaching my brain and vocal chords. I knew I would be dead if it made it to my mind. In one last herculean effort, I broke the spell and yelled “My God save me!” jerking up out of my orange starred quilt. I was covered by sweat and all bedcovers were damp. I leap out of bed and trashed around looking for insects. There were none.
This was break in that cycle of the black brain, which always happened after a culminating bad dream. It was as if I pass through some bleak portal and emerge into the sunshine. I arose next day feeling fine and sharp. My body felt good and my mind awake and super aware. My sense of humor was restored. I wanted to be in the light, listen to sound, and be around people. The attack had lasted seven days. That attack was the longest I ever remember. Most of these periods of withdrawal last just a day, or two or three at most. They all end with me returning to normal feeling refreshed and restored. The attack of the black brain is my body demanding an overhaul. Depression is beaten back once more. The bout of self hatred survived until it comes again as it always does.