June lengthens, rising toward the longest day of the year. This is my most painful, impossible month and this year my awareness of the layering of repeated circles around the sun is taking on a new intensity.
Like a film flickering at the edge of my field of view, Junes of the past keep rolling in and out of focus. This week. Convergence.
Twenty-two years ago today, I was released from a period of involuntary hospitalization. The psychiatric ward was a strange place, with strange characters from the requisite Jesus dispensing wisdom in the dining room, to the young orthopaedic surgeon on suicide watch. I recall my time on the unit as the first opportunity I’d had in years to worry about no one but myself—and plenty of medication to ensure that I didn’t do too much of that either.
I was a manic patient in the process of coming back down to earth.
Eighteen years ago this week I had my first shot of testosterone. My partner of twenty-one years moved out the next morning. I cried for fifteen minutes, dusted myself off and moved on into a new reality. A single parent. A shape-shifter, slowly masculinizing.
Out of madness and into manhood. Or something.
Five years ago this week—summer solstice, 2014—I summited the heights of mania, once more, after a long steady climb over the crumbling rocks of my own sanity. I can only imagine the spectacle I’d become over the final months at the office. I remember trying to hold together an agency that seemed to be coming apart at the seams, everyone looking to me to fix things and ultimately taking the fall when I lost my grip. Nobody intervenes with a madman if that madman is doing a job no one else wants.
Nobody catches him when he falls or helps pick up the pieces. No one sends flowers.
The undignified end of my career forever unresolved. June 20, 2014, a day I can barely remember. A day I will never forget.
Exactly one year later I sought my own closure. Booked a trip to South Africa—the first and sadly only chance I would ever have to spend time with a close friend, queer and bipolar like me, but down a much deeper darker road, one with no escape, as it would turn out.
I timed my arrival so I would be in Cape Town on June 20, 2015. Imagining that I would invert my fortunes by marking winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. That I would stand and face the sun going down and bring to a close a difficult twelve months. Put it all behind me and move forward into a renewed life.
Reinvent myself again.
But of course, closure is a myth and life writes its own lessons. I would have to come to terms with death first. Very nearly my own within a month of returning home. Then my mother’s, my father’s, my friend’s.
I was torn open. Again. I’m still pulling myself together.
This June, for all the added hours of daylight, it’s darkness I am fighting. The malaise, the murky waters of the bipolar cycle were never my habitat until these past few years. To feel my spirit and energy ebb as the seasonal shift ushers colour into this dead brown world is difficult to bear. With the added rainbow intensity of Pride Month, ever reminding me of everything I cannot find within my own queered reality, I keep falling further into the dark corners of my own imagination.
All month I’ve been pushing against this current of discontent.
I can’t stop thinking ahead. This October brings my 59th birthday. Next year I turn 60. I don’t even know how I got here. No other milestone has pressed down on me like this one. I have a number of friends who are over 60, but not one of them is facing their seventh decade alone.
Alone. That is what I didn’t expect at this age. Or if I suspected it, I didn’t think it would hurt like hell. Alone is not a lack of people in your life. It is a lack of something you know is missing, that you cannot even fully define so it’s hard to know how to fill it. A close friend? A lover? Something to give your life meaning?
For me feeling alone is something pervasive. Embodied. Written into the physical and gendered trajectory of my existence. Here. In June. Once again.
June lengthens, rising toward the longest day of the year.
Passing rain. An image that stirs, the shifting light, sun, darkening skies and sun again, on a wet and glittering world. This is summer. Not quite but almost.
I simply have to hold fast.