“How old are you?”
This is a question I’ve been asked a lot, especially by doctors at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms. I have bipolar, not the kind that makes you think you are jesus (or the legit kind, as my friend so lovingly calls it), but the kind that makes you wanna drive your car into a tree at top speed. Before I was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices explaining to them that I periodically wanted to die. Now, if you don’t ask the right questions and do a proper psychological analysis, this particular symptom of bipolar can seem like a symptom of something else: being in your twenties.
So the doctors would ask me how old I was, and I’d say twenty or twenty one or twenty two, and then a look of pity would cross their faces. Some of them even stopped there and didn’t ask anymore questions. Apparently, being in your twenties is a valid reason to be suicidal. The doctors would tell me that the uncertainty and disappointment and pressure of young adulthood is, in medical terms, really, really terrible. I was even turned away by the specialist investigating my mysterious chronic physical pain. She told me to come back if my pain persisted once I was “financially stable”, and just like that, the appointment was over. The receptionist asked me if I needed to make a return appointment, but I didn’t think her calendar covered the year 2035.
It’s not that I need a doctor to tell me that being in your twenties is bad for your health. All the twenty-somethings I know, with the exception of a few weirdos, are tired and confused and messy and lonely. I know that might sound like a line from a Taylor Swift song, but I can see it in the faces of my friends, and I can hear it in the voices of the baristas making my coffee (most of whom have bachelors degrees or some sort of artistic dream), and I can feel it in the air when I walk into a bar on a week night. There is a collective “what the fuck” that seeps out of us, as we drink and make fools of ourselves and swipe left on tinder. This is the part of life that feels like someone has stuck you in a blender. Hopefully at the end of it all, we will all be delicious smoothies. Until then, I will cry on the shoulders of my friends and the shoulders of strangers, and I will offer my shoulder to anyone who needs it. I believe we can all make it out alive.