Beware of Rabbits

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Like Alice, I’ve never met a rabbit I didn’t chase. It’s not that I go out hunting them. They just sort of find me, much like the Lena Dunham Instagram post did. I spot a rabbit, and the chase begins. I won’t even lie for the sake of metaphor and say that I slowly and quietly stalk my prey until I’m ready to attack. There’s nothing slow or quiet about it. I see the rabbit, and I take off running.

But then, before I notice the rabbit hole under my feet, I fall. Hard and deep until I find myself fully immersed in Wonderland. With flimsy justification, I sample the pills that make me bigger and the ones that make me smaller. I find myself dizzy at a mad tea party while I dance around an identity crisis served up by a Caterpillar. And, per usual, I surround myself with flowers claiming to teach me life lessons.

The chase is always active. I spot the rabbit, I want the rabbit, and so I follow the rabbit. The fall, however, is always involuntary.

I live with OCD and bipolar disorder. (And I chose that phrasing thoughtfully. “I suffer from” is too dramatic and negative and tortured. “I have” is both possessive and somehow separatist, as if it’s something I currently hold in my possession, but it is separate from me and therefore something I could divorce at any time. “I am bipolar” turns it into an adjective, a way to describe a personality instead of an illness, a way to modify me instead of something that has literally modified me. So, until I devise better phrasing, I “live” with it. It is always with me, I cannot dismiss it, but I can live with it. Or maybe it’s just that by the time I turned 20, I had heard “La Vie Boheme” so many times that decades later I accepted that I am someone living with, living with, living with, not dying from disease.)

So, between the buzzing, manic energy that gets triggered when I see a shiny object or the obsessive compulsion to chase it, find it, hoard it, and then find more, I end up down a rabbit hole before I know I’ve even started running.

Once I start falling, I can’t see outside that particular rabbit hole. Two summers ago, I binge-watched all of Lost in 10 days while simultaneously reading every bit of trivia and analysis I could while still avoiding spoilers. During the 2016 campaign, I needed to watch every moment of CNN (and others), and if one of you commented about something I didn’t catch, I felt shame and failure. (Truth be told, I may have been a bit of a Carole Radziwill during this election, and for that I also experience some shame.) This precision even applies to quotidian things like cold brew; I know who’s producing it, where’s it’s sold locally, and how much it costs in each location. Maybe I even save all the bottles (I do). I’m not sure the experience of these things even matters to me as much as the dedication and accumulation of knowledge or objects. It’s not about my adventures in Wonderland. It’s about gathering up as many cards and flowers and tea sets as my little arms can carry and dragging them home to file away.

Right now, the rabbit wears organic lipstick and fine fragrance and a sea salt spray to create the perfect summer wave. I must have it all. Before I can apply the Herbivore Blue Tansy mask that all the cool kids are raving about, I’m online researching the Tata Harper one. By day, I’m out at local natural boutiques or visiting my friends at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, and by night, I’m online, ordering what I can’t find locally, like nearly every shade of all-natural Kosas lipsticks.

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When I saw photos of Byredo’s Gypsy Water, I knew that at the very least I needed to explore. What better trinket from Wonderland than a little bottle of spellbinding tonic to keep on my bedside table and sprinkle into my daily ritual? I know by now, though, that it isn’t a rabbit ditch. It’s a deep, dark rabbit hole, and it creates shelves piled high with lotions and potions and proof of capture.

I can’t control the fall. It gnaws inside my brain, its focus is narrow, and it is relentless in its demand for satisfaction. To normalize my stays in Wonderland, I create justifications in the real world. I build brands and businesses around my given obsessions.

Rabbits are quick, though. They don’t stay in one place for very long. I chase what I see when I see it, but just as certainly as it appears, it disappears. For every action, it seems, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And for every fall down a rabbit hole, there is an equal and opposite blindness to rabbits.

I climb out of my rabbit hole, and I don’t recognize the world I’ve created. I’ve adorned my home and head with shiny, wonderful objects, and I feel no connection to them. Before I can unwrap all my treasure and before the last online shipment is delivered, I’ve fallen into a different and dull hole. A rabbit didn’t lead me down this one; I just tripped and stumbled while chasing a rabbit I could no longer see. And when I trip, the treasures I was clinging to scatter all around me, alleged bread crumbs to a world that seemed to matter so much just moments before.

Like I said, I live with a bipolar disorder, which is to say I live a life of consistent inconsistency. I can chase rabbits faster than anyone I know, but I cannot count on that ability from one day to the next. While one day I’m gathering the spoils of Wonderland in my little sack, it’s entirely possible that I won’t be able to see a rabbit the next day and that the remnants of Wonderland will be meaningless. My magic Gypsy Water, once so powerful and transformative, becomes just a perfume on my vanity, a reminder that once upon a time I knew how to run. And reason says I’ll run again, but each time I find myself outside of Wonderland, I wonder if it was my last visit, if I no longer have access to that sort of energy and if I’ll live out my days confined to a small room filled with memories of past adventures.

But then one day, as if I’m late to the race, I spot a rabbit. It occurs without warning or intention, but ever so slowly a rabbit becomes blurry and then gains focus. For my sake and the sake of planning out some sort of future, I desperately cross my fingers that it’s a familiar rabbit, that he’s leading me to a place where Kosas and Byredo and Herbivore masks still matter. Deep down, I hope that he’s a fast rabbit, that he’ll get me to Wonderland so quickly that no one will notice that I was ever gone or that I spent so much time away. And so, I run, worrying that I can’t keep up the sprint and wondering if I’m just not meant for a marathon.

Maybe some other day I’ll write to you about moderation and about what it feels like to live methodically and without a chase or a race. I’ll write to you about what it feels like to not be consistently exhausted by your own inconsistency. I don’t know that story today, though, so it would feel like a fairytale to tell it. For now, I’ll chase rabbits while I can, hard and fast and with uncompromising precision, because that’s the only way my body can run. And should you feel so inclined, you are always welcome to follow me down.

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