BWS 08.01.20: Leanne Toshiko Simpson

Leanne Toshiko Simpson headshot

Photo credit: Soko Negash

Leanne Toshiko Simpson is a Yonsei writer living with bipolar disorder. She was named Scarborough’s Emerging Writer of 2016 and recently finished her MFA at the University of Guelph. You can find her work in The 2019 Journey Prize StoriesRoom MagazineContemporary Verse 2, and Unpublished City II.

 

I had coffee with a friend I made many years ago, in a Scarborough psychiatric ward, and we got to talking about how difficult the holiday season is for people with mood disorders (and other chronic illnesses, for that matter). We jokingly came up with the idea for this carol – The Twelve Manic Days of Christmas – and I’ve written it in his honour. I think a common theme of our survival has been laughing through the impossible, and I hope that this piece resonates with some folks who are in the same boat this holiday season.

The Twelve Manic Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

A manic shopping spree

[Always start with things you need: socks, holiday pajamas for your sister, greeting cards for everyone who touched your life this year. Get overwhelmed by the amount of people you’d like to thank and slide to the floor, contemplate your good fortune. Get up and overcompensate with novelty mugs and fuzzy throws. Buy a dress you can’t afford for your family dinner, because it’s not just about presents but presenting, and you wouldn’t want anyone to think you were less than perfect. Look at your watch and wonder where five hours have flown. Feel guilty for your absence, buy chocolate-dipped strawberries as a “surprise” for your partner and let them melt on your dashboard on your way home]

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Two sleepless nights and

A manic shopping spree

 

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights – please, no more pills – and

A manic shopping spree

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Four grand ideas (a brief summary: a YA novel, Christmas cookies for the entire street – or perhaps, a winter carnival for the neighbourhood, with trussed up ponies and sleigh bells – breaking a three-month silence with my father, becoming a cyclist)

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights and

A manic shopping spree (this time, a bike!)

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my partner gave to me:

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

After four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, we tried to go to a holiday party but Mariah Carey’s voice was like a dog whistle, alerting me to a danger I couldn’t see but felt reverberating inside the cage of my lungs. I couldn’t hold conversations, couldn’t look people in the eye. I was afraid to eat. Everything was cardboard – the food, the people, the thoughts in my head. We left early, and I counted the seconds between sentences on the drive home. One, two, three, four, five–

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my therapist gave to me:

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

And the Goldberg Mania Inventory!

For my four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

[After he goes to bed, count out your medication into your palm, over and over and over again, until chalky dust settles in your lifelines]

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Eight missed pills

Seven (untouched) CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my mom told me to try yoga, so I had:

Nine downward dogs (plus seething resentment)

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my eyes were changing colours in their sockets and I told everyone it was great, but if I’m being honest here, I was getting a little worried about my:

Ten unverified sick days

Nine downward dogs

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

Fuck the Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my partner called my psychiatrist, but she was on

ELEVEN DAYS OF VACATION

Which left me with:

Ten unverified sick days

Nine downward dogs

Eight missed pills

Seven CBT charts

Six awkward silences

The Goldberg Mania Inventory!

Four grand ideas

Three racing thoughts

Two sleepless nights

And a manic shopping spree

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, they asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I gave it some thought, reader – really, I did. I thought about all the other folks who might be there on Christmas, who could maybe use a little caroling, maybe a touch of comradery. I thought about titrating my meds for the hundredth time. I had so many little orange canisters in my bathroom cabinet that I could have invented psychiatric Jenga. Again, they asked me what I wanted, and I stared into the galaxies of my ceiling before telling them I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, who lived in this kaleidoscope with me. They all looked at each other and one of them nodded and then the glass shifted, again, to that incandescent heat before the end of the world.

 

Leanne Toshiko Simpson visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Manahil Bandukwala, Terese Mason Pierre, Nikki Sheppy, and guest speaker Ranjini George, who will guide us through “Meditation and Writing.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s