I feel like I have been running all my life. At full speed. Running away from something I didn't even know existed. My father ran from it. My mother ran from it. My brother has been caught, and my sister, well, I am not certain about my sister.
Where it began, I cannot say for sure. Based on what I know, it probably started at least a generation before my parents, but few people talked about those things back then. When they did speak, it was in hushed terms about someone so ill that only the treatment gained during incapacitation would bring them back to sanity. More typically, suffering individuals were said to be "moody" or were thought to lack a "coping" mechanism. In those days, admitting to a mental problem or worse could get you admitted to an institution, often against your will. People were said to be in a "fit" of depression, but fit they were not.
What have I learned from my experiences? You can't run from yourself ... from your demons. You cannot escape what is inside of you. I have firsthand knowledge of the persistence of wavering moods that frighten with experience and I know that denial, at any level, will be brief.
Living a lifetime of flying just below the radar allowed me to experience a constant flow of clever ideas, inventions, and great inspirations that kept me moving at a speed not even I could keep up with. But the cleverness turned into confusion, the inventions into frustrations and the inspirations eventually into irritation. While not particularly faceless, my difficulty remained nameless for many years. It didn't deserve a name, not from me, at least not up until now. But lack of knowledge does not nullify the force of genetics and it is apparent that some facet of our heredity exists in me.
My parents relationship followed that of my grandparents. It was volatile and extreme. We were a family filled with dysfunction and at a young age the children were spent. By experience, parental violence and discord affects and destroys. Like poison to a flower, it is easier to wilt than to thrive.
In childhood, there was an undercurrent of melancholy with intermittent happiness. The awfulness of manipulation and violence between my parents made me lonely and as I socially separated from others, I became more dependent on them. As a teen, illicit drugs and my father's stash of Miltown's (downers) would bury the memories I struggled to forget.
As the years moved on, there was a marriage and children and a divorce. Sometime after the divorce, I began to morph. Often euphoric, the highs were incredible and when I combined them with random sex and cocaine, it would take my breath away. Slowly... an ugliness, and then irritability. The risky life, I am aching, the moment was over; nothing would satisfy the most dangerous girl on the block.
With a clear slate, I married again but struggled. The children grew. I buried my pain in work and community. Never getting over the emptiness in my heart - always wanting to alter those senses, never satisfying, my moods were getting more intense but he loved me just the same.
It was in the year of my forty-eighth birth. My father had just died and on that day a part of me died too. I made all of the arrangements, I was empty; he was a king to me, and I was his baby girl. Although they both suffered from nervous breakdowns, father was the stable one. He hid his demons well and was successful in everything but his marriage.
The pivotal point in my life was when my brother moved home to steal our mother's money. The stress and circumstance would be my "nail in the coffin." I began to move from a type "a" personality to something more menacing. Symptoms of agitation and irritation were a mainstay but paranoia and hallucinations, compulsions and obsessions, road rage, religiosity, hypergraphia, hypersexuality and more were intense; I was becoming confused, and struggling for a cover. Grocery shopping, the same three things every day. Suicidal ideation and tries quickly followed. In depression, the bowels of hell but in mania the glorious Universe where I spoke with God. Thinking it was death, please don't send me back. At the same time, I was writing constantly and as the prose began to flow, bleeding upon the paper; evidence, it was my life I began to expose.
Just in time, a masterful psychiatrist would guide and teach. Dedicated to my life, she gave it a name and a DSM number and with script in hand, I began to re-assemble my brokenness. In nine years, I have ingested more pill combinations than acorns on my tree, patience. I have exposed my self to my psychiatrist in more ways that I thought possible, trust and I have come to terms with the changes and the challenges, faith.
There is no quick fix in Bipolar Disorder. Based on a trial and error methodology, this spectrum illness has variables unknown and that is why competent medical counsel is vital for wellness. My psychiatrist is a masterful decoder of my mind's complexities. She insists I am her hero, but clearly she is mine.
In adversity, my father would recite an old cliché, "there is light at the end of the tunnel" or "every cloud has a silver lining." but I like mine better, "Απο μικρό και απο κουζουλό μαθαίνεις την αλήθεια" a greek proverb which means "From a child and a crazy person you learn the truth."
Living ... is all about love. It is the reason why I share my story; not only it is for the benefit of others, but for the forgiveness of myself ...
(this is an excerpt from my book "Life is Like a Line: A Memoir of Moods, Medication, and Mania)