How can I begin to describe what Bipolar is like? Having Bipolar, or manic-depression can be something that makes you so much more than anything you thought you could. There are many people through history that have been functioning people with manic-depression. Charlie Sheen is one that comes to mind. I have to admit I don’t like a lot of his stuff, but I think he has accomplished quite a bit in the field of acting and comedy. I absolutely loved him in Wall Street and Platoon and hoped that Oliver Stone would cast him in more of his movies. Who he is in real life seems to be a lot different than Chris Taylor or Bud Fox, his two characters in those great movies. I once watched a late night talk show where he was asked about an incident that happened to him in high school where he threatened a teacher. He told the teacher, “You’re lucky I haven’t killed you yet!” Sometimes elitism like this makes me very ticked off. I heard that even Oliver Stone was very aware of the fact that he looked down on a lot of people and picked at him while he was making the loosely autobiographical movie “Platoon”. Then came the Hot Shots movies, which I thought were brilliant. Charlie Sheen poked fun at everything, and kept me laughing all the way through both movies a number of times. But when it came out that he was a crack cocaine addict and philanderer, even worse so than his character on “Two and a Half Men”, I was kind of shocked. What occurred after that was even more bizarre until I found out he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. The scary thing about this illness is that it doesn’t just make your moods go up and down, it causes something called a psychosis (not to be confused with psychopathology I hope everyone understands) where an entire world of grandiose thinking and delusional thoughts can come into your head. This is something that happened to my life, and the devastation these symptoms wrought on my life were immense.
I like to think I am a fairly intelligent guy, and while a good part of intelligence is processing and solving problems, another part of it is memory. I have a memory that brings back images in my head of opening up the doll that still sits in my closet, my favorite doll from my childhood that I received for Christmas 40 years ago. I still remember who was my desk buddy in grade one (Makoto Ohki, a Japanese boy) and that a girl in my class skipped school and was in a great deal of trouble for it but went on to do well despite a bad start at schooling and became a teacher herself. Where the problem comes in is when I dig deep into my personal storehouse of memories and play things over and over again in my mind, trying to re-think nearly every questionable situation. A lot of times I will take something that happened that was harmless or at worst a meaningless slight and turn them into insults or remarks that I still get upset over. Today I found out from a friend who has Schizophrenia that he does this too. I can’t begin to say how good it felt to hear someone say that, I have recently begun being involved (and employed) by the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta and in the groups I attend and people I talk with I am learning so much and feeling so much better about myself. So, for the people out there who read this in hopes of learning something about their illness, I say to you, get yourself plugged in to somewhere that you can meet and talk with others who suffer from mental illnesses, and don’t be afraid to open up, the healing is unimaginable.
Of course, there is the other side to Bipolar that I haven’t touched on which is depression. Depression is something that has really marked up and cut limbs off my family tree for generations. My mom suffered from debilitating depression, my aunt Joanne committed suicide because of it and now my cousins who I thought would do very well in life have been struck down by it. In my books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” I try to relate to people what it is to have depression. I don’t know if any event can trigger it, but I do know that things like breakups of key relationships and loss of loved ones can spark it off. When I was 17, before I was treated properly for depression, I had a great life. I had a lot of friends, a job I enjoyed and even a really nice car, a 1978 Ford Cobra. But every day when I left work at night to go home I went into the worst, deepest, darkest pit of despair and self loathing that you can imagine. Now years later, with the help of Prozac and a mood stabilizer called Depekane, I no longer suffer at all. It is a literal miracle, and the Prozac itself has few side effects, though the Depakane can be difficult to deal with.
Back to my words on famous people with Bipolar, there are two politicians who led their countries through their worst wars victoriously that suffered from it. They are of course, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, two men I have greatly admired all my life. But the one that really strikes me is Robin Williams. I am so sad that he has passed on, he was such a wonderful actor and comedian and not one single person I have come across has expressed in any way that they weren’t saddened by him killing himself. Robin Williams had so much talent and energy and incredible intelligence, not to mention success after success that must have made him very wealthy and yet he took his own life. For a long time it was obvious to me that he was Bipolar. He could get up on stage, and do completely off the wall, made up on the spot comedy and put people in stiches for two hours, take a five minute break and get up and repeat the same thing for another audience. What touched me most in his career though was the man he portrayed in the movie “Awakenings”, the Doctor who helped some forgotten patients wake up to the real world for a short time. This was a side that you didn’t often see of Robin Williams, but there were other times when he was even more on the low side of the spectrum. I am quite sure that he had his drug problems as well, that sort of thing seems to come with the territory of mental illness, but I am sure what killed him was his Bipolar.
Well, that is kind of a sad blog for today. I really encourage anyone out there who reads this to reply to me and start conversation with me. I am not at all going to judge anyone, I really feel though that peer support in these situations can help a person get through a lot. So to that end, I want to put my personal email up here, it is firstname.lastname@example.org and say that if you don’t feel up to posting here, you can write me at that email and I promise I will respond. I hope everyone has a happy day and a restful and replenishing sleep!