WARNING: If you are easily offended by the use of a certain profanity that rhymes with “pluck”, you may want to find something else to read this evening, because I’m going to use that word (and possibly a few others) in the next few paragraphs.
Now, for tonight’s story (ever notice that bipolars seem to do all their writing at night?) I present my good friend Jesse, a young man of thirty whom I’ve known for about five years. He had the misfortune of being drafted into the Manic-Depressive Club not too long after I joined. He is an extremely intelligent fellow whose life was basically screwed from the start, and yet he’s managed to attain a college degree in occupational therapy while wrestling with his demons and trying to maintain his marriage and home life. Naturally, he doesn’t give himself half the credit he deserves for those accomplishments, which makes me sad no matter how well I can relate to it.
He is—as he so eloquently puts it—fucked up. Horribly. He suffers the tortures of the damned when in a depressive state, which is a special sort of hell I’ve never even seen (and pray to God I never do). He does have some hypomania, hence his Bipolar 2 diagnosis, but while most of my mood episodes are either hypo- or full-on manic, most of his are the opposite, and they are SO deep and dark that he almost has to have daylight piped in to him.
Though I’ve got enough years on him to be his mother, I serve as both a friend and an advocate, and nothing about that is considered odd by anyone in our circle of influence. Nor should it be. I think sometimes he makes me out to be this great bipolar guru, even though I’m badly damaged myself—I’m just older and better medicated. TOWANDAAAAAA!! (Oops, sorry for the accidental paraphrasing of a line from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes…..sometimes my mind just works like that.)
Happily, Jesse and I don’t seem to cycle together—one of us will be up while the other’s down, or one will be stable while the other one struggles—so we support each other through our various crises and meltdowns. Our spouses are OK with this, because they can’t possibly understand how our disordered brains process stimuli and are probably only too glad to have us two crazies talk to each other about our craziness. Sometimes we feel really sorry for our loved ones, because it must be incredibly unsettling to live with someone with whom they can never let their guard down for fear that we might actually do something crazy.
And we do have our crazy moments. Jesse self-injures. I shop till I drop, and I’m an ex-drunk. Different sides to the same coin…..we both do these self-destructive things to ease our feelings of inadequacy. And we do them because deep down, we think we deserve to suffer pain on account of the stinking, rotten cesspool that we fear exists at the very bottom of our souls.
I apologize if the reader is shocked or put off by any of this. But when you’ve grown up being told that you were a mistake, that you’re irredeemably defective and no one with an ounce of self-respect would want to be associated with you…..well, it’s a mind-fuck of staggering proportions.
That’s only a fraction of what Jesse (and I to a lesser extent) live with. The fact that he made it through his formative years without committing hara-kiri is proof positive that people with mental illness are made of some pretty durable stuff.
I sincerely hope he gets the chance to read this, because he really needs to know what an awesome human being I think he is and how much he is to be admired…..not only for surviving his nightmarish youth, but simply for making it through every single day with this illness.