To tell your own story sounds simple at first. After all I haven't had all that interesting a life, so there shouldn't be much to tell. I'm not going all the way back to the beginning as I don't believe that nurture had all that much to do with the development of my bipolar disease.

 

I think that the onset of my bipolar was around 14 years of age. I started having long periods of depression followed by what I thought were "normal" moods. Schoolwork suffered extremely and I was never much of a student to begin with. By 15 I had been tested for learning disabilities and it was decided that I was dyslexic, dyscalulic and might be suffering from "emotional problems." What I lacked in the way of being a good student I made up for with outrageous behaviors, fights with teachers, total disregard for rules and solving my issues of not wanting to be there by skipping every chance I got. I also committed a Federal offense by calling in a bomb scare and spent 3 years on probation. Somehow I managed to avoid jail during my teen years. By 15 I was smoking and drinking heavily on a daily basis. I went to school drunk, saw my probation officer either high or drunk. This behavior continued until I was 29 and I quit drinking. The drugs had stopped some years before. 15 marks my first suicide attempt using seconal and Southern Comfort. All I managed to do was screw up my stomach, a problem that bothers me even today. During a "high" period I was arrested for buying alcohol for others. Fearing jail, I ran away with a friend who was also in trouble. We hitched from Maine to Chicago by way of Canada before we were caught. We spent an interesting two days in the Cook County Jail which was an education all by itself, but that's another story for another time.

 

Sixteen. I got my drivers license, started seriously dating one girl rather than trying to see how many I could sleep with. I worked nights in a shoe factory in the next town and Saturdays in a local textile mill sorting rags. Having grown up Irish Catholic I had attended many wakes, which were then held at home. I can recall, at eight or so, playing cars with two other children  under a table where the dearly departed was laid  out, the family too poor to afford a coffin. But at 16 I saw someone killed for the first time when the woman I was sorting rags for got too close to the machine that threshed them into string. She was pulled in and, well, she was threshed herself. For some reason I couldn't get that out of my head for years to come when it would be replaced by another image. 16 marks my next two attempts at killing myself. Once by cutting and then by driving into a wall. All I managed to do was total a car and ruin one leg by cutting through too many tendons trying to reach that femoral artery. School was my attending classes at a location removed from school and friends. In fact that was the rest of my high school experience, four classes a day in a back room taught by a college student at the University of Maine. I was allowed one class taught at the school but could only be there after everyone else had gone. I did manage to receive a diploma but was marked down as a dropout. Needless to say I didn't get to attend graduation or the prom. But, at 18, I partied for three days with friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in two years. After which I drove my 67 chevy into a massive oak at 100 mph. Once again I didn't kill myself but did manage to severely hurt myself and spent 4 months in the hospital. At this point I was very high and when I was released I thought I was going home. My parents however had different plans and committed me to the State Mental Hospital.

 

Here I was introduced to thorazine and haldol given freely whenever you became a problem. I spent many nights in the isolation cell and if I became too rowdy in there I was moved to the fourth floor which was an isolation ward. Sometimes you were the only one there and that wasn't so bad. Other times you were on the ward with someone screaming all night. That sucked. I used to hope at times that they'd forget me and leave me up there. But they didn't. I finally managed to piss off the wrong charge nurse and was banished to the fifth floor. Here was where they sent people to forget them. You were locked in a room which wasn't heated and if you caused problems for the orderly's you were hosed down in the showers and left in your cell wet and naked. If you continued then you went to the basement and received shock therapy. I got therapy four times before deciding to shut up and smarten up. By being quiet and doing as told I managed to avoid the drugs and punishment and was released within a month. I thought that two months had passed, but it had been nearly six. Winter was here and I was 19. But I was free.

 

I married a wonderful young girl who gave me a son. I worked in construction and spent weeks away from her. I drank to excess,  popped painkillers like M&M's  and ran around with other women. She would say, many years later, that I had become far more moody than I was growing up and that half the time I was awake all night long for a week here and a week there. I became uncontrollable at the end of these highs and accused her of running around and wanting to see me dead and so on. Then there were the depressions that frightened her even more because they were so deep and dark. We agreed to divorce after 6 years.

 

For the next three years I drank too much and, by fighting, spent many a night in some jail or another. The drug abuse was so bad that I had to go to New Hampshire to get painkillers. I was non-gratis in Maine. I lived with six different women who all threw me out when they found out about my running around on them with still more women. Finally in 1982 I stopped. I stopped drinking, I stopped taking the pills and I started living alone. The withdrawals nearly accomplished what all the suicide attempts had failed to do. But I survived.

 

In 1983 I met and married my present wife.  A blessing for me as she somehow finds the strength to stay with me. Together we raised three children, two of hers and one of mine. I got licensed and started my own contracting business. In 1989 I went back to school and got a degree in Human Services. After the economy turned downward in 1995 I went to work as staff in a home supporting an individual with mental retardation and mental illness. In 1997 I became a case manager and ran 9 homes supporting 18 people.

 

Not too say that everything was smooth in between. I would attempt suicide twice more, once while threatening to kill my wife when my paranoia was stronger than I . I was hospitalized once in that time. And I created rifts in family and friends that continue to this day. I spent way more money than I earned and am still in debt today. My manias were high and psychotic followed by a crashing depression that occurred overnight. My wife and I separated twice, but managed to get back together.

 

Finally in 1994 I was diagnosed as manic-depressive, rapid cycling. I got medicated, wellbutrin and synthyriod and for the first time in my life I felt as if the weight of the world were lifted from my shoulders. I could think clearly and I was content. Until the panic attacks began and the meds stopped working. I got xanax for the panic, despite my telling the doctor about earlier problems. I suppose I could have not taken it, but they did calm the attacks so I didn't stop. They would stop after I stopped taking synthyriod.

 

In early 1998 I was doing my stint as the oncall person for my division which meant I was overseeing some 30 homes from 5PM till 8AM and all weekend for seven days all told. I was depressed and was considering asking someone else to finish for me when I got a call about a missing client a 20 year old schizophrenic. She was stable and staff only spent a couple of hours a day with her, making sure she had taken meds checking on money spent, so on and so on. Being Sunday staff was there to help set up her meds and see if her needed anything. No client. I asked them to check with the neighbors and went to the house myself. No one had seen her all weekend. We checked the neighborhood, no client. Finally we checked her apartment to see if she had had contact with her father, which alway upset her. Nope.I noticed that there was an attic door in the hall and went upstairs, not thinking she was up there but needing something to do. I had to fumble for the string to turn the light on and when I turned round, there she was. She had put on her best dress, placed a sheet of plastic under the chair she sat in and cut every major artery there was. It was so cold, being February, that the blood had congealed under her. Her skin was white from bleeding out, but it was her eyes that got to me, that I still see at night. They were frosted over so they were as white as everything else.

 

This was a beautiful young girl who was making progress in her life. Had the right meds, a job and was in college. Her parents had moved her north from CT in order to avoid rumors and problems. I can only guess that she felt unwanted as her note said she was tired of being a burden to her family. I can only hope they feel as guilty as I do from time to time.

 

I lost my zeal for social work soon after that. My depressions were worsening even as the mania was lessening. I had become more hypomanic but hit levels of depression that bordered between profound and severe. I stayed in bed for days, didn't eat and avoided everyone. When it lifted enough I went to work and went through the motions. My marriage was on the rocks and we separated that December. We tried to get it together but we lost ground when I ended up in the hospital on suicide watch and to be withdrawn from all my meds, but especially the xanax. Gone were the wellbutrin and synthyriod to be replaced with depakote, celexia and remeron. Released from the hospital I tried to be the husband that I had been, but I no longer felt like the person I had been. I felt hollowed out, totally disinterested in anything around me. In May of 1999 we separated  and she moved to Florida.  I tried to become interested in my work again, but couldn't

 

Anyway, we are together again. I moved down in Oct. 1999, we separated in July, 2001, back together 4 months later, separated in Sept. 2002  and back together in Feb 2003. We must like punishment I guess. My meds are now wellbutrin and lithium and maybe risperdal. My illness seems to mutate, to adapt to antidepressants so that I eventually find myself fighting with a depression I've never seen before. The voices in my head have changed as well. They used to be a minor problem, I mean it was no big thing and you're never alone. But now they are darker, more insistent and frankly they frightened me now.

 

So, that me.

 

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