Hello Bipolar, My Name Is Lydia: Manic Ramblings to My Disease
I wish you would have introduced yourself earlier in my life. Perhaps you tried and I turned a cold shoulder because I was trying to run away from the overwhelming feelings I experienced starting at the age of ten.
Was that you who intensified my first broken heart when the boy I liked in fourth grade did not give me a Valentine and I couldn’t stop crying? I was crying so hard and inconsolably that the school nurse had to call my mother to come pick me up from school. I remember looking back on that day as an adult and laughing because I overreacted to the point that the teacher forced the boy to make me a Valentine. It was on lined light green writing paper, the kind which we all learned to form our letters and write our first cursive letters. The boy was so angry, he bluntly wrote, “I don’t like you but they are making me write this Valentine anyway, so, Happy Valentine’s Day.” I cherished his words and that Valentine for years.
Quite possibly you tried again in sixth grade when I began to have the overwhelming desire to write. I am certain I was the first sixth grader to turn in a handwritten Chapter Book, entitled “Summer Love,” with characters based on myself and the boy I had a terrible crush on at the time. I went so far as to number each page, make a table of contents and illustrate my own cover. I still have it to this day.
If I did not hear you then, maybe I should have recognized you when I became obsessed with the movie, Sound of Music and rewrote the entire thing from memory into a play, and then insisted all my neighborhood friends participate in the production that summer. I never thought it strange that I felt a kinship to my blog’s namesake, Scarlett O’Hara, immersing myself in her biographies and the movie Gone with the Wind. Vivienne Leigh was bipolar as well and although I read about her highs and lows, I never related them to my own life. My imagination was endless and my ability to relate to fictional characters and partially take over their personas never struck me as odd. I even went so far as to dress like Bender from Breakfast Club when I had in-school suspension in high school. Interestingly, no one ever told me I was weird, or asked me what was wrong.
As I entered adolescence, you were more persistent, but I continued to ignore you. Possibly that is because I knew if I approached my father about my feelings he would push them aside and cite that I was “melodramatic.” And that I was, composing an innumerable amount of poetry for my newest love interest and obsession that would span almost eight years. It’s amazing to me that this young man remained my friend through it all. I would hand him ten page letters daily in an attempt to get him to see how much he liked me too, begging him to just admit his feelings, which he never did. Yet, the endless diary entries were quite delusional when I reread them (yes, I have kept all my diaries, which could easily fill a small bookshelf). For years, my friends would listen to my endless chatter about my obsession and heartbreak, but I chalked all of this up to hormones and my intense romantic nature.
I’m also sure you tried to show your ugly face when I was a junior in high school and I thought it was the end of the world when my best friend and I had a fight and the very same day a boy in my class told me I had a big ass. Certainly, their infractions justified trying to take a ton of pills to put an end to my pain, don’t you think? I woke up the next morning sick as hell and dragged my deranged ass to school, tired, disheveled and eyes swollen shut from crying. The worst part was I tried to talk to someone and when they wanted to call my family in for counseling, my mother freaked out because she was afraid of how my father would react. My pleas for help fell on deaf ears and I figured I was just having a dramatic moment, vowing to never take too many pills again.
I am positive you accompanied me on my midnight escape to Florida when I was eighteen. I was filled with rage, anger and energy. I was mad at my parents, my grandparents and anyone else that got in the way of my perceived independence. I remember concocting this elaborate plan to escape. I lived with my grandparents at the time and each night after they would go to sleep, I filled a garbage bag with my belongings and snuck them out to my car. I did this for several nights, knowing my grandmother would be leaving to go out of town and that was when I was going to make my move, but not without inflicting intense pain upon her through my words. I left her a note telling her she had made my life hell and I was leaving and no one would know where I was going. I, then kindly told her to have a nice fucking trip. That day, I left with $500 dollars in my pocket and drove away, leaving a note with my employer that I had to leave and I quit. I will never forget the immense intoxication I felt with each state line I crossed – liberation and exuberance filled my veins. My music was blasting and I lived on cigarettes and diet soda the entire way to Florida. To be perfectly honest, my friends that lived there had no idea I was even coming, nor did the boy I was chasing who lived there. I thought I was head over heels in love with him and we had only dated about a month before my father sent me back to New Jersey to live with my grandparents because I was uncontrollable. And yet, I saw nothing wrong with my behavior.
To say my life was tumultuous would be minimizing the intense craziness in my behavior. I can barely remember the few weeks that I lived and partied with this boy and his friend, before I plummeted and hit bottom, only to end up on my parents’ steps, begging for them to take me in, which they did. I attempted to get my life together, found a job at Coca-Cola in the office and checked out colleges, but it was fleeting. My father and I fought constantly and in another upswing, I was gone again. I disappeared from work and began living out of my car. I ran up my parent’s Shell Credit card for food and gas. I met some of the worst people with whom I could get involved. I had a Sears credit card and began buying things to pawn and using the money to gamble and party. I even went so far as to buy this homeless girl and her boyfriend that I thought were my “friends” clothing and stuff for their baby which I never saw. My mother left my father during that time, because she blamed him for my problems (which I do believe he partly caused). I am convinced my father was undiagnosed his entire life and his behaviors and cruel abusive ways shaped my own self-hatred.
In the year or so I lived in Florida, before I met my first husband, who was also cruel and abusive, I lived at approximately 13 different addresses, managed to become employed at several different jobs, would work to get my first paycheck, then never show up and disappear again. You tried to kick me in the ass when I began running with Sharon, a girl more troubled than I and stealing gas like Bonnie and Clyde. We had it down pat, so much so that finally one night we pulled up to a local Circle K and saw a wanted sign with us on it which was generated from their security cameras because we had stolen over $500 worth of gasoline. That’s a lot of gasoline in a time when the price per gallon was $0.99. That night I contemplated painting my white MGB red, and running to Chicago, but instead opted to abandon it in a Pizza Hut parking lot. I was impulsive, lacked any judgment and felt beyond euphoric. We moved in with an alcoholic named Cliff who kept nothing but beer in his fridge. I ate Ketchup sandwiches, stole Spam from the local grocers as a treat and then Sharon robbed me of all my clothes and disappeared. I recall calling my mother in New Jersey and her screaming at me that this was not normal behavior, to which I quickly replied, “Someday I am going to write a book about all of this, Mom. You are freaking out!”
The chaos continued but I will not bore you with more crazy adventures. You get the gist of it, but then the depression kicked in amidst all my out of control drinking. I was living with my boyfriend and his grandparents, and as soon as I had a little too much to drink, I would be crying uncontrollably, calling my mother that I wanted to come home and telling her I had no idea what was happening to me and yet not once did the idea of you cross my mind.
It took three more years before I finally heard your name and was officially introduced to you in 1995 on a locked hospital ward. I began treatment and within two months, blew you off once more for over twenty years. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I guess I knew you were there, but I always had an excuse, a situation to blame for my behaviors, but I can no longer do that. I have hit a point of no return. I can no longer ignore you or I risk you destroying my life forever. So here we are, standing face to face. Rather than throwing my arms up in exasperation, I reach out my hand to yours and surrender to the chaos, embracing your good and damning your evil, but none the less, knowing I will never ignore you again. “Hello, Bipolar, my name is Lydia and I’m ready to cohabitate with you. We are in this together for life. Now let’s find a way to get along, ok?”