I take a drug for my bipolar disorder that sometimes causes wild, exotic and downright crazy dreams, and last night was no exception, it was a great example. I dreamed I was very young and frankly that upset me. When I was young (in the late Paleolithic) the world had a very distorted view of itself. It still does.
I searched all of my life for ways to dissipate that distortion. Were the people around me — and the people on television — able to be reconciled? By this I mean that a major question I in my mind was whether or not television, my favorite babysitter, had anything resembling truth inside that box. I mean, take a good look at this picture; the fantasy construct that is Mr. Rogers is giving a cameraman the finger, for god’s sake! That would confuse any kid. Mr. Rogers simply does not give one the finger.
The answer (with the exception of Walter Cronkite and there was speculation even about him) was a resounding No. Real Life and television simply could not be reconciled and not only that, it wasn’t just television, it was religion, social conformity, education and morality, things everyone claims to have or want and in truth no one actually ever practices. Were these concepts able to be reconciled with reality? My reality?
When it came to escapism nothing except my brain could create such fascinating dreams and in that world I could invent any kind of reality imaginable. That meant I could reconcile reality, religion, culture and thought and include my fantasy, too, and this is still a common madness not only of mine but the public at large. I didn’t realize then I was nuts but now that’s a little more obvious.
First, Last and Next Stop
Being bipolar is sometimes a lot like visiting a Rod Serling sort of world where anything can happen and usually does. I suppose that is true of any world. But when you have a disorder that causes an inherent wildness to surface, a disorder that causes you time of great fear and great elation, you sometimes feel that you are in the Twilight Zone. It feels like you’re never going to wake up in a reasonable reality (whatever that may be, it’s still undecided).
But sometimes you wake up to the Pig People.
But I Want To Be Like Everybody Else
I never believed that I was like everybody else. I felt old before I hit the age of fifteen. I had been living in a dream since I could remember. I was odd. People didn’t understand me very well, and I least of all. I was a loner, pretty much, with the exception of three or four close friends. I was living in a world of my making that just didn’t jibe with other people’s reality.
And I never understood that nor cared about it at the time.
I would run away, sometimes far away, and sometimes I would place myself in danger and couldn’t give a rat’s ass. I would find myself in the most unusual circumstances and for chrissake, I once even broke into my friend’s house when they were on vacation just so I could rearrange the furniture to my liking; now, how whacked is that, I ask? What a weird child I was.
I obviously didn’t understand literal or figurative boundaries very well nor did I understand or listen to the advice of others because advice wasn’t what I was looking for. I was looking for truth, what ever the hell that is. Let me assure you that no fourteen-year-old has any idea what ‘truth’ might actually be, and at the ripe old age of 56 I’m still looking for it.
There Were Plenty Of Surprises Indeed
I was convinced that the world, not me, was mad. And of course, I was quite right; I lived in a time of the Vietnam war, of nightly body counts on the television, of the incredible feats of NASA and the Apollo missions, the sexual revolution, the hippie movement, the summer of love, the first widespread use of color television and perhaps man’s greatest achievement The Pontiac GTO (lovingly called The Goat, fast and powerful and totally sexy).
Everything was in the air. If you can believe it, people actually thought Gomer Pyle was funny. I thought Gomer was sexually abused, actually, because that would explain a lot. People thought that hippies were dirty psychos, but I washed my hair every single day, sometimes twice. I smoked pot. A lot of pot. But one thing I did was believe and trust in my own view of reality, to learn everything I could outside of the educational system on my own and to learn to explore without fear. Of course that was a profoundly bad idea because if you consider it, a little reasonable fear goes a long way toward looking at things in a more reasonable way, as I was to find out much later. Far too much time went by before I came to that realization.
I Love Lucy For Reasons That Are Not Obvious
Lucy got it right for the most part: even if you have fears, it’s better to act, to do something to get what you want even if you fail and Ricky won’t let you or Ethel Mertz perform in the nightclub act. Or set Bill Holden’s nose on fire.
But I didn’t truly realize how important her drive to be in the show was to her. I wasn’t obvious that going to any length isn’t the way to realistically get what you want. There’s something to be said for subtlety; true, Lucy was never subtle but then again, neither was I. But I learned how to dive in and get what I want. How unfortunate that I had no idea what I wanted nor what I needed, either.
So The World Isn’t The Expected After All
As time went on I grew and changed, and one of the greatest changes became the seed that blossomed into bipolar disorder. That seed was the death of my closest friend of thirty years and the astounding loss, confusion and grief it caused. Every story has a beginning, and I’m not sure if this is the beginning of my bipolar story, but I’m pretty sure it is.
Rather than go to find the knowledge I needed to get through the pain, I internalized it all, fell into depression and blocked out years of my life as a result. Not the path for someone fearless like me. Not the path my friend would have wanted me to take, either. But I learned about hopelessness. I learned despair. And I learned that there was no remedy for how I felt except to go on with the pain that I then began to nurture. Pain that was safe and comfortable. I was completely adrift. Shipwrecked.
Sit Right Back And You’ll Hear A Tale
I’ll spare you all most of the gory details of my island captivity. I was completely alone as surely as if I were stranded on a deserted island. I was trapped in my own reality, one that I created, and one that I needed eventually to destroy in order to be rescued.
First Came The Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea
When I was trapped beneath the waves I was at least comforted to some degree. I kept going forward into the abyss. I tried love relationships, tried partying, tried any sort of disillusioned distraction I could come up with. I was under water, trapped inside my head and without the understanding of what it meant to be centered and to be somewhat emotionally healthy. What I needed to do was something completely out of my comfort zone; I needed to experience the pain in a way that would change me to the core in an ultimately positive way.
And that led me to five years of therapy, a partial hospitalization program and rewiring my brain with medication. Thanks to the heavens that it happened.
Now I understand how I shape my reality. That ‘truth’ that we make up is just like most television; it has no truth and little consciousness or good content. I am responsible for my well-being including my brain and body as well as my attitude and happiness. Can’t get that out of the boob tube. That means that I finally recognized that I was a member of the human race after all. I may have thought I was older, different, unique or enlightened. That was, how do you say, bullshit.
Where’s Your Ears? Here’s Your Ears!
Now that I am getting better in the sense that I hear and understand what needs to happen to get better, I’m suddenly aware of the huge numbers of people who share my diagnosis of bipolarity. I’m part of the club, Annette, like it or not. I’m a human with dignity and I’m capable of making goodness happen. I don’t have to live in comfortable sadness or wallow in the past. I can make my life into whatever I need it to be, and I can experience life again because of the incredible work and effort I’ve put in with my mental health team. They made it possible for me to wake up.
I urge anyone that reads this and who is experiencing a mental health issue or knows someone who is to please, please go and get someone to talk to, someone who can help you move forward. I did and the result is moving me in the right direction. Better that than constantly reliving loss and considering suicide as a way out of my own distorted brain.
We’re not alone on an island. We’re living in a real world of real possibility and I’m sure that Mrs. Howell would agree that it’s better to be happy, Darling. Lovey says so, and I think Thurston Howell III and the Professor would agree.