by Bob in California
I started dealing with mental illness as a child. Now I know that my mom was diagnosed with manic depression in the early 1970s. My brother and I became a release for her maniacal rages. Beatings, screaming, hunger, and neglect are the best way to describe my childhood.
At the age of sixteen, I was able to live with different families until I graduated high school. During my high school years, I had many friends and was twice the wrestling team captain with an undefeated senior season. I was off to wrestle in college but never made it. Perhaps this was the first of many delusions to come.
At age 28, I had a house, a lovely wife, a teenage stepdaughter, and two nice cars in the driveway. I would make the comment that I left all the insanity behind me. My sleep patterns started to change. I'd sleep for three days and never feel rested. Other times I would have a terrible time getting to sleep or wake every ten minutes in a panic, looking at my alarm. These sleeping patterns worsened. I started to decline in my decision making and attitude towards my family. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde had moved into my house. It finally came to a head and I had to leave the house. My wife agreed that I was always a good husband and good stepfather. However, I was no longer able to take care of my family.
The next two years we lost our house, business, and our finances became a mess. It was time for me to die. I had made a promise to my doctor that if I really felt suicidal to come to him. I kept my promise. I stood in his office and said if you don't get me some help, I am headed to the Bay Bridge to jump off! He shockingly looked at me and knew I meant it. By the end of the night, I was taken into a room of three sleeping men. I told myself not to talk to anybody or give them any private information.
I spent the next seven days locked up in two connecting hallways. No cards, flowers, or get well cards. I had a couple of visitors the last two days and was fearful of being released. I made it out the door, no welcoming party, just my truck and me. The next two years brought the reality of living with a chronic severe mental illness called bipolar.
All was to be lost. My next two years were spent living in the back room of a friend's house. I would give him money when I could, which was not very often. Thanks to his kindness, it was the only thing that kept me from sleeping in the streets. Most of my time was spent in Barnes & Noble Book Store. My only goal of the day was to make my bed that had imprisoned me for the last two months. If I made my bed, I would not crawl back in it. My bed is still made every morning.
I spent two years working a little here and there for enough money to get by. Most of my time was dedicated to a cup of coffee and reading as many books on mental illness as I could find. My reads started with psychology and the stories of those that were or had dealt with mental illness. Then I started to read about the therapies, techniques, medications, strategies, and then religion, philosophy, art, anything that got me closer to an answer of why I was who I am.