Mental Illness – An American Odyssey – 4

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Symtpoms

So what is Bipolar? Is it something you’re born with? Is it something you develop? The experts believe that it’s a combination of nature and nurture. So you may have the underlying genes for Bipolar, however, they may be triggered by environmental stressors.

I believe that I had symptoms early on in life.

I remember having visual and auditory hallucinations on and off as a young child. The most vivid one happened when I was very young. I thought three angels were appearing to me on my bed. I remember sitting and watching them float above me—all white, giant wings, golden aura. At the time I thought I was getting some sort of spiritual download. I was very religious as a child and even as a teenager. So for me, the idea that some deity was speaking directly to me was super exciting.

But now, knowing what I know about myself and my condition, it’s not all that exciting. There are a plethora of mentally ill people that think god is speaking to them, you’ll find them in institutions across America, I’ve met many of them; it’s a torturous, and potentially dangerous, thing to believe. Some of the most notorious tragedies ever wreaked upon humanity have happened at the hands of folks that believe god told them to do it. I’m thankful that it happened infrequently and that I am now at the point where I recognize that particular symptom for what it is. If things get really bad for me, if my levels are off, I still have auditory hallucinations from time-to-time, but it’s nothing severe, it’s just a little scary.

But it goes beyond that, there are other symptoms.

Let’s start with mania symptoms:

  1. feeling easily agitated, which some describe as feeling jumpy or twitchy
  2. talking very fast, often accompanied by racing thoughts
  3. extreme restlessness or impulsivity
  4. impaired judgment
  5. unrealistic overconfidence in your abilities or powers
  6. engaging in risky behavior

***

Let’s cover a few in this blog and then I’ll hit more in the next. With this I’m going to talk about my agitation and anger, my impaired judgment, and my overconfidence in my abilities and powers.

My anger. Boy, could I get angry. I’m talking full blown, blackout rage.

I saw several counselors about it as a kid. I don’t remember much from those sessions. They didn’t help. I remained angry throughout most of my teenage years and even into my twenties. As a kid it manifested itself violently. Aside from calling my mom all kinds of awful things, I hit her a few times. I punched and kicked holes in multiple walls. Broke fingers and bruised knuckles from hitting things.

In my teenage years and on into my twenties it got worse.

My first job when I moved to Texas was working as a bouncer at a club until 2am and then working security at a seedy motel until 6am.

It paid shit.

But that’s not why I did it. I got to fight every weekend.

It was like a drug.

I’d spend months at a time in full blown mania, just dying to get into something dangerous, something that would feed my adrenaline.

Within the span of a month I had a drunk girl try to claw my eyes out, I got a knife pulled on me, I had guy try to get to his truck for a pistol, I saw a man’s ear split in half (literally) by a black jack (small rubber club with solid metal making up the tip), and some drunk marines tried to duke it out in the parking lot with me. It wasn’t until I got jumped by a dozen guys on the second floor of the hotel, while trying to rescue a couple prostitutes from them, that I realized I was probably going to get myself killed, so I quit.

But the anger and the need to act out didn’t stop.

Hell, shortly after that I took a gig working in South Dallas, evicting people from their homes, tossing their furniture onto the street corner. For those that don’t know, South Dallas is the ghetto.

Very low income. Very high crime.

So here I am, white as the snow, in an all black neighborhood, tossing people’s furniture onto the street corner.

And I loved it.

Not because of what I was doing. No. Looking back on it, what I was doing was horrible and only serving to hurt those that were already hurting due to the corruption bred by out of control capitalism.

I loved it because of the rush. The danger.

That danger got real a couple of times—groups of angry men, each of them wearing red shirts, standing on the other side of the street yelling the various things they were going to do to me if I stuck around (none of the activities sounded pleasant). Some of them charged up on me, asking, “what the fuck” I thought I was doing in their neighborhood, messing with their people. I just kept my head down and kept ready; I was angry, I was thirsty for excitement, but I wasn’t stupid, I knew when to step up and when to wait it out.

Luckily, about the time I felt the need to start carrying a gun, the work dried up (divine intervention, perhaps).

Road rage. Drunken tangents. Living my life to provoke.

I did that for so long.

It really only ended a few years ago when I got diagnosed and put on a stable med regimen. Everyone around me was a target. My wife included. She put up with a lot from me, especially when I was still drinking. But I’m on the other side of that now.

Can I still go there?

Hell yeah!

It’s why I don’t have a personal Facebook. It’s why I don’t drink. It’s why, when I feel the gears start revving, I take a Klonopin. It’s why I workout regularly and try to stay positive. I’ve caged a beast and I never want it getting out again. There are so many stupid ass things that I got involved in because of my anger and compulsive nature…if they’d gone wrong, I could have wound up in prison for the rest of my life or dead, easily. But I was fortunate.

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