Ben's Story
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The memory that I think is my first is of my father dragging my mother past my bedroom door in a choke hold. I remember the fear so that wasn't the first time I had experienced it. Being raised in a violent household was just normal, I never new that anything was wrong as a kid, I used to hear my older sisters saying "why did she keep having kids with him?" and since I was the youngest I thought they wished I wasn't born. There are no real memories but there are too many, they flash all the time in chaotic sequences but I've never been able to string it all together. My realization of my own disease has unfolded so slowly that I was 36 before I ever sought help and by then all my tricks had been used, I was in a homeless shelter in concord California, 2 months after having a job with the studios that paid 7000 the first month, and I lasted exactly 30 days. I went to the VA hospital and announced the psychiatrist that I thought I was bipolar and after hearing my story she agreed. I am not the way I am purely because of my father; I had this disease from perhaps the age of 11, and was fortunate enough to have been given a few personality disorders to boot. I never really stood a chance. By 5th grade I had stopped performing in school but was passed with warnings from the teachers. Then I failed the 8th grade and repeated it. My IQ has been tested at 145 to 150 range, that wasn't the problem; I just stopped doing the work. I remember a math teacher telling me that I wasn't even trying and I responded, "you don't understand, I am trying" and I was. I eventually just quit in 9th grade and by then the drinking and drugs had started. I remember telling my mother as a kid that because of daddy I'd never drink. But I was blacking out regularly by the age of 15 and had 2 drunk and disorderly arrests by the age of 16 and you know I never knew there was a problem. I just never knew, but the problem was way older than the drinking. I just never stood a chance. I'm not being self-piteous; I was thrust into the world wholly unprepared to deal with it.
 The night mom left daddy after 30 years and 7 kids was the night that she tried to break up a fight between us. He was in his dark drunken mood and said, go ahead tell me that you hate me and I screamed it and he rushed me and starting fighting me and I remember that I couldn't fight back. In school I was a big fighter and was known for my fights and they were spectacles with teachers rushing in and chairs flying in my rage. In my school years I probably got into at least 10 fights a year from 5th grade on but I couldn't even try to fight him back. Mom tried to break it up and he hit her nose so hard it cracked and I remember a big string of blood came out of it and hung for a moment, swaying, then dropped all at once to the floor. He finally calmed down and mom and I waited for sister Clare to get home from a date. We snuck out to the station wagon but he heard us start it and as we were backing out he was rushing out the back door and picked up a brick and threw it at the car but missed. We stayed at the manor house hotel that night and I guess I was 13. I just hope that you can infer that these things were commonplace so that I don't have to tell a bunch of war stories. He was not only violent but played horrible mind games with us. So my hardware (brain) is faulty and my software is corrupted. Like I said I never had a chance.
 By the time I had attained awareness, mom had been reduced to battered womanís syndrome and daddy would just beat me for no reason. My sisters always tell me of the terror every day when daddy came home and I had forgotten to take out the trash, it was almost daily, he'd see the full trash can and I'd get beaten and I never learned to take out the trash. I never thought about it, I was in my own world and his violence was so capricious that I think I learned I'd get beaten no matter what I did or didn't do. I remember having to hold in my sobs because crying would get me hit more, I couldn't breath and snot would be running out of my nose and I'd just be convulsing trying to appear normal, he even had control to our reactions to pain. Once in the backyard he hit me in the face and bloodied my nose and I said, "I have a bloody nose" and he said, "I know and you don't have to tell me." I never knew what that meant. As I'm writing this I'm just kind of in shock at our whole family situation and that it went on so long. No one ever said a thing. We stopped getting invited to parties, because daddy would make his scene. If we went to a restaurant and the food was cold he'd get so violent that the cops were called. If a baby was crying in any public place he'd freak out and the cops would get called. If a kid was making a scene in the grocery store he'd tell the parents "if you don't shut that kid up, I will". And somehow as a family we dealt with this. I'm trying not to write too much about the incidents but they just keep popping up. This man was allowed to run his sick alcoholic brain rampant over his family for 30 years. I remember wishing he would die so he'd never embarrass me in public again. I never wished death on him for what he did to us, but damn I hated the embarrassment.


 The worst part is that I carried what he taught me like a virus and I had no idea I had it and it took me years to see it. I'm only lucky that I some how stopped the cycle, but its not really any solace because I just feel like dying slowly and fading out painlessly because of the damage I've done. But hey you might say, you are bipolar, you don't always feel that way, you get manic sometimes, right? Yea we all wish for mania when were depressed but mania is really the killer of bipolar in my opinion, we go beyond damaging ourselves and hurt others in mania, then have to live with ourselves after the crash. The Hollywood version of mania is almost laughable, and no one ever talks about dysphonic mania, itís the worse state because itís so often mixed with paranoia. Those who love you are all the sudden your enemy and the poor souls have no idea what they are facing but it resembles the devil. I have always thought that depression is the awareness of being disconnected from the world and mania is being unaware that you're disconnected.
 This whole gush of feelings seems to have been brought on by my therapist telling me that I've been bipolar since about the 5th grade, which shocked me, I had assumed that my behaviors when younger were a result of my childhood, learned behaviors that I thought I was either too weak or lazy to overcome and that my BP had come later just as a finishing touch. But knowing that I had this disease while being raised in a situation that would have damaged anyone was a relief. Little more could have been expected from anyone in the same situation.

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