Prof. C

Things are going to get better, I know it. I am finally getting back to treatment and going back on meds. I just hope I am in time to save my relationship with a wonderful woman. This isn’t the first time my bi-polar has damaged a relationship, but it might be the first time I caught it in time. Back to the beginning….

I suspect I was exhibiting symptoms all my life of my bi-polar, but back in the 1950s and 60s, not many people were actually being diagnosed as bi-polar, so it is no surprise I slipped through. As a child, I would fly into rages, smashing toys, injuring myself, in short, showing all the danger signs. Neither my parents nor anyone else seemed to recognize there was a problem, or they simply didn’t know what to do about it. Mental health in a small, rural state was not something that was dealt with well in those days. Either you hushed it up or the child ended up institutionalized.

By the time I reached 15, I was having full blown mania and depression, but no one seemed to catch it. At 15, my world came unglued when I discovered, by accident, that I was adopted, a fact which was kept from me. In my parent’s defense, they kept the secret on the advice of the old family doctor, who was well intentioned by severely misinformed. What little self-control I had up to that point disappeared and I became bent on self destruction driven by depression. I drank, took whatever was offered for drugs and generally headed down the road to a personal hell. I was seen by several counselors, none of whom seemed at all interested in finding a diagnosis, they all seemed intent on just talking me through the problem. This became a pattern for the next 23 years of being in and out of counseling.

While alcohol and drugs fueled my nights, I became obsessed with sexual conquest. The girls I met were only of interest if they were going to be sexually active with me. I had no concern whatever for their feelings. Often, I would break up with one to pursue another, only to drop that one for yet another. I was the one your mother warned you about.

I managed to get through the last years of high school despite my mental condition and got into a small liberal arts college. At the time, alcohol and drugs were an accepted part of college life, and I participated fully. Sex, naturally, was also a big part of college life, although I became somewhat withdrawn from that my first year, not due to any concern over academics, but rather because my self esteem was so low I could not conceive of any young woman wanting me. From this distance of years (30, to be precise), I can see that I was in a long depression, punctuated by a few manic incidents. Looking back, I am amazed I am alive to write this.

At age 20 I met the woman who was to become my first wife. She was an A student, but painfully shy and withdrawn. She was from a very poor family in a very economically depressed part of the state. I suspect she was receptive to my advances, perhaps in part because of my family’s solid middle class lifestyle and also because I was, at the time, on a manic which lasted long enough for her to be convinced my self-confidence would bring a good lifestyle for us. She was sadly mistaken on the second count.

I left school in a typical bi-polar fashion, after a manic incident got me written up for starting a fight. I was not expelled, but was so convinced of the injustice of the incident that I felt the administration was corrupt. After 3 ˝ years of college, I barely had 2 years of credits completed. While often cited by my professors for my acumen and ability, I failed to hand in so many papers that after all the incompletes turned to Fs, I had a lowly 1.87 GPA.

I married my college sweetheart in 1980, and we began what would be the pattern of our lives for the next 14 years. I would get a job, seem to be doing well, then quit or get fired. One year alone I had 22 jobs. I always seemed to be able to get a job, most of them low paying, some of them much better, but could never keep one for longer than a year usually, although one stretch at a haven of drugs and alcohol, a record and video distributor, lasted an amazing 2 ˝ years. Due in no small part to the owners, who themselves were heavy drug users, my sometimes bizarre behavior was usually shrugged off, offset by my hard work when I was in a mania, when I often would work 60-70 hours a week.

After 5 childless years, and many instances in which a more secure woman would have left, we had our first son. Two years later, our daughter arrived, 4 years after that, our second son. We became involved in a fundamentalist Christian church, and also began a home business. Meanwhile, I continued to drift about from one job to the next, always looking for that big break. We lived most of the time in horrible places, with uncaring landlords, getting whatever we could afford on the meager income I would bring in.

In 1994, after a severe bout of depression, I was finally put on meds, but this was to be the breaking point. Misdiagnosed as simply suffering from a case of depression related to my latest job loss, I was put on an antidepressant, which was fine, until the mania hit. The result was a complete reality break, so overwhelming the result was criminal charges for assault and a court ordered psychiatric evaluation at the state mental hospital. I was at rock bottom.

Amazingly, it was in this aging, decrepit institution that the light finally came on. One of the doctors made a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder and there was an overwhelming sense of relief in me. There was a name for what was wrong with me, and if there was a name, there might be a treatment.

After a bungled attempt at lithium treatment (they refused to even listen to my complaints about the side effects!), I was released and found a new doctor who tried Depakote, and it worked! Gone where the highs and lows, and despite my predicament (I was homeless, without work and separated from my family) I was finally on an even keel. I decided it was time to go back to finish up that long unfinished project, my college degree.

With the meds stabilizing me, I spent the next 2 years finishing a degree, graduating with honors while working at the college food service. For the first time in my life, I had actually accomplished a goal I had set for myself. Unfortunately, my marriage was not able to be salvaged, the emotional rift between us was simply too great from years of pain. Happily, I can report that today, my ex-wife and I can get along well, although reconciliation is not a possibility.

This is not to say these 2 years were without trials. I was abandoned by the members of the church where I had been a leader, since most of them viewed my problems as stemming from a lack of faith in God rather than a chemical imbalance in my brain. This was highlighted by the fact that one pastor at the church actually conned me into going to a counselor who, in fact, turned out to be a spiritual healer who intended to cast the “demons” out which were “possessing me”! I’m just lucky this guy didn’t try to drill a hole in my head to let them out! Goodbye church.

After graduation, I moved to another state, as I was now intent on pursuing a career as a college professor. This may sound like a grandiose scheme hatched in a manic mind, but that fact is that today I have completed all the coursework for a Ph.D. in my field and am writing my doctoral dissertation. I am also a professional staff member at one university and an adjunct professor at another. I am respected at both institutions and have received excellent reviews on my work.

Sadly the success story doesn’t have the complete happily ever after ending. I remarried and am now going through a second divorce. After much reflection, I now realize the reason for the demise of this relationship was, quite simply, that I stopped taking meds. The last few months have been a classic bipolar sequence. Sexual liaisons with multiple women, spending like there is no tomorrow, alcohol abuse. I am a mess again.

The final straw came last week, when, at full blown mania, I propositioned the best friend of the woman I have fallen in love with. She, being a loyal friend, told my lover, and the world came crashing down. She naturally ended our relationship. Yesterday, in self reflection, I finally saw what had happened, saw clearly that I was full blown manic, and today I made an appointment with a new doctor to get back on meds. I also sat down with my boss and told her, straight out, what was wrong and what I am doing to fix it. Thankfully, she is a kind and understanding woman, and has pledged her full support.

I am going to my love’s house this weekend, on meds by then, and hope that I may have caught this in time. I was in danger of losing everything I have gained over the last 10 years. I have been honest with her, and hope may be given a chance to, with meds stabilizing me, rebuild what we had spent months building up. I also hope that I have learned that I can’t conquer this on my own, I need a doctor and meds. I’ll keep you posted.



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