Not a doctor, just my stories
Today is a new day I forgive myself for yesterday…
Before loud there was quiet.
The first twenty-five
According to family lore I was a happy baby and an outgoing talkative toddler. I also could be quite still. Like weirdly still, if someone would put me in a chair I would stay there and observe everything around me turning my head to whoever was talking before I was even verbal. The Eastern Europeans (my dad’s side) thought I was a genius. I am not, my parent’s did not think so either.
My parents studied fine arts and theatre, my mom loved movie and stage musicals, my dad loved opera and jazz. They wanted to expose their little princess to all the things they loved as soon as possible. Too soon but hey they were excited.
When I was three, they took me to see a ballet of Romeo and Juliet. When Juliet died I thought she was really dead I did not understand it was make believe and I got hysterical, my dad hugged me and explained and then the curtain opened and she was alive. That was an early introduction to the performing arts.
When I was four they took me to see the original stage production of Pippin. It was a really big deal at the time, groundbreaking. My parents saw it three times and wanted their little princess to experience this game changer. I enjoyed the singing and dancing but could not follow the story at all, it takes place during the age of Charlemagne and it’s about finding yourself. (I’m simplifying) So as I mentioned Charlemagne so during the second act there was a number called War. The cast comes out in breast plates and helmets with horns and black and white makeup and I got you guessed it hysterical.
To my point, my parents were awesome they just had no idea what a kid was, literally. They treated me like an adult and I tried to comply so my emotional development was a little stunted, trying to be a grown-up without the tools. I did have a room full of books and toys, was read to and taken to many kid friendly events and eventually had a little sister, I was pissed about that.
So the problem about being treated like an adult too soon. My dad was a Holocaust survivor. Trauma left him with a need to impart his experiences and I believe find ways to grieve. He also had lost his mother when he was nineteen and it left him depressed for the rest of his life.
So to whom did he impart to? Me, when I was very young. I believe he thought he was preparing me for life but like with the theater I was absorbing things way too young. It made the world a terrifying place I did not have the luxury of carefree years.
He told me stories about World War II, about the Hungarian Revolution, about his mom and how amazing she was. I loved him so much. I listened raptly to the stories. I was so young though I couldn’t keep the wars straight and I confused WWII when the Nazis were the bad guys with the Hungarian Revolution when the Russians were the bad guys.
I also I sensed he was so broken by his mother’s death that I became convinced he would die when I was nineteen the age he was when she died. I was aware and afraid of death for as long as I can remember.
So as I grew I had tremendous anxiety and I did not gain the survival skills my dad was going for. I dived into fantasy, watched endless hours of television to learn about the world I was not engaging in.
Bipolar disorder is generally diagnosed in someone’s twenties not necessarily childhood but I was so nervous I was practically mute and I lived in a foggy bubble where I felt safe and calm. I can only describe my mindset as a child since the prevailing wisdom about mental issues at the time was that it was a phase and I would just grow out of it, no treatment or diagnosis.
I believe my issues stemmed from a combination of nature and nurture. I had some mental issues that just were part of my makeup and how my brain worked and I had parents who were in our home, inside world, shy, scared, sad, and I absorbed it all. Every mood, every nuance I picked up on. My dad’s stories, my early exposure to the adult world. Heightened empathy an aspect of bipolar disorder.
I definitely was depressed. As far as manic I believe I was but it was like I was a tuning fork that was vibrating so fast it seemed like I stopped moving. I was frozen in terror. I barely talked, I daydreamed, I would pace up and down with music on fantasizing about a life I wasn’t living; about a person I felt I would never be. I thought I was boring and that I had no personality.
The second twenty-five
I would characterize my first twenty-five years as the depressive years. I had three full clinical depressions at sixteen, twenty-two and twenty-five. When I roll my bipolar symptoms into my thinking about my life now it has two perfectly bisected halves, the first twenty five very penguin completely south (depressive) (quiet) and the second twenty five very polar bear completely north (manic) (loud) The through theme is anxiety and ADD.
What changed? Work, taking care of myself, driving, talking, reading, realizing I could be funny. Falling in love, finding my Sam. Making peace with my fears, taking responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
The second half of my life is so drastically better and that is what I focus on in this blog; my day to day but I am also reflecting on my past and that is helpful. Twenty-five to fifty (one) is also a combination of nature and nurture. My brain works the way it works, then there is awareness, therapy, medication, love, life, hopeful not hopeless.
I still have to manage, cope and work daily to keep mindful of my swings and to be present in life. Present is hard, it’s hard for everyone.and I always try to get to the equator, the end game, mood stabilization. Whatever the hell that really means. When the sun broke through the fog I wasn’t cured there is no “cure” but there is happy. I’m happy.