First, a few words from today’s sponsor, Ms. Carrie Fisher, self-admitted drunk, druggie, and bipolar sufferer:
I love Carrie Fisher, okay? She’s a much more talented, much better-looking, and even sharper-tongued version of this blogger. Not that I’ve ever met her, mind you. But she and I have enough in common so I think she’d recognize herself in me, too. We’d probably have some conversations.
I don’t even give a shit about her having played Princess Leia. Ask me if I care. Because…
…Carrie Fisher is bipolar and in recovery. The diseases of addiction and mental illness often nest together. I’d say “like Chinese boxes” only that might be construed as racist, so I’m not saying it. It can be a real cozy-nasty combination plate. “I’ll take the alcoholism with a side of psychosis, please. And don’t forget the triple Armagnac for dessert. Oh, and can you put whatever doesn’t eat me into a doggie bag for if it gets hungry later?”
Hey, if you don’t have some perspective or sense of humor about this shit, the chances are much better that it will kill you. And unless suicidal behavior is part of your profile, you don’t want that. I hope. And Carrie Fisher reminds me that if you really do have a sense of humor–even a somewhat snarky one–you have to walk it once in awhile, otherwise it will let loose in your house and shit all over your brains. She writes novels and still does movies here and there. I write poetry and keep two blogs.
Understand, the first thing chronic mental illness takes away is your ability to joke about it. It laughs at you but you daren’t laugh back. George Gordon, sixth Lord Byron, not only was a great poet, but he also was a remarkable cartographer of his own madness, even while it was happening. If his letters and journals are not an integral part of medical and psychotherapy training programs, someone should check out the validity of the curricula. Because Lord Byron, as much as “Sigmund Fucking Freud” (so Mark Wahlberg’s character in The Departed called him) left us a hell of a map: and he did so when there were no psychotropic medications, except laudanum, a nasty combination of wine and opium, which gave you the temporary relief of a Fuck It attitude. No lithium, no Topomax, no Depakote, no nothing. All Byron had at his disposal in the 1820s were humor, alcohol, and periodically dipping his dick into convenient women, including society ladies, Marchionesses, Countesses, and even his half-sister Augusta by their father, John “Mad Jack” Byron. And said half-sister, Augusta Leigh, shared some of Lord Byron’s genes, enough of them so she probably was at least as nuts as her far-too-loving brother, a fellow passenger on the banana boat.
I don’t have a sister. How lucky was I? How lucky was that never-born she?
Life With a Dual Diagnosis
I’d suspected for years that my mind wasn’t right. I was just miserable. The misery rolled over me in huge waves. There were times I could barely move. There were other times when I felt like God’s other son. I’d been through various kinds of therapies and counseling. At times I’d been put on Buspar, Ativan, and Xanax. There were other times I just got shitfaced drunk. Gurnicht helfen, as the saying goes.
But nobody had ever taken the time to do a proper psych work-up on me. Or they weren’t trained and equipped for it. I’d never really cracked up to the point where I had to be hospitalized. No, I just drank and fucked my way into a hostile divorce. People who really go over the edge–the one with the postcards you can buy in the hospital Gift Shop and send home–may have an advantage. Someone will actually talk to them and perhaps do something like a professional diagnosis and treatment plan beyond “You’re just feeling sorry for yourself, you pussy, so man the fuck up.”
So I got pills. And pot, acid, downers, and even occasional hits of smack. I got lots of that stuff for years. All of it helped for awhile. The various drugs (and alcohol is a drug) made me feel a bit better by removing whatever sense of morality and control I had without obliterating the guilt. Great: a guy with an increasingly wandering dick, who used it like a dowsing rod to find moist pussy, and who felt increasingly guilty about it. I felt liberated at the same time I was increasingly consumed by remorse.
What I didn’t know was that some of those meds, especially Paxil (bastard Son of Prozac), could make bipolar even worse. Which they did. And I didn’t know I was manic-depressive. I just thought I was a bad person who also happened to be a lunatic and a goat.
In 1999 the shit hit the fan. Hard. Fwop, fwop, fwop.
I tried to get myself out of a religious mania by having an affair with a woman with a religious mania. That’s called Putting Gasoline On The Fire. The woman I truly loved came this close to committing suicide.
I was forgiven, yes, for my very real transgression of using someone else. By the woman I used like a whore and by the woman I loved. By the ones who preceded them. I’d turned volunteers into victims. That real relationship lasted over nine years more until it died on its own. Relationships end, passions cool. Shit happens: or stops happening.
I told the story of my final horrible adventure to my therapist, who said this was beyond his ability, so he referred me to a psychiatrist, the kind who can prescribe. He guessed (beautifully) that I’d been having a summer-long hypomanic episode (http://psychcentral.com/disorders/hypomanic-episode-symptoms/) and he turned out to be right on the money. The psychiatrist did an intake interview with me and said I most likely was bipolar. Okay, so now it had a name. I wasn’t Possessed By Satan or a Congenitally Evil Person. I was Bipolar II. She prescribed medications for me to take. And I took them. They began to blow away the cobwebs and swept out the dirt I’d shoved under the Persian rugs I didn’t own.
But something was still wrong.
I was washing down the pills with vodka. “Do Not Consume With Alcohol” said the labels on the vials. Aaaah, fuck you. So I’d wash them down with liquor. I think the magic word was contraindicated. So from mid-September 1999 until mid-January 2000, I spent a lot of my time medicated and trashed.
When I woke up to my situation in mid-morning on January 13, 2000, through the forever blessed offices of a friend who also has lived in at least some of my terrain, I was actually grateful for being called out on my shit. I hated the hole I’d fallen into but I had no idea how to extricate myself. That was the night of my last drink. I began doing AA and kept taking the medications. Whoopee. Why the snarky whoopie? Because meds cleared the poison out of my gut but not out of me. Because flushing out the liquor doesn’t remake your life. You’re not a drunken asshole anymore. You’re just an asshole.
So much of the shit that fell upon me did so when I was ostensibly sober. I committed myself to a mental institution because my life really was falling apart, and I indeed was on that famous Edge of suicide. And I even spent some time in County from acts of mischance and from acts of mischance with which I actively collaborated.
All the same, I’m still nobody but myself. Obstreperous, cranky, sometimes nasty, sometimes (most times) out for the Number One (which is not taking a piss). But nowadays, I’m less willing to tolerate guilt-shaming or being told I’m an imperfect work of God’s art. No shit. I am. Maybe God deliberately doesn’t finish painting the canvas or chiseling away at the statue, and leaves us a bit of work to do on ourselves before he says, “Okay, pretty good, come on home.”