This year started with a hospitalization. Toward the end of 2015, during the days when we celebrate our accomplishments and dream up new ones, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II – yes, there’s more than one! The term bipolar is thrown around carelessly. I don’t get offended because of my disorder, but rather for the misuse of the word. I’ve heard people say they are bipolar when they change their mind about something, which simply makes them human. Being bipolar, in crude terms, is to be at the opposite ends of two poles. Or the classic, “I love you! I hate you!”
Having bipolar disorder is more than thinking conflicting ideas. It’s being too tired to function, sleeping for days at a time, only to be followed by bursts of endless creativity. You have 5,000 great ideas, and they all need to be finished at once before you forget. You love everyone, everything, and anything that ever existed. Your brain is on drugs that you’ve never even taken. Then, the cycle starts again. This isn’t the experience of everyone with bipolar disorder – just as everyone with diabetes doesn’t experience all the same things – but it’s a glimpse into my chaotic life.
So, in late January, I went to the hospital and the dreaded adult mental ward. I saw this as a sign of weakness in admitting that I needed help, and that I couldn’t hold myself together. Normal people didn’t need to go to the mental hospital. Normal people could regulate their emotions, go to work, and maintain relationships. Perhaps I’ll write about the whole ordeal another time as it has been one of the most interesting periods of my life, but for now, we’ll focus on lighter material.
After being in the hospital, and attending hours of various kinds of therapy, I’ve come to this point. Writing has become one of the best therapies for which I’ve never had to pay. Reading is notorious for transporting readers into another world, engrossing them in a story, and entrapping their senses. Reading can make you forget your troubles and make you focus on the protagonist’s troubles. In reading one of my favorite books – The Great Gatsby – I forgot how much language could distract me from my issues. Not only does F. Scott Fitzgerald write an incredible story because Gatsby’s complex characters, but his descriptions are entrancing. Even though he describes people, places, and events in a grandiose and embellished fashion, he makes every word count. The Great Gatsby is my Golden Standard.
Will I ever meet such a standard? Who knows. I’m not looking for notoriety and a large paycheck, but I wouldn’t say no to either. I have no illusions of becoming Herman Melville, who died a poor writer before Moby Dick became a literary classic. I find it unlikely that my relatives will find my unpublished works which will be read for more than a century. Well, Moby Dickis classic to some, but I had to read it so often in college that I’ve become Ahab and I, too, want to spear the White Whale. Writing is my therapy. I’ve been happier reading and writing over the past two months than I have been the past year.
My journey begins here.