Chemically Sane

I haven't always been mentally ill. I've always been on the fringe of the norm- the glass wall between me and humanity kind of thing, but I didn't feel myself start to fragment until my mid-twenties.

The first time it happened I was working as a bank teller. It was closing and I was counting out the cash drawer and doing my balance sheet. I got this idea to close my checking account, take the $5000 I had to my name, and use it as a down payment for a Mercedes. I knew it was a bad idea. I could hardly afford rent. My job, like most of my others was tenuous at best.

And then I separated.

I stood outside myself and watched me clear out my account.

At the dealership I tried to tell the other me not to sign the purchase agreement, but I did anyway. I gave the guy my five grand and drove off in a new midnight-blue SL450 convertible. The other me sat in the passenger seat- her head thrown back, her short hair blowing around. She laughed and laughed. And I let myself get sucked into her lightness.

Two days later I was stuck in traffic on the 101 and it hit me what a stupid idea it had been to buy the Mercedes. I couldn't return it and get my money back. It wasn't a pair of jeans. I couldn't afford it either. I got so depressed about it I got out of the car, left it on the freeway and walked away.

The car was never found. I'd let my insurance lapse so they wouldn't compensate me, even with my documented tale of carjacking. I was $50,000 in the hole for a car I didn't have anymore and no way to pay it back.

And I separated again.

I started taking money from the bank. The customers actually- I'd take a little off the top of deposits over a grand.

I didn't. The other me did.

Again I stood outside myself watching this other me steal. I tried to stop her with moral and value judgments. She came back at me with justifications.

You get paid shit. You get treated like shit- bottom of the rung lackey.

I told her I was afraid of getting caught.

She laughed me off. No one will notice. Nobody keeps tight track of their money these days.

But I knew the bank did. Sooner than later they'd discover what I was doing. Three weeks into stealing and both sides of me finally came together- joined by fear. So I ran away. Two days before end of the month audits I left the bank at closing and never went back. I walked away from my life with $17,000 in cash in my pocket and became the other side of me-- the wild side, for the next month.

There are only brief, fleeting images of that month. The first thing I remember clearly is my mom standing next to my hospital bed staring down at me, her face tear streaked and gaunt. She started crying again the moment our eyes meet, and I got how hurt and scared she was. I wanted to hug her but I couldn't. I was strapped down.

I spent three days at UCLA Medical Center Psych ward. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, given Thorazine and sent home with my mother.

No cure. No hope for a cure. Manageable only with medication- side affects to be expected.

And though Thorazine does keep me together, it reinforces the glass wall separating me from the rest of the world. I walk around in this thinly veiled haze, which I suppose is okay, given the alterative. But I wonder if sanity is really worth the price. It gets harder and harder to justify feeling sick and tired all the time.


J. Cafesin said...

This piece is a composite. Though written in first person, it is a true story about a friend.

Comrade Paulie said...

I also have a close friend who has suffered terribly from bi-polar disorder. A brilliant scientist, he was stable and amazingly productive for more than a decade. Then a sudden change in his personal life seemed to push him over the edge. he fell into a depressive fugue from which no treatment could bring him back. He became a different person, one who I didn't know and could not relate to. His decent was like death to me and I miss him terribly.

Tim Schoch said...

My mother was bipolar, seriously so. My brother, sister, and I grew up attempting to accommodate her every whim, change in direction, and incredible sensitivities and insecurities. These behavior patterns exist in each of us, as habitual or inexplicable. I think manic depression rhythms can be learned, then expressed or used in one's life to compensate. I think it can be extremely subtle, elusive, and confusing.

Your "friend" should be the protagonist in a mystery novel, a detective at odds with his/her own set of demons while trying to find the essential truth in investigations that could save a life or take one.

Thanks for posting on LinkedIn. :)

Anne said...

This is such a heart wrenching story. Right now I am struggling to script an episode of a chat show on depression with a segment on bi-polar disorder. To truly understand the breadth and depth of the impact of this illness, it should come from someone who suffers from it. Unfortunately, there's such a stigma attached to it because of ignorance that it's difficult for someone to actually come out and speak about it. However, this true-life anecdotal information certainly illustrates the devastating effect of the illness on someone's life and that of family and friends. I hope we can do this very serious issue justice.

Anonymous said...

Want a deep discussion on depression?? I'm the one to talk to. I talk about it to educate people and make them understand. I live with a thin "veil" on and have for decades, but I'm pretty good.