In the years leading up to my father’s death, I’d been
preparing for it. He was diagnosed with cancer a decade ago and, since then,
his health slowly, but surely, deteriorated.
When it comes to grief, I learned no amount of mental preparation will suffice. Sure, I’d seen grandparents pass away, but this was different: this was my dad, the man who I both loved and at times loathed.
Going over the bridge to South Philly as a kid, I worried it would
collapse. I had no reason for the fear, it was just there. The sports stadiums
stood to the left, and the Navy Yard sprawled to our right. My father had the
window down and the cool air blew against my face, as well as the cigarette
The unraveling starts slowly, but surely. From my earliest
memories, I’ve been trying to find meaning amid the chaos. I still get the
“pictures,” as a recovery friend likes to say. As I continue my research, I
discover that psychologists today call those “intrusive memories.”
At times I wonder if the whole world is wrapped up in this web of
dysfunction. If we’ve been marching toward this boiling point for some time
now, and if we’re about to face a reckoning.
What does it mean to have bipolar disorder?
I was diagnosed with Bipolar I in college. After a clear manic episode while going to Temple University, a psychiatrist working on the campus prescribed me a mood stabilizer, along with the depression and anti-anxiety medications I was already taking.
A few years ago, I began keeping a journal in a Microsoft Word file, in addition to the handwritten journals I keep.
It was interesting to go through the Word Doc and see the ups and downs from the past few years. I decided I wanted to share some paragraphs from the journals in a segment I’m calling “Notes to Self.”
Some of the paragraphs are inspirational, and most of them are written in second person, as that helped me through the hard times.
I didn’t realize how I much appreciated silence until my late twenties, after another mental health breakdown. A bad breakup had sent me running to another self-help group and, unknowingly, into a deeper search for God.
“Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that
cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Bipolar
disorder is a category that includes three different conditions — bipolar I,
bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder.” -American Psychiatric Association
Madness seems like such an old-fashioned term,
much like “insane asylum.” However, I’ve known madness in my life and, when
going through the mental twists and turns, it can be difficult to recognize
just how mad I am.
I was a mess in college.
Two years before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I had found myself at an expensive liberal arts university in Long Island, New York, with somewhat of a trajectory for life, and a moral compass, and many good qualities and strengths.
Most my writing lately has been fiction. But the recent passing of my great-grandmother prompted me to write this short piece of memoir. I was fortunate enough to be by her side during the final days of her long life. Continue reading