By Andrew Wolf
How I took the drama out of my mental illness
The Depressed Donkey: 2002-2007
I felt like shoving a shotgun into my mouth and clicking the trigger, but the thought of splattering the wall with crimson raw hamburger was too much—that, alongside the unknown afterlife consequences.
Living with grey, gloomy lenses made life stale, cold and so lifeless. My brain was stone, like living encased in a rocky underground cavern. This persisted from the eighth grade to my freshman year in college. Due to my depression, I had no friends: people just didn’t acknowledge me. I played this role of the dark, twisted wanna-be serial killer, listening to Slipknot and Marilyn Manson alone in my car before class. I was locked into this persona of the dark drama king. I loved reading Stephen King, as well as Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven, which spoke to me. It was like I could dwell with a bird pecking at my skull, never to experience romantic or any form of deep heart love, for “evermore.”
Occasionally, the “Manic Monster” busted out its horned head, provoked by excessive energy drink consumption, but it could not ram all the way out from the cavern. So the glazed-eyed, hazy-brained donkey played its part for the majority of the drama.
The Manic Monster: 2007-2009
But the depression did not last forever. In the winter of 2007, the year I became a college dropout, the Manic Monster broke through. So I became like the naturally over-caffeinated Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, a total transformation from being the lethargic monotone donkey (also from Winnie the Pooh).
I boomed such absurdities as “I am God!” or “Stick it in your ovaries!” Now, I knew, even when possessed by the Manic Monster, that I was not actually God. Rather, I was merely imitating Robert De Niro from the film Men of Honor, gripped by his sense of deluded, carefree and unrestrained arrogance.
Due to my colossal arrogance, I got arrested three times. The first time, during the first manic spree, I had kicked in a door at the Village Pharmacy, spurred on by the deluded image of being abandoned by my peers during high school. I spent time locked up in isolation for two weeks. There was no charge due to "incompetence" during the time of the offense. The judge deemed me mentally unfit in that moment of kicking the door—I was seen as too insane to be charged with a crime.
The second time I was arrested for yelling out a hard rock song while listening to it through headphones during midday, in the middle of a college campus! Before I knew it, I was being frisked by the chief of police, who told me to leave the premises, but I refused. Hence, I was arrested, though luckily not tossed in jail. Instead, I was given a ticket for disorderly conduct. The third time I was arrested occurred when I scared my sister into punching me with two full blows to the face, but I had not touched her. I called the police on her, clearly with the malicious intent of giving her jail-time experience. Yet again, due to my being the primary aggressor, I was arrested and spent one more night in the same isolation cell as I’d stayed before.
I am now attending the same college where I had both dropped out and had roared out the hard rock music. Last semester, I took 12 credits, retaking the classes I had previously failed. The tuition is fully paid by government grants, and I have earned all A’s, bringing my GPA up from the original 2.5 to 3.48, and I will attend classes next semester. This was made possible by my previous success at a community college which I left with a GPA of 3.5.
How did I manage all of this? Medications: they work! It took a few tries to find the correct dosages of the right medications. I started with Lithium, but now I’m taking Lamotrigine and Depakote that help me to maintain mental stability. During my previous role as a Manic Monster, I was unemployed for about two years. Now I have been employed as a waiter since 2010. I still have difficulties with low confidence and lack of friends; but I am functional and I no longer experience symptoms of major depression, nor symptoms of mania.
To complement this medication, I work with a cognitive therapist and a psychiatrist, and practice meditation. In particular, I am investigating “mindfulness,” which is being attentive to the awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) which can be used as an antidote to delusion. Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being used in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. Jon-Kabat Zinn is a major proponent of mindfulness. “Google” him or find him on “YouTube” to view one of his presentations. Eventually, I see myself becoming medication-free, but only in the next few years, after careful consultation with my psychiatrist and employing gradual dosage reduction.
Overall, I recommend getting professional help, taking the prescribed medications, and meditating to create the foundation to free yourself from bipolar madness.