Let’s Start at the Beginning

This a chapter in my memoir I have been working on, I wanted to see what people think about this chapter. My origins story is something that I always worry about writing because I always worry about my memories. Sure I remember a lot, but it takes writing things down before things start to become more evident. As I continue to edit each chapter more memories will be reminded, and this chapter is always evolving.

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My Orgins Story

I chose to focus this memoir on the last ten years starting in 2007 when, on that wet November night, my life changed forever. My diagnosis became Bipolar One. It is where my adult life with mental illness began. I was twenty-two at the time. If I am honest, I had no idea the realities that would define the next ten years of my life. When I was twenty-two and starting this journey, I never thought I would see my thirtieth birthday. I never believed that there was something wrong with me— my first mistake. It took three very different suicide attempts over a three year period that made me who I am today— The Bipolar Writer.

Those of us in the mental illness community have an origins story, and mine is no different. My journey began at twenty-two, but in truth, this journey starts at the beginning when my symptoms first started to take shape. It is easier to look back on it now because those early memories are hard to forget.

I was born in the small town of Salinas, California— the central coast as it often referred to by the locals. The area is where John Steinbeck lived and wrote many of his literary works. My childhood was typical. My parents were hard-working, and they always instilled in me their hard work ethic. I was a horrible as a kid in my early years, and often did more bad things than good. I had this extreme need as a kid to steal anything that wasn’t tied down in my house. More often than not I would get caught, which is good, I would never make it as a thief as an adult. I got disciplined the right way, and it made me a better person as I became an adult.

I am a regular guy to the outside world. I have always had an affinity for books, writing, and music. I love Japanese food and the anime culture. Korean pop music seems to be my guilty pleasure, and I am learning to speak the language. I would like to move to South Korea in the future. It’s funny talking about the future because it wasn’t always a possibility in my life.

I am a coffee addict, and you will usually find me at a coffee house getting my coffee fix and writing. I am a fantastic role-playing game gamer. Ask anyone who has ever seen me play knows how good I am at strategy turn-based RPGs, but any role-playing game is what I have always used to combat my depression. If there is a boss that is unbeatable in the video game, I will beat it. My best boss battle ever for an unbeatable boss was beating Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts 2. It was amazing. My best series of games that I am proud of beating is the Dark Souls series (up to the latest.)

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I am a guy who loves watching baseball, football, and basketball. I love rooting for my teams. I love hard. I would help other people with their problems before fix any of my issues. If we become friends in this life, you become family to me. I am also Bipolar. I am all these things, and you find that in this memoir I will expose every aspect of my life.

I can trace my depression back to when I was a teenager around fourteen. It was the first time in my life that I felt comfortable being an introvert, and I struggled to keep up with my friends. Before high school, I went to my friend’s sleepovers and lived like an average kid. So many things changed in high school experience that led me to be who I am today. I hung out with friends in high school, but not outside of school I preferred to be alone. I realize now that school became a “safe place” because it was a place that I had to be.

A safe place is a theme that shows up often in my life. I started to realize I could be happy alone. My depression would take severe turns during my high school years. It was easier to be myself when depression took me over. It was a familiar feeling. Loneliness was something I did well when everything else in my life fell apart it felt right.

My sophomore year is an excellent example of events that shaped how I dealt with depression. It was a sad year for me, and to combat it. I ditched school almost weekly with my cousin. It was the first time in my life that turned to marijuana to cope with my depression and my social anxiety.

I would spend days at the time in bed if when not hanging out with my cousin, or sitting around for hours playing video games. I ditched school so much, but I always had a good excuse in hand and could write excuse notes like there was no tomorrow. My parents never knew about the time I missed that year. To this day, I am not sure why the school believed that someone could be sick as often as I called in sick. In my sophomore year was the first time in my life that I failed classes in school. I got back on track that summer and took classes to make up for my bad grades.

At the time I chalked my sophomore year to something kids do. It was so much deeper than that because it was a sign that I was getting good at hiding things. Another theme that often comes up in my life. It was the first time that I let my depression control me for an extended period in my life. Depression became my constant companion after my sophomore year in high school.

I got back on track in a big way my junior year of high school. My grades got back to their normal levels. It helped that I had become a part of a group organization that took up so much of my time during the end my sophomore year. It became a place where I belonged, and I did belong at some level. The truth is that as much as I belonged, I was an outsider because I was very manic at this point in my life. I can look back to the long hours. (I will explain more about this time in a later chapter.)

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By my senior year, my depression became a significant part of my life again, it didn’t hurt to miss a ton of school this time around. I won’t lie, it came down to the wire if I would be able to graduate but I figured it out. It wasn’t that I was smart. It has always been the opposite. I was barely trying when I was lost in the endless depression.

My senior year was the first time that I would consider that I went through my first real depression cycle. It started early that year and lasted all the way to well past when I graduated high school. I began to spend days at a time laying in bed lost in the endless darkness that was my depression.

That feeling of darkness would become a familiar part of my life in the coming years. I had taken an introductory psychology class in my junior year of high school. I knew at some level what depression does to a person, and what it can do. My knowledge was only at the textbook level, and truthfully I was in denial. I even thought that it was possible that I was Bipolar at one point as a teen. Self-diagnosing is never a good thing I shook it off as a ludicrous idea.

It was almost a year after graduating from high school that I was able to break out of this depression cycle. I started working for my dad part time, and later I found my first job. Things got better after securing my first job. I was an adult finally, and there was so much to look forward to in my life. But my journey and its beginning is not a happy one as I would learn.

Between my first job and my first suicide attempt was the first time that my manic side was at its most evident. The manic episodes of my life are still hard to write. The signs were there that I was Bipolar and it is no wonder my diagnosis became Bipolar One.

My manic episodes are exciting to look back on because I had no idea they were symptoms. My mania would last for days. I would go four or five days with no sleep. My energy levels would go through the roof to a point where I would go for walks or drive for hours. I had too much energy to sit still. I would feel restless the less sleep I would get, but it didn’t bother me. I could drive four hours in any direction and then go right back without pause.

I would take unwarranted risks like driving down the highway at 2 am at 100 miles an hour in my car. It gave me more energy the more reckless my behavior became, and it was a great feeling to “feel real.” I didn’t have to hide who I was in a manic episode.

One of the worst parts of my manic episodes during the early years was the excessive spending sprees. Some of my worst events featured me spending hundreds of dollars in one store on electronics and DVD’s only to pay as much in a different store on the same day.

I ran up every single one of my credit cards when I was manic because it helped me “get through” not sleeping. I had no idea that these behaviors were terrible for me, looking back at the moment can you blame me?

I can see the mixed episodes before my diagnosis was some of the worst parts of myself. There were still days where I did nothing but lay in bed one day, and then go on a reckless spending spree the next day. It became so bad at one point that I had to take time off from work to keep myself from going so far into debt. I didn’t know which way was up. I talked fast all the time. When I was in a manic episode, my thoughts were often jumbled and incoherent. My mind would be racing at a million miles a minute.

It came to a point where in May of 2006 I walked into my boss’ office and quit my job. It was sudden. My family had their reservations about my someone leaving their job. They had no idea the dark thoughts that were going through my mind. It was the start of what would become my long journey.

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I know to look back that there were many signs that I should have gotten help, but life is never so black and white. Thinking about that time in my life I was young, and there was a real stigma about mental illness. It played a part in why I never sought help until it was too late, but that’s an excuse. There was not enough information out there for teenagers dealing with my depression. I didn’t know.

On a cold night in November 2007, my life changed forever.

Photo Credit

unsplash-logoKerrie DeFelice

unsplash-logoRedd Angelo

unsplash-logoFrankie Valentine

unsplash-logoRendiansyah Nugroho

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

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15 Replies to “Let’s Start at the Beginning”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Young people are so lucky to have access to information and support groups on the Internet….Hey, I ditched school too (mental health days) and my mom never knew! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those days saved me as a teen. There were just days where I wasn’t there mentally and couldn’t deal with school. I regret not being closer to people, but at time it was for the best.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I get it. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t understand depression. I handled it the best I could.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. My parents didn’t really understand it either at first. Eventually they learned to understand. It’s hard when you haven’t lived with deep depression. Everyone gets depressed but not like we do at times. It’s a different feeling.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Yes, it difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced it. You are lucky. My mom never understood. I give her a pass because I think she was dealing with her own issues.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. The similarities are unreal! I too, would ditch school because I needed “Me time”. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice article James and well written.
    I get the being alone I’ve been that way for a very long time my self, it’s easy to ignor everyone when their not around I would tell people we didn’t have a phone so they couldn’t call me. ❤️✌️

    BY FOR NOW

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Raw honest piece. Keep writing your story. Unfortunately, lots of our neighbors need to hear/read your story and like you, I hope it will lead them to taking that first scary step and reach out for help.

    Liked by 1 person

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