Archive for the ‘Bipolars in Memorium’ Category

Bipolars in Memorium   Leave a comment

If you can, think back to the 1950’s.  If you can’t, pretend you were alive then.  Big winged chrome adorned cars.  Ranch homes with long wooden HiFi-record player  consoles, black and white TV’s with rabbit ears on which to watch The Honeymooners and Leave it to Beaver, men wearing dark suits with narrow ties even when eating dinner at home and wives always in long hoop skirts with their hair looking like it was done from a mold.  All this with a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and some Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to shake things up.

Then imagine you are a severely depressed woman to the point you are having trouble getting out of bed in the morning.  You can not understand why everyone else is so happy and you are always so sad.  People have been telling you to “snap out of it,” but you can’t seem to crawl from beneath the heavy wet blanket of depression that has descended upon your world.  Everything you see, school buses, people walking to work,  the late afternoon sun, inexplicably bring on despair.  Every smell recalls unwanted memories.  Just taking a breath is exhausting.

Your husband forces you out of bed in the morning and pushes you to do to household chores, but even getting dressed brings you to tears.  Your clothes feel confining and uncomfortable.  They remind of going outside, which terrifies you. You can’t help but ask yourself over and over, “Why is this happening to me?  Does everybody get depressed like this and I am too weak a person to cope?”  You question whether you need to see a psychiatrist, but abandon the idea instantly when you think of the negative stigma it could bring on you and your family.  Only crazy people go to psychiatrists.

As soon as your husband leaves the house you climb right back in bed and sleep the day away.  Being unconscious is the only thing that brings you any relief from this painful existence.  Around five o’clock before he returns you force yourself to get dressed and through confused tears pour yourself a martini.  It’s the only thing you look forward to these days.  The warm sensation of the gin going down your throat into your empty stomach is comforting.  So you have  another.  By the time your spouse arrives home the alcohol partially washes away the sadness and you can lie about the productive day you had at home.  You light a Chesterfield King and stand in the kitchen with your apron on as if you were getting ready to cook.

But your husband sees through it all.  It’s obvious you are drunk and it triggers an argument, which leaves you running into the bedroom screaming, the martinis turning your mood from drunk to major funk.  You’re at your wits end.  Life is getting too painful to live.  There is nothing good left in it for you. Nothing makes you happy. And the alcohol in your system gives you the confidence to take an entire bottle of aspirin, the only available pills in your domicile.

So, you gulp down the chalky tasting pills with some water and lay down on your bed waiting to die.  Pretty soon it will all be over.  You can hear Gene Autry singing his cowboy music softly playing on a tinny sounding AM radio in the house across the street.  It’s almost surreal.

Suddenly you are jolted awake by an imaginary alarm in your head.  You find yourself strapped to a gurney in a padded room with the door closed.  Your stomach aches like you did one thousand sit ups, your esophagus burns like some one tried to strike a sulfur match on it and your head is pounding to the beat of your heart.  You also realize you’re laying in the moisture of your own urine.    It is slowly becoming clear that you are in a hospital.  People keep walking by and pressing their faces to the little square glass window on the door as if to see if you are still there.

Finally after about twenty-minutes the door opens and two orderlies in white coats looking more like truck drivers and a nurse in full uniform walk in.  The nurse tells you they had to pump your stomach last night as you tried to kill yourself.  Your husband had described the months of depression to the doctor and everyone has decided the best thing to do is shock therapy.

You almost break the restraints as you let out a scream.  “No!!”  You’ve heard about shock therapy.  You could lose your memory, become inert or your whole personality can change.  They tell you it’s modern medicine and not to worry, but you just scream even louder.

A shot to the arm of something almost immediately puts you in a state of partial awareness, but you are too drugged to stop what is about to occur.  As they wheel you toward the place where they do the procedure, you see patients in the day room wearing hospital gowns.  Some are talking to themselves, others sit and just stare.  A few are watching static on a television, smoking cigarettes and laughing.  A person you can’t see shouts “Good luck.  You’re in for the shock of your life.”  You can hear laughter from all corners.  The entire ward smells like a bathroom.

I can go on forever with this scenario.  The bite guard they shove in her mouth before they put the electrodes on her head.  How little doctors knew about shock therapy in the first place in the 1950’s.  The readiness to do it.  The cataclysmic outcomes.  And this being a better choice than a lobotomy, which was the treatment des jour until electroshock became a more sophisticated technique.

This is an imaginary scenario, but I promise you it mimics what went on in the 1950’s when someone suffered from severe Bipolar Depression.  Actually, this was probably a tame version.  And the stories get worse the further back in history you travel.

I took Memorial Day not only to think back on all the soldiers who have fought and died for our country, but for all the bipolar people who have suffered with the illness, bore the unnecessary shame and got no support.  And when things got bad ended up in the hospital for shock therapy and or enough medication to make them not have any feelings at all.

Or, the ones who self-medicated with alcohol or anything else they could get their hands on. These unfortunate souls ended up on the street seemingly crazy from drugs until they got arrested and put in the hospital for the criminally insane, died of an overdose or committed suicide when they couldn’t get anything else to quell the profound sadness.

Even if we are having a difficult time with our medications, depression or manic episodes, Bipolar Illness is an identified disease, there are many medications that can help curb the effects, mental wards are not archaic and shock therapy is a very last resort and done in an extremely scientific manner minimizing discomfort to the patient.  Most importantly, although mental illness still has a stigma, your sister going to a psychologist does not mean you will have to kill her for disgracing the family.

So when you get a chance, take a little time to remember those bipolars who have gone before us.  It was a lot rougher even in the 1980’s. While the happy go lucky were getting mullets, bipolars still suffered without the medications available today.  I’m not saying we should all be glad to have the disease, but let’s be glad we have it in 2012.  Because, I think I’d be the guy on the street in the 1950’s… Self-medicating, depressed and dying in some alley, with no idea help was just around the corner in another 60 years.

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