Chapter 7- Bipolar

My name is Francesc West, and I have bipolar disorder. (I think)cropped-dsc_9003.jpg

            Before I get into this part of my life, you need to know that what I am about to share with you is what makes me who I am. My biggest strength and my ultimate weakness. I want to share this for people who struggle with similar feelings to know that they are not alone. That there is hope. (I think) That the light at the end of the tunnel does in fact reappear. (I hope) Everyone goes through good times and bad. Everyone to some extent knows the meaning of the word sadness. Every day is a new day, and every day is another chance to start a new. A new chapter. A new book. And yet every new book, just like this one started with a single word. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger baby. That’s damn right.

                  Where do I begin? How do I begin to describe it? I guess I can never really describe it. Unless you’ve been through it you can never understand. I mentioned I had an epiphany one day. I believed that life itself was the gift. I always did and still do even today. The feeling was too good to be true. Not “happiness” but constant euphoria. The true definition of being “high on life”. Nothing could knock me down. Nothing can upset me enough. Small things couldn’t bring my energy down. I was feeling every heartbeat. The rush of blood in my veins. At times I would get mad at other people who complained about their so called “problems”. I kept saying they worried about the wrong things and that they should look around to count their blessings instead of their predicaments in life. Unless you are terminally ill, handicapped or disabled in any form, then you are fine. I kept telling people to be thankful for having food on their table, a roof over their head. Every time I encountered someone pissing and moaning about insignificant things, i would turn to God and say thank you. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to see what truly matters. Thank you for giving me a new way to look and understand life. I was unbreakable. 

                 When I moved back to New York, things were bad at home. Constant fights with my mom and dad, not having friends around, not being able to find a job, not having any sense of direction broke me down and I was all of a sudden in the midst of a severe state of depression. I thought things will eventually get better through time. Months later I started having constant thoughts of suicide. I tried to speak to my mom many times, but she never really understood. She didn’t know how to help. How could she? I didn’t even know how to help myself. I didn’t think I would ever be able get out of the emotional hole I was in. I opened up to her about smoking weed. I didn’t wanna lie or keep secrets from them. That was a big mistake. My honesty and trust in my parents backfired. Instead of trying to help me out, they condemned me with their words and actions. They made me feel like a horrible person for smoking something that’s known to cure diseases. When all they did was smoke a pack of cigarettes everyday. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any worse, there I was on the verge of packing up my stuff and saying goodbye to my parents. 

              I will never forget the way they made me feel. I will never forget the things they said. All because they disapproved of me smoking marijuana. Telling them that it was the only thing keeping me alive didn’t help. It was my medicine. Some people are old fashioned and no matter how you try to break it to them you can never get through. The way they looked at me, the way they spoke, the cynical way they walked past me was making me contemplate suicide even harder. I knew I couldn’t stay at my parents house anymore. I forgave my parents a long time ago. After all they are the reason i’m alive today. Sometimes I tend to keep people at a distance. I prefer it that way to be honest. Not being distant, but just keeping people at a distance. Maybe that’s why i’m writing this book. Maybe I want people to get to know what i’m really about. One thing i’m about is honesty. I am straight forward and honest when it comes to my relations with people. I don’t fuck around and I got no time for bullshit. Sometimes too real. That rubs off wrong with people sometimes. They take my direct approach as rudeness. The same thing goes with my parents. The last thing I want is to lie or keep a secret from them. At times even if it means breaking their heart or knowing they will disapprove. I still say what’s on my mind and do what’s in my heart. The way I see it is this is my life to live. Not anyone else’s. People always give me advice. That’s the thing about people, they like to pitch their 2 cents. I listen, smile, agree but at the end of the day, I do what I know best.

         I see too many people living their lives afraid of what other people think of them. They worry about pleasing others and neglect their own desires. They choose their path according to what their parents want or what their friends think. I never could understand why anyone would give a second thought to what anyone else might think. Let me put it this way; It doesn’t matter what you do or who you decide to become, as long as bad you’re not a murderer, a thief or a rapist. So fuck it! If you’re living your own life without harming anyone, then fuck what everybody thinks. Go study fashion instead of accounting. Take dance lessons. Sing! Go to ballet. Come out of the closet. Listen to Britney Spears. Whatever the hell it is you’re into, JUST DO IT! Live! I mean seriously, how time do we really have to work with? 60 years? 80 years maybe? If that! Just do whatever satisfies your soul. Whatever makes you happy. You can’t live life according to what other people think of you. The sooner you break away from that urge of satisfying others or the need of approval from anyone besides yourself, the happier you will be. Take me for example. I’m telling you my inner most darkest hours, secrets, and i’m leaving it all out in the open. Do you think I give two shits about the fact how many people will judge me after reading this book? The way I see it, they’re all fucking haters. People will judge you no matter what. The more open you are, the less room you leave for others to judge. I welcome judgments with open arms. Because I know once you get to know me i’m gonna blow your mind. In fact, I like seeing people judge me regarding certain things. That tells me more about them. Sometimes I would do certain things or say stuff just to see people’s reactions. Specially women. Women judge the most. 

                  One day locked in my own room, I remember how close I was to doing something completely stupid. I’m just telling the tip of the iceberg. With zero hope left and no one to turn I decided to call the suicide hotline. I don’t know why. Maybe I just needed someone to tell me that my life was worth living, and that everything was going to be okay. I took a long drive thinking of ways to end my life. I googled painless ways to die, (no such thing) wrote a final note, and knew that one day, eventually that I would build up the courage to actually go through with it. I was scared of that. I was scared to snap. I know my personality, and i’m not the type of guy who seeks attention. If I attempted it, there would have only been one outcome. Even in the middle of all this negativity, I knew that life was such a precious thing to waste. All I needed was something to hang on to. Something that will give meaning to my life. I just needed this feeling of hopelessness to go away. I wanted to be myself again.

                  After some time, my parents started coming to their senses and realized that they were making a mistake with their style of approach.. My mom suggested that I see a therapist. She had mentioned it before but I never thought it would be of any help. Talking it out wasn’t gonna solve my problems but at this point, I was desperate to try whatever that might of helped. I was in a dark place with a dead end. She knew a therapist and made an appointment for me to see him. I had gone to therapists a couple of times as a child. One time in 6th grade the principal of the school suggested I see one, when I told my teacher that she was a world class bitch and that’s why she was still single. Yeah I said it. I was going through some teenage issues. With trying to adapt to Junior High School and not having friends outside of football, I had snapped at my English teacher. Little did I know that one day I would become one myself.

                   I went to see the therapist. Which was in some fancy building in the city. “This must be some legit shit”, I thought.  After 2 hours of talking and $400, I turned to the therapist and said “I think I might be bipolar”. Could be, he said with a smile. “Well good to know”, I replied. He gave me some websites and articles to read at home about bipolar disorder. Reading through it I felt as if the article was talking about me. The cycles, the mood swings, the anger, the euphoria, the depression, the energy, the impulsiveness. It was all a part of a much bigger thing. I felt as if my mind had just been blown. With every other sentence I kept thinking “OMG that’s me right there”. It was good to know but on the other hand I kept wondering how I would ever be able to keep this under control. Would I ever be able to? When will I cycle back to being euphoric? When will I slip back into depression again? I don’t think I can handle that. I won’t survive. I had a thousand questions and even more worries. Was I ever going to be okay? 

                 I started researching and getting to know more about mania and depression. I found out that some of the most famous people and some of the most genius people that had ever lived had bipolar. Names like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Vincent Van Gogh, Robin Williams, Adolf Hitler. Okay the last one was a bad example. Let’s be real though Mr. Van Gogh had it coming. I’d imagine the proper gift to a woman you like would be some flowers. Not your goddamn ear. Marilyn Monroe? That bitch was bad! Her and I would have made a good couple. When Robin Williams committed suicide I was scared I was going to share the same fate someday. You might say he had it all. You might think all the fame, admiration, success and money in the world would be enough for happiness. I can tell you that money is not the answer to a depressed soul. Even though you might think otherwise. Money does not bring happiness.

                       It’s hard to say what a person must have been going through. Most of us keep to ourselves and never talk about such things. I never understood why people would shy away from talking about their inner most vulnerable times. Everybody has them and everybody gets depressed sometimes. Nobody is a perfect creature who is happy all the time. That realm doesn’t exist. Our bad times is what makes us who we are. What makes us stronger. I share my story with people interested in knowing. I know that if I do that then maybe someone who is going through the same struggles as I have will not feel so alone. It may sound selfish but hearing other people’s stories about contemplating suicide made me feel not so alone and abnormal. It made me believe if these people were there and made it out then I can too. I do believe the more you reveal, the more open and honest you are, the stronger you are as a person. Weak people hide and cover their lives with lies to satisfy themselves and others. You can pretend to be whatever you want, but at the end of the day it makes no difference. You’re only fooling yourself. You are who you are and the world can tell if you are really genuine or a “Fugazi”. Donnie Brasco, “Fugghedaboutit”

                  After spending a months rent on this therapist guy his solution to all of my problems was to put me on anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. I thought to myself “Go fuck yourself”. I knew this was exactly what he was gonna try to do. I knew the script before I even met the guy. I was’t surprised. So instead, I smiled and said “Thanks doc, i’ll sure think about it” (NOT) and walked out. What a waste of $500 dollars. I am not exactly diagnosed but I didn’t have to be after reading all about it. I knew people that were taking those types of medications and I knew that it never really worked out for them. Maybe for the short term. In the long term they would always cycle back and start using it again. I refused taking medication. This was the severest depression i’ve ever gone through. If I was going to come out of this thing alive, I wanted to do it with my own power. I wanted to do it my way. Not have some fucking pill dictate my life. So people can never say “He got off his meds” or “Have you taken your crazy pills today.” I believed I was strong enough to be able to get past this. Even though I had doubts in the back of my mind. 

                   Something was broken inside. I knew I could never ever be euphoric again. I knew that profound feeling was forever gone. It was as if something had wrapped it’s hands around my heart and stopped it from beating to it’s potential. In all honesty that constant state of euphoria is a dangerous place. The higher you get the lower you fall. A higher state of mania means the drop would only be steeper. Imagine being on top of a mountain. The higher up you are the further down you have to go. Same notion goes for emotions. I never want to be euphoric again. I can’t be even if I wanted to. Knowing I was bipolar made me very scared of my mood swings. Not scared of what I would do to other people, but what I would do in life and with myself. I could never hurt anyone. I don’t even kill bugs. Except mosquitos. Fuck mosquitos!  I was terrified of living. All of a sudden I wanted to be anyone else. I was 24 years old and everyday was a struggle. I had to do something. 

              There were times I wished I had cancer instead. The last kind of illness you want is one that’s mental. I’m not mental. Or am I? I don’t know. FUCK! I’m sorry. FUCK YOU!  I felt this was the worst of illnesses. Worse than cancer. With cancer you know you’re fucked. With bipolar, one day you’re the happiest person alive and the next day you wanna jump off a ledge. Like a woman on her period. Unpredictable, highly dangerous, neurotic yet so beautiful and emotional. 

                  I’m not ashamed of the things i’ve been through. I’m not ashamed of being who I am. I can strip completely naked in front of a thousand people and be completely comfortable. Not that I would ever do that. The way I perceive it is we are all people. Just a bunch of people. Your opinions and what you think doesn’t matter. Not to me or anybody really. Cause ultimately nobody really gives a shit. It just takes people time to notice that. You may see someone doing something stupid and think “oh what an idiot”, but the next second you’d move on with your life. We are all just flesh and bones. That’s why i’m choosing to be so honest. To make you see that it doesn’t matter. We are all just people. After reading this book I probably will never even cross your mind again. With our faults, with our uniqueness, with our ideas, with our sins, and blessings. We are all fucked up in our own way. What matters is that we are not fucked up towards the people we love and to ourselves. We are all different with similar needs. We all want something. We all want to feel important, we all want to be acknowledged, cared for, and loved. We are not all the same, but we are not so different. Stop living your lives to please other people. Stop caring about what other people think of you. Stop trying to impress people you don’t like. Stop buying material things you don’t need and can’t afford just to rub your egos. Material things will never be the answer. There are more important things than you and me in this world. We are just a tiny cell in a world of micro organisms. There are 9 billion other people and billions of other species on this earth. Think about that for a second. Billions of other life forms besides yourself. They all have needs just like you. You don’t particularly matter. Trust me. Your life and importance to yourself is not as significant to anyone or everything else. Not saying that you are worthless, but a baby crying without a mother matters more than your precious car. A street dog dying of hunger is more important than what you’re going to wear for your date tonight. The celebrities and movie stars you so admire and love are not better than a man working 80 hours a week on minimum wage to support his family. Once you realize the world is bigger than you, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich, famous, good looking, gay, sick or fucking bipolar. One day dust will be all that’s left of you. So just do your best and make sure you live and let live. Before you move on to the unknown valley of death.

 So what am I looking for? I’m looking for a source of where we went wrong as people. I want to know when life became a matter of rules to follow of which we have no choice over. When did we start believing in sin and evil? Why are we afraid of other people and why can’t we just celebrate our differences instead of propagating hatred? For many years I was very insistent on changing the mentality of the world around me. I wanted people to break from their shells and explore the world around them. I tried to shake people and get them to step outside of their comforts and ignore the warnings given to them by idle media sources. I wanted everyone to see the world like I can and to appreciate their own freedoms which they never knew they had. I stopped that. Such is the luxury of youthful idealism. Now it’s only me. I rarely tell strangers where i have been in this world and the things i have seen. If they are interested they will find out for themselves. Furthermore, I stopped arguing with people that are ignorant about the world.