Alright, this is my first official post on Bipolaroid. I’ve spent way too much time making and then remaking this site. That probably has something to do with my deep issues with perfectionism, but just add that to the bin of things that are “interesting” about me.
This post contains discussions of abuse, sexual assault, death, self-harm, and suicide
I suppose a little background information about me is in order. I was born in a sleepy small north midwestern town in the early 90’s. I looked it up and the most popular song the month and year I was born was “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot. And yes, this baby does have back in case you were wondering. But baby almost didn’t have anything, not even life. I was born with the cord wrapped around my neck. I was dead for all intents and purposes. The doctors managed to revive me luckily. No wonder why I like “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65 because I was blue in more ways than one.
My mom always used to tell me she could sense something was wrong after she got to the hospital and they started asking her to push. She wouldn’t because she had a sense of dread. Children and their mothers have a special connection, and my mom and I were and are no exception. Mom’s regular doctor was not available, so eventually, they had her push and out I came playing an unintentional game of hangman, and I was running out of letters to use.
I came into life carried in the arms of Death. I believe this might have something to do with my fascination with all things post-mortem and dark now. I also think having witnessed my grandfather die from cardiac arrest as a three-year-old impacted me. My mom says I would say things like “Grandpa died on the carpet.” I was probably just parroting whatever I heard adults saying, but still three-year-old me, you were a giant douche canoe.
I also came to know grief and depression at an early age. My mother was genuinely devastated by the death of her parents. They both passed when I was three. Grandma first; renal failure probably from her severe alcoholism and other health problems. Then just a short while after my grandfather died. Mom thinks my grandpa died of a broken heart, and I agree with her. I’ve since seen passionately in love couples die just a few months apart from each other.
Like my grandmother, my mom has always been ravaged by alcoholism and depression, at least since I’ve been alive. My brothers and I were endlessly at war with her addiction. The three of us all went through the process of trying to battle it and then realizing we could not fight our mother’s demons for her. I was the youngest of the family, and I came in relatively late. By the time I was born, my brothers were roughly ten (Kenneth) and thirteen years old (Charles) respectively, so they had already dealt with Mom’s issues for a long time.
Of course, Charley was the first to leave. Recently we’ve been talking a lot about that time, and Charles told me that Mom wasn’t all that present. She was there a lot of the time, but she wasn’t there. My mother had a lot of tumultuous and abusive relationships. She was a single mom, so naturally, she worked a lot. My brothers caught the brunt of it all, and after I was born, I would be swept by the waves as well.
I remember screaming matches between Kenny and mom vividly. A few of those fights were some of my first memories along with images of my mother drinking and the smell of stale beer. People ask the general question, “What smells do you associate with your mother?”. Some might answer a specific type of scent, or maybe a particular brand of laundry detergent. I had the perfume, but the other two are Miller Lite and cigarettes. Ah, the sweet aromas of childhood.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my mother to death. She is one of the sweetest, most patient, and most kind people I have ever known. She is just in deep pain a lot of the time like I am. She’s chosen the bottle, and I’ve finally made it to therapists and medication. The sad side of all of this is that my mother’s mental illness was a trauma for me and one that would keep cropping up throughout my life. My mother’s sickness and addiction sometimes got us into dangerous situations and tangled up with terrible people.
It also led me to have attachment issues, because sometimes as I grew older and could go out to play by myself, I would return home when it was almost dark out, and she would be gone. We wouldn’t sleep in our beds. Mom and I would sleep on the couch together, our heads at opposite ends, but I couldn’t rest any other way. At school, I would have panic attacks because I was convinced when school let out that Mom would be gone forever.
In my early years, I was so attached to my mother, because I didn’t have anyone else besides a couple of close friends and sometimes even those relationships were turbulent. At least I always felt Mom loved and cared about me, despite her problems. With my friends, sometimes it felt like they didn’t care about me at all. Like I said before, Charles left early on to start his own life because he was older, and of course, he didn’t want to stick around in a toxic environment. So it was just Kenny and me.
Kenneth and I had a rocky relationship too. It seemed like Kenny had a hard time with everyone. I think that is because he is quite like me, his issues just present in a different manner. Kenneth would alternate between being the loving big brother and one of my worst antagonizers. But at least when other people tried to pick on or hurt me he was there to defend me if he was present.
Throughout my early childhood sometimes my older brother was the only one there to take care of me. Mom wouldn’t come home in time, so Kenny sometimes had to take me to work with him or babysit me quite a bit. I always felt better having Kenny babysit me because one of the babysitters I had back then was awful. I’ll get more in-depth about parts of my life in future posts, but let’s just say my issues with men started with that shitty babysitter.
Another thing that would profoundly affect me from childhood on was my relationship with my father. From birth to around six or seven years old I believed I shared a dad with my brothers. It turns out he wasn’t my dad, even though he was one of the best father figures of my life. After a swab test where they swept a q-tip against the inside of my cheek, test results determined that my father was someone that my mother always had said was just her friend. This friend would come to visit and bring me gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Little did I know, this “friend” was actually my father. I took it pretty hard, but he turned out to be a good dad. Our relationship was and currently is still tricky though because of my illness.
Then came one of the most nightmarish points of my life. My mom began dating a man named Ted. He was one of the single most destructive elements in my life. I would describe him like a raging bull. He was an alcoholic like my mother, but he wasn’t just sad or depressed, he was angry and violent. Every time he drank and also when sober, he would seeth with fury. Ted threw hot pans against walls; he gave mom black eyes, I heard what seemed like endless screams, there was an incredible amount of crying, and there was bone-chilling fear. Countless times I thought he would murder my mother or me and then after a while, both of us. That part of my life will probably be the subject of several blog posts.
Then came a quieter, more peaceful time. Mom began to date Jack. He was quite a bit older than her, but that didn’t even matter. He was the only level-headed, kind person my mom ever dated. We moved in with him on his farm away from town. It took me a lot of time to trust him, but once I did, I could see just how much he loved my mom and how much he cared. He was a Vietnam vet; a former paratrooper with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He, of course, had a purple heart from his military services and in civilian life a kind, hurt soul.
During this period I would meet one of the most precious people in my life, my best friend forever, Rose. In my experience, it seems I have gained those I cherish the most through sad or difficult circumstances. We met at the birthday part of one of her best friends, Alice. Alice gave off the most benevolent vibes I have ever felt in a person, and I barely knew her. She also felt tenacious to me, and she had a wonderful sense of humor. Alice passed away from cancer. We were all in sixth grade at the time. I could sense that Alice’s passing was one of the hardest moments of Rose’s life. But I could see that Rose was so thankful for the time she had with her, even though toward the end they did not get to see each other very much.
Rose came into my life at the perfect time, and I think I arrived in hers at just the right moment as well. I was grieving my loss of innocence from traumas up to that point, and Rose was mourning Alice. We comforted each other, we laughed at the same things, thought the same way, and still do. We are those sappy best friend types that finish each other’s sentences and say the same ideas at the same time. She and I have only fought once, and it lasted one class period in sixth grade. I am Frodo, and she is Sam. I am Harry, and she is Remus continually rescuing me from the dementors. I am Patrick, and she is Spongebob. We are indeed two peas in a pod as my mother would say.
From the moment we met, Rose would save me again and again. When we encountered each other and became close, I was already deep in the throes of mental illness. My anxiety and panic were off the charts. The depression was starting to sink in and to top it all of I was having trauma-induced psychosis periodically. During this time I wrote a lot as I did during the Ted days. My stories were scary, violent, and often quite gruesome. It was clear I was trying to purge the pain and violence I was subjected to up until that point. But Rose wasn’t the least bit phased. She listened to every word and was interested to know more.
I think Rose wasn’t afraid because she too had already known death and pain. Rose’s friendship would limp me through yet another massive trauma; my mother’s three-month jail sentence for a drunk driving and the horrible morning of me discovering Jack dead from a heart attack. Once again I was thrust into stormy emotional seas. I had to stay with my father and grandmother, which brought additional challenges.
I then entered high school, moved back to town, and in my sophomore year had to come back to classmates I had only barely known in elementary. Mom would marry, and then a year later divorce a friend of Jack’s. She ended up losing her job because her place of work went out of business unannounced shortly after the divorce. Mom then became submerged in a consuming depression. All of this was happening while I tried to navigate high school and friendships/relationships I had trouble handling. I was going to school, swim practice, then working a horrible call center job in an endless loop my senior year, struggling to stay afloat. My depression was at an all-time low, and I was beginning to move into thoughts explicitly about my own death.
College came to my rescue, or so I had thought initially. I would grow to hate the anxiety it brought me. I majored in photography and dabbled in a minor in business, which did not work out (I nearly failed out of accounting and had to drop it. I’ve never been one for numbers). During this period I joined a Renaissance Faire club and made friendships I treasure deeply.
The club had its issues though and a ton of drama. Friends I started with ended up nearly being my enemies. It was both a free and suffocating environment all at the same time. I believe that the club attracted all those who couldn’t quite find their place in society, people that didn’t quite fit the mold, and also young individuals that had undiagnosed mental illnesses. For a semester I would end up being the president, which thrust me further into at that time undiagnosed Bipolar, Avoidant Personality, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
College was colored by the antics of the club, the struggle with my illness, panic attacks, heartbreaks, making photographic work that didn’t speak to me (or one of my professors for that matter), suicidal ideation, binge drinking alcoholism, and in my junior year, rape. I would also meet my now former boyfriend, Dante, following the sexual assault. It was a beautiful relationship filled with adventure and love, but also confusion, misunderstanding, disrespect, and miscommunication. Dante did ferry me through some of my most difficult trials though, and for that, he will always have a special place in my heart. He was my first real love that was reciprocated with equal measure.
Post-college the struggles continued. I tried unsuccessfully to start a portrait photography business, even though deep down inside I hated weddings (I will only do them now for close friends), wasn’t very into senior portraits, and definitely did not fancy doing maternity or newborn photos. My illnesses also kept me from being able to do the things one needs to do to have a successful business. People stressed me out and still very much do. Every bit of work I made for others never seemed to be quite good enough, and that led me to several smaller grade breakdowns.
I would also enter into the second major suicidal crisis of my life at this time. I was working at a small diner with a couple other locations around town. Their specialty was, of course, typical diner food. Some of their most ordered meals were Hot dogs, burgers, and generally greasy comfort food perfect for snippy old people and drunks. My trainer and now friend Miguel kept me afloat while I worked at the place that would nearly lead me into actionably taking my own life. Miguel seemed like a server god to me. He was personable and amazingly efficient. If I couldn’t keep up (which was pretty much every single night I worked), he was right there to keep me from going down in flames.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Miguel was also struggling with his own mental health. A lot of us were at the diner. Managment was a mess, and the owner apparently didn’t care about any of the employees. We were consistently understaffed, undermanaged, and slammed. This, combined with my dangerous illnesses would have me leaving that building many times being incredibly suicidal. Everyone on the staff was ravaged by alcoholism, dependant on meds like Xanax, and some were even addicted to harder drugs like cocaine just to make it through the night. The work was brutal, and so were the customers. I would leave the diner staring death in the face. It was either quit or commit suicide, and I chose my life.
My next job was much better, but still incredibly difficult for me. I by some stroke of luck got hired in as a teller at a local credit union. Training was difficult, and I thought I wouldn’t make it through, but I did. In the beginning, I was still unmedicated and not in therapy though. I spent most of my mornings dry heaving and dreading work. My disorders were still ravaging me. My anxiety was out of control, my self-esteem was non-existent, and the undiagnosed bipolar disorder was rapidly cycling.
Eventually, after an intervention from Rose and another close childhood friend Scarlett, I got on antidepressants and started seeing my lovely therapist. The medication helped my anxiety but little did I know, it was making my moods cycle even more aggressively without the help of a mood stabilizer. I wouldn’t get on proper medication until I had my third and worst suicidal crisis that led me to check myself into an inpatient facility just at the beginning of this year.
Finally, I am beginning to get the help I need. Over the course of this month, I have started on what I believe is the right path to healing. The road will be long, and at times difficult, but I have the people in my corner who matter most. I feel incredibly grateful and lucky that I have such beautiful souls in my life. They’ve helped me through terrible things that I was so sure would break me. I’ve managed to stay alive, and now I am in search of meaning. Bipolaroid is an excellent place to start. I want to use my personal trials and tribulations, humor, and raw self to help others see that they are not alone.
-Thanks for reading and welcome to team Banana Phone (I know you all don’t know what this means yet, but you will.)