unfinished business

I’ve been in a pretty deep depression for over a month now, and it’s not getting better. Stress at work has been increasing, and I’m not doing well. I had my scheduled visit with the p-doc yesterday, and he will have me try some Wellbutrin to help with the nearly constant depression. [Side note: I’m still glad I found this doctor, because he actually listens and interacts with me rather than just telling me the same “stay the course” bullshit.]

In the midst of this depression, I all of the sudden get the bright idea that I finally might like to go back to the old hometown and relive some memories, see things close up and personal that I left behind 30 years ago. Sure, that seems brilliant. Call it the Unfinished Business Tour.

I’m not exactly sure how this would work. Fly back to Sacramento, drive to Goldville and Treetown, and then what? Look at the ruins of the houses I used to live in, or get chased off by dogs or drug dealers? Take photos that Google street view can’t provide? Go stand by A-mom’s grave and reminisce about how fucked up life was for both of us? … Maybe. Maybe that is exactly what I need to do. It will be painful and depressing, and it will stir up lots of bad memories, but somehow I wonder if I need to do that one more time just to put some of that to rest for good.

The other thing I would like to do is just drive around in my part of the mountains, smell the pine trees, see the stars away from town, visit the old campground, take in the natural beauty of the Sierras one more time. Maybe I can visit a couple of friends, but maybe I don’t even want anyone to know I am in town. I’m torn, because if I visit one person, then others find out, it becomes a fucking circus, and I want to avoid that if possible.

My wife asked the same question, what would I do if I went. She also asked if it was something I needed to do by myself. I told her I wasn’t sure about either answer. She still has a brother and three nephews who live in the area. I think maybe if she wants to go, she can go, but if she wants to stay home it would also be okay.

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guilty as charged

When I was a kid I learned how to internalize guilt because, despite being powerless over the situation, I was made to feel guilty whenever something bad happened. I became conditioned to accept blame for things that were not my fault and that I had no control over. I still carry those tendencies with me, and I have no idea how to let go of that notion that I am not to blame for everything. As a result, I have accumulated a tremendous amount of guilt over time, some of it warranted and some not. It weights on me like extra gravity that no one else can feel, dragging me downward and draining my energy day after day.

One of the biggest sources of guilt right now is that every time I look at Nicole and see all the weight she gained, I blame myself for allowing her to stay on the wrong medication when I should have known it would make her gain weight just like it did to me. Now her beauty is hidden, and despite her positive attitude, I know it affects her life, just like my fat affects my life. I hate myself for not putting a stop to the medicine before this happened.

I feel guilty about the state of our marriage. I know some people our age find it difficult to keep the passion alive, but I feel like I checked out emotionally years ago and I don’t know how to come back. We are good business partners, we seem to be friends, but we’re just not lovers anymore. I entirely blame myself for that, due to a medication-induced lack of libido and a general lack of interest in intimacy. I wish things were better for her, but I don’t know how I could ever fit into that better picture. She is stuck with me, and that makes me sad for her.

Another major source of guilt is the sudden news that Dan has been feeling suicidal over the past few years, and I think the root cause goes way back to the decision to move here from California. Despite it being good for the family, he never did handle it well, but I never knew the extent of his depression. If he would have said something … but what example have I shown? I tried to hide my bipolar symptoms from the kids as much as possible. Dan’s personality never was very demonstrative, and he learned to hide everything he was feeling.

I feel guilty for so many things. There seems to be no way to let go, no way to fix things, no way to be redeemed. The root of my sadness and depression is the guilt that festers inside me.

remember when?

Just a few things I have done during manic episodes:

  • Picked up a 5-gallon bucket and started beating it with a baseball bat until the bucket was in tiny pieces scattered across the lawn.
  • Slapped myself across the face and punched myself until I was sore and bruised all over.
  • Surprised my co-workers by taking a half-used can of whipped cream and spraying the contents directly into my mouth, in full view of management.
  • Tore apart several computers and worked on them all night just before the family returned home to find parts all over the house.
  • Bought a drum kit.
  • Drove to the beach and started screaming at the waves, sincerely hoping one of them would drag me out to sea.
  • Stayed up all night cracking the password to my wife’s computer, then going through her files and blog posts.
  • Bought a girl a bra for a birthday present, then actually gave it to her.
  • Urinated off a tall bridge into a lake.
  • Shouted obscenities at an inappropriate moment during a band performance.
  • Drove over 110 mph in the Blue Bomber (my old Chevy Impala).
  • Almost drove in front of a truck with suicidal intent.

I love these trips down manic memory lane. I’ve done some pretty stupid things over the years, and I know I was manic at the time, but hey, no excuses. The times I feel guilty about are where I could have hurt someone else.

unboxed

Amidst the dwindling stacks of boxes and the slow organization of things, life is approaching normalcy here at New Fish Manor in northeastern Ohio. Internet is up, we are eating prepared food on actual plates, the cats are getting adjusted, and most of the furniture is in its place.

Unlike the previous moving day where we did everything with extended family, this time we hired movers and a truck for the big stuff and the majority of the boxes. It went pretty smoothly, nothing seems to be broken, and the cost was fair compared to having everyone being injured for a week afterward.

The garage is not empty yet, and I have a storage locker full of boxes and containers that needs to be emptied. There will be another garage sale in the future, I’m sure.

This is a weird old house. I will have to describe it in more detail at some point. But the lawn is luxurious. A thick green carpet of Kentucky Bluegrass and Bentgrass keep the weeds and clumps at bay. It mows like a dream. The previous owner must have put down weed and feed chemical, because it grows like crazy and there is not a dandelion in sight. I need to step up my lawn game.

My anxiety levels have come way down since the move is behind us. I kept myself from going manic, I got enough sleep, and I didn’t need the Ativan. Small victories. I worry so much about all the little things that could go wrong, and I forget to think about everything that goes right because of good planning, good decisions, and a little luck.

split level

There is often a split in my personality, the person I am in public, and the person I am in my private space which includes this blog. This post has nothing to do with this concept.

We have been renting since we sold our house last year, but we purchased a split-level house in the suburbs. We just signed papers today, and we will be moving in about two weeks. That means I will be very busy doing all the big and little chores that go into moving our residence. Real life must take precedence for now, and I will not be blogging for a while. For all 2.3 readers here, don’t worry, I’ll be back eventually.

Just to give you an idea what we bought into: it has a blue tub, sink, and toilet in the main bathroom. Blue.

e-mails to never send

Thanks to the Internet, we now have the ability to harass people from our distant past. I searched for the Old Bitch’s daughter on Google, and in about 2 minutes I had her full name, date of birth, address, phone number, and e-mail, plus husband and kids’ names to confirm it was her. Turns out she is in her 70s, and she hasn’t moved from the house where I visited her many years ago.

Anyway, I’m in a dark sentimental mood today, and I wondered what it would be like to write her a little note asking a few questions. It might go something like this:

Hey Wanda,

I’ll bet you remember me, I was the little kid that A-mom adopted way back then when she lived with your mother. Boy, your mother sure fucked up my mother and I. Why did you let her live with us in Treetown while you escaped to the Bay Area? Did you think it was okay to let someone else deal with your aging, mentally ill mother while allowing us to visit for a few days once in a while? You and your sisters wanted nothing to do with her, while A-mom served her and endured her abuse and bullying day and night for 20 years. Your mother needed a care home, and instead she got two people who were not equipped to deal with her illness. When you finally allowed your mother to come live with you, she left behind two people who were barely able to function for themselves and who were emotionally damaged to the breaking point.

I don’t blame you for what your mother did to A-mom and I, but I would like some answers why you thought it was okay to allow us to care for her instead of you and your sisters taking care of her. I would like you to acknowledge that you knew the situation we lived in was messed up, you did nothing to help, and you took advantage of us.

Sincerely,
Fishrobber

Funny thing is, back in 1994 maybe, my wife and I were going to a football game in San Francisco, and on a whim I decided to drive past Wanda’s house. I had not been to the house in 14 years by this time, and of course I had never driven there, but I knew the streets and the landmarks well enough from memorizing maps as a kid. To my wife’s surprise, without backtracking or u-turns, I drove directly to their house. Wanda wasn’t home, but her husband was in front of the house, washing their old pickup truck, so I stopped and talked to him for a few minutes. As an outside observer, he agreed with me that “the situation there was pretty messed up” (his words exactly), and he wished Wanda were home so we could talk. I had to get going though, so I thanked him and we drove off. I guess what I got from her husband will have to be good enough.

all about beth

I was having a crappy time as a brand-new adult, and college life in Reno was not treating me very well. I was in the middle of a deep depressive spiral, as usual saved only by music. Then Beth arrived in my life, and things changed dramatically. Unfortunately, Beth was in the wrong place at the wrong time, because my bipolar was causing collateral damage before I even knew what it was.

Beth was one of those strange people who seem to be a hundred years old in the body of a young person. Some people call that an “old soul”, and maybe she just kept her experiences from a previous life. Apparently she inherited a little bit of crazy from her mom, but I didn’t see it at the time. She had ruffled brown hair bleached almost blond from surfing in Santa Cruz for the past few years, and a laid-back personality formed by the sun and waves. She had lived with a guy previously, but they broke up when she came back to live with her mom. She was mysterious, carefree, and easy to like. I was instantly attracted to her.

A girl from my high school also went to school in Reno, and she lived in my dorm building. We weren’t close friends, but she invited me out with her and her roommate Beth. We went out as a group of 6 people, but very quickly it became a 4+2 scene. Beth and I talked to each other most of the evening and basically ignored the others. We laughed, we flirted, we played keno at Denny’s. I have no idea what we talked about, but even with my bad luck and lack of experience with females, I could tell we liked each other. We ended up crammed together in the back seat of someone’s little deathtrap car, and at one point we just started holding hands. I looked at her fingers laced in mine, then looked at her face; we both shrugged and laughed a little and decided to go with it. When the night ended and we got back to our building, she gave me a quick kiss and a promise to see me again soon.

Finding a new girlfriend is a great way to beat depression.

She was the first girl I ever had sex with; I knew she was experienced, and she knew I was not. In the minutes after losing my virginity, she found a shirt in her closet and casually cleaned herself with it. While doing so, she told me a strange story about a Central American tribal custom. When a couple first has sex, the woman keeps the rag that was used to clean the man’s sperm. If he mistreats her or breaks his promises to her, she can have vengeance by burning the rag; the custom says that the man’s testicles will shrivel and become useless for the rest of his life. “I’m keeping this shirt,” she said somewhat seriously, and that was my first inkling that she might be a little bit crazy.

I didn’t know that I would be the crazy one who blew up everything.

We had fun for a few weeks. We spent lots of time together, as much as conflicting schedules would allow. We didn’t have any specific plans, we were just young people enjoying a new relationship. But in the meantime I wasn’t sleeping, my grades were tanking, I was extremely stressed, and I didn’t realize I was heading toward a manic episode.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I now know I was in that dysphoric mania I have become familiar with over the years. I was freaking out about something, and Beth knew there was something wrong with me. I remember we were arguing, although I can’t recall why; I know there was this sudden, desperate urge to run away. She was crying, asking me to stay and talk things out, but I was telling her some stupid reason why I needed to go. Finally I just turned and went down the stairs and out the door to the parking lot. As I got in the car, I could see Beth sitting on the fourth floor stairs, watching me through the window, and I hesitated for a moment.

I still wish I could have that moment back, a moment where I wondered if she was right and I was fucking crazy, a moment where I briefly thought about going back to her and letting her help me, a moment when I could have stopped repressing feelings for once and be genuine with someone. But I wasn’t mature enough yet. I wasn’t ready.

I started the car and drove away.

My instinct was to head for the mountains, as usual, the place I felt most at home. Escaping the desert and reaching the forest, I headed for the highest point on the old highway. I was still upset and out of control when I parked at the top of Donner Pass and wandered through the granite boulders and silvery evergreens. I kept walking without a destination, climbing up ledges and struggling to maintain my footing on the rocky landscape. Running out of breath and energy by this time, I found a large flat boulder and just sat there in the moonlight. I was home, in the trees and rocks and stars, and I could just lay back and let the calm return to my hyperactive brain. I stayed for a couple of hours before I started to get cold. I don’t know how I found my way in the dark, and I blew out my flip-flops on the way, but somehow I made it back to the car without falling off a cliff or being ravaged by a hungry bear.

By this time the manic energy had passed, and as I drove back into town I felt like crap about what I had done. I knew I had been stupid and immature, and I had really fucked things up as usual. I wanted to apologize and try to put things back together. Now I understand that I was scared to let someone new get that close to me, that I was afraid of being hurt, and that I sabotaged everything because I felt like I had to push her away so she could earn my trust by coming back. In hindsight, I know how fucked-up that logic was, but at the time I simply wanted to fix what I had undone.

The next day when I knocked on her door, Beth’s roommate told me she had gone for a few days without really explaining why, so I left a note for her. On the fourth day, Beth answered the door, and she pointed me toward the stairs. She stared at me with the saddest look. How do you think that made me feel, she asked. She said she needed time away from me to figure out her feelings, and she would let me know. I saw her again three days later when I showed up in front of her classroom. We talked only a couple of minutes and hugged, but I knew there was no going back to what we had.

I never saw Beth again.

There was a note under my door a few days later. It turned out she was making bigger decisions than just the fate of our relationship. She was failing a couple of classes, and instead of staying she decided to move back to Santa Cruz. She said it wasn’t my fault, but I made her decision much easier. She might have loved me, and she might have stayed for me, but she didn’t feel like she could trust me. At the time, she was probably right.

the biggest little man-child

It was my first semester of college in Reno, and I was very depressed. That is not surprising of course, but this was a particularly nasty episode before I even knew bipolar existed. Nothing I was doing was working out very well, except for being in the marching band. All my band experiences were good; everything else sucked.

My old friends from Goldville didn’t seem to miss me, whether I drove back to visit or wrote letters that no one answered. My racist roommate got me into trouble by flying a Confederate Flag in the dorm window, and I was too stupid to know it would offend anyone, such as the offensive line of the football team. I had to play “wingman” for a friend who nailed his girlfriend while I was left to babysit her dumb-as-a-stump friend. I couldn’t get a job delivering pizza because my auto insurance wouldn’t cover it. I got food poisoning while eating at the campus dining commons, and I was down for three days with gastrointestinal distress. I got a parking ticket for being in the preferred lot, and when I didn’t move the car after 24 hours, I got another ticket and “The Boot”, the device that immobilizes your car.

More importantly, I was struggling in multiple classes, which had never happened before. I was a fucking genius in high school, but it was so easy that I never learned any study habits. I never learned how to work for good grades, and I found I couldn’t do everything at the last second and expect to be successful in college-level classes. My presentation and organizational skills sucked. Believe it or not, I was trying to write papers with a manual typewriter. I was banished from my dorm room for banging away on a Royal late into the night, and someone mercifully let me borrow an electric typewriter until I could find one to buy for cheap.

I discovered I wasn’t the big fish I thought I was. There were a lot of smart people all around me, and while I knew I didn’t suddenly turn stupid, I realized that I wasn’t anything special in the bigger world. Goldville was a small pond I outgrew, but college was the ocean in comparison. I had two girls from my high school who also came to Reno, and they seemed to be doing okay, but I wasn’t. My ego took a big hit that first semester.

At this point, my college career was starting off with a thud, my shiny new proto-adult life was a mess, and I was depressed as hell. Yes, I was dealing with bipolar mood swings that I didn’t know existed, and emotional depression from a fucked-up childhood, but no excuses.

Then a girl arrived in my life, and things changed dramatically.

stories yet to be told

My bipolar has been relatively quiet; as usual I feel a little down most of the time, but with some minor mood swings either way. I welcome the energy of the mild positive swings, and I try to survive the downward phases without oversleeping and overeating. At my new doctor’s suggestion, I have been working my way up to the maximum dosage on the Topomax to see if that helps to suppress my appetite a little. I haven’t noticed much change yet, but we will see in the next two weeks. In the meantime, I haven’t noticed any other side effects, so that’s a good thing.

Lately I have been in a mood for reminiscing rather than discussing bipolar. Anytime I sit down to start writing something about my present condition, it seems lame and meaningless, while stories from the past seem to be more powerful for me. Even the bad poetry has dried up for now, and I much more enjoy spending time rewriting and recycling old stories in the hope that someday I can let the family see them. Maybe it will explain so much more than I can in person.

I realize that stories from Fishrobber’s Life History is not likely to gain any new readers, and may alienate the few people that do actually read this site. If you care about my day-to-day life, I appreciate it, and I would love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail me if you are interested in talking one-on-one about bipolar, life, Giants baseball, or anything at all. I will gladly answer. Contact info is at the top right of the page.

fledgling

A-mom drove to Reno, following me over the mountains as I was about to start college. Boxes had been carried, small talk finished, and it was time for her to head home alone. It was my first time living away from home, and she was predictably emotional. She was not ready for me to leave home, and I’m sure there were some leftover feelings of abandonment, the jealousy of one survivor over the other’s departure. Maybe some of the tears were brought on by my lack of reaction. I had prepared myself for this, rehearsing how to respond and reduce the amount of histrionics to a minimum. More than that, I had prepared myself to not feel the same sense of separation. I blocked those feelings out, forcing myself to move onward despite any silly emotions I may have had about leaving home. When it was time to say good-byes in the parking lot of Nye Hall, A-mom struggled to accept the new state of things, but I had already neatly wrapped up those feelings and packed them in the mental attic.

In my mind, I had already said goodbye to her, to home, to a chapter of life. Little did I know that this next chapter would be eventful but short, and I would be returning home sooner than expected.