Today I’m going to tell a story about a young man named Bradley. Some of these will sound like I’m rambling; some won’t make a connection. I will kind of go all over the place, but that’s the way my mind worked, so it’s okay. Sadly, there is so much I don’t remember from my childhood that I’ll only be able to give you snippets of events and I hope you’ll be able to follow along. Was I a brat or bipolar?
An Adorable Rascal
I was an adorable child. You could say angelic even. I was loving, kind, and sweet as could be. I was a joy to behold.
I was a spoiled brat. You could say a punk even, I was rotten, unruly, and a holy terror. I was quite the rascal.
Which was I? Well, what day is it? If you know anything about bipolar disorder, you know the answer is both.
My Best Friend, I Hate You
Mom and I were best friends and the worst of friends. There were a lot of explosive episodes with my mom. One I remember the most was her and I screaming at each other in our kitchen. We said “fuck” a lot which is not a word you’d ever expect mom to use. I would scream at her and smash one of our plates on the floor. She would scream at me and smash a plate on the floor each time as well. When we finished, there was a pile of broken dishes and I think I walked out leaving her to clean it up.
Then there was one of the best memories I remember of mom. She and I went to a large state park to check it out. It was big and beautiful and we enjoyed a game of miniature golf together and had a lot of fun. That probably was my best memory.
If You Want it, Here it is, Now Come and Get It
Right now, I don’t remember specific events with my dad, but I remember he would try to make me feel better by buying things. I wanted a horse, I got a horse; I wanted a motorcycle, I got a motorcycle; I specifically remember telling him I didn’t want to drive the hand-me-down car he gave me. What happened then? He bought me a new car, of course.
I felt guilty for bullying my parents for giving me these things, but nothing stopped me from demanding them. They were no different than the alcohol. It gave me a high to get these things, but that high wouldn’t last long and it would become time to demand something new.
One particular incident I remember was going to a store to buy a papason at the mall. My mom said it was too expensive so we left the store. Heading to the mall exit, I created a major scene. I yelled at her and bullied her until we went back in the store and bought it. It’s not one of my proudest moments.
In the Bubble
Naturally, my thoughts are that my behaviors were the result of having bipolar disorder. Some may be offended by that. They may say I was a bad kid and I’m using mental illness as an excuse. That’s okay. I don’t need everyone’s validation. I know the truth because I know what was going on inside my head. I was scared, insecure, extremely sad, and damned miserable. I was absolutely certain that everyone hated me. Oh, sure I had friends, but I was a burden they had to deal with. You see, the only reason they hung out with me was out of pity. I knew in all my heart that I couldn’t possibly be loved. When I was with a crowd, I’d feel like I wasn’t there. I was in a bubble hidden from others and quietly listening to conversations and things that happened. I still have that bubble.
My first drink was when I was in Pennsylvania. I was twelve and a friend and I sat in the field across from the elementary school, and drank beer and smoked weed. At first, I didn’t like either one, but something about it felt right. I wasn’t feeling as much of the pain that always seemed to be in my head. I started drinking heavily when I was fourteen. I had a roof right outside my bedroom window, and when it got cold in the winter, I would keep six-packs of beer out on the roof to stay cold. Around sixteen years old I started drinking heavy liquor. We had a small stream behind our house that stayed cold all year long. That was where I would keep a bottle of vodka and a bottle of orange juice. This allowed me to drink screwdrivers on the way to school each morning
A Medical Breakthrough
I’ve told this part of the story several times, but here it is again. I was suicidal, so some friends dropped me off at Cedars Sinai hospital and I wound up in the psych ward for ten days. One of those days I was called into the head psychiatrist’s office and it was crowded with more doctors who were there to observe my situation. I was told that based on my family’s history, my history and my behavior while there, that I was a textbook case for someone who was clinically depressed and I’d probably be on meds the rest of my life. I gladly took them and they helped a lot, but things still weren’t right. It was several years later that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar and I got on the right meds.
I hope I’m reaching out to some of you parents out there. Is your kid unruly and out of control? I know people complain about kids given too many meds these days, but please make sure you ask your doctor if it could possibly be bipolar. I was over forty years old when I was finally diagnosed properly. No one should ever have to wait that long.