The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Broken to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
It is 1978 and I am a seventeen-year-old high school senior. I’ve watched my mom wrestling with depression all through my growing up years. The first time I remember was when I was six on Cape Cod.
But a few years later, when I graduated from elementary school, she decided to go back to school to get her Master’s degree in social work. I guess the work-load was too demanding, but I didn’t really pay too much attention, as I was busy with my friends and sports and school. She found it hard to concentrate on the homework. Couldn’t focus and finish chapters. I didn’t understand this, as it was always super easy for me to get my homework done. She stopped going to class.
I know she’s in trouble one afternoon when I get home from school early because field hockey has been rained out. She is in bed. The room is pitch black and the curtains are drawn. I see the pills by her bed encased in a cardboard wrapper. I never understand why they put that scary picture on the cover looking like a mad woman literally pulling her hair out. How can that make a depressed person feel better? I suspect it is some way for the drug company to make her feel bad so she’ll need more of that drug.
We don’t cry or show fear in my household, but we are somehow allowed to get mad. I am mad that she is absent from my life. I am mad that she seems to have no control over this thing. I am mad that she loses energy and focus and turns cold. I don’t raise my voice or rage like my dad, but I am snide and disrespectful and—I know it—mean. I can’t seem to help myself. I have to blame someone. My muscles in my neck get tight and I spew it out.
“Why don’t you just get up and deal with your life, Mom? Jesus, you’ve been telling me you’re leaving Dad for a decade and you just sit here and take his abuse. No wonder you’re depressed. Finish school, get a job, do something!”
She doesn’t answer. Just turns away.
She is weak and lazy, and I can’t stand to be around her. I feel her mood sucking the air out of the room and it’s almost as if I have to get outside to breathe. I dial my best friend Martha, 232-1132.
“Can you meet me at Eliot Park?”
And with that I am gone.