My name is Mick and this is my short story of surviving with Manic Depression.
This is an illness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, unless I was in a foul mood. Which unfortunately, is regularly, but at the same time spasmodic. It is not easy describing this sometimes-evil merry-go-round. Most people in their lives grow up, and mature as they get older, but I have found in my life I have gone around in circles as I have gone through life. Having great goals and aspirations one day and the next day you couldn’t be stuffed getting off the couch. To get away from the doom and gloom for a while, I will quickly explain my interpretation of leaving with Manic Depression. My symptoms of the illness are as follows. Feeling totally lethargic most of the time, never feeling rested or alive after sleep. Quick tempered, at times very quick tempered and at other times it is a case of “please leave me the fuck alone! Or else!” Varying appetite, anxiety, and massive isolation for long periods at a time. I grew up in an Eastern suburb of Melbourne.
I was fairly good at school, but I excelled as an athlete at a young age; football in particular. Along with football, other sports occupied a lot of my time. I played with several football clubs and met a lot of people along the way. Not to mention the amount of grog that has been drunk, moving to the outer Western suburbs of Melbourne, my life changed a lot as the lifestyle was different. By 14 years of age I was playing footy and other sports, then getting pissed on the weekends. I started working at 15, in an apprenticeship I despised. This job to me, was a great excuse for me to drink; the frustration of not being in-sync in what I was doing for 8 hours a day, was more than enough for me. Then having to train for football hours twice a week, my outlook was, I’ll do this, but, if I don’t win Tattslotto one day, I’m fucked.
Since my first job at 15, I have had over 50 jobs in my 28 years of work. Throw in 30 resident shifts, 10 football clubs, a lot of grog and hooch, then it is not hard to see how life can be up, down and all around. At age 18 I was the captain of an under 18 footy team, we had a good year and came runners up to a good side. We loved our coach and were very close as a side. Later on that year, I found out that our coach had died in bad circumstances. This affected me dramatically and as a result of binge drinking to a degree, my life spiralled into a dark state. I began having blackouts on alcohol, leading to many incidents such as fights, major embarrassing situations involving friends, creating a feeling of paranoia, denial and regret.
Soon after this period, I was losing control of everything around me and even my mind. Towards the end, I was running on empty. There was one day in Melbourne where I was meeting a girl from the East at Flinders Street station, she was hotter than what I had remembered when I spotted her. To cut it short, I got sidetracked walking down Flinders Street; all of a sudden I stopped, walked into a tattoo shop and got a tat that I couldn’t even pay for! How stupid is that; I left this gorgeous blonde girl out the front of a tattoo parlour, in at the time a sleazy part of Flinders Street, while dickhead here gets a tat. This is just one of a multitude of imbecilic things I’ve done.
I was close to my first full nervous breakdown, as they were called at the time. I can remember my parents taking me to Royal Park, a Psychiatric Hospital in Melbourne. To say I hadn’t had much sleep was an understatement. I was in a total state of mania. The quacks there stuck a drip in my arm, then said to my parents “this should knock him out for 24 hours”. The only problem with this, was that I was locked up in Bluela, which was the Jail section of the hospital. Eight hours later I was still awake and climbing the walls, the drugs had no affect on me at all. It was a bit of a spin out. I can remember being given 2 hours a day outside. We had like a security guard; he was like Bruce Lee, but twice as friggin heavy. I use to play games of wit with him by continually looking for opportunities to piss off out of there.
I was released after 4 days; it should have been 4 weeks. After that, and every other hospitalisation, I rebuilt my life slowly and sometimes quickly. At present I have been hospitalised up to 10 times, the places are irrelevant, most people wouldn’t know of places like Royal Park, Footscray Psych, Werribee Psychiatric Hospital and so on. These places aren’t bad, but then they’re not good either. The idea is to get yourself well and either pick-up where you left off or start again. I’m not going to go over the symptoms of the illness, because I figure if anyone is interested enough to read this book, they will find literature in this area at the ready.
I’m chopping and changing stories at the moment, to show you that this is how I think a lot of the time, changing moods and changing situations equals instability. People might read this and say, yeah I’ve been through most of those. Ok, but try them all together and regularly, and a chemical imbalance doesn’t always regulate itself. Some manic times when I was younger were great. I would liken them to being on coke and speed at the same time. Although I have only tried coke, smack and speed a couple of times. I’m getting tired, so I’m gunna finish this; there is so much more I could write in this area. I hope that more Manic Depressives can get in contact with each other, because I feel that we are comfortable in each other’s company. Stick in there manic’s, we wont have to put up with shit forever anyway.
I hadn’t intended writing anymore for my contribution to this book, but I was asked by the gutsy woman who started the support group and this book, to write some more. The following is a short story to show how a manic-depressive can plummet from working and getting by in life, to slipping into a state of madness. I mean what a buzz, leaving your relatively normal state of mind, from a short blackout to a long one, and the long ones are very scary, with lots of withdrawal and remorse. Cop this! When I was younger I received a payout from an accident. When given the payout for compensation, I walked across a bridge in Melbourne, where I worked as a builders labourer, straight into a Flight Centre and booked a $4200 trip around America; 21 states in 23 days, fucken unreal!
I thought I’d wanted to go to America from when I was a kid. Those American girls seemed to love Aussies, and it was a known fact at the time, and probably still is. I can remember the last 5 or 6 weeks leading up to the trip I was working and playing footy, seeing some different women casually and generally getting through life. I had started growing a few plants out the back (marijuana) they turned out to be purple headers, this stuff was awesome. When I pulled the plants, I was told to have some boiling pots ready for the roots to sit in, shocking the plant into shooting all the resin from the plant into the head and tips of the plant. Six weeks of smoking dope and pissing on down the footy club and pub, was not a great lead up to a hectic overseas trip. When I look back, when was I anymore organised in the past?
On the day that I left for the trip a good mate and his wife drove me to the airport. I had a few bongs about 8.30am before I got picked up and was stoned when I hopped on the plane at 10am. There was no smoking on the bird for the 14 hours to Hawaii. It was murder, but the amount of piss I drank was unreal. When we got to Waikaki and hopped off the plane, I was rooted. I had already had a mix up at L.A. Airport, which was very embarrassing. I had a week in Hawaii, before starting the trip in New York.
I had 2 grand in traveller’s cheque, so I had to be a bit careful. I caught the bus to Wakaki and went to a back- packers inn, where it was $15 per night. I stayed there for a few days, even working there for a day. I woke up one morning on an uncomfortable bed with a gorgeous blonde bird from somewhere in Europe, sleeping across the room. I thought, how long has this been going on? I went up to sunset beach with a few people this one day and got dumped body surfing. I’ve never been so fast in the water; I got dumped right on the shore from about 10 feet. I should have started to realise that I was fatigued to the shithouse, when I didn’t really feel the pain from the dumping.
The body was tired and starting to shut down; from here on in, the pendulum was turning. On about the third night a couple of us were walking to see a live band, when I crossed paths with a woman I had seen previously; I put my arm around her and the next thing we were walking into the night club together. Maybe I wasn’t sliding after all! Her name was Laura and one of the nicest people I have ever met. We clicked straight away and I moved into her hotel room the next night. Even though we were on the 8th floor, the sound of stereo’s in the back of 4-wheel drives pounded through the building.
I got less and less sleep, to the point where I could have snapped at times. I somehow kept it together, a lot of that was to do with Laura. I can remember the day Laura and her 2 friends dropped me at the airport. I can remember feeling absolutely shitful. I kissed Laura, vowing to meet her in L.A. at the end of the trip. I spent on day and night in New York; I checked in to a hotel in Manhattan for $80 bucks a night, it was the best I could find. I spent all day trying to sleep. No Hope! I had to be at the bus early in the morning and I was shitting myself that I would miss the bus; at about 8pm I said, fuck it, had a shower and looked for a pub. I walked into this long sort of bar in this street, I didn’t know where the hell I was and I had trouble remembering where my hotel was. It gets to the stage where you almost need to leave a trail of sand to find your way back, when like this. Some of the people in the pub were coming up to me and telling me the grouse joints to go to, but I just felt too rooted, my charm had almost disappeared.
I was standing there with a Millers in my hand, when this little Hispanic bloke came up and introduced himself. He said he had been to Melbourne on business a few times. He couldn’t believe that we still punch on and don’t pull out guns. It made me feel proud that here I was in New York getting told that! I bought half a dozen of Fosters cans, got back to the hotel and opened one. I felt good, that I had got home without any bullshit. I took a mouthful and spat it out on the carpet; I read the can and it said “Brewed in Canada”. They must all drink something else there! I started the trip the next morning, we all boarded the bus and it took off out of the city. On the bus, left over from the last trip were two full esky’s of beer and spirits. We all hopped into it, before you knew it, we were all the best of friends. Later that night we stopped at a hotel in Maryland. I was still having trouble sleeping and still drinking piss to feel better.
There was a bus trip to George Washington Memorial what a thrill! It turned out that I just missed the bus anyway. The turning point; I was on my own trying to sleep, but it was no good. I can remember sitting outside the hotel and starting to get some strange thoughts. I started to get the hits with the other tripper. A group of us spent the night at the club; another night of poor sleep. I was running on empty. The next day I missed another bus trip. I was by myself and I thought, I don’t need this 4 grand trip, I’m going to hitch-hike to Laura’s place in L.A. I got picked up and taken to Dulles Airport, where I bought a ticket to Washington for $500. Now I was loosing my mind and my money.
I arranged to meet Laura at the airport. When I found her after leaving the plane, we went straight to her place. There was a chick from Hawaii staying at her place; this Sheila gave me the creeps; we had a blue the next day and she pissed off. I’ll start to wind this up, as I’m starting to get impatient with it all! This was good, but I was starting to show another side of me to Laura. I started to get a bit nasty with Laura, verbally that is. After I got a little bit weird, she suggested that I leave; she drove me to the airport with her brother. I quickly explained to him that I was a manic- depressive. He sort of understood, but said that I had really upset his sister and that best thing would be to leave.
I had bugger all money left and needed to get home. I thought I had organised things with my parents about getting home, but I must have just assumed it. I walked into the airport, kissed Laura and hugged her goodbye; we were both very upset at how things had turned out. I don’t know what happened next. I stuffed my ticket up by leaving it in my bag and sent it somewhere wrong. I was trying to explain this to the airport staff, when I accidentally walked behind a counter. Two federal police grabbed me and handcuffed me. They then dragged me around the airport floor, with a 250 pound black female cop jumping on my shins. They embarrassed me in front of at least 100 people. The police lead me out to a car at the airport. I was shitting myself; there were three giant cops sitting with me in the car.
I quickly explained my situation; they drove me to a holding cell and put me in a lock up. I explained that I was manic-depressive, so they drove me to the L.A. Hospital psychiatric section. The first night they strapped me to the bench, arms and legs. That is how you spend your first night when you are in a state like I was. That isn’t the way you want to spend your first night in hospital; it freaked me out. After a while they let me walk the entire hospital, very generous! I met a bloke who was in the general part of the hospital, I used to go and have baked dinners in his ward. He was the son of the leader of the ‘Hells Angels’ in L.A., I met his old man, he looked like Santa Clause in leathers.
I rang my Oldies in Melbourne and they in turn rang Laura. Laura picked me up from the hospital and drove me to the airport. We vowed to one day see each other again. I hopped on the plane to Melbourne; I had just fucked up what should have been the holiday of my life. It was a trip to hell and back. This situation has happened on two other overseas trips; that’s right, I’ve been on three! I was ignorant, in not taking better care of myself leading up to the trip, but unfortunately you can’t turn back time. My biggest battle is to never get to these drastic lows in my life again. I have come to realise that there is no guarantee of this and I tell myself, “Do your best Micky and stay cool.