Let me start with this: I am an individual with bipolar disorder and anxiety, who over the years has found me in trouble for my actions while in the various states of my disorder. I am also a disabled veteran who served in the United States Air Force in the 1980s. Many of my issues started much earlier though, at age 13 to be exact. It was at that age that after unrelenting bullying that I tried to commit suicide. For the next five years, I began to have what I now recognize as intermittent periods of mania and depression.
It was during the time I was in the Air Force though, that my disease began to manifest in earnest. These were issues for which I really had no answers for what exactly was happening to me, and at that time one dared not seek out psychiatric counseling due to the stigma that came with it. When I got out of the Air Force, the problems followed me back to Iowa.
From 1987 until 2010, I lived a life at the mercy of something I still did not fully understand. During that time, I finally sought out psychiatric help. The help and medication I received often worked for a while, or didn’t work at all. I frustrated my family when I disappeared for days and weeks at a time. I looked for help from both the Veteran’s Administration and the private sector. From the former, I received care from 13 different providers in about 20 years, and from the latter, I was once so medicated; I was not unlike a fictional zombie.
To be fair, my providers were not completely to blame for what went on with me. If a medication didn’t make me feel better, I would stop taking. If it did work, I would stop taking it. If I didn’t help myself, how could I ask someone else to help me put my life in order?
One of the best and worst times of my life was during my stint at Iowa State University. One semester I would do really well, but then the next, I wouldn’t. I would stop going to classes in frustration. This would sink me into deep depression. This was class manic depressive (bipolar) behavior. I would “cycle” between mania and depression continuously. My life here, there and everywhere: I was a rider on a rollercoaster; one I could not get off of.
I finally decided that school was not for me. I entered the job-market, It was not any better. I drifted from one to another. Some I should never been at in the first place. I tried to get a better job in 1999, and forged a diploma to Iowa State. It was a stupid thing to do. The job only paid a bit above minimum wage, and I ended facing a judge for the first time. I wish I could stay it was the last. In many ways, my life was going downhill fast.
About that time, I went to work for a Ford dealer on the Eastside of Des Moines, IA. I was a terrible car salesperson who was not making any money except the “draw” paid to salespersons on commission who don’t make any money. I was also a man who when manic has absolutely no impulse control. This got me in bigger trouble.
In the fall of 2000, I altered a paycheck with a typewriter so it looked like I made more money than I actually did. I cashed it at one of those check-cashing places in Ames, and was eventually caught. I went to court and was fined and placed on probation. I embarrassed myself and my family.
One thing that I want to say is that when I was manic, the truth is an afterthought. I told one lie after another. One lie had to cover for the first, and so on. This is what really hurt those that I loved. Many of the things that I did might not have had to happen if I would have lived the truth, and would not have tried to be things I was not. All I had to do was level with people about what was really going on in my life. I know all of this now, but it came at quite a cost.
Let me preface this by saying that in the summer of 2010, I was on a downward spiral. I was in a perpetual manic state, and that which was my reality was far from being the real one. I took myself off my medication as I didn’t think it mattered anymore. I was completely delusional, and I told my family I was living and working in Des Moines, but instead was living with a so-called “friend” who was far from a good influence on someone who was having serious delusions of grandeur. It was from that apartment in Nevada, I that I departed one morning after not sleeping for three days…
On the morning of September 17, 2010, I found myself in the lobby of the Bank of the West. I told the teller to put money in a bag I brought with me. I did not threaten them, and I was apprehended approximately 45 seconds later.
I do not recall that entire event to this day, but I hurt a lot of people. My actions are not who I am. I abhor what I did.
I was taken to jail, stripped, put in an isolation cell for that night, and then served six more days until a wonderful person from my church helped me with bail.
I then went through a year of waiting for the justice system to run its course. It was misery on me, but mostly on that love and care for me. On September 23, 2011, I was sentenced and thanks to the gift of a longtime neighbor and friend, my Dad drove me to another jail, where I served until October 6, when a bed opened up in Curt Forbes Residential treatment, where I stayed until December 6. I was put on probation, and was discharged from there on September 17th of this year. My probation officer recommended in the order that “my citizenship rights be restored.”
During the year before my trial, I met an incredible group of people in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Central Iowa. They helped me find a road called “Recovery,” and in doing so, helped me find the person I lost along the way. I am on medications that work for me, I see a Psychiatrist at the VAMC DSM that really has helped me, and I have made peace with the fact that I am a man with a mental illness.
Also through the Veterans Administration, I have been granted disability benefits. They have deemed that I have a 100% service related disability. I now have a steady income, lots of good friends and colleagues, and I attended training to be both a NAMI Connections group facilitator, as well as a Peer Support Specialist.
My recovery is not perfect. I still find things that challenge me all the time. Is that not what life is? An imperfect time on this imperfect planet that we live on? I love my life though. I have found someone that makes me laugh, smile, and think. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know she has my back, and I have hers. She sees me for me, and not the things that I just documented. I am not perfect, nor do I have to be. I just have to be me. Bipolar is PART of me, but not the whole me.