Updated: Nov 16, 2019
I thought I had been drugged with LSD. That was the only thing that made any sense at all. My first manic-depressive episode led me on a wild ride of driving throughout San Diego County. I raved at friends and shouted obscenities at strangers. At one point, I was surrounded by a bright light and was invited into The Sacred Space. At another part of this three-day journey, I found myself enclosed in a glass barrier while I watched myself do and say things that I would never have done, but was unable to stop. There was a Voice of Authority that commanded me to do these things.
Finally, some friends dragged me to the ER. No sign of drugs of any kind. The next day, I was checked into a hospital and began medication treatments to bring me down. And down I came. I crashed. As high as the high had been, I was now hopelessly depressed. It was like a rubber band that had been stretched to the breaking point in the mania was released and snapped wildly in the opposite direction.
I remember sitting on the couch watching “A Few Good Men” and was unable to change the channel because I couldn’t lift my finger. Could not move. So I watched the movie three times in a row. I am thankful a slasher movie wasn’t featured on HBO that day.
Ultimately, I lost my job, my health insurance, my friends, and was very close to being homeless. It was time for ET to phone home. I limped back to the family farm and into my old room. I was 28 years old and had never intended to come back, certainly not like this. I couldn’t talk to my family about what had happened, and they asked no questions. I was ashamed and felt like a failure.
It was comforting to be home again on the peach ranch. As time passed, I was able to heal and relax into the moment. My condition was diagnosed and I was receiving the proper medication to manage the mood swings. I returned to college to obtain a teaching credential. I met new friends and reconnected with old ones. I was not “over it,” or “cured.” However, I felt better about myself, was healing and was taking steps towards rebuilding my life.
The first sign of spring is the lone daffodil that popped up near a huge walnut tree in front of the house. The bulb was planted by my grandmother during the Great Depression. The next sign of spring is when water released into the canals roars as it cascades down concrete falls. The faint cadence of a song; a whisper, really, that has been in the background for a long time. The song is a type of bolero, a steady beat, an instrumental whose rhythm is felt before it is heard. Finally, the tune comes to the surface of my consciousness. Now at last I can hear George Harrison’s song of hope.
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right
Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
...I feel that ice is slowly melting...
... It seems years since it's been clear
...Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right
It's all right
Tears come to my eyes, and a quivering smile. I remember something Dad said to me years ago. “Honey, there is something special about a walnut. It won’t sprout under the usual mild California climate. It rots in good weather. The walnut seed has to endure a really long, cold, hard winter. That’s what it takes to crack that tough nut and get it to grow.”
I have survived the long winter and finally sprouted. The song becomes a symphony as I continue to push through the rich soil of this experience and burst into the light. The brilliance seems overwhelming, but it is genuine and warm.
Please remember, dear reader:
You are not alone.
There are steps you can take to heal.
You are loved.
This story was first published in the Journey of Hope, a booklet published by Stop Stigma in Sacramento. Stop Stigma matched writers with artists and created a traveling exhibition. Many thanks to the team that created this program! My essay is #6 from the field of 51 writers. Artist Patricia Peak created a beautiful and meaningful painting as companion to "I, Walnut."
For details about the exhibition dates contact: stopstigmasacramento.org
The story is a compilation of the introduction and conclusion of my book, Bipolar Almanac: Create a life worth living.