Here is my introduction to my memoirs “More Than The Madness”.
People like me don’t come from any one particular place; in fact, we are all around the world. We live in every country. We don’t have any particular skin color; we share them all. You can’t tell that I am any different by looking at me. What sets me apart is what is going on in my mind. I belong to a dreaded world that most people fear and don’t understand. There are many names for my state: crazy, lunatic, crackers, nuts, insane, and mentally ill.
I didn’t specifically set out to write a book. I started by writing stories for myself to express what is so deep within my soul. When I shared these stories with friends, we laughed together and reminisced about our common experiences. This book that you hold in your hands was born. It is the story of my life.
You will never completely know what I am by simply reading my tales, but perhaps you will begin to understand. When Jesus was asked, “And who is my neighbor?” he didn’t answer the question. Instead he told the story of the Good Samaritan. The parable did more than answer the question. In the same way, I hope my story will help answer the question of what mental illness looks like and feels like.
My illness is called manic depression and is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. I was diagnosed when I was twenty. The year was 1987. Now it is called by the milder name bipolar. Psychiatric disorders are often misunderstood; I was a leper with a hidden disease. One can’t simply look at me and see something wrong, yet my existence has been far from normal.
An x-ray reveals a broken bone, and anyone can see the cast on a leg. Nobody would expect a person with a broken leg to run a marathon. But when someone suffers from an illness like depression, the reality is denied. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” or “You’re just lazy,” are typical comments. The compassion of loved ones seems missing due to frustration. They can’t see the problem because they can’t get into the person’s mind to experience the battle raging inside. They can’t see the living hell. I’ve walked in those shoes. This is a book of my footprints.
This book is about mental illness, written by one who suffers from it. I open my life with candidness and honesty. I am not afraid to reveal my soul.
Mental illness needs to be better understood. There are mountains of misinformation. Is it treatable? What are the symptoms? Are there different kinds? How does it affect you? There are textbooks that you can read to answer those questions. My book is not a clinical book filled with facts and figures, but a book of humanity to touch, not just the mind, but more importantly the heart. It not only shows the illness with all its ugliness, but it also reveals the fact that I am a human being, just like you. The illness makes up part of what I am, but it does not define me.
Unlike any physical sickness, there is a stigma attached to mental illness. We hide it from our neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances and even friends. It’s the dirty little secret that the rest of the family doesn’t like to talk about. In my experience, if you’re poor, they will call you “crazy” and most likely you will wind up in a state institution or worse, a prison. If you’re middle class, you suffer from a “chemical imbalance,” and you will most likely get adequate treatment. If you are rich, you will be called eccentric and you will get the finest treatment. Whatever you call it, most people would like to brush it under the mat, somewhere out of sight.
This book, I hope, will help change some of these negative perceptions. Some information I have purposely left out, to protect others who I mention in my story. All of the names, except my own, were changed to conceal the identities, even my parents. It is sufficient to say that our home life was unpleasant. The purpose of this book is to heal and not to hurt. I don’t want to air dirty laundry. I don’t want to expose every last flaw of my parents. Yes, it might be interesting and helpful in explaining the illness, but I will not do it and it is not necessary.
I am a devout Christian. Without God, the pain of the darkness of night would have crushed my soul and destroyed me. I bore my cross, and many have helped me carry it along the way. It has indeed been a long strange trip. I am not what the potential of my gifts may have promised, but what are the criteria to judge? I know without a doubt that I am a better person for what I have gone through. Remember, the measure of a man is not determined, only, by the distance he travels, but the nature of the road must be considered as well.
I am forty years old and happily married. I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I work full time as a civil engineer, and I support myself financially, with my wife Sylvia doing her share. I have come a long way from lying in bed all day, thinking of how I was going to kill myself. I must humbly submit that I have overcome the demons. I am not a hundred percent out of their grasp, but they no longer dictate the terms and conditions of my life. I have progressed beyond many who have suffered from the same malady and even some who do not.
There is more to me than the madness. I am a human being just like you. The illness is just another dimension in a complex picture. I hope after reading this book, you will realize that I am not a creature who needs to be locked away from society, as some would demand. I hope you will understand that I am not a bizarre phenomenon. I hope that you will see some of yourself in me and realize that we really aren’t too far apart after all. Most of all, I hope that when you encounter an individual who suffers from a mental illness, you will not ostracize them and consider them second class or worse.
Many have helped and supported me in this work and I give them my thanks. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It has indeed been a labor of love. Be prepared to be challenged. Get ready for your horizons to be broadened. I am going to show you my life, a life that is probably very different from yours. Or maybe very similar to yours and, if so, I hope this helps you feel not so alone in your struggles. In sharing my experiences, I have exposed the shadows of deception with the brilliant light of truth. I hope it will set you free. I hope the shackles of prejudice will be unfettered.
I invite you to read my personal story of overcoming mental illness. https://amzn.to/2GZuQUN