Shawn Maxam shares an excerpt from his forthcoming free E-Book – ‘Blackness to Bipolar’
Compared to bipolar’s magic, reality seems a raw deal. It’s not just the boredom that makes recovery so difficult, it’s the slow dawning pain that comes with sanity…
- David Lovelace
I once believed I was a “normal” teenager. I had bouts of sadness, anger, extreme excitement and daredevil behavior. I jumped on the NYC train tracks several times just to show people it wasn’t that dangerous. I walked on the ledges of buildings which was weird because I normally had a slight fear of heights. I was loud, brash, arrogant and incredibly funny. The jokes would just instantly pop into my brain and flow from my mouth. So much so that I would often laugh at them myself as if I was watching someone else deliver them. My who gives a damn attitude was pretty entertaining when I felt happy. I didn’t mind getting naked or mooning people. I loved screaming in public or doing anything that would otherwise embarrass normal people. But since I was incredibly intelligent and disciplined individual who could accomplish any task I wanted to allow me to escape ridicule for behavior that would turn most people into pariahs. I was such a charismatic jerk!
I was a walking contradiction: Arrogant and extremely sensitive. It really hurt when anyone didn’t like my music. I also took a lot of things personally. As if everyone had a vendetta against me. I loved to argue and be antagonistic but I wanted people to like me so badly. I could figure out whether I was an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. I was also experiencing hormonal rages that only the incredible Hulk could appreciate. Was this typical teenage desire or something stronger based on mental illness? I assume now a bit of both. I loved showing my genitals to women who I started to date at least when I was manic. Other times I felt very shy and unsure of myself sexually. I lost my virginity at the ripe old age of eighteen and divulged the great news to my parents which made my dad happy because he thought I might have been gay.
Looking back on on those formative years I now realize that there is a pattern of instability in my actions which I believe were reflective of the instability of my moods. I had been homeless, physically abused while in foster care, “abandoned” by my mother and harassed by the police as a teenager yet the most tragic event of my life was the untimely death of my younger brother.
I woke up and saw that my phone had approximately ten voice-mails and twice as many missed calls. Half of these calls were from people who never called me. I listened to the messages that were incoherent and short on details. Than my phone rang and I saw that it was my sister. I answered and she asked me if I heard what had happened. I said yes I had. It was one of those classic sitcom moments where two people were talking about two different subjects but neither knew. For clarification I asked her if she was talking about the house fire that happened a few days ago in the Bed-Stuy Brownstone that I spent my teenage years in and that my mom and siblings stay lived. She said no and that she talking about my brother who had been murdered the night before. Shawnel was shot in the back four times after leaving a barbecue three blocks from the house. He went into cardiac arrest and died at Interfaith hospital several hours later. I instantly started to cry. I hadn’t seen my little brother in over 6months.
I felt so defined by my blackness and poverty that when my brother got killed I felt like it was an injustice and very much a reflection of the inequities in American society yet the world didn’t automatically understand I fell into an emotionally fragile state and I need support but obviously family and friends were supporting the best way she could but I guess I felt it was not sufficient. Almost a year later I would engage in my first suicide attempt and my descent into Bipolar.
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