Never Take Advice From A Gargoyle

gargoyle

The dark forces driving mania also drive depression, indeed, mania and depression are like twins separated at birth and raised by different families. The more you understand them the more you are struck by similarities, not differences.

I have written much more about mania than I have about depression, but depression has consumed a far greater portion of my life. The death of my mother, which occurred when I was a grad student, triggered a long down cycle during which being and nothingness seemed almost indistinguishable from one another – it felt as if all color had been drained from the world.

During this bleak season I went on a European vacation with my brother. At one point we joined forces with a Dutch cousin and toodled through France in a borrowed car. Like good tourists we visited Paris and paid homage to the obligatory icons. Climbing the tower at Notre Dame I had an inspired idea for an ad – Gargoyle with Listerine. After huffing, puffing, and trudging round and round rickety wooden stairs we at last reached the roof and walked into bright sunlight.

Paris lay spread out at our feet like a pornographic postcard featuring men in masks and black socks held in place with garters. Standing at the edge, no railing to protect us, we gazed at the broad cobblestone square far below; remote and yet close enough so that we were able to make out individual faces. It was a lush summer day but I went dizzy and cold, sweat grew on my forehead. Abruptly I backed away; the nausea decreased.

It was nothing so simple as fear of heights, or even the proximity of death. The terror was this. If, for just one instant, my inner, irrational mind had taken control it might have moved one foot just far enough to pitch me headfirst into midnight. The faith I had in my mind’s reliability – to always act in my best interests – was incomplete. Some part of me knew this was dangerous territory.

Later, in mania, I would learn how right I was. Because, dear reader, this is precisely what happens in mania – involuntary, irrational behavior, fabulously self-destructive behavior. If there is a suicidal component to your personality, one second of losing your grip on it can be enough to lose everything.

The Great Creativity Quote Quiz

Robert Frost

Can You Accurately Attribute These Pearls Of Wisdom?

  1. “Poetry is far too important to be left to the sane.”
    a.) Heavy D
    b.) Morbidly Obese D
    c.) Physically Fit D
    d.) Taz Mopula
  2. “Mediocre art misrepresents reality; great art obliterates it.”
    a.) Martha Stewart
    b.) Norman Rockwell
    c.) Stacy London
    d.) Taz Mopula
  3. “If you need mania to be creative, then maybe creativity isn’t for you.”
    a.) Lord Byron
    b.) Ernest Hemingway
    c.) Hunter Thompson
    d.) Taz Mopula
  4. “Without life, poetry itself would be meaningless.”
    a.) Charles Bukowski
    b.) Tom Waits
    c.) Robert Allen Zimmerman
    d.) Taz Mopula
  5. “No artist, however prodigious his talents, can create a great audience.”
    a.) P.T. Barnum
    b.) Cecil B. DeMille
    c.) Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
    d.) Taz Mopula
  6. “Great soldiers are brave; great poets are reckless.”
    a.) General George S. Patton
    b.) Audie Murphy
    c.) Hannibal
    d.) Taz Mopula
  7. “Writing great poetry becomes much easier when you’re willing to die for it.”
    a.) Dylan Thomas
    b.) Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade
    c.) John Denver
    d.) Taz Mopula
  8. “The audience is never wrong; that said, one does occasionally wander into the wrong theater.”
    a.) Abraham Lincoln
    b.) Ronald Reagan
    c.) Gerald Ford
    d.) Taz Mopula
  9. “Art is the shortest distance between two points, when one of the points has no known, or knowable, location.”
    a.) Albert Einstein
    b.) Stephen Hawking
    c.) Carl Sagan
    d.) Taz Mopula
  10. “Even the greatest paintings are flat; they only become three-dimensional in the eyes of those who behold them.”
    a.) Clarence Fountain
    b.) Art Tatum
    c.) Stevie Wonder
    d.) Taz Mopula

Back Of The Bus, Crazypants!

back of the bus

While purveyors of politically correct thought and speech would deny it to their last disingenuous breath, prejudice is very much alive today. While it is increasingly unfashionable to ridicule and despise the “differently enabled” it is still open season on whackadoomians.

“The real tragedy of political correctness is that it has given lying a bad name.” Taz Mopula

If you have been diagnosed Bipolar recently, and up until now have managed to avoid membership in unpopular sub-classes, society is holding a window seat for you…and it’s all the way in the back of the bus. Prejudice, and the cruelty that comes with it, is always predicated on fear of the unknown. Trust me, when it comes to the unknown, mental illness is in its own class; third class.

“We think of the world as a dangerous place and realize too late that we are the most dangerous part of it.” Taz Mopula

The unholy terrain of Mania, with landscapes resembling the nightmare visions of Hieronymus Bosch, is more remote than “wildest” Africa, much less a Cher concert. So brace yourself – all will fear you, some will try to understand you, those who do try to understand you will fail – a small group will accept you as you are and allow you to teach them.

“Share your self; it’s the only thing you have to offer that isn’t readily available elsewhere.” Taz Mopula

At first I was deeply offended when they escorted me to the back of the bus. After a while I came to enjoy it there, I loved my colleagues – the music, humor, food, and camaraderie were so much better. I began to think of my status as a badge of honor. I didn’t mind being on the fringe; it suited me.

“People will always talk about you, and – despite your very best efforts – 90% of what they say will be wrong.” Taz Mopula

But what really stuck in my craw was the mountain of stupidity, assumptions, ignorance, and sheer cruelty that society heaped on us year after year. Remember, if you’re nuts, you’re nuts for life – in the eyes of those around you, no amount of evolution will ever return you to the sane lane.

“Looking for self-worth in someone else’s eyes is like trying to breathe with someone else’s lungs.” Taz Mopula

A quick illustration. My first manic episode happened at age 20, the remaining two major ones happened in my mid-to-late 30s. I was in therapy for 17-years and faithfully monitored my recovery, which included medication and careful reliance on a support network. I even wrote a Bipolar Memoir called Invisible Driving, which chronicled my horrific battle with the illness and subsequent recovery. But in the eyes of friends, family, employers, etc. – it’s like losing your virginity – you cannot un-ring a bell.

“Why raise the bridge when you can lower your expectations of the river?” Taz Mopula

Two years ago, when I was fast approaching my 60th birthday, I initiated a major life change that involved leaving one relationship and beginning another, and leaving my home state of Pennsylvania, where I had spent most of my life, for New Hampshire. I thought about this change very carefully, trying my best to manage it in a way that would minimize any negative impact on those around me. (Bear in mind, it had been nearly 40 years since my first manic episode, and almost 20 years since my last one.)

“There is only one truly authentic way to enjoy success; that is by remaining indifferent to it.” Taz Mopula

Almost without exception, it was assumed by “near and dear” that I was “going-off” – making this dramatic decision not in health, but in a return to madness. That, gentle reader, is how much credit I got for decades of responsibility, facing my illness, and doing the right thing.

“For the sake of convenience be your own best friend. It’s always easy to get in touch with you.” Taz Mopula

In the eyes of society, once you are crazy, you will never be un-crazy. Welcome to the back of the bus.