Photo by Tim Barber
When I went on Social Security/Disability, I had a lot of time on my hands. When I used to go through anxiety attacks or depression, it would last just about a week or two, but at that time I found myself in a severe depression, and I needed to start doing things differently. I needed a better recovery.
I think I was in that depression because of a breakup that I'd had. It was an extremely toxic relationship. I think I had just made it my job to take care of her. I was energized by it, so I stopped listening to a lot of the key signs that said it wasn't a good relationship. When it failed, since I'd put everything else on the back burner, I was sort of angry about it. And six months after, maybe it was post-traumatic or something, but I just went into a deep, deep depression.
I had been on a certain regimen of medicine because I was diagnosed originally as being hypomanic, and they tried changing my medicine, which just made the depression worse because the new meds made me sleep all day long. That was bad. I was bounced from one medicine to the next for months. I needed something just to fill up my time, so I was going to tons of different 12-Step meetings. I did Al:Anon. I did Emotions Anonymous—anything to occupy my time.
The girl I'd broken up with had been an awful addict, and I had such low self-esteem, I used to justify when she'd relapse and want to go drinking by saying to myself, "If I don't go with her, then she's gonna end up in the street, or she's gonna end up in somebody's bed." I wanted to protect her.
You know that they say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different result. That was me. After the first couple drinks I'd actually like her better than when she was sober, but then all of a sudden she'd go in the bathroom, pop Vicodin or something, and turn into an absolute monster. I've had some of the most epic travesties going on with her. I'd be driving, and she'd be hitting me and smacking the hell out of me. Our loved ones, the people who know us the best, are always the ones who can push our buttons the most, too! I had been married and divorced already, and sometimes it did get physical with my ex-wife. I was originally diagnosed manic-depressive in 1994 and started taking medicine then. I always go to extremes—black or white. And I always have talked a lot—and supposedly "forced speech" is a symptom of manic depression. I've always been accused of talking too much. I always hoped that something was going to come out of the sky and cure me. But this relationship with this girl had to end first. It was New Year's last year, and she asked me to go out and get some crack for her. I thought it was OK, because it was the holiday and we'd both drunk a little bit. She also promised me that we would end up in bed together if I would go out and purchase some crack for her. So I went over to the Boat, which is a casino near where we lived in Elgin, Illinois, and I took some money out on my credit, and I went and got some stuff and brought it back to her. She was doing it, and I tried it a little bit. I didn't take a lot, and I think what she had was pretty weak stuff. Then she decided she didn't have enough, so she went and called her favorite cab driver, who would take her out to buy drugs. And then off she went. She was calling me from her cell, saying she'd be home soon, and so on and so forth. By the next morning, she wasn't even back yet, so I called her house and somebody there told me that she actually had gone to see her ex-boyfriend. I called up her cab driver, and he told me what street she was on, even what house he thought it was and what car was in front of it. I went up and down the street and decided that this one house was the one. I went up to the door, and I could even hear a bunch of people snoring in there. And I thought, "She's in there with somebody." I knocked on the door, but nobody answered. I was so positive she was in there that I just went on in through a window that was already open. I think some neighbors saw me do that. So I'm walking around in there and I don't see her at all. There are other people in there just sleeping and snoring away, but nobody knew I was in there. I've never been arrested in my life—never even close to it. Then I saw like $30 on a dresser and I don't know what possessed me, but I took it. I was thinking, like, "How dare these people! I'll bet she really was here." As I was coming back out the window, five cop cars pulled up. I'm thinking, "Well, that's it. I'm going to jail. I've done it this time." But they didn't even cuff me—all I had to do was tell them the situation. They knew my girlfriend and what trouble she was. That sort of helped. The police officers there don't want to do paperwork if they don't have to. If I had done this in a nicer suburb, like Glenview, guaranteed I'd be down to the clinker. They said, "We're going to go in there and see if they want to press charges." I guess either they couldn't wake them up or they said, hey, no big deal, because they were so out of it. I took the money I'd stolen and bought breakfast for myself, and then I went home. There's a knock on the door and it's not her—it's a police officer going, "OK, where is it? There's $30 missing. If you don't give us that money right now, we're taking your behind to jail." But then I went back to the street she was on. Coincidentally, she was with some guys I knew. She was passed out, so me and the guys where she was staying just jammed for a while. I play the drums. We broke up not long after that. I don't know how much of my reactions to her were due to my mental illness or what. They can't cut open my brain and say, "This part works and this part doesn't." They can't do an MRI. I just have to accept that I can wait for the medicines to work forever, but the only way I can get better is by learning tools to deal with my own problems. LARRY ROTHEISER