My first time shipping off to Kamp Kaseman was 1999. This is also when I first was diagnosed with bipolar, and that’s an entirely separate yarn to share. Later. Maybe this week. Maybe next year. You can’t tell me when to spin my yarns. You’re not my real mother.
I’d been weeping openly all night for no apparent reason, and my wife kicked me out of the bedroom for every possible reason. I was annoying her, which was not an uncommon occurrence, crying or not. The wife (now ex-wife booya) wasn’t very fond of my bipolar symptoms.
Of the details of how I was whisked away to Kamp Kaseman and what happened when I got there, only one is pertinent to this tale. At Kamp Kaseman, I met Dr. Kenneth Bull for the first time. And he was the lad who diagnosed me with bipolar II after what seemed like a very short interview. Was it really so visible to the world, because it was “normal” for me and I presumed everyone felt the way I did (euphoric then suicidal then euphoric then suicidal then euphoric then suicidal then euphoric then suicidal then psychotic than psychotically suicidal then Kamp Kaseman) and saw the world as I did (euphoric the world is a bright and cheery then suicidal and the world is covered with buffalo squeeze then… enough).
So Dr. Bull interviewed me and then diagnosed me, and after I gave him permission to call my folks in California, he interviewed them. From what my Dad said, he was primarily interested in my behavior as a kid growing up in SoCal. The one question he asked my folks that didn’t seem germane to me was “Was he hyperactive and easily distracted as a child?”
The answer is yes, although my behavior didn’t have a name like ADD or ADHD. They just called kids like me “hyperactive” and made us put our head down on our desks for 15 minutes or so. I would think about building spaceship things with Legos.
I bring up this one specific detail because Dr. Bull felt hyperactivity in children is often a precursor to bipolar as an adult. What? I’d never heard that anywhere, and I haven’t found a convincing professional psychiatric journal study to prop up Dr. Bull’s claim.
Giving his professional assessment a free pass for now, this past month I was sorting through childhood belongings and came across my European History notebook from 1986. Below, I’ve posted snaps from the notebook where legitimate notes and distracted doodling held equal sway on the college rule paper in the binder.
What this meant was about half of my class time was spent pretending to listen and care about dead people with hemophilia (there are a few snaps of the legitimate note-taking) and about half my class time was spent joyfully sketching away drawings of whatever favorite bands I happened to have that year (you’ll be able to tell which snaps these are). In these snaps, it’s Oingo Boingo, Madness, Adam Ant, and The English Beat that dominate.
I’m sharing these snaps because in high school I was easily distracted, and this behavior began as early and as far back as I can remember, even prior to kindergarten. Can you blame me? I’d finish all my classwork and then homework before the period ended, and I’d already read everything the weekend before. What was I supposed to do?
Nowadays, “hyperactivity” often gets the more modern diagnosis “ADHD” and meds, behavioral therapy, and sitting with your head on the desk are all available as treatment options.
Do you know how disruptive and distracted I was through high school? My European History teacher threw a piece of chalk at me in the middle of class. Hard. It hit me. In the nowadays modern world, he’d be fired and likely face criminal wrongdoing attention.
It would have been my only viral video ever. Bummer 1986 wasn’t the nowadays modern world. Mr. Tuttle was a weenie. Maybe I’ll write a letter to the high school detailing all of this. Yes, I will. That sounds fun, and self-empowering. Mostly, it sounds fun to see what kind of reply I receive.
If being honest in retrospect, this high school behavior most likely was the beginning manifestation of bipolar symptoms. Quite often, I sketched in class because it was the only way to keep my mind off the less than stellar personal assessment thoughts I was having based upon unfounded … nothing, really. This is the way of bipolar.
Without further distracting exposition, here are snaps from my high school European History notebook.
You know, I really am going to send a letter to my alma mater. Tuttle also tormented me in Europe because he was the chaperone on our European History tour the next year. The very first night in Mannheim I met some American students who were just coming back from Czechoslovakia, and since we weren’t going to Czechoslovakia I was asking this girl Sherry what it was like in the Eastern Block (still Cold War days in 1986). She had brought back a bottle of cherry vodka and had offered me some, but I didn’t drink so I passed on it.
We still sat in the hallway and talked, and Tuttle walked by and said “Okay, you’re going home now. Couldn’t even make it one day.” I said I hadn’t been drinking, and Sherry said I wasn’t drinking, and he said “I don’t believe you. Get your bags packed.” I insisted the other chaperone come and determine if I had been drinking. She told Tuttle I hadn’t been, but now I’m on her shitlist, too. And then there was this. I didn’t have as much money as the cheerleaders and the two jocks on the trip, and so when we got to Lucern in Switzerland they all went someplace expensive for dinner, and I told them I had to save money because I was on a budget and I’d already spent the money allotted for that day and I asked if we go somewhere less expensive and we were only allowed out at night with the chaperones so I opted to stay in the hotel with some friends… it’ll be in my letter. Tuttle was a weenie. Maybe he’s dead by now. I hope not. I’ve been talking about this in therapy with Diane, obviously, so I’m hoping I can confront Tuttle as an adult and tell him what a bad person he was to me. Especially since in retrospect I was starting to show bipolar symptoms right about then, and part of staying in that night in Lucern is because I was starting to cry and isolate for no particular reason. I’d like like my alma mater to know about this so perhaps other kids won’t have to go through what I did. Whew! That was fun! It’s good typing in “ghost text.” I hope nobody changes the background color. That would be way funny.