Bipolar Rollercoaster

Step right up folks, have your tickets ready! Just a warning, it’s a bumpy ride, some of the screws are loose so remember to keep your hands in the ride at all times!

I detest rollercoasters. I always have. I hate how they careen through the air, rolling on shoddily put together tracks by carnival roadies. Just a thin metal bar keeping you in your seat preventing your body from being flung into the air, screaming as your body hits the ground in a bloody mess. And yet here I am, sitting on the rollercoaster with sweaty palms and a lurching stomach…a life sentence.

I can’t say when the onset of my symptoms first appeared. There wasn’t some boisterous carnie calling out for victims, persuading people to hop on the ‘scariest ride ever’. And if there was, I certainly would have ran in the other direction.

I was definitely in junior high and likely mistaken for a moody and hormonal teenager. In reality I was depressed, attributing it to being poor, unpopular, nerdy and having an alcoholic father. You see, everything revolved around him, his Jekyll and Hyde personality. When he was in a good mood the house felt light and airy. There was laughter. I don’t particularly remember a lot of those times because they were few and far between but I look back on them fondly.

When my dad turned into Mr. Hyde the house was dark and suffocating. We all walked on eggshells, trying not to bring attention to ourselves for fear of his wrath. He would hole up in his den smoking his cigarettes and drinking his beer, listening to heavy metal music so loud that to this day my sister still can’t listen to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. He was cruel. He would go days or even a week without talking to any of us. There were also the times that we would wake in the middle of the night to screaming and fighting, my dad triggered by some ‘perceived’ slight. It was heartbreaking to watch my mom go through that. We begged. We begged for her to leave him, convinced he didn’t love any of us.

Mental health issues are curious creatures, they manifest in different ways and back then no one put much stock in them, let alone talked about them. I had no idea that my dad was struggling, at war with his brain. He was simply labelled as a lazy, mean alcoholic.

It wasn’t until years later, once I was diagnosed that I realized he was just on the rollercoaster a few cars ahead of me…

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