having manic depression disease doesn't have to be the end of the world
Dave: Hi Elsa, a month later in responding to you on my 16th year AA anniversary to boot!
Elsa: yr story is incredible. at what age did you discover yr inner strength?
Dave: started in 1981, so i was 26. i was hitchhiking to connecticut for a visit with my father's brother and wife--totally unannounced. a very kind man in a honda, picked me up near bridgewater ct and i asked to take me to the nearest hospital--st. bridgets or something with a "st." i had made my very first surrender to manic depression. i was later transferred to a state hospital where i was given anti-psychotic drugs which stabilized my manic mood. this was the start of my recovery. i knew i could no longer continue my life without help. i arrived to the hospital with only the clothing on my back and not a penny to my name. my parents had long since stopped financial support, which may have helped in my surrender.
Elsa: where do you think you got your inner strength? from a person? from an experience?
Dave: i started my cross country journey with little or no expectations or planning. i remember renting a car in seattle and deciding at the last minute to drive cross country--with my father having to purchase the car after the rental company learned of my excursion. the car was used and remember charging everything onto credit cards along the way. i was determined to complete the journey--ending up in washington dc where i had an old college friend that i stayed with for a period of time. i persevered for some time until finally reaching a bottom of sorts and that is when the surrender took place. i think i was just worn out of living this kind of life. i think my experience inspired me to stop.
Elsa: do you remember a turning point?
Dave: yes, again, i was the hitchhiking incident. i might add the person who picked me up was so understanding and very calm, almost like it was meant to be. i was very lucky.
Elsa: you have your weight loss, smoking addicition, drinking, compulsive gambling under control. phew. which of these behaviours did you find the hardest to control? did you have a special strategy for each one?
Dave: i threw the towel in on drinking after trying every method in the book. i was fortunate (again) to have a wonderful therapist who encouraged me to try aa--i could only do this after a couple of years of therapy. i still see him around cambridge and was sometimes chat...a very gentle, kind man. i read in aa literature that if aa could help you not drink then why couldn't it help you do anything else--so i plugged in smoking, gambling and eating whenever alcohol was mentioned at meetings and used the same program that helped me stop drinking--smoking, drinking and gambling are not difficult to control and for the most part, i rarely think of doing those behaviours--i just know where they will lead me. i love to eat and worked at studying nutrition and know that calorie count of just about everything! I have learned about fats, carbs, and proteins, and i eat well, love sugar..so i exercise aerobically almost everyday (run on a stairmaster for 45 to 60 minutes and at 48, i amaze myself! ) the exercise changes my mood quickly and have also added weight lifting to my routine with a trainor once a month.
Elsa: did it become easier to control these behaviours as time went on? is it still a struggle?
Dave: my aa participation keeps everything fresh--plus i love the way i look and feel and don't want to go back. that is probably the key--a lot of self-love and respect is necessary in order to keep yourself no. 1--very hard to do and discipline is a big part of the plan--almost want to say "game."--one has juggle and decide where the priorities should be placed. i know that if i forget aa, i am cooked!--if i forget the compassion for myself and others, i am cooked.
Elsa: at 23 you become ill. That is a common age for young people to be at risk. Were you quickly diagnosed? Were you resistant to care? When did you get yr illness inder control?
Dave: i was a rebel of the highest order--probably a strong reason as to why i gotten this far!!--resistant to everything--medication, doctors...i was diagnosed immediately and was fortunate to have the best care available--spent 9 months in a "country club" hospital in central california--dropped off, of course, in a mercedes-benz--thought that would make you chuckle!
more coming elsa--this brings up a lot of old memories that are a bit painful---- night for now.--d
Hi, thanks for the encouragement. (starting where I left off.)
Elsa: how do you differentiat in your mind the mental illness and the problem behaviours?
Dave: a very good question..sometimes i blame mental illness and alcoholism, but know pretty much that is a copout--i am responsible for my actions--ONCE i know what they are. i think my addictive nature helped me to pick up so many different behaviors--for what reasons? who knows....i really can't blame it on my parents or other environmental situations--i do think everything "thrown" in the pot, so to speak, leads to behaviours that are problematic.
Elsa: did the mental illness peter out with age and medication or is it still a problem? I read in the paper that william styron is now enduring another bout of debilitating depression.
Dave: my awareness of how to care for myself has helped me to live a good life--i know when the stress/pressure is too high, and that is where exercise, calling a friend, going to an aa meeting helps to relax me. it i find myself unable to sleep for a second night, i must take medication that cancels the cycle, but this happens only once or twice a month. sleep is the telltale indicator for most manic-depressives. i know that without lithium, i would not function the way i do. medication of some sort is mandatory for manic-depressive bi-polar illness--in nearly every instance of research i have done, the illness comes back unless proper medication is used.
Elsa: it seems that starting yr business came before yr control of yr problem behaviors. What role do you think yr success in yr business played in yr deciding to control yr behaviors?
Dave: i started my car cleaning business in 1985 and got sober in '87--in retrospect, i believe stopping drinking along with other problems helped push me forward to overcoming problem behaviours--but really don't know how i feel at this moment--the business success may have come with my surrender to mental illness--the confidence to do what I initially did (create, locate and implement business--just may have been inside, if you know what i mean--i am very much a self starter with little or no direction needed--i seem to have inner drive that comes forth---could be just the way my personality is??)
Elsa: were your clients aware of your behavior problems? or were you able to conceal them or you think you concealed them?
Dave: thank god i am such a ham--hell, i would often tell people about my problems--probably one way i was able to recover, but don't truly know if that was the case--i am grateful i was able to do such a good job--i think that kept people happy--i know in the earlier years of my cleaning business, i would not talk a lot about my situation and often do not discuss m/depression with too many people--so much stigma. but often times I do, usually with the folks that i have worked with for a long time--they know and trust me--it really depends and yes i think many of them knew that i was not your ordinary kind of cleaning guy!--due to sometimes low self esteem, i would talk up my background to make sure they would know where i came from--i still do it today, but doesn't seem to manner as much.
Elsa: are yr different successes: over weight, drinking, gambling equally difficult to maintain control of?
Dave: i would honestly say i rarely think of drinking smoking and gambling--if the urge comes up, i ask hp (higher power) for help--go to a meeting, call a friend, drink a cold diet coke, or a regular one, with lots of ice--but fortunately these thoughts don't come up too often--i feel very lucky (again.) my dear dear grandmother (adopted, but only by a hair) left me these words about weight--"when you reach 3 pounds over your goal weight, get back to your goal immediately", and i have been doing that for nearly 8 years (february '04) i will add an extra mile on the stairmaster and start counting calories once again--it always works!--but i have to work it. i usually get hungier for a few days, but love the way i look and don't want to go back...
Elsa: do you have advice and tips that you can pass on?
Dave: i ask myself questions--ok david, if you pick up that drink you most likely will drink for some time to come without (maybe) ever going back to aa--i look in the mirror at myself and really look and ask and i don't run away--i say to no- so me and myself agree!!--well, that is one way, but usually lots of talk with others, prayer, trying to be kind with myself--if all else fails, maybe just lay down on the bed and just be still--it was so hard when i started the aa program--took me atleast 5 years just to stabilize--now life is so much calmer, but often stressful situations cause difficulty--i mean i am living life on life's terms--not the bottle'
Elsa: do you think a person can learn tips and advice from books and seminars?
Dave: I really do as long as they don't cost an arm and leg--i mean aa is free--talking is free--i think some of these seminars that cost huge amounts of money are very bad-i am opposed to them. (on the other, it may help you!--so back to square 1.)
Elsa: do you think a person can learn from the advice and tips of another person?
Dave: ABSOLUTELY YES!--my therapist suggested aa and i promised him that i would go another acquaintance cornered me and said "you'd look great if you lost 25 lbs--he inspired me to start the process--
Elsa: does the maintenance take a lot of energy and attention?
Dave: yes and no---i often don't want to attend aa, but remember that it will help me feel better--also with exercise--i always leave better that when i went into the gym--i have gotten use to the routines, it is more a way of life now.--lots of discipline and not really hard to do, but i like the results of the work.
Elsa: have you achieved a nonchalance abt about all this?
Dave: absolutely not--eventhough i am not always happy, i like the life that i live-and need to appreciate myself even more and let me give myself continued good marks for the effort and enjoyment i have been able to bring forth with the help of so many kind and gentle people--i am a lucky person--i harnessed the luck and worked with it to make it even better. i believe anybody can do it.
thanks elsa, i loved doing this. d