Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Martin was one of a long line of men touched with madness. I wondered why they called it “madness,” where else would great thinkers and creative geniuses be without at least a smidgeon of its magic.

To quote him, Martin was a self-proclaimed manic-depressive; on the internet they started to refer to it more as Bipolar Disorder. Big pharma, publishing, and Hollywood latched on to the phrase and took it all the way to the bank. Depending on what you read about Bipolar Disorder there were many different opinions about what caused it, and no real clear-cut definitions of how it was categorically diagnosed. It is suggested that it often runs in families, and this family appeared to be the textbook case study that proves that theory.

The first time I encountered the family gift was with Martin’s nephew, a man I dated one Spring. He had windows of brilliance during sex that would manifest in mid-intercourse soliloquies featuring narcissistic dominant themes that usually took place in a medieval setting . A rich fantastical world, highly detailed in leather, iron, stone, and sinew – circa a long long time ago. There would often take place in a cobbler’s thatched roof abode, it would certainly involve either the man’s wife or mistresses, or his staff of 12 handmaidens – but the theme basically always the same: the “hero” would have his way with the proprietor’s wife or most prized maiden in front of the poor cobbler's very eyes, who at first would be disturbed at the on site abduction, but then have a sudden paradigm shift and be greatly honored that his wife was chosen to be fucked by the slayer. I was never quite sure who the "hero" was, he wasn’t an emperor, a king, he was more of just a “slayer” – much like the ones celebrated in rock albums and video games. In the other corner there was me, present day, on the receiving end of this thickly twisted bedtime tale – he had my undivided attention as the artfully told impromptu story seemed to come from him as if possessed.

A couple of weeks later after an incident they sent him away to a mental health facility, he returned calmed, his flights of fancy barely stirring under the blanket of meds prescribed so that he could act “right” in the world.

Back then I would ask and he would sometimes feed my curiosity and tell me stories about his childhood, about his unconventional upbringing, about his father, a sometimes cruel, always demanding uber genius who was kissed by that special something which lead him to great success in the military as well as in the halls of academia. Then there were the other times, the times the “special” made him “mad”. It was brutal stuff, one time his sons had to fly in and pull a special ops mission to intercept the electroshock therapy session scheduled by their dad's psychiatrist. Years later, Dad's demons are kept mostly at bay, he’s living in Indiana, happily so with a wife, teaching at a local college. I wonder if he ever misses the old days.

So begun my brief period of fascination with Bipolar Disorder. Over a couple of months I absorbed just about everything I could on the topic, I read from reliable medical resources online, joined websites where those with BPD chit-chatted, told horror stories, where their wives, husbands, and lovers advised others on no uncertain terms to, “RUN, don’t walk, for your life.” But then there were those with BPD that celebrated it. Usually they were arrogant geniuses that somehow managed to bottled the stuff and use it to fuel art, commerce, or evil.

For some BPD is a hell inside the head with racing thoughts of terrorizing self-doubt that is beyond one's control. On the flipside, the "good times" mania is reported to often manifest in inappropriate, sometimes ethically deplorable sexual behavior, as well as flagrantly irresponsible spending binges, both behaviors often leading to personal and financial ruin, and failed romantic relationships. But as I poured through these forums, I would come across the one or two with BPD that embraced their illness, celebrated it, wouldn’t have it any other way; to them, it wasn’t a disorder or disease, it was a cherished gift. And from his proud declaration of his wildly swinging state of mental health, playfully described in the personal description box on the social networking site, Uncle Martin was one of those guys.

I unearthed his writings on the site during the period I was having historical reenactment sex with his nephew. My date's uncle, Uncle Martin was an open book, literally – he had no security settings in place for his page, he appeared to have no boundaries literally and figuratively – and in this spirit his page did not disappoint. He looked like one of the family, they were all big-boned and big-brained – his photo confirmed the former, his writings the latter. His writings were mind blowing. He posted often, and more times than not, the stories and poems were over my head which I didn’t allow to get in the way of my ability to relish them. Both enjoyable and elusive to me, they often earned comments of wry ridicule from the other family members/madmen, ridicule apparently another trait hardwired into the family DNA given their sometimes passive aggressive, subtly cruel banter on the social networking site. However, I knew better in spite of my average IQ, his content was off kilter, completely non-linear, yet always lyrical and completely original. There was one piece in particular that I actually got because it was so simple. The piece was simply about someone falling from a skyscraper window and their slow decent on to the pavement. No profundity, no epiphany – his beautiful gift for capturing the pedestrian details as they enter the mind of this average business man as he falls to his certain death. For me there was a comfort in the characters anti-climactic, cathartic descent.

Damn, those manic-depressives are good. Those first few weeks were magical wtih the guy I saw for awhile, Martin’s nephew, when he was in the thick of his mania. And his brother, too, he possessed a bit of the gift – his sometimes cruel, audaciously funny spot on observances that took the day on the comment threads. Then the father who sired them both and his mental triumphs and lessons, and this guy Martin, with his open page, no security settings, no self-editing, all raw and beautiful. He posted some “flair” recently on his web page – a virtual badge that you would put on a bulletin board or on the pocket of a favorite denim jacket that read: “I don’t suffer from INSANITY, I ENJOY every minute of it.”

This “insanity,” this “madness,” I don’t qualify for any special honors, I can only claim some average neurosis. It passed me by, I suspect that my grandmother possessed some form of clinically defined mental illness. She painted, used carefully chosen words sparingly and with quiet force. She would hand be beautifully hand written notes that were poetic and startling, and full of wisdom – reaching into her bag for small squares of paper and an ink pen, committing calligraphy to paper in front of my very eyes, she would pass them to me, folded in half. I was seven years old when she came to visit, and later on in that day she became agitated and hysterical, went running from our house to cry and wander the neighborhood returning from the darkness with my grandfather who eventually found her sobbing on a stone wall or something a street or three away. I was scared of her and also bit jealous of her and those like her: the fortunate/unfortunate ones in all their madness.

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