Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another Place

The first time it happened, I was about four years old. My parents were on a drive, and I was standing up in the back seat. My Dad told me several times to sit down, but I wouldn't listen. Finally, in order to teach me a lesson, he slowed down and tapped the brakes. Predictably, I fell in the floorboard of the car. Boy, was I mad. I said, "Stop this car and let me out!" Well, he did and I started walking down the side of the road. It was dark. I became scared. Finally, I told my parents that I would sit down, if they would let me back in the car. This was the first time that I ran away from home.

The second time occurred when I was nine. My mother was going to give me a spanking (surely for no reason), and I objected. I had decided that I was too big to get spankings, so I ran out into the backyard. At the time, we had a little guest house where Mom kept her canned goods. I went out to the house, packed up several jars of goodies (fruit) in a burlap feed sack, and headed for our neighbor's woods. It was the middle of the day, summertime, and all was well until I had eaten everything in the jars. About sundown, I started to get hungry and began to wonder what I was going to do with my life, now that I was on my own. I couldn't come up with any good plans. Home started to look more appealing, so finally I gave up on my plan to run away. That decision came with consequences. When I went back home, all of the doors were locked. I wanted to come in, but I couldn't get in because of my mean old mother. I beat on the back door. My mother said, "What do you want?" "I want to come in." "If you are ready to come home, you will have to take your spanking." I was faced with a tough mother and tough decision. I decided to wait until I was a little older to run away.

I was fourteen, when I ran away for the third time. My Dad and I had a bad argument. He was bossing me around and I didn't like it. I was too old to be bossed around. So, I decided to run away from home. I packed some clothes, grabbed my money and started walking. We lived about ten miles from the nearest town, so I cut across several pastures to save distance. When I reached the highway, I hitched my way to town. When I arrived, my Dad was sitting at the grocery store in his pickup. After talking for awhile, we decided to agree to disagree, and I went back home.

The fourth time I left home, I was a senior in high school and was eighteen. My Dad and I again had a really serious confrontation. We almost came to blows. I owned my own car then, so I told my Mom that I was leaving before we got into a fight. By this age, I was already beginning to exhibit signs and characteristics of Type One Bipolar Disorder. This time, my plan to run away was successful. I had money in the bank, got a part-time job and rented a teeny tiny apartment. I lived there for several months, until I enlisted in the Navy (again, running away) and graduated from high school (barely).

This pattern has pretty much existed throughout my life. One of the characteristics of Bipolar Disorder is a strong desire to run away from problems, and sometimes, people. We also run away from pain. We'll go anywhere, but usually we are drawn to some place that we've dreamed of living. Another place is always a better place.

I am the world's best armchair adventurer and traveler. My favorite section of the library is in the 917 section. That's where all of the books about interesting places are located. I love to read about Australia, or China, or Borneo, or Africa, or the Southwest, or...well, any place other than the place where I presently am. I get a bad "itch" to be somewhere else. Some place more intriguing and exciting and mysterious.

As I've mentioned before, 90% of all "bipolar" marriages end in divorce. Over the years, the closest that Teresa and I have come to divorce, was when I was experiencing mental anguish and just wanted to be someplace else. I wasn't wanting to leave her as much as I was wanting to get away from my pain of the moment. Perhaps I felt that she didn't really love me (how silly), and that she would be better off without me, so I began dreaming of a better place. Somewhere in the world where I could go off by myself, live like a hermit, avoid responsibility, hide out from society, and live until I die or the pain goes away.

Today, I know that "another place" doesn't exist. I understand my mental illness better, and I know that when I am feeling pain, it's because of my bipolar disorder, not because of any person(my wife) or any perceived problem. My "running away" fantasies are a clue to my mental state. These thoughts are only controlled by my greatest effort. I know theoretically that I'm beginning to fall prey to "stinkin' thinkin,' but my mind continually whispers that life is safer, happier, more exciting and less painful in another place. My wife, bless her heart, also understands and is sensitive to my moods, so she warns me and advises me and helps me to keep my head on straight.

Today, I know that running away is not an option. The place I'm in, is the place I need to be. With my wife, surrounded by friends and supported by a church family who loves me. For the moment, I don't want to be in "another place." This place is just fine. For today.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

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