“…and it’s California, where everything is powerfully strange. Everyone wants it to be home.  Everyone left where he or she was from with dreams of transformation.  Everyone runs away to California once, or at least all the lonely, hungry people do.”  “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher

California, I can’t say it is where all my problems started, but it is where I started to experience the most prominent and life changing events of my existence.  My move to California was preceded by my two best friends moving out there.  One, with his growing family, to San Diego followed by the other and her new(ish) husband to the L.A. area.  Before those two moves, California never occurred to me.  But I visited him in San Diego and drove out to L.A. with her and I guess it was just a matter of time before I was on my way West.

Now, it’s not as though I wasn’t leaving anything behind.  I had lived Virginia Beach for seven years, my parent’s were in Southeastern North Carolina and my sister and her family were in the Washington D.C. area.  On the other hand, Northern California from Sacramento, to Petaluma, Elk Grove and well all over Northern California was packed with relatives.  Let’s see, two grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, a third cousin twice removed or, I don’t know, just a load of relatives that I never spent a whole lot of time with.  There was that opportunity as well.

So, my friend talked to some people he knew, and then I talked to those people and after a bit of time I was on my way to San Diego.

Virginia Beach is a Navy town.  Everything is geared towards the Navy.  There is a Naval Air Station there.  Jets fly directly over the beach, and houses and the mall.  Right next door is Norfolk, a Naval Base, the across the river is Newport News and Hampton, where Navy ships are built.  To me it was a big place with a small town feel.

San Diego, on the other hand, is a Navy City.  There is so much more going on there than Navy or Marine Corps.  San Diego is where “Top Gun” was set.  The Naval Air Station is now a Marine Corps Air Station.  I think the biggest shock for me was how big it was.  There were so many freeways, 8, 5, 805, 15, 163.  So many things to do.  Sea World, The San Diego Zoo, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, I could go on and on.  That was just San Diego.  The other friend I mentioned had moved to the L.A. area.  You can just imagine how overwhelming could get.

I was a bit overwhelmed and to add to that I had a brand new job I had to excel at. (I don’t think I knew any other way to work)  Not to mention, I was looking for a way to transform my life.  I was hoping I would find something in California that would be different, better, something else.  I was looking to escape some of the horrors Virginia Beach held for me.  My friend J, overcome by breast cancer, my own bout with cancer, starting to deal with depression.  It was time for me to leave.

After moving and finding a place to live (I stayed with my friend and his family for a few months) things started to settle down.  Work was good and not too hard, I started exploring the city some.  I was getting to know the people I worked with.  We were going out to bars and restaurants, pretty much having a good time, I didn’t drink so I was commonly the designated driver.  At the time, I had a blue Ford Expedition and everyone loved to pile in.

A few years later, my friend and his family have moved away, my relationship with my friend in L.A. has soured.  I was spending too much time at work and with the people from work.  The next couple of years are a blur to me.  When I concentrate hard on what went on in those two years all I get is working way too many hours at the office and at home.  I see going out a lot, in spite of all the work, and I see my mentor and now friend being diagnosed with cancer.  The cancer diagnosis is very clear in my mind, the rest is just a flurry of activity which ends with me in the hospital having just come through a psychotic episode.

Some days I have clear memories of sunny skies, a light breeze and a feeling of well-being.
Others are roller-coasters of faces and noise that are completely terrifying.  Those days I feel like California, at least San Diego, chewed me up and spit me out.

I loved living in
San Diego but it did
not like me at all


no joy

express no joy at
knowing the woods
have been escaped

focus energy on
consequences of
violence-filled results

holes dug can never
be filled with life

relief melts away
leaving hatred
for a procedure
well done

crashing through
expected reactions

spiral down
seeking questions
unasked of
responsible for
your own

— GB

Suicidal Ideation

I can’t say that I have never thought about committing suicide but it has been a really long time since I have. I mean, really, truly thinking about and planning ways to kill myself.  Even then, I never started to go through with anything.  I wouldn’t be here if I had.  I would have been successful.  I believe that wanting and thinking and planning ways to do away with yourself change a person in a way that I’m not sure I can put my finger on.  Suicidal Ideation runs low with me now.  I say that because every once in a while, especially while I’m driving I think “It would be so easy to end it all right now,  I could pull off into that ditch or I could just take my hands off the wheel and let the car drift into oncoming traffic.”  I have these thoughts whether I’m depressed, manic, or level.  I think that because I have experienced stronger Suicidal Ideation, I am more prone to have these thoughts even when I’m well and not suffering from any of my Bipolar symptoms.

Do people that do not suffer from mental illness of any kind have any Suicidal Ideation?  I’m very interested in hearing from you?

When I Grow Old

When I grow old
And walk with a cane
When I cease to know
Who you are

Take out to the park
And kiss me a lot
So I believe
You’re my girlfriend

When I grow old
And get around in a chair
When I don’t know
Where I am

Bring me a picture
Of our family
Taken on the farm
Where we lived

When I grow old
And can’t get out of bed
When I can’t remember
Who I am

Bring some coffee
To my room
Don’t forget
The sugar and cream

When I grow old
And my time is short
I don’t want any
Heroic measures

Please sit by my side
And hold my hand
So I won’t be alone
At the end

— GB

As I Lie Here

As I lie here
Not sleeping,
I am imagining the life
Going out of your eyes

I can not be sure
When it happened,
But I know that it did

I haven’t thought
About it for years, love
For some reason
I am haunted…

How dare you
Come back now
And force me to feel something?

You were gone!
You are gone!
Yet you float through
My mind!

I hate you, my love!
I refuse to let you
Make me hate myself!

We were nothing alike,
And that pulled me too close!

You gave up on yourself,
I won’t give up on me.

— GB

A Non-Event?

There’s something really strange happening to me.  It’s been going on for a little over a month.  When I had my cancer surgery, a very large portion of muscle and tissue was removed from my upper back.  Along with the muscle and tissue was a bunch of nerve endings.  For over ten years I have had no sense of feeling in the large divot.  A little over a month ago it started to itch.  Then it started to hurt.  Sometimes it’s a dull thudding kind of pain and other times it’s a sharp stabbing pain.  I had no idea this could happen. Luckily the two phenomena don’t happen at the same time.  Nor do they last very long.  I think that would be cruel and unusual.  What misdeed am I being punished for now?

Was I being punished for something when I died in that recovery room?  I don’t know what the popular answer is but I’m leaning towards no.  I don’t remember anything about that event.  There was no bright light; there was no serenity, no out of body experience.  All I remember is being put to sleep on the operating room table and waking up in the hospital room.  I wouldn’t even have known that it happened if my doctor hadn’t told me.  In the whole scheme of things, it was a non-event.  Why even tell me that it happened?  (I’m sure there are some rules and regulations that that my doc had to follow.)  Why do I pursue any explanations if of this non-event?  Why does it still weigh so heavily on me?  Would I be a different person today if I had never known?  Would I have had that psychotic break?  Would I have Bipolar?  Is this seven minute event in my life the root of it all?

One thing I know for certain is that the root of all my questioning revolves around evidence of a higher power.  Some people that know about my experience have told me that I am blessed.  They say that God returned me to life because I wasn’t finished with my tasks on Earth.  I didn’t know how to respond to that.  I still don’t know how to respond.  For as long as I can remember I have been doubtful as to the existence of a higher power.  Whether it’s God, Jesus, Shiva, Buddha, etc. I still get stuck when I try to wrap my mind around it.

As I touched on previously, I did not experience anything that has been reported by various religions.  Having Bipolar, having a major psychotic episode and a couple of minor ones, and all the “activities” surrounding these things have worked against any ability to embrace any type of religion or major belief systems.

Through all of this, one thing has held true for me.  People have power.  How a person does physically, emotionally, financially, etc. is tied to the ability to believe in ourselves and our fellow humans.  I’m not implying that everyone on this planet are good or to be trusted.  I’m also not trying to imply that anyone’s beliefs are bad or in any way incorrect.  I’m just trying to say that my life is better today because of the people that are in my life.  I sincerely hope yours will be too.

“We are not only our brother’s keeper, in countless large and small ways we are our brother’s maker.”  —-Bonaro Overstreet

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I was going through some old posts to Facebook this evening and I came across the following three paragraphs. It talks about the cancer, but in a slightly different way. The third paragraph… well that’s a completely different kind of conversation. One that I will probably be having in the near future.


March 15, 2009

During this time, six years ago, I was fighting for my life. I had been diagnosed with cancer and already had one surgery behind me. Everything was happening so quickly that I didn’t have time to realize what was going on. I am told that those 13 days at the beginning of March 2003 were very tumultuous for everyone around me. I didn’t see it. I was doing what I needed to do.

On March 17, 2003, I had surgery to remove a tumor from my upper back. It was a malignant melanoma, right between my shoulder blades and when it was removed it had penetrated almost to my spine. I can happily say that the surgery was successful. Through the lab reports on the tissue that was excised, months and years of blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans, the cancer has not returned. There is always the possibility that it is there, lurking somewhere, but the further I get away from it, the lower the likelihood.

On March 17, 2003, I died. When I was in the recovery suite, as they were removing the tube from my throat, I stopped breathing. Then my heart stopped, and for seven minutes, I was dead. This is the part I really pay attention to. This is what stays with me. This is where I get stuck…even after all this time. I don’t know what else to say about it. It has been weighing heavily on me recently and I don’t know what else to do with it. Maybe by saying it and getting it out of my head I can lift some of that weight.