Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

There is a Shadow of Madness about the Nice Quiet Couple on the Hill

Two young people, both the only offspring of Blue-Collar Workers, now joined in wedlock. When we returned from our Honeymoon to take up residence together I was 20 years old and Lois was 19. Neither one of us were of legal age. Adulthood came officially at 21, not 18 back in the dark ages. Yet, we seemed to be the perfect professional suburban couple, highly blessed, if you thought about it.
We had a new car parked in the driveway of our new home. I mean, we were a couple of kids and we had a house, a bloody house, a four-bedroom bloody house. My parents had given us a living room suite as a wedding gift and while we were driving through the northern states and Canada, my mother and grandmother were in that house painting the walls and making it nice. They also brought my bureau and desk down. Of course they had their setbacks. The walls in the living room were blue and they painted over them with yellow in order to brighten the place and ended up with green. It took them a few coats to correct the color.
We arrived back from the Honeymoon at 6:00 PM on September 26. Over that 10-day period we had crossed New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ontario and Pennsylvania, some of those states more than once (and yes, I know Ontario is a providence in Canada and not a state).  I have no idea how many miles, but we stayed in decent motels and hotels and dined in mostly upscale restaurants, plus we hit about every tourist attraction known to man in that territory.  I started out on the trip with $500 in my wallet, I came home with around half that amount. I spent the equivalent of $2,010 in today’s money, or just over $200 a day if we went now, and that is probably still not a bad amount.
The next day we slept to noon before I drove into town and left my film for developing. We ate supper at my parents, something that was about to become a bad habit as we were about to turn into world champion freeloaders over the next couple years. We brought stuff from my parents to our new home, you know loot from the wedding; not just from my parents either, but we drove up to the Heaney House and did the same; not eat dinner, just collect booty. On the next day we transported two more loads of gifts from my parents as well as stopped at Wright’s Furniture and bought a rug, which my dad hauled down to our house.

On the 29th we went to the Heaney House and hauled back Lois’s bedroom furniture.
Pretty mundane stuff, not very exciting. To some extent you could almost sum up the next two years the same way, mundane and unexciting. We looked like the poster couple for the times, our tidy little home in suburbia and our decent paying jobs in the big city. It seemed to defy expectation, really. We weren't born with silver spoons in our mouths. What did we have anyway to have all this? I had not distinguished myself in high school and it was not a very prestigious school to begin with, a small country high.
Lois at least graduated from a large high school on the edge of Philadelphia (Upper Darby). I didn’t think we had any skills and I certainly didn’t when I was handed my diploma. My only ambition was to be a pulp fiction writer.

But let’s take an inventory because maybe I had more in my backpack than I thought. Besides a high school education, I had  two years of commercial art study with every aspect of drawing from perspective and shading to the human figure. Although, I never pursued a career in the field or as a cartoonist, over the decades to come I did use the training and apply it in other ways. Those were two good starts, art and technology. I was also being courted by one of the biggest literary agents of the day and that must have said something about my writing skills as rough as they were. 

My wife, besides her high school diploma, had an Associate’s Degree from Peirce College (then called Peirce Business School), had been a model and had some intriguing interests. She told me not long after we first met that she was very interested in Jazz and auto mechanics.

I was very drawn to that idea, because I knew really nothing about either. I liked the idea of a strong, independent woman who had interests normally associated with guys. She did have a few Jazz albums in her collection, mostly Dave Brubeck. She had his Dave Digs Disney album, so even though I knew little about Dave Brubeck beyond his name, Walt Disney had been another of those childhood heroes of mine, so I could dig Dave digging Disney. I could actually recognize the tunes he was twiddling about with on the piano. However, it turned out she had little interest in either; that is, auto mechanics or jazz (nor Disney for that matter). She confessed after we wed that she had claimed such things because her father had told her that was what boys were into.

Meanwhile, as much as I bragged I was such an independent type, who needed no one, we were sponging more and more off my parents. My mother and grandmother, especially my grandmother, were down to our house many times while we were at work, doing our cleaning and our wash.  They were fixing things for us, such as our curtains and also coming regularly to teach Lois how to cook. Several times over the next two years my mom or dad would pick up and bring back my car after taking it to a garage for regular maintenance or to have something repaired. It might have been every week my grandmother did our ironing. When we bought the house we felt the distance between families was such it would limit our folks from popping in to visit, but it didn’t seem to slow our constantly popping in on my parents, probably at least once a week if not more in those first two years we were married. Coincidently, our pop-ins often corresponded to meal times, especially dinners. We practically had on-call maid, housekeeping and catering service.
Discovering how often we did this embarrasses me now; yet Lois complains that my parents never did a thing for us. This complaint, as untrue as it is, happens quite often, although both my parents are dead and what they did or didn’t do doesn’t matter anymore. Her complaints about my parents easily slides into a rage against her father, who is also deceased or for that matter her late mother. What can start as a remembered slight can lead to long rambling rants against old friends and how they insulted us or betrayed us. This side of Lois is something almost no one else has seen.
Such behavior is called “rumination”, a word with a genesis in the eating habits of the ruminants (cows, deer, camels, sheep and so forth); that is, beasts that chew the cud. You know, a constant gnawing things over and over. But these ruminations are not the docile kind where she mulls over in her mind what she might have done or what she should of done. These are an obsessive, repeating, torturous remembrances of things past, but always focusing only on the negative. What can trigger these bouts, I couldn’t tell you, only that they can be frequent and they are mixed with a painful reliving of the long ago perceived slight. Yes, writing my autobiography can bring accusations of living in the past, but I am not. I am not grieving for the past nor am I blaming the past for my present situation in life. I am simply remembering and relating it and trying to be humorous about much of it, because a lot is funny on reflection. But her “ruminations” are not that. They are not reflective. They are very much reliving the past, and not always correctly. They are dark and destructive. They never see the good or positive parts of her life. They are decidedly not humorous. They are rehashing things where  he perceives that someone hurt her and she is allowing the hurt to be repeated and repeated and repeated instead of letting it go. It is mental masochism.

And why does this happen? Because my wife suffers from Bipolar Disorder or as it was originally called, Manic-Depressive Disorder, which is really more descriptive. The old name suits it, I think, but we have a habit of naming unpleasant things something else that makes it less informative. We try to disguise what is unpleasant.  This disorder is periods of mania or periods of depression. Bipolar somehow gives the impression of some kind of split personality, which I supposed is true, but there are disorders of split and multi-personalities that are quite different from Manic-Depression.
Should I even broach this subject?
Yes, I believe I should because it had a profound effect on our lives, but also we need to speak about things that can strike us in life where we have no real control or choice. Bipolar is very horrible for the sufferer. It imprisons their personality inside a shell like a body inside a gibbet. Believe me, you do not want to have this condition.

Of course, we didn’t know this back in 1961 when we married, nor when we were dating. We didn’t know about this until many years later, but I’m not where I want to discuss what brought on the actual diagnosis yet. We will wait until we get there. Anyway, although we didn’t recognize that she had any such problem in those early years, there were hints beginning to show here and there. There are so many things in our lives we miss and then when we realize such things were there we wonder how we missed them.
For one there were letters. She wrote a number of letters to me during our engagement and I pointed out all ready how similar the content was, how she missed me and loved me and wished the time to pass quickly at work and more telling, constantly worry about losing me.  But there were regular letters of a different nature, a constand stream of apologies for things I have no memory of today, but they were more imaginative that substantial I believe.
Hi darling,
I love you very very much. I know that must be hard to believe after the way I acted at lunch. I wouldn’t blame you for hating me after all the times I’ve hurt you. Oh Larry I’m so sorry. I love you so much and yet all I do is hurt you.
Darling I don’t know what I’d do without you. I mean that sincerely. You make it worthwhile to live because as long as I have you I can take almost anything. If you ever left me I don’t think I’d care what happened to me.
Well Darling I’d better close for now. I promise you I won’t ever yell at you again. I’ll start treating you as I should: as the man I love respect and adore; as the man I am going to marry, love and make happy for the rest of my life; as the man who has given me so much I couldn’t begin to repay.
Yours with all my love and sincerity, Lois Jean.

Hi Darling,
Larry, I'm sorry I acted as I did yesterday but I guess you realize it was a case of pure unadulterated jealousy. I was so jealous of the fact that Sonya (sic) had arrived on the scene again. I don't consider myself the most possessive person in the world, but to me Sonya (sic) represents a threat to my future happiness. I know you'll laugh or get mad at me, but darling I can't help it...

I'm sorry if I embarrassed you at the party Sunday night. I was only kidding you, but I know it must have sounded awful. Please forgive me, honey. I know I shouldn't have been so impulsive and I promise that it won't happen again.
Oh Larry, I love you so much. I promise that I will never ever embarrass you like that again. I feel so bad now, but I know that nothing can be done now except to watch myself in the future.
Once again let me apologize for my foolish actions. I just hope your folks aren't too mad at me.
I love you, Lois.

Hi sweetheart,
Gosh, I'm sorry I ruined your lunch hour today. I wouldn't blame you one bit if you were completely fed up with me. I'm really sorry I acted as I did. I hope you'll forgive me.
I can't wait until New Year's Eve...
I love you, oh how I love you, Lois

Hi Darling,
...Well maybe I'll be a little more cheerful and a lot less depressing at lunch tomorrow. You poor guy. You looked like you were suffering as much as I was. Well Honey, I guess you know what you're letting yourself in for. I pity you...
 I love you, Lois Jean your future Mrs.

My lover, my world,
Thank you for the beautiful letter you wrote me. I can say that I never thought it was possible for me to make someone so happy (especially the one I love the most and who means the most to me). All these years I have always felt like I was letting people down, that I wasn't living up to what people expected of me. Now that you have come into my life, I don't feel like that and I have ceased to feel like a hypocrite. I only hope I will never let you down or disappoint you. I will always try to do everything I can to prove how much you mean to me. I just can't wait to marry you...
Well honey, I really must close. I hope you don't have me committed to a mental hospital after reading this epistle.
Lois jean

I'm terribly sorry for the way I acted at lunch today. It always seems that I'm ruining you lunch hour. I can't tell you how much I regret this and really want to make amends for the way I treated you...
I love you, Lois

These were just a few samples and excerpts, but I never noticed the number of these apologies or realized there might be some underlying problem.
We were at least fortunate that she has Type 2 Bipolar.
Yes, there are two types of Bipolar Disorder, designated as Type One and Type Two. What is the difference? It is mostly a matter of which side of Manic-Depression is dominate. If the Manic is the stronger then it is Type One.
In the film “Silver Lining Playbook”, the main character, played by Bradley Cooper, is suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Although I do not think they specifically identified it as Type One, the behavior is obviously that. The picture begins with his being released from a Mental Institution where he had been kept for 8 months. His life at home is punctuated with semi-violent outbursts and he is constantly threatened by re-admittance to the Mental Hospital. (This movie was filmed in and around where my wife grew-up, by the way.)
Type One is where Manic behavior tends to rule and there are more chances that a person suffering this will hurt themselves, someone else or get into trouble with the law. In the Type Two Bipolar that afflicts my wife the depressive state takes command. Her depression would be very dark and sometimes lasted for days. There were periods she couldn’t even get out of bed. Like many people having this, she didn’t admit to having any mania; however, it was present and it was years before I could really recognize it. One problem with the mania is the victim often feels good when manic and believes this is a normal state. Believe me, even though the manic episodes are described as mild or hypomanic, they can cause problems as we will see later.  But she never talked of suicide, never got in a situation where anyone was threatened, was never arrested and never spent any time in an institution.
One trouble with her depression was she was misdiagnosed, as if often the case with this disorder. Her doctor decided she was suffering from clinical depression and even when she did finally receive medication it was antidepressant medicine, which had a detrimental effect on her Bipolar Disorder. That is, it made her disorder worse.

Here is one description of so-called Hypomania:
At first when I'm high, it's tremendous ... ideas are fast ... like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear... All shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there ... uninteresting people, things, become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria ... you can do anything ... but somewhere this changes.

Yes, it can change into full-blown Mania:
The fast ideas start coming too fast and there are far too many ... overwhelming confusion replaces clarity ... you stop keeping up with it … memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened ... everything is now against the grain ... you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.

I have seen my wife experience both these states.

The thing to remember is “Bipolar is something the person has, just as when a person has cancer, it is not the person. I will note that I have met a number of people now within what we can call the Bipolar Culture. Almost everyone I have met whose spouse suffered from this disorder is divorced. Overtime I met with a new counselor of psychiatrist the first suggestion they gave me was I should divorce my wife. My wife and I have fought this miserable disorder together and we will soon celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary. We will fight on.


Ron said...

Wow Larry, this is a very personal post. I applaud you for posting about your situation. Maybe your experience with bipolar disorder will help others who don't know "what's the matter?" with their spouse or their loved one. As you know I've had my "challenges" with Bill but I will never leave him. This July will mark 52 years together for us. I'm sure there are more "challenges" to both of our relationships in the future but one thing I know for sure, Lois is very lucky to have you and I think she knows that.
Good post Lar.

WARPed said...

Very insightful post, Larry.

My eldest sister is bipolar...this can be a very disruptive, frustrating disease, for both the afflicted and their immediate family.