Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Friend's Struggle

What if at age 57 you finally found out you were bipolar? You would finally have the answer to how you had fucked up your life in so many ways. I spent the day in West Virginia visiting someone who once worked for me. Let’s just call him J.

J was smart. We knew that from the minute he descended upon our office. But at times he could be as annoying as hell. He simply didn’t know when to shut up and invariably ended up with his foot in his mouth. He loved to eat, always struggling with a weight problem. He loved to talk about food.

I had some reservations as I promoted him up the career ladder. But his work was solid and he picked up the Spanish that we needed for our work in Latin America so easily. He and I always got along well and he spared me of his sometimes cruel sense of humor.

In his single days, he was heavily into jazz and photography, sometimes even convincing a girl named Benise to pose with all sorts of vegetables as he made harmless porn pictures.

When J announced he was getting married, we were all excited for him. Several of us even made the trip to Connecticut for the wedding. Then a daughter eventually came along. But there were some strange things going on. His wife kept a lock on the refrigerator, I kid you not.

That marriage finally ended in a bitter divorce. His daughter at age 15 told him she never wanted to see him again. And J continued to eat and gain weight.

He met B soon thereafter, who helped him through some awful years. But they too just couldn’t make a go of their relationship. They both currently still live (apart) in a small town in West Virginia.

Meanwhile J retired suddenly, mostly because he was perhaps going to be fired for sexual harassment of a colleague.

This guy sounds like a mess, right?

He has finally made some sense out of his life after being diagnosed as bipolar and understanding that he has an obsessive eating disorder.

But the good news is he has turned his life around. He has lost about 130 pounds, now looking like a very sveldt guy of 5'10". My friend and I brought lunch today, providing only those things on J’s diet. We enjoyed fish soup, a tossed salad, and mixed fruit for dessert.

J understands that he must be on certain meds to stabilize his system – to prevent the lows and highs from being so far apart. He understands that if he resorts to his previous way of eating, he will not have anything to wear and he will gain back all those ugly pounds.

I’m terribly sympathetic with people who suffer from bipolar disorder. It can rob them of relationships, family, jobs, and the chance to lead a normal life. I am so grateful that J has figured this out and has reclaimed his life.


Blogger GEWELS said...

Thank God this has finally been diagnosed. Some peace may come from the realization that he was not that way by choice.
Hopefully J will continue to care for his mental and physical health and make the next few decades of his life happy and healthy.
He is blessed to have a friend in you.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What a shocking yet liberating realization at that stage in life, to know that you can change some of the things that have greatly impacted your life but not to be able to go back and fix anything per se.

7:38 PM  
Blogger steve said...

This guy sounds like ME!
Except I have found some way to not be on, or at least stay on,the low end...

8:58 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- I hope that J can continue on this good path.

Kristin -- I'm sure he would love the chance to do some things over, but unfortunately life doesn't always give us that change.

Steve -- I think I actually mentioned J a time or two in comments to you. Although I have never met you in person, I am fairly sure you and J could be twins! And I am sure I would like you just as much as I like him.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

You are lucky he did not do the 180 degree turn on you as far as friendship goes as happened to me by a male friend who is bi-polar. It was very hurtful but eventually I realized it was his mood swings and delusions and generally his disorder that gave rise to so many "stories" and lies. I just stay clear and try to empathize and accept him from a distance as I'm sure he still has all kinds of issues with me in his mind.

I am glad your friend is putting a lot of his life back together.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- Sorry to hear of your experience. This disease takes many forms.

8:26 PM  

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