My Story by Charles

Building a Dream * 2013 Calendar Journal Bipolar Insights Marcia RoseMy story begins in New York City, 1880, when my grandmother was born. Jeanne Simonton was a courageous young lady; marching with the Woman’s Suffrage demanding the Constitutional amendment to codify Woman’s Rights to participate in national politics. Grandma took pride being the only female secretary working in the Flat Iron Building. In her day, only men worked as secretaries and the Flat Iron Building was amongst the first skyscrapers built in 1902. Granma married my grandfather, Alfonse Bernard, as a second thought. Her older sister had married grandpa’s older brother.

Grandpa being an Immigration Officer moved from New York City, that’s where my uncle Eddy was born in 1904, to El Paso, Texas, where my mother, Isabelle, was born in 1910, and then to Santa Barbara, California, where my Uncle Charlie was born in 1916. Four years later my grandpa was killed in the line of duty, rundown by a rum runner out of Descanso, California.

Mom married my Dad, Milton, when she was 18 years old. Dad was an Ensign in the Navy, a year and a half out of the Naval Academy. Mom went on for the remaining 28 and half years to see him retire as Rear Admiral. During that time, Mom had her first nervous breakdown in 1943, when her Mom died and Dad was at sea commanding a destroyer in the South Pacific.

I was born as an afterthought in1946. My sister, Margot, is 14 years older and my brother, Ted, was 7 years older than me. Since Dad was Navy, we moved on average every two years. We thought Mom was an alcoholic as were many Navy Wives subject to social drinking. Following Dad’s retirement, Mom had her second nervous breakdown in 1969 when Dad died. I thought it was the electric shock treatment that got Mom back. For the next three years, she went back and forth with hospital care, all the while appearing to get better. In 1972, she started treatments with lithium carbonate. It would be 40 years later; I learned through Bipolar Insights, that lithium carbonate was approved by the FDA in 1972.

Mom was balanced (sober) for the next three years, until Ted died in 1975. Mom made the valiant effort bringing the family together. Margot donated her bone marrow and I donated my platelets. All the while Mom courageously faced her greatest fear. Ted was among the very few, in those days, to survive leukemia. A month after Ted was released from the hospital; he caught a cold and succumbed to pneumonia. For her remaining years, Mom admitted herself on three occasions for mental treatment knowing she needed help. At the time, bipolar was called manic depression with little understanding for its treatment.

The few years remaining before Mom passed way in 1986; I married Brenda who knew I had problems. We attended counseling before and after we married. I recall one session when Brenda called me a “Pattern Person.”  I realize now through Bipolar Insight the correlation between bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

As we raised our daughter, Melody, and son, Adam, my main man, they both excelled early on showing great potential. Melody is the first of our family to graduate high school as valedictorian and later graduating from Berkeley in three and a half years. We struggled, as has Adam, dealing with therapists, teachers and school administrators labeling Adam with disorders that only compounded the issues. In 2000, Adam was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. It was clear from my family history; I was the link to this genetic disorder.

When Melody was dating my future son-in-law, Kyle, she had the courage to tell Kyle of the possibility their children could carry the bipolar genetic marker. One of the many reasons I am so proud of Melody and Kyle is their dedication to one another addressing the potential for this disorder. Following Melody’s and Kyle’s wedding, we had our family crisis just before Thanksgiving, 2010. Melody and Kyle came to our aid to help Adam deal with his relapse. It was at this junction in our lives, Brenda encouraged Adam and I to attend a group her doctor recommended, Bipolar Insights.

On our first visit, we were not aware you had to pay to attend the meeting. Dan covered us for the payment. Adam and I would soon learn from Marcia the importance of value. You pay for something you value, i.e., you value attending Bipolar Insight, you value yourself. With time Adam and I have learned more about us and the importance of acknowledging our emotions, being self-aware of the transitions between mania and depression and that bipolar is what you have, not who you are.

I have learned with the help of Marcia and others in our group, bipolar disorder can be treated maintaining balance by taking the proper medications (adjusted over time), talk to your doctor addressing specific issues, monitor your daily moods (morning and evening) through your journal, and as Marcia says, “Attending Bipolar Insights every week.”

On September 1, 2014, I retired from Caltrans following 14 years of State service. Prior to Caltrans, I retired from the County of Sacramento with 12 years of service and the Navy with 15 years credit as Lieutenant Commander in the Civil Engineer Corps. I began my career as an engineer as I signed up for classes at Sacramento State College in 1965. I was not sure how to spell “undesided”, and since I was not sure how to spell “ingeneer”, I simply wrote C.E., short for Civil Engineering. Since graduating from Sac State, I have rarely had confidence in myself to fully apply my skills. “Someone is going to find out about me.”  I have no idea what “they” would find out, I just knew there was something wrong with me. It was not until I met Brenda that someone confirmed there is something wrong with me. Through Brenda and Bipolar Insight, Adam and I know we are loved and whatever is wrong is not the issue. We are who we are not what we have.

As I conclude my story, today, September 5, 2014, is Evie’s (our adorable granddaughter’s) first birthday. It is possible Evie may continue the bipolar genetic marker. Regardless of any genetic markers, Evie has the same wonderful qualities as others celebrating their first birthday today.

They are all adorable.

Bipolar Insights Calendar/Journal 2013
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