Finally tired of running, I’m sitting in my locked apartment wondering who I can trust when my brother, Gary; and two policeman knock very loudly on my door. Gary called the police because he needs help to get me to open the door. They threaten, “Open up or we’ll have to knock the door down.” I don’t want to let them in, but I’m too tired to put up a fight. After I open the door, the police leave; and I get into Gary’s car without a struggle. Since our mom and dad are both gone, we only have each other now. The ride seems endless, and I’m not sure of the destination.
We get to Los Angeles County General Hospital, and they put me in a locked ward. At first, I want to demand my rights as a Christian Scientist; but a patient warns, “You better cooperate or they’ll have to get rough with you.” I finally resign myself to staying at the hospital, but I’m not finished putting up a fight.
Each patient is allowed one phone call; and when it’s my turn to make a call, I dial Grandma’s number. When Grandma answers the phone, I plead, “Grandma, please get me out of here.” I know Grandma will think of a way to help me because she doesn’t like medicine and doctors anyway. In fact, she’s the one who got us into Christian Science. Grandma also knows how to make deals so I know that she’s the only one who can help me. My stepgrandmother, Julia, is the last person I want to call, She would tell me to behave myself and take all the pills they give me until I would be out of the picture in twilight zone. I know that’s what they want to do with me because they did that to my Aunt Lorraine. Yes, Grandma, as eccentric as she is, will know how to get me out of here.
At the time the above episode took place, I didn’t know that I was bipolar. It was only one of the times that I was in a hospital. My life hasn’t been easy because I was raised by a war widow. My first goal was to be a career woman because I wanted to take care of my mother who I thought sacrificed her whole life for me. I graduated from Woodbury College with a major in Studio Executive Secretarial Science, but I got my first job because my mother knew the wife of a theatrical agent. I’m proud to say that I was there when Dan Blocker signed the BONANZA contract. After the two agents that I worked for broke up their partnership, I began my career of job hopping. After working in many offices, I finally went back to school; and with the help of the Department of Rehabilitation, I got an AA Degree in Child Development. My hidden talent turned out to be entertaining preschool children with flannelboard stories and puppets.
Since I lost my father in World War II when I was seven years old and never saw my mother happily married, I thought that I would never get married. As it turned out, I got married three times; and the best part of my life is that my third husband and I will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary on July 22, 2008. When I married my wonderful husband, I became an instant mother to his nine-year-old daughter; and in addition to being a happy bride, I became Girl Scout Leader, Religious Science Sunday School Teacher, and PTA Room Mother.
During my first marriage, I lost a stillborn son; and after that loss, I went to a social worker and told her that I was born Jewish and raised Christian. She told me, “This is one time it comes in handy to be Jewish – you can go to Gateway Mental Hospital.” I didn’t know if she was trying to be funny or if that was a compliment, but I wasn’t diagnosed as bipolar at that time.
My present husband and I lost a five-day-old daughter, which was also a very traumatic experience for me. When we tried to adopt a child, I felt like I was treated like an ex convict by the social worker when she asked me, “Why were you in a hospital?” She might as well have asked why I was in jail. I didn’t even know what to tell her because I didn’t even know what bipolar was at the time.
Even though we weren’t able to adopt a child, we were able to have French, Japanese, and Italian Exchange Students in our home during a period of five years. The students that we had stayed with us for one month during the summer.
While First Lady Rosalynn Carter was in the White House, her main project was to develop a strategy for helping the mentally ill. When I read about Mrs. Carter’s project, I wrote her a letter; but I was a little disappointed when I received a letter from her Director of Projects, Kathryn E. Cade. After Mrs. Carter was out of the White House, she wrote her book titled FIRST LADY FROM PLAINS; and a friend of mine loaned me the book. I was reading the book in my living room when I came to the page that had the words from my letter on it. I almost fell off the chair when I read the following:
While in the White House, I received a letter from a Culver City, California housewife whose medical record of mental illness had prevented her from adopting children. She wrote: “I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to seek help if it’s going to be held against them for the rest of their lives. Solving mental problems should be like mending a broken leg, and no one carries the stigma of a broken leg around with them for the rest of their lives. Once the leg is mended, no one asks why it was broken.”
I’ve recently seen bipolar ads on television, which included information about a bipolar website. Included on the website is a list of some common triggers of bipolar mood swings as follows: Not having a regular sleep schedule, Misusing alcohol or drugs, Stopping your medicine, Having thyroid problems and other medical conditions, Seasonal changes, Holidays, Illness, Disagreements with family or friends, Problems at work, The death of a loved one, Marriage, Starting college, and Starting a new job.
I’m now taking Topamax, but the best remedy for me would be to come out of the closet because I am more than the housewife that Mrs. Carter mentioned in her book – I’m a writer. After I read Mrs. Carter’s book, I wrote two more letters to her because I wanted a letter from her. I finally got a handwritten letter from her on her stationery as follows:
I was pleased to hear from you again, and glad that you read my book. I have quoted from your letter to me at the White House many times.
Writing a book is a monumental task, but your story is very important. I do hope you will write it, and I wish you much success. Sincerely, Rosalynn Carter.
Needless to say, the letter is in a frame. I did write the book SOUP, SEX AND SANITY on a small scale; but with the right kind of help, I want to write a best selling book that will eventually be a movie which will once and for all get mental illness out of the closet and get rid of the stigma. It should be like falling down and breaking a leg – once the leg is mended, no one should ask why it was broken.