The first time I saw my dad acting crazy it was in the kitchen. He stood in his white, v-neck undershirt and black slacks in front of the open refrigerator door. With his head tilted all the way back, his hand lifted an entire gallon of milk up to his mouth. And he guzzled it down like a frat-boy. The whole dang thing. Chug! Chug! Chug!!
As a freckled face little girl I stood there beside him in the kitchen. I was transfixed by his behavior, my dry mouth gaping open. I was thirsty, too. It was impossible to keep any milk in the house, between five kids under age 13 and a Dad like this one. The milk was always gone.
Dad’s untreated bipolar caused him to cycle through highs of mania (where he acted impulsively and excessively) and lows of depression (where he turned inward and lived in his bed).
Dad’s mania was fun for us as kids. He deconstructed our lawn mower one day and turned it into a go-kart. He turned over the wheel of a car or small airplane to us to drive.
His mood swing coming down from mania was not crazy fun, but crazy scary.
It was crazy scary when I saw Dad pour all of his chalky white milk onto my mother. I don’t remember what he was shouting as he did this to her. The scene in my mind is silent. I see the milk dripping off of her lavender floral dress and onto the green carpet.
Today I celebrate that crazy doesn’t have to define who I am even though it is part of my family’s crazy fun and crazy scary past.
I celebrate that there is no turning back. My book went to the printers yesterday. The release date is September 30 and on that day I’ll be freaking out feeling all the feels.
I remember the first time I saw crazy. And as a child I had never heard the word bipolar. Nobody talked about it.
I just knew crazy because it lived in my house.
And to this day I can smell crazy from a mile away. It smells like milk.
I celebrate that today people are starting to talk about mental illness and that we have access to more mental health support services and resources now than ever before.
Like the milk in my childhood home, it’s never enough. We need more. More people telling their stories to break the silence about mental illness, more research, more support services that are accessible and affordable, more understanding and inclusion of people with mental illness.
We need more because there are thousands of families out there that need help.