Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Onset - Pt 2

I decided to rewind the tape to the beginning and dub the tape onto a fresh one. But when I played it all I heard were satanic warblings like something out of The Exorcist. I quickly realized what had occurred: the tape, in rewinding, had bent over on itself, so that I was now listening to the two tracks backwards. The problem looked reparable but I didn’t want to fool with it that night, so I put it aside and cracked open Notebook 11.

Arbitrarily I began reading the entries from mid-November 1976 onward. Very quickly I realized why I seldom take these strolls down memory lane. It is hard to confront the fact that you were once seventeen and lacked your present-day “maturity,” though in practice maturity often amounts to nothing more than an ability to disguise one’s real personality and foibles. Indeed, once I got into the entries I had a lot of respect for the young author, who somehow did not quite seem to be me. Since my memories of that period are as vague as anyone’s after the passage of twenty-one years, I found that reading the entries from 1976 did not so much jog my memories as create them, the way a good novelist can “create” a memory of, say, Lady Chatterley with her lover.

The journal has three striking attributes. First, it is on the whole astonishingly well-written. Although a first draft, hastily dashed off night after night, many of the developments it describes come alive on the page, and I think that even if I were wholly unfamiliar with my life I’d still be able to get a pretty good feel for what it was like. Second, it is preoccupied with girls to a degree that, even to me—who certainly remembers that part of the story—is just incredible. Third and (I think) a corollary of the second, the moods of the author are all over the map, and the cycling from upbeat joy to gloomy melancholy is very rapid—so rapid that it reminded me of Kay Redfield Jamison’s criticism of using the term “bipolar disorder” to describe the illness. The imagery of “bipolar” is linear—a swinging pendulum from one extreme of the emotional spectrum to another. Jamison postulates offhandedly that mania may in fact be a frantic flight from an incipient depression. But whatever the case, it was evident that I had some sort of mood disorder, and just as evident that, except in broadest terms, it was hard to shoehorn the symptoms into a classic framework of bipolar disorder.

Prologue - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

1 comment:

BipolarPorch said...

Dying to read those 'actual' reports of cycling rapidly...

Visit my Bipolar News Site...

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