Loving Men-Validation

Every creature seeks approval from its own kind.

And gay men are no different.

Actually, gay men are probably worse. Gay men seek validation across a wide swath of “kinds”. Men, women, brothers, sisters, dogs, cats, etc.

There are so many different platforms on which gay men can seek validation.

I’m currently experimenting with Grindr, Scruff, and Daddy Hunt.

Many friends keep asking the same question: If you’ve already discovered Jean-Baptiste and Luciano, why do you keep trolling the internet?

The answer is easy: Validation.

Scouring the internet for men is akin to window shopping. I’m browsing. I’m sitting on a pier and lazily casting my bobber into the water to see if anything bites. And if bobbersomething does take the bait, I’m not going to yank the line and hope that I’ll hook the guy. I’m not interested in a catch. I’m really interested in the nibble, the interest, the wink, the nod, the text, the call, the voice, the hello; the validation that I exist somewhere else than in this hotel room. That I’m recognized.

That I’m not one man in a one-man boat, adrift in an endless sea.

Jean-Baptiste reminds me that I’ll never be lonely because I have him; Luciano reminds me that I’ll always be his future.

Then why are two men like Jean-Baptiste and Luciano, not enough?

In love, in friendship, they are. Really, they are.

But I’m looking for flesh and bone. For physical validation. Not of my beauty, not of my charm or wit or humor. But of me. As a man, in flesh and bone.

 

Loving Men-Upsets (Artem Stories)

I’m in love.

I’ve fallen so madly in love with Artem that it’s almost embarrassing. I feel like a giggly teenage school girl having a crush on some LaCrosse dreamboat. It’s impossible for me to think of what my life was like without him. Until this morning.

Life without him is something now confronting me. You see, we’ve upset one another and now the bell has rung and we’ve retreated to our respective corners. Panting, I sit on Artem In Bedmy three-legged stool and stare across the ring of our bedroom to his sobbing frame sitting on the edge of the bed. He says between tears, “you’re the shoulder I’m supposed to cry on!”

Oh, Christ, my devilish corner man says, listen to him crying over there.

But my heart is going out to Artem and as I hear the bell sound starting the next round I notice that whatever impetus caused me to cause Artem’s pain no longer exists. I don’tgaymancrying want to cause his upset. I am his shoulder to cry on. I walk to the side of the bed and sit down next to him and see his jeans stained with drops of tears and runny nose. My hand reaches out to his face and he flinches as though burned by a match. My finger wipe away his tears and I turn his face to mine and I see his reddened eyes which resemble those of my childhood pet rabbit.

I’m sorry, Artem, I whisper, I’m sorry; please stop crying.

gaymancrying2“Why did you say goodbye? You used that word; Of all the words to use, you had to use goodbye. Were you leaving?” he asked, still crying.

A part of me was leaving but that part of me’s come back. Come on, Artem, it was a misunderstanding, that’s all. Please? Please stop crying, I said as I kissed his damp cheek, and finally kissing his salty and moist mouth.

“Do you promise to never say goodbye? Ever again? Because I can’t stand to say goodbye. Not to you. And not ever. I just won’t be anyone if I can’t be someone with you,” he said gaymencrying3while laying back and pulling me atop him.

Looking down at him, the trimmed beard, that pouty lower lip, the tear stained eyes I said, never again, I’ll never ever say it again.

We’ve never been apart since we met. Not even on that almost goodbye day. To quote Mark 10:9 in the King James Bible, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Shame and Regret: The Sting of Social Stigma

First posted in August 2012 Shame And Regret: The Sting of Social Stigma has more of a wallop five years later than four years earlier. We as a race must get something out of persecuting the disenfranchised and marginalized friends, family’s, lovers, idols, and heroes. Maybe we ought to look inside ourselves and find that kernel of fear. Then erase it. And then get back to being compassionate brothers and sisters.

 

boygerman

Why are we ashamed by what we do?  We do what we choose to do because we stand to gain something.  Yes, some people are forced, say at gun point, to compromise; some are coerced through drugs and alcohol; and yes, some actions are purely altruistic (ashamed of philanthropy?).  It’s my opinion that consciously withholding or denying or lying about our actions is caused by fear.  Not a generic fear, but a two-tier fear.  The first tier-fear: judgement by others is beyond your control; but the second tier-fear: consequence sits squarely in your lap, and which, by the way, you’d already equated as a potential cost of your unprecedented action.  We all know this simple truth: We have absolutely no control over the actions of others.  That said, we can remove the first tier-fear: judgement by others; we now find ourselves staring down the steely barrel of culpability: we encountered a situation, measured consequence against benefit, and toed the line or stepped across it.  So shame and regret were considered well before we pandered to our hunger, thirst, or warm body (emphasis on warm).

The best possible precursor to a mental illness diagnosis was, until 1973 its own mental illness: homosexuality.  Coming out as a gay man taught me the valuable lesson that there will be people who can’t distinguish between my sexual orientation (which places me in a specific group) and who I am (in general terms) as a fellow human being.  Having learned that lesson years ago I was well prepared to face similar discrimination based upon my mental orientation, i.e. mental illness, e.g. bipolar disorder.  And yet, what is there to be ashamed and regretful about?  Don’t carry the burden of Shame or wear the shackles of Regret; never apologize to anyone irritated by what you have, especially if what you have is a medically recognized disease.

Recently I conducted a thoroughly non-scientific giddy-up poll which asked: What diseases do you think you’d be ashamed to admit having?

Answers?  Anal warts, vaginal herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea. . .what?  Anal warts? Venereal diseases? According to our non-scientific poll of middle-aged men and women, they said that carrying a sexually transmitted disease is the only other human affliction besides mental illness that they would be ashamed of having and which also carries with it a damning social stigma.  STD’s are the result of risky and unsafe sexual activities engaged in by choice. Does mental illness really belong in their company? Really?

Shame and Regret are burdens that those who choose to remain ignorant and judgmental should shoulder.

Not me.  Not you.  And certainly not the neighbor, best friend, Richard Dreyfuss rdreyfuss2
parishioner, bowling buddy, Ryan Phillippe, phillippeprom date, recipient of the first kiss, Girl Scout, Teddy Roosevelt (yes, really), Girl Scout Leader, Sinéad O’Conner, full back,  Metta World Peace ,
mettapeace offensive line coach, movie star, Burgess Meredith, Opera Star, Ronald Braunstein, famous orchestra conductor, infamous commuter train conductor or any one of the other 25% of our world’s population. How about the other 75% of the world’s population loosen the reins of their prejudice.

“Defend The Rich: Attack The Poor!” That’s America?

middleclassadvantage
ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS: (noun), 1) A government program guaranteeing certain benefits to a segment of the population; 2) The right to benefits offered by a government.

QUESTION:  Why does the Republican leadership denounce raising taxes on the wealthy unless the Democratic leadership reduces its spending on ENTITLEMENT programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

In this post I will argue that Republican bias against the middle-class and their enrollment in Entitlement Programs is peanuts when compared to the wealthy’s routine use of their own Entitlement Programs.  Let’s get started:

Can you name the congressman or senator that represents the millions of disenfranchised Americans whose voice is never heard in Washington?

When will the top 1% step from behind Republican stonewalling and admit their greed is immoral and burdens the other 99% who can ill afford additional taxation?

Is Social Security Disability Income really an entitlement when over 70% of initial applications are denied; the application and subsequent supporting medical records takes an applicant months to collect; the process is so convoluted that it’s sired a cottage industry of attorneys that charge 30% or more of the applicants back-pay (back-pay is the aggregate monthly benefit beginning on the date of disability to the present day, minus the 6 month waiting period; e.g. number of months of disability benefits = 24, multiplied by the monthly benefit of $1,500 = $36,000 tax-free); so an attorney representing a client who’s approved for benefits would earn $12,000.  What kind of entitlement takes two years to process and costs the disabled 1/3 of their rightful benefit?  Why not streamline the application process and return the 30% to the SSA as a one-time contribution “To Bolster Solvency.”

ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS FOR THE WEALTHY (AND APPROVED BY THE IRS)

The wealthiest Americans most likely have a financial firm like Atlanta Trust that manages a total of $17.6 billion for 2,200 families to develop a customized “capital-preservation” strategy.  In other words Atlanta Trust’s responsibility is to grow wealth or limit lost wealth by appropriating investments to historically safer instruments.  Wealthy American‘s treat their money like a business and receive categorized spending reports to keep their eye on what’s coming in and what’s going out.  Further, many wealthy American’s hire accounting firms or tax attorneys to prepare their income taxes by ferreting out every possible deduction (from more than 200 Federally approved deductions) and to advise of off-shore wealth and its tax liabilities (if any).  A team of financial professionals, tax attorneys, and their own consistent oversight reinforces the adage: The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Poorer.

Let’s look at Mitt Romney‘s tax situation in 2011 (as a readily available tax return and as an example of Entitlements reserved for the wealthiest American’s).

1) NET WORTH: $300 million +/-;
2) Money invested in American companies who’ve established their headquarters off-shore to avoid standard taxation;
3) Wealthy enough to hire firms to manage his assets and to uncover as many deductions as possible, which will in turn reduce his gross income tax liability to an adjusted gross income tax liability.  Remember, income tax is based on your annual income and not your net worth.

Mr. Romney didn’t disclose his gross income for 2011.  However, this is what he did disclose:

  1. His 2011 tax return was 379 pages long (a ream of paper is 500 pages);cash
  2. $13,696,951.00 (His adjusted gross income (taxable income minus allowable deductions)
  3. $1,950,000.00 (tax liability)
  4. 13.9% (final tax bracket)

If we look at the graph below, we’ll see that a person in the 13.9% tax bracket earns approximately $25,000 annually.  How on earth can someone whose gross income likely exceeded $20 million annually wind up in the same tax bracket as someone earning $25,000? (Put away your calculators, I’ve already done the math: $25,000 is 0.18252% of Romney’s adjusted gross income).

Tax Year:  2012
Filing Status:   Single
If your taxable income is between… your tax bracket is:
 $0  and  $8,750  10%
$8,700  and  $35,350  15%
 $35,350  and  $85,650  25%
 $85,650  and  $178,650  28%
 $178,650  and  $388,350  33%
 $388,350  and  ABOVE  35%

Yet, they’re in the same tax bracket?  Wondering how Mr. Romney achieves it?

  1. Great Tax Attorney’s;
  2. Preferential taxation (15% tax rate) return on investments in company’s headquartered off-shore as capital gains rather than income (35% tax rate);
  3. Crazy loophole called carried interest allowing financial managers like those working at Bain Capital (equity, hedge funds, venture capitalists) to declare their fees as capital gains (15%) rather than income (35%);
  4. Savvy and sickening at the same time.

So, back to my initial question:  Why does the Republican leadership denounce raising taxes on the wealthy unless the Democratic leadership reduces its spending on ENTITLEMENT programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

fiscalcliff

It would appear that this vitriolic soap-box-posturing about middle-class abuse of Entitlement Programs (which every employee contributes by way of a federal mandate requiring employers to withhold a specific percentage from every paycheck) which allegedly will be insolvent within a decade, should also include the Wealthy American’s Entitlement Programs which are routinely used in order to reduce their adjusted gross income and subsequently lower their tax liability by millions, if not billions of dollars every year.  The Federal Government loses an enormous amount of money which might be used to rescue Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from collapse.  But that would require closing loopholes, limiting deductions, taxing ALL income at their current tax bracket (35%); in other words forcing the wealthiest 1% to pay an income tax based on income, rather than a greatly reduced income tax based on adjusting their income by as many as 200 deductions and loop holes.  Or, simply be an American and pay your fair share.

Our current situation It’s disgraceful, embarrassing for all American’s on the world stage, and further separates the bourgeoise from the proletariat (which, historically speaking, has never been a sustainable advantage for the ruling party).  The direction we’re headed, best illustrated by the stalemate in Washington, historically ends when a few have most of the wealth and the most have the fewest.  It’s not a divide, it’s a gorge, or maybe a cliff which stubbornness or back-room politics causes a financial implosion which could have been avoided if the good of the American people was paramount, not some school yard tough-guy bullying and double-dares.

I’m embarrassed to admit I’m an American.

Romanticizing Madness

I’ve noticed recently a spate of blogs and websites declaring which famous people are bipolar (please visit: (http://pinterest.com/bipolarbandit/famous-people-with-bipolar-disorder/).  This identification of plausible personalities is a definite indication of social change.  To see familiar faces, icons, sport legends, entertainment moguls, and just plain “they’ve-got-it-too” types provides a sense of belonging to a community-at-large which includes not just me, or members of my support groups, but people whose face is undeniably recognizable and never dreamed that they, too, face the same challenges I face.  And there’s a degree of comfort in that.  Secondly, it begins to slowly tear apart the prejudice and educate the ignorant not necessarily about mental illness, but that anyone, their favorite hockey player, their dreamboat actor or actress, their business executive role model, can and do live with mental illness.

This identification is the initial crack in the shell of shame and stigma.  And we (people living with mental illness) didn’t invent the tactic.  For instance, a similar identification of the famous and powerful occurred during the homosexual march toward acceptance and respect.  The exposure of the public’s least likely to be or to have is one step closer to the day when ordinary patients living with a mental illness can disclose their disorder free from the fear of isolation, castigation, or retaliation by pointing to the recently exposed successful, popular, and famous comrades-in-madness.  This identification of recognizable personalities borders on the romanticizing of madness which isn’t that dissimilar to the mid 90’s trend to have a gay friend.

I can testify to the similarities because I’m gay and I’m bipolar and I voluntarily disclose these two details with the same degree of importance as when I confess that I microwave my ice-cream or that I prefer medium starch on my dress shirts.

In the homosexual world your voluntary disclosure is commonly referred to as “coming out (of the closet).” The expression “coming out” was introduced to the gay lexicon first in the 20th century and has permeated the American lexicon during the late 21st century.  “Coming out” was seen as an introduction into the clandestine gay subculture and compared to a débutante’s coming out party.  Today “coming out” is less likely a party and more likely an uncomfortable incident, like soiling your pants in public or getting arrested for peddling questionable pornography.  Their concern is how the homosexual lifestyle will impact them (that is, the collective “them”) and are notorious for their absence of empathy or support.  Some abandon; some think its a phase; some deny; some cover their ears; and some (like my mother) invoked the bigotry of my dead father and wept when she looked at me.  And then there are others — embracing and supportive listeners; honored to have been told; and a few see the courage and witness the honesty and reverse their ill-informed ideas that homosexuality is Satan’s playground.

In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) .  In 1969 a week-long gay uprising in New York City started by a police raid in a Mafia owned bar called The Stonewall Inn started the gay movement toward equality.  In 1973 homosexuality was officially removed from the DSM and was no longer considered a psychiatric disorder.


Remaining quiet, covert, dishonest, and shameful simply reinforced the commonly held belief that there was something wrong with homosexuality.  As early as the mid-19th century German’s were advocating the public admission by men and women of their homosexuality as a form of emancipation.  It took another century and countless victims of bigotry, hatred, and ignorance before homosexuals coalesced into a unified voice demanding that the social stigma of being a homosexual be eliminated.  It’s taken another 40 years before more than fifty percent of all American’s believe that gays and lesbians should have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.

I believe that there are great similarities between the long and painful trailblazing required to achieve acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle and the eradication of the social stigma people living with mental illness experience on a daily basis.  Both groups perpetuated their own discrimination by remaining silent as society tortured, oppressed, and determined that it (homosexuality or mental illness) was an abomination which must be isolated, subjected to brutal and inhumane treatments, or permanently removed.  The gay rights movement was sparked by one drag queen who was determined that she would not tolerate brutality at the hands of the police simply because she was homosexual.  Her defiance was her voice and her protest was her high-heeled shoe parried in the face of her tormentors.

Will it be your voice that’s louder than the others?  Will it be your courage that’s Tweeted around the world?  Will you be the one that’s still mentioned fifty years later as the voice which shouted, “this is the last straw!

Which it was.

All thanks to you.

Election 2012: Forget the Gays! Let’s Kill the Middle-Class!

SCENE:

A mob of men and women sporting haute couture ensembles are followed by domestic staff brandishing fiery torches, weed-wackers, and gilded “breaking ground” shovels move at an accelerated pace (note: they are not running; they never run; they simply walk with tremendous determination) between the craggy, overhanging cliffs somewhere near Malibu or the tall, dense sand dunes near the Hampton’s.  They scream hateful epithets like “And you thought Polo was just an after-shave,” or “Only a monster prepares his own taxes,” or “Even a hunchback is beholden to religion for its servile and miserable life.”

CUT TO:

A group of men and women run up narrow, rocky paths or stumble through swallowing, deep sand.  They’re absolutely terrified, and yet they clutch one or two possessions (laptop, picture frames, deed to a house) even though their requires two hands.  You get the sense that they’re clutching all that remains of their life.  Suddenly a heavyset, winded man loses his balance and though others try to grab his free hand, they yell things like, “Let go of the picture,” or “It’s only a college degree!”

But suddenly he holds the framed diploma tightly against his chest as he teeters over the edge and everyone watches as he falls into the abyss tightly holding his most precious possession.

Welcome to December, 2012 if the Republican machine takes hold of the White House.

I think that it’s perfectly normal to ignore distracting noise, especially campaign noise, when 120% of your attention to personal-matters-at-hand is parsed and you’re really not interested in cockfighting.

That is until your private AGI (adjusted gross income) permits political campaigns to assign you a specific economic class moniker. The herding of same AGI’s should get your attention.  Once you’ve been economically branded you begin to recognize topics related to your self-proclaimed monikers (or, sub-classifications) which label behaviors and values, your distinguishing parts, (which you once defended, affirmed, and proudly paraded). These distinguishing parts have been diminished by time into a complex, amalgamated you much less the “youthfully combative sum of your parts” and much more like your mother or father (with very distinctive differences).

Until the amalgamated you becomes campaign fodder, a cadaver dissected in public by wielding derisive displays of contempt and hatred resurrecting foregone battles to right history’s wrongs and to spread fear like an airborne toxin.  How on earth, you think to yourself, have I been put on the ballot?

Because the run for leader of the free world has nothing to do with leading.  It’s become a referendum prosecuting or defending the future of the middle-class.  The American middle-class: devoted family, work ethics, values, respect, you get what you can afford, hard-working, proud, stable, honest, neighborly, caught. . .in the middle. . .of change.

But greed changed all that.  First bankers got greedy, then brokers got greedy, the home owners got greedy, and then. . .lower to lower-middle class were qualified for mortgages on real estate which was falsely inflated to satisfy everyone’s greed.  Families that simply couldn’t afford to buy a home found themselves underwater (owing more that the home is really worth.  In other words sellers, brokers and lenders all told varying degrees of lies and the poor schmuck wanting his piece of the American Dream ended up being the real sucker in the scheme.  But not one banking executive has gone to jail or forced to pay for those lousy mortgages out of their skyrocketing profits.

Chicago Tribune Feature – Published Sun., Aug. 26

No rhetoric; no sublime style; no lexicons or etymology.  Pure and simple disclosure of disquieting issues.

Please, REPOST THIS ON YOUR BLOG.  Personally, I prefer privacy over publicity; I exposed my life in the hope that the stigmas of mental illness, obesity, and homosexuality might be reconsidered to be human conditions worthy of respect and empathy.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-bipolar-20120824,0,3948031.story

Bipolar II disorder: Another Chicagoan’s story

Like Jesse Jackson Jr., Harlan Didrickson has the illness and has had weight-loss surgery

 Harlan Didrickson poses outside his Rogers Park home. (Chris Walker, Tribune photo / August 17, 2012)
By Barbara Brotman, Chicago Tribune reporter, August 26, 2012
Harlan Didrickson was a model of middle-class stability.He lived with his partner of more than two decades in a handsome Victorian on a leafy North Side street. He worked as manager of executive and administrative services for a high-powered architectural firm, where he made hospitality and travel arrangements for large meetings and oversaw budgets that ran into millions of dollars.He was not the kind of person who would go to lunch with friends and come home having spent $4,500 on a puppy and a month of obedience training.

Or who would get up at 2 a.m., go to Dunkin’ Donuts, then drive to Indiana and back, snacking on Munchkins.

But that’s who he became.

Four years ago, his life was upended by bipolar II disorder, the same illness recently diagnosed in U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

This is not Jackson’s story. People with the disorder — nearly 6 million in the U.S. — have unique experiences with the illness, which cycles between moods of manic energy and deep depression.

“The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be very different from one person compared to another,” said Dr. John Zajecka, a psychiatrist with Rush University Medical Center who specializes in mood disorders.

Manic states leave some people euphoric, others irritable. “There are people who can function their whole lives in these hypomanic states,” though they may lose marriages, jobs and money, Zajecka said.

Depression, too, can appear in a variety of ways. Some sufferers stay in either mania or depression for decades; others cycle between them many times a day. And people respond differently to treatment.

But Didrickson’s struggle provides one look at how bipolar II disorder and its treatment can affect a life.

And he does have one key factor in common with Jackson. Like the congressman, Didrickson, 54, had weight-loss surgery before being diagnosed with bipolar. He had a gastric bypass procedure; Jackson had a duodenal switch.

It became a serious complication in his treatment. The weight-loss procedure, which causes the body to absorb fewer calories, prevented him from absorbing the full dose of his antidepressant medication.

Didrickson’s illness began when he started feeling extremely stressed at work. He considered himself skilled at his job but felt beleaguered by office politics.

“I felt as though I was fighting a lot of fights on different fronts in my life, and that I didn’t have the wherewithal, the energy,” he said. “I was profoundly unhappy.”

He changed jobs, twice. He still felt miserable. And he also felt trapped, having to do work he now found unbearably stressful.

More than 60 percent of people with bipolar engage in substance abuse as they try to self-medicate their inner pain. Didrickson was among them. At night he would wash down some hydrocodone, an opiate he had been prescribed for a back injury, with beer. He would stay up till 4 a.m. watching TV, then take Ambien to fall asleep.

“At 6 o’clock I woke up, got dressed and went to work. I was probably still high,” he said. “Then somewhere around noon, I would crash. I would go to the men’s bathroom, go sit on the toilet and fall asleep.”

His partner, Nick Harkin, a publicist with an entertainment and lifestyle marketing firm, had no idea how deeply troubled Didrickson had become.

But then Didrickson didn’t show up on time for a planned out-of-town getaway. When he arrived the next day, he was morose, secretive and exhausted. “It was a very abrupt shift,” Harkin said. “It was quite obvious that something was very seriously wrong.”

Didrickson was thinking of ending their relationship, he told Harkin. And he wanted to move to California’s Death Valley. He wanted to start a new life.

“I was falling apart,” Didrickson said. “It was this desperate: I will do anything to get out from under this pressure.’ It was like having a heart attack, and if you don’t get out from under it, it will kill you.”

Back home, he called a friend who had once been his therapist. She asked if he was suicidal.

“I was, like, ‘Of course I am. I think about it all the time,'” he said. “‘It’s the only comfort I have.'”

She told him to see a psychiatrist. He did, and was told he had depression — a common initial diagnosis for people with bipolar, who generally seek treatment during a depressed phase of the illness.

The antidepressant the doctor prescribed didn’t work. Didrickson developed memory problems, to the point where he forgot how to do simple tasks like using a phone.

“I could not take a shower, because I couldn’t recall the sequence of activities … turning on the water, stepping into the spray, getting wet, washing,” he said.

He lost 40 pounds and neglected bathing and grooming. And yet there were also times when Didrickson felt powerful, energetic, nearly like a superhero. He could do anything he wanted, no matter how dangerous or destructive, with no consequences.

He ran red lights. He drove the wrong way down one-way streets. “I felt like I was back to being in charge, like I was back to saying, ‘It’s going to go like this because I said so,'” Didrickson said. “I felt kind of emancipated.

“I thought, Wow, this (antidepressant) Paxil is really working.'”

But it wasn’t. A psychopharmacologist gave him a new diagnosis: bipolar II disorder, a form of bipolar disorder with less extreme mood swings.

His new doctor told him to stop self-medicating — Didrickson said he hasn’t had a drink or abused a drug since — and put him on a mood stabilizer. And then began the painstaking process of trying to find the right antidepressant: six weeks getting to a therapeutic amount of a drug, then six weeks being weaned off when it didn’t work, again and again.

“My symptoms came back. I just felt terrible,” he said.

He was still manic, once getting up at 4 a.m. to drive to Lake Shore Drive to look at newly fixed potholes. He spent money recklessly. He spent hours obsessing over the paper stock to use for custom stationery.

The manic states always turned dark, ending with him lashing out at people — usually Harkin.

“When I begin my mania, it’s a great party,” he said. “But when it gets to be months into it, it gets uglier and uglier and uglier, to the point where you really are a monster.

“Mania isn’t happy; mania is crazy,” he said.

No antidepressant worked. Then a friend with bipolar recommended Adderall, the stimulant often prescribed for attention deficit disorder.

His doctor prescribed a standard amount. It did nothing.

So Didrickson took another dose. And he felt a little better.

“I started to feel buoyant,” he said. “I always talk about feeling underwater. I felt like I was finally breaking the surface.”

He didn’t know why he needed a higher dose. But then he came upon online message board postings by people who had undergone gastric bypass surgery and then found that their antidepressant medicines stopped working.

The gastric bypass surgery he had undergone years earlier to lose weight, he concluded, was keeping his body from absorbing the medicine.

Indeed, Zajecka said, gastric bypass surgery can change how people absorb medicines given for bipolar disorder.

The Mayo Clinic statement announcing Jackson’s diagnosis also noted that the weight-loss surgery he had “can change how the body absorbs food, liquids, vitamins, nutrients and medications.”

Didrickson’s doctor would only marginally increase his dosage of the notoriously abused amphetamine. It wasn’t until he switched doctors because of a change in his health care coverage that he got what he found to be an effective dose.

His longtime internist, Dr. Eric Christoff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, gradually increased Didrickson’s dosage, with weekly appointments to check his blood pressure.

The depression lifted. He has been on the higher dosage for a year and a half.

“We have never seen any evidence of drug toxicity or high blood pressure,” Christoff said. “He’s really not absorbing much of any dose he’s taking.”

Many people with bipolar disorder are able to resume their previous lives.

“It’s one of the most treatable illnesses we have in medicine,” Zajecka said. “If it’s diagnosed properly and treated appropriately, there’s no reason they can’t get back to resuming a normal lifestyle and their normal goals in life.”

But Didrickson has been unable to go back to work and still has periods of depression and mania, though much milder ones. He manages the house, cooks and has taken up woodworking.

“Going out in the evening can be very, very, challenging for him,” Harkin said. “If we go to a concert or a dance performance and it’s too noisy, he’ll have to leave. If … there’s someone in a film who’s violent or cruel, that’s very upsetting to him too.”

“It’s nothing like I thought my life would be,” Didrickson said.

“The good thing, I guess, is that I don’t hold on to yesterdays,” he said. “That’s a blessing, I think, frankly. But I also don’t have tomorrow. My life isn’t about tomorrow.”

He has gone back to writing, which he did in college. He writes a blog about his experiences with bipolar, under the name T.M. Mulligan. The moniker stands for “Taking My Mulligan.”

“I’m having my do-over,” he said. “I’m taking the second chance.”

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune