I am so close to the final draft of my memoir “The Bipolar Writer.” I want to share in two parts of the first chapter of my memoir, of the course of today. In the past, I have shown chapters in different parts of the process. This first chapter is so important to my memoir that I wanted to share it so that feedback is possible. It is perhaps my most polished and most worked chapter, that is not to say it is perfect (I am still considering having a few people look at all the chapters together when you are close to project you can miss things.) With that said this will be a real and raw look at James, the early years leading up to my diagnosis.
Who is J.E. Skye? The Origins of The Bipolar Writer
I chose to focus this memoir on the last ten years of my Bipolar life starting in 2007, when, on that wet November night, my life changed forever. My diagnosis became Bipolar One. It is where my adult life with mental illness began. I was twenty-two at the time. If I am honest, I had no idea the realities that would define the next ten years of my life. When I was twenty-two and starting this journey, I was young and naive, had little regard for my life, and the effects it would have on my relationships especially with my family.
I never thought I would see my thirtieth birthday, I was that suicidal during the first three years of this journey. I never believed that there was something wrong with me— my first mistake. It would take years to get to a point where writing this memoir was a real thing. I had to deal with the peaks and valleys of this Bipolar life to say, “hey I have something to share with the world.” It took those three very different suicide attempts over a three-year period that made me who I am today— The Bipolar Writer. A journey has a starting point, but there is always what happened before that helps define the start of this mental illness journey.
Those of us in mental illness community all have an origins story, and mine is no different. My journey began at twenty-two, but in truth, this journey starts at the beginning when my symptoms first started to take shape. It is easier to look back on it now because those early memories are hard to forget.
I was born in the small town of Salinas, California— the central coast as it often referred to by the locals. The area is where John Steinbeck lived and wrote many of his literary works. My childhood was typical. My parents were hard-working (still are), and they always instilled in me their hard work ethic. I was a horrible as a kid in my early years, and often did more bad things than good. I had this extreme need as a kid to steal anything that wasn’t tied down in my house. More often than not I would get caught, which is a good thing, I would never make it as a thief as an adult. I got disciplined the right way, and it made me a better person as I became an adult.
I am a regular guy to the outside world. I have always had an affinity for books, writing, and music. I love Japanese food and the anime culture. Korean pop music is my guilty pleasure, and I am learning to speak the language. I would like to move to South Korea in the future or to Japan. It’s funny talking about the future because it wasn’t always a possibility in my life. That is the great thing about finding myself as a writer is that I have a future (more about that in the later chapters of this book.)
I am a coffee addict, and you will usually find me at a coffee house getting my coffee fix and writing. I am a fantastic role-playing game gamer. Ask anyone who has ever seen me play knows how good I am at strategy turn-based RPGs, but any role-playing game is what I have always used to combat my depression. If there is a boss that is unbeatable in the video game, I will beat it. My best boss battle ever for an “unbeatable boss” was beating Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts 2. It was amazing. My best series of games that I am proud of beating is the Dark Souls series (up to the latest.)
I am a guy who loves watching baseball, football, and basketball. I love rooting for my teams. I love hard. I am better at helping other people with their problems before fixing any of my own issues. If we become friends in this life, you become family to me. I am also Bipolar. I am all these things, and you find that in this memoir I will explore every aspect of my life.
I can trace my depression back to when I was a teenager around fourteen. It was the first time in my life that I felt comfortable being an introvert, and I struggled to keep up with my friends. Before high school, I went to my friend’s sleepovers and lived like an average kid. So many things changed in my high school experience that led me to be who I am today. I hung out with friends at school in high school, but not outside of school/ I preferred to be alone. I realize now that school became a “safe place” because it was a place that I had to be. When I graduated, there was not one friendship I took into adulthood. The small group of friends I have now are part of my adult life.
A safe place is a theme that shows up often in my life. I started to realize I could be happy alone. My depression would take severe turns during my high school years. It was easier to be with myself when depression took me over. It was a familiar feeling. Loneliness was something I did well when everything else in my life fell apart it felt right.
My sophomore year is an excellent example of events that shaped how I dealt with depression. It was a sad year for me, and I had to combat my depression on a daily basis. I ditched school almost weekly with my cousin. It was the first time in my life that turned to marijuana to cope with my depression and my social anxiety. It helped in the short-term but never in the long-term. Turning to something to keep me steady is another theme I learned at an early age.
I would spend days at the time in bed when not hanging out with my cousin or sitting around for hours playing video games. I ditched school so much, but I always had a good excuse in hand and could write excuse notes like there was no tomorrow. My parents never knew about the time I missed that year. To this day, I am not sure why the school believed that someone could be sick as often as I called in sick. In my sophomore year was the first time in my life that I failed classes in school. I got back on track that summer and took classes to make up for my bad grades. As a teenager, I learned that no matter what I could always find my way out of the bad that came with my depression.
At the time I chalked my sophomore year to something kids do. It was so much deeper than that because it was a sign that I was getting good at hiding things. Another theme that often comes up in my life. It was the first time that I let my depression control me for an extended period in my life. Depression became my constant companion after my sophomore year in high school.
James Edgar Skye