Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Life and Times of an Undiagnosed Bipolar Puerto Rican

Life and Times of an Undiagnosed Bipolar Puerto Rican

Literary Nobel Prize Winner George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

It’s a passage that strikes me as one of the most honest and sincere that I’ve read. A passage that I myself try to emulate, while at the same time being one of the biggest hypocrites this world has ever seen.

You see, I can work the phones all day trying to save the life of a child… and I can walk outside five minutes later, find my way into an argument with any neighborhood thug, turn and threaten his life and do it all without blinking an eye.

I can march peacefully while holding a banner that reads, “Save Baby Sophia,” while at the same time grabbing a hold of another Puerto Rican “brother” that tries to cut in front of us at the parade… while telling him, “It’s not gonna happen… So don’t do it to yourself…”

I can have dinner with business men… and I can have dinner with stone cold killers… and feel just as at home sitting at both tables… the good and the bad, the protector and the pursuer, the lamb and the lion…

It’s all the same to me… It’s my very own hypocritical existence wherever I go.

There’s something very wrong about me in that sense… and I don’t think its mere anger management that I need… I think I’m displaying more bipolaristic sensibilities than I care to admit to myself…

And for the record… Yes, I just made up the word bipolaristic… Add it to your word dictionary.

I started to write a book called, “Crazy: A Year in the Life of an Undiagnosed Bipolar Puerto Rican…” You have to admit, the title is catchy as hell. But I had to stop, because the book was scary as hell… I don’t think the world is ready for that much honesty.

I began the journey of writing the book by taking one of those bipolar “self-diagnosis” tests on WebMD and writing about it.

Are you so irritable you shout at people and start fights or arguments?

Um, check… everyday, including at my daughters High School graduation ceremony when the people behind me wouldn’t shut the hell up and let me hear the keynote speakers. I almost missed my daughters march due to that one.

At times do you feel more self-confident than usual?

Um, double checks on this one… everyday… sometimes I think I’m the shit… sometimes I don’t think I’m shit…

Does your mind race out of control seemingly in a never ending cycle of thoughts?

Um, triple checks here… every night before I lay me down to sleep… especially when I have to figure out how to make a million things work during the worst economic recession in the history of this country…

Does that mean I’m crazy though?

The findings of my self-diagnosis basically told me to find the nearest psychiatric hospital and check myself in immediately… Do not stop at Go… Do not collect $200.00… Just find help.

Yet here I am still running the streets, looking for fights with disrespectful human beings, feeling unsure about my confidence level and letting my mind race in circles about every worrisome thing I can fit in my head at the same time.

And that’s just in one afternoon…

But isn’t this everyone? Or are you guys going to leave me out here alone on this one? Am I the only crazy one out here?

I’ll tell you who I blame more than the food companies, who’ve been inserting chemicals in the food we eat for so many years now, that we have a ridiculous amount of people on psychotropic drugs… I blame the old neighborhood.

I blame the neighborhood fellas for instilling in me the need to be so respected that at any sign of disrespect I lash out and attack like a shark being pulled into a boat with a metal hook stuck in his body… at that point, it’s either me or you… and I don’t want it to be me – so your ass is gonna get bit.

I lose all sensibilities and I forget that I am supposed to be more man than monster… more gentleman of peace, than fiend of war… more savior than destroyer.

In the book, Crazy, I write – “It doesn’t matter if you are undiagnosed or diagnosed with bipolar disorder. What matters is that you are mindful of its existence in your life so that you can control it any way you know how. Lord knows the medical geniuses haven’t found the cure for the damage the food companies have done to our bodies, both mental and physical…”

Why are five year old children being placed on more psychotropic drugs than ever before? Are the doctors just that much better at diagnosing now? Or is that we’ve given up on teaching coping mechanisms as opposed to just doping up our children? Or are the kickbacks from the drug companies just that great?

Why isn’t anyone being held accountable, from the food companies to the pharmaceutical companies to the gun manufacturers that continue to kill more people off both mentally and physically than every war we’ve ever fought?

Why do we just keep taking it?

I guess we’re all just a little too crazy to see with clarity what is being done to our society, to ourselves, to our children, to our futures… Or maybe we just don’t have time to care anymore because Farmville, Mafia Wars and Casper Martinez’s Facebook rants keep us plenty amused… plenty entertained… and plenty dead inside.

Whatever it is that’s making me so angry inside… I hope I can get it out of my system, before it gets the best of me… I’m an argument away from arguing with the wrong person…

It’s funny to me when I get so many messages from people saying I’m an inspiration, a healer, a savior… Even from as far away as the Philippines last week.

It’s funny to me because I can’t even figure out how to save myself – much less your child.

I guess we’re all just trying to find our own sanity in the midst of the madness.

Most just aren’t honest enough to admit to themselves… much less to the world!

When all else fails – go see a doctor, they’ve got a prescription for you. And it’ll only cost you a $20.00 co-pay and your sanity.

As for me – I’ll keep writing it out of my system.

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book
is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. I won't leave you out there alone.... Hi, my name is Liza Marie, and I am a Undiagnosed Bipolar Puerto Rican. Wheeew that feels better!!

  2. Yeah Casper's rants make me dead inside... LOL.