A California Tale Of Craziness, Creativity And Chaos
By Keith Adams
Key Themes: bipolar disorder, mental health, mania
Described as "...probably the most entertaining account of mania you'll ever read...", this raw, inspirational, story shows that a man can live a full, productive life with a serious mental illness. In 2006, Keith, in the midst of an immense undiagnosed manic episode, cut a swath through the Corridor of Dreams – the swanky swathe of the West side of LA stretching from the Hollywood Hills to the boulevards of Beverly Hills, believing he would be an epochal intellectual cum gay Hollywood superstar cum spiritual messiah. Of course, he became none of these, and crashed spectacularly.
With its tale of luxury goods, spiritual discovery, thrust for glory, brilliant ideas, not so brilliant ideas, one impersonation of the Anti-Christ, fist-fights, arrest by the LAPD, and, ultimately, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it asks if the gleaming personality he became – now chained up by mood stabilizers – is the real self; and, if it is not, is there any such thing as a real self?
About the Author
Keith Adams perennially wonders how an abnormally tall, working-class boy from the North Sea coast of England ended up in a house in Hollywood with two dogs, and his partner, a leading medical research scientist at UCLA. Although he writes for a living (computer code), he always hoped to do “real writing”, from experience. That opportunity came from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, after a serious brush with insanity. At one point, he seriously believed he would be a combination gay superstar / epochal intellectual / latter day Messiah. Quite obviously, he became none of those things, but he did survive the inevitable crash to tell the tale, thanks to the support of friends and family.
I have always been strongly compelled to organize, categorize and understand every piece of information in my life. Now, as I felt my mind expanding infinitely in all directions, the flood of ideas through my brain was becoming almost impossible to handle. I was, for the moment, still able to control it, but I was close to being overmastered. The hardest thing was to figure out simple priorities against the raging background of my thoughts. And now the pressure was vastly increased by the screamingly high priority of not worrying my partner, Ben. He’d called me, out-of-the-blue, almost in tears because I was late for our meeting with our couples' counsellor, and I’d immediately set off to try to get across to West Hollywood.
At all costs, I thought, I had to protect him from worry. For weeks, I’d known that my increasingly confident and ambitious demeanor had made Ben anxious. I knew he thought that I was becoming slightly manic, so I’d got into the habit of concealing things from him: I didn’t want his worry to restrain me from achieving my goals. Ben’s last boyfriend had had episodes of intense mania as well, so this only increased my desire to hide from him all signs of any behaviour that he might wrongly interpret as manic.
For the moment, I could still wrestle my thoughts to a stand-still long enough to remind myself, every other minute, that it wasn't life-or-death. If I missed the meeting with our counsellor, Ben would be upset; very upset: but we'd get through it.
At the Renaissance Hotel on Highland, I tried to get a taxi, but the hotel staff ignored me. I became briefly and savagely furious with them until, once again, I managed to recall that my sense of urgency was self-imposed. But that thread of rational thought kept disappearing in the vastness; I couldn't hold onto it for more than a few seconds at a time. Each time it slipped my grasp, my focus would return to the urgency of protecting Ben at all costs.
I wasn't scared about myself, however, until I rounded the corner onto Hollywood Boulevard. And then I felt, just for a second, that it might be possible to drown in the deluge of my own thoughts.
I tried again to hail a cab. It was rush-hour; traffic barely moved, and all the cabs were full. I was, by now, almost panicking with the urgency of saving Ben. It had finally become impossible for me to have a rational perspective; I really was drowning.
I redoubled my pace, crossing through traffic to catch a cab in the other direction, anything. Once more I momentarily recalled the lack of real urgency, but only briefly, before crashing back, with increased violence, into a skewed sense that making the meeting with Ben and our couples' counsellor was life-or-death.
I steeled myself: ‘Calm down, there's no rush.’ A second later, I looked at the time, and started to run. The clash of priorities began to feel like a pile driver in my head; then a constant thunder. I ripped my expensive watch – a sexy, masculine watch with a wide leather strap that Ben had given me – off my wrist, and threw it, along with my cell-phone, into a parking lot, hoping that if I could no longer tell the time, the raging confusion would cease. But it only got worse.
Dimly through the clattering chaos, I momentarily heard a shining clear note: instead of worrying about Ben, I should take care of myself. This was my own crisis now, not Ben's: I was falling headlong into the void, and had to save myself. Moreover in saving myself, I'd save Ben too. If I lost my mind, Ben would shed far more than the few tears he’d cry at my missing our counselling appointment. It seems so obvious now; but that’s a symptom of mania: that you can get so consumed by something that it makes you blind to all other priorities. In this case I was so driven to protect Ben that I was quite literally driving myself insane.
That gleaming note I’d felt moments earlier disappeared again in the gathering murk; I felt my sanity slipping away; I knew I needed to medicate myself immediately, either with drugs or alcohol. I pitched into a Mexican restaurant.
‘I need a drink,’ I grated out to the petite hostess, who looked at me worriedly, taking in the contrast between my wannabe-superstar appearance – six-foot-six, hair spiked with blond highlights, dressed in a tight-fitting, black open-necked Miu-Miu shirt – and the desperation presumably written on my features.
‘You’ll have to wait for a table.’
‘You don't understand, this is an emergency,’ I shouted.
She looked at me as if I were an alien, and then shrugged. I strode into the bar, grabbed a bottle of tequila, and walked out, ignoring the bartender’s flailing arms and angry shouts.
This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 16 March, 2010.