Sweat Stained Review: Confessions of a Blue Collar Misfit
How to Remain Optimistic With a Bipolar Mind
By Dan Denton
I’ve been struggling with my mental health lately. Crazy, I know. I live a pretty incredible life, and I’ve got more to be grateful for than most. Crazy, how even in the best of times, being bipolar just fucking sucks giant donkey dicks.
I’ve been stewing and chewing on some things, this being the ‘Confessions of a Blue Collar Misfit’ where better to sort out my psychological shit?
My thoughts have been a left-right trailer park sucker punch of: why do I write more sad shit than happy? And why don’t normal people understand that crazy people are crazy no matter their status in life? Do normal people not read newspaper headlines? Or scroll Facebook and get their news like everyone else? Why hasn’t the world yet learned that rockstars and actors, and factory workers, and middle office managers and street corner hobos all have mental health struggles? That football players, soldiers, factory workers and ex-homeless motherfuckers have all survived physical and mental trauma that will never go away? That a million dollars in your bank account is worth the same as $5 when you’re all alone at 2am with a loaded weapon of self-destruction?
Yup, that’s what’s been eating at me. Could be worse. I used to eat out of dumpsters. Lot harder to sort anything of sustenance in those conditions.
And that’s the first thing to blue collar confess to you: I’m fortunate, and grateful to be living a life far better than I once dreamed was possible. To be a former housing unstable alcoholic and live to be an elected union steward and published author, that’s a story worth writing and telling people about.
Which leads to the second thing: the things that caused the alcoholism, and the survival of daily life-or-death street life, the loss of so many loved ones to drugs, suicide, alcohol, dumb car wrecks, murder, and divorce, those things are the perfect breeding ground for something called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you’re not fucking shell shocked yet, stay tuned friends. Trauma bombs are bound to crop up if you kick it with me in real life for more than 10 minutes. Why would here be any different? But you add all that trauma endured to the complications of being Bipolar II, AD/HD and generalized anxiety, and Jesus fuck do you often get a sad soup of shitty 2am thoughts.
After kicking these empty cans down the back alleys of my heart, after too many sleepless nights, and a few seasonally depressed ones with 11 hours of delicious sleep. Through two zips of the good legal weed in Michigan, 3,600 mg of medically prescribed edibles, 312 cups of coffee, and 11 daily doses of blood pressure meds, I untangled the web. Worked my way out of the haze maze.
Sure, it’s cathartic to write about mental health. The struggles of surviving the daily grind of factory life. Yeah, there’s some punk-I’m-still-here middle fingers to it. But you gotta dig deeper than the mundane cliche, and go all the way sometimes. Is there nothing more beautiful than any human, but perhaps especially the artist, anything prettier than someone turning their anguish, their gutter survival, into something that takes your breath away? Isn’t that why we love Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Whitney? Isn’t that the growing legend of the early tragedy of Matthew Perry? Why Chris Farley and Jimi were so special? You think they achieved such gut wrenching magic by happenstance?
Then henceforth the conundrum of why normal people don’t understand how crazy motherfuckers can struggle when their life seems amazing on paper. Bro. I’m fucking bipolar. I’m never the same too many weeks in a row. And fuck, you ever meet too many bipolar humans? No? Maybe birds of a feather then, or whatever, but none of us bipolar fucks are quite the same either. Some change every two days. Some change three times a day. Some, months, or a year or two at a time. I like the every several weeks. Gives you lots of good stretches, and the bad ones ain’t too long, and thus don’t get too deep. Also, sometimes your other mental health shit fucks with your bipolar chemicals, then your cycles change up on you. Feeling radically and emotionally different every day is fucking exhausting. And sure, feeling great for eight months is amazing until you hit that six month gray cloud of depression, motherfucker. For a self destructive and suicidal bastard like me, surviving the months long depressions are amongst the biggest wars I’ve ever won in life. If you understand that last sentence in a teary eyed way, I love you. I’m sorry you know, too. But here we are. The normal people aren’t ever gonna really get us, but I’m glad we found each other. Sometimes, knowing you’re out there grinding through, too, is enough to get me through one more hour.
And if you understand any of this on a molecular level, here’s the deal. Many of us have already made it beyond unbelievable odds. Fuck, you gotta know the statistics just as well as I do. Us crazy fucks have a shorter life expectancy for a hundred reasons. But fuck all that. If we’ve made it this far, who’s to say our best days aren’t still yet ahead of us? And really, if we’ve got a safe place to stay, and enough to eat we’re all farther ahead than 30,00,000 Americans are tonight, and better off than I’ve been for 33% of my entire fucking life. Hey, you know how it is baby. You gotta find the light through the broken window or whatever the great writers said. When you’re crazy, you take the optimism no matter how illogical.
I wrote this to tell you all that December, holidays, winter, Mondays, and the last day before payday is hard times for so many of us, normal or not. If you love someone, look out for them a little extra right now, huh? And if don’t love anyone, smoke one and learn to love yourself.
Dan Denton is not a preacher but he is close friends with three former and current chaplains. He is a former UAW chief steward, father of three, and 17 years California sober. You should buy his new novel The Dead and the Desperate from Roadside Press. And probably ask yourself if you remembered to take your meds today.