My Dad with the great composer Leonard Bernstein
After hearing my father audition, Bernstein told him that he had what it took to be a world-famous concert violinist
Today would’ve been my father’s 88th birthday.
I wish my Dad was alive to celebrate his birthday for so many reasons – mainly so his two beautiful granddaughters could get to know him and enjoy his remarkable talents as a: Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist, oil/watercolor painter, sailor, model airplane builder, expert skier, woodworker, gourmet cook, book/poetry aficionado, gardener, college professor, violin teacher, backpacker, world traveler, Spanish speaker, and Irish Setter/Golden Retriever lover!
I’m leaving out much, much more, but that list alone explains why time spent with my father was never dull – unless he was struck by a bout of severe bipolar depression. When that occurred he’d hide away in his bedroom with its thick curtains drawn shut as if it was a sepulcher. There he slept to escape his misery.
While growing up, I saw firsthand how manic depression affected my father, and I hoped to high heaven I’d never experience it. But that’s not how things worked out, and my father felt responsible and terribly guilty that I inherited bipolar disorder.
I called him from the psychiatric ward’s single pay phone during my first hospitalization. I was six weeks postpartum and full-blown manic. (My suicidal depression wouldn’t arrive until weeks later.) Four hundred miles away, Dad answered the telephone. I told him I had just been diagnosed with bipolar one disorder. It was the first time I ever heard him weep.
Since I was manic, as soon as the psychiatrist looked me in the eyes and told me my diagnosis, I wasn’t fazed. During my conversation with my father I tried comforting him. I urged Dad several times not to worry about me, but he knew what lay in store for his beloved daughter. He knew that the shit would hit the fan in my brain, and it did. Again, and again, and again. Six more hospitalizations would follow, I’d ask for unilateral ECT after he died, and for bilateral ECT after I made the disastrous decision to taper off bipolar meds. All in all, I’d try over thirty-five medications to no avail.
Despite all my suffering, with the help of my immediate family, my doctor, my therapist, the medical establishment and (gasp!) even evil Big Pharma, I’ve come through “Dyane’s Inferno”.
I wish that my father could’ve witnessed how my bipolar disorder didn’t destroy me. Wherever he is (for I don’t believe that when die, that’s it.), maybe Dad knows I’ve reached this hard-won, relative stability.
I wish I could’ve called my father after I was offered my book contract; Dad knew I wanted to be a published author from the time I was seven-years-old. He was a voracious reader, and at bedtime he read me The Juniper Tree stories (a tad disturbing, but fascinating nonetheless) or Edgar Alan Poe’s haunting poem Annabel Lee, one of his favorites.
In the last couple years my father was alive, I’d search the Los Angeles Public Library’s online catalogue for books I thought he’d enjoy. Using his library card number, I’d request books about the violin, sailing, and history to name a few. This memory makes me happy because I know that the books served as bibliotherapy, despite the recurrence of his bipolar depression. He always thanked me profusely for finding books he couldn’t put down.
Dad would be so proud to see me achieve my dream of having my book published by Post Hill Press. (I still think he pulled some celestial strings so that I got the deal!)
I’m beyond grateful that Dad and I had our time together.
I’ll be dedicating my book Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder to my girls, Craig, my Mom, Miss Lucy,
and of course…