Blithe Friday: A Platonic Groupie Adventure

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Recently I’ve declared that I’ll write more about non-bipolar-themed tidbits.  I thought today would be the day that I enact my edict, but I’m not in the mood.  (Oh, we writers with bipolar are so mercurial!)  I am in the mood to write about something a little bit funny, a little bit rock n’ roll.

Please bear with me.

It helps me to remember the funny moments in between the dark ones.  Yes, there were some rather ridiculous happenings that took place during the hypomanic and manic times. Several of these incidents are firmly etched in my brain, and thank goodness ECT didn’t erase them.  Interestingly, they are connected with musicians.

I should state for the record that I am a groupie, although I don’t fit the exact definition in that I don’t aim to sleep with musicians .  I’m a very selective, innocent groupie of semi-obscure rock musicians who hail from New Zealand .  Aside from the Beatles, the band that has had the most influence upon me is of Kiwi origin, and it came into my life when I was thirteen.  A junior high school friend, a gifted musician herself, gave me a cassette tape marked “SPLIT ENZ”.

I listened to this tape incessantly on my tape player and on my Walkman.  (Remember those?) The music was odd but melodic, and the songs dug into my brain and stayed there. The band was co-founded by two best friends, New-Zealand born and bred Tim Finn and Phil Judd.  Tim’s younger brother Neil Finn (who would go on to form the internationally successful band Crowded House) also joined Split Enz.  Crowded House, a mix of Kiwi and Aussie members, became one of my favorite bands too.  I felt that I should be an honorary member of the Finn family.

The only time I had the opportunity to meet the Finn Brothers was was two weeks after the birth of my first child.  The Finns had recorded a beautiful album called “Everyone Is Here” and they were playing in San Francisco.  I had not yet been diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder; that wouldn’t happen until almost two years later.  I hemmed and hawed about whether I would attend the concert.  I had a two-week-old baby who I had been with almost every moment since she was born.  But I knew this would most likely be my only chance to see the Finn Brothers perform and to meet them.

What no one detected at that time was that my latent bipolar disorder had started to emerge, only to recede a few weeks later.  It was triggered due to hormones, genetics, and my losing a full night’s sleep when I went into labor.  I became hypomanic and I had the hallmark signs: increased energy, little sleep, pressurized speech, and other uncharacteristic behaviors.

I finally decided I’d attend the show.  A friend kindly volunteered to accompany me, and she drove us for ninety minutes in the pouring rain.  As soon as we left, I felt massive remorse at leaving my precious cutie.  I was breastfeeding her and I brought along my pump.  I had an agitated feeling of just wanting to get the evening over with and instead of happy anticipation.

The musicians gave the concertgoers their money’s worth and more.  It was a wonderful show, even though Neil Finn told us had a cold.  Trouper that he was, the show went on.  In true freaky fan fashion I brought cards and thoughtful gifts for each Finn.  They both were avid surfers and I brought them each a coffee table-style book about the famous surf break Mavericks.  The gifts and cards were how I expressed my appreciation for the countless hours of their music that I had enjoyed for the past twenty-four years.

After the show I found out where the fans would gather.  There was a designated roped walkway reaching approximately thirty feet from the venue directly to the tour van.  We fans lined up on either side of the ropes for a glimpse of them.  I clutched my cards and gifts and I felt nervous.  Most of all, I missed my baby – I wanted to get the hell home to her – forget these guys after all!  But I needed closure to my pilgrimage.

First sick Neil came out.  I didn’t want to interact with him because I didn’t want to breathe his germs and pass them onto my newborn.  I leaned back and handed him the goodies.  Being the consummate professional that he was, he charmingly thanked me.  It took all  of twenty seconds.

Then it was Tim’s turn to come out.  Tim strode by us and it was clear that he didn’t want to converse with anyone.  I was pissed.  He wasn’t sick!  At least on the outside!  And I had left my baby and come all this way to simply hand him a gift!  This is when my mania kicked in…

I somehow got over the rope and sprinted after him, yelling “GIFT FOR TIM FINN, GIFT FOR TIM FINN!!!” – I just wanted to shove it at him and leave.  My breasts were actually leaking through my shirt at that point, and I wasn’t a happy camper.  Then I heard him mutter, “You’re too much, you’re too much!” (At least he didn’t yell it at me.)  I shoved the gift at him as he jumped into the van, fleeing what I’m sure he thought was a psycho fan.

As we drove back home, I felt let down from these less-than-stellar moments with my musical heroes.  I felt ashamed about what happened with Tim.  Years after this all happened, I realized that Tim nailed it when he remarked I was too much; I was too much, and “too much” is exactly what you could say of manic behavior.  I felt seen by him!

While he has never admitted in public to having bipolar disorder, I’ve wondered if he has it, for some of his songs (His autobiographical “Haul Away”) alluded to his “nervous breakdown” and his “Cruel Black Crow” song depicted his depression.  He has shared in interviews that he suffers from panic attacks.  Mental illness runs in his family – his aunt committed suicide.  New Zealanders are known for being reserved, but her death became public knowledge in the haunting Crowded House song “Hole in the River”.

Tim has been around bipolar disorder for much of his life.  His former best friend Phil Judd was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Tim’s bandmate and close friend Paul Hester committed suicide due to bipolar disorder as well.  It’s so common for musicians to suffer with bipolar disorder.  I know this for a fact from growing up with my own musician father who had bipolar; quite a few of his orchestra colleagues had it as well.

Well, this isn’t the goofy, lighthearted post I meant it to be, but I am glad I wrote it all the same.  I do look back at that moment when I ran after Tim Finn yelling “GIFT FOR TIM FINN!” as pretty funny.  You could say my behavior was as “Bold As Brass”, a classic Split Enz song penned by none other but the great Tim Finn.

Surfing Sand Dunes and Cape Reinga – The Land of the Long White Cloud

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I am winding down recounting my trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.  In an earlier post I mentioned that I packed a great deal of activities into the week I was in New Zealand.  Even so, one needs way more than seven days to see the North Island properly.  (I haven’t even mentioned the South Island, which I unfortunately did not visit, but there are a zillion incredible activities to do there as well.)

I signed up for a bus tour geared towards young, hip travelers lasting one very full day.  I was young, and a traveler, but as far as hip went, well, I’ll just note that I fit two out of those three categories!   One of our activities was visiting the famed giant sand dunes to “surf” on boogie boards.  When I got to the top of the steep dune, I froze in terror.  Even though I was a sometime daredevil, for some reason looking down the dune scared the living daylights out of me.  I was so disappointed, but I knew I couldn’t go through with it.  One of the tour guides, in an attempt to motivate me to face my fear, started making fun of me.   That backfired, and I said in no uncertain terms, “Ain’t gonna happen!”  When done properly, surfing the sand dunes did look very fun, and I had looked forward to surfing them.  However, I felt completely validated in my decision to pass after the next person attempted to surf down the dune. She wiped out very hard at the bottom, getting sand up her nose and in her eyes, and it was an ugly scene, complete with tears.  I was glad that I went with my gut and refused to surf despite the intense pressure I felt when the tour operator egged me on, as well as the eyes of my fellow sightseers.

The best part of that day was reaching the northernmost tip of the island: Cape Reinga, which in Maori means “underworld”.  Cape Reinga was known in the Maori culture as the leaping-off place of spirits.  That concept was briefly explained to us by our non-Maori tour guide in his “pakeha” way and I loved it.  (“Pakeha” is the Maori word for a person of European descent; some people find the word offensive, some don’t.  I couldn’t care less!)  At any rate, when we walked en masse to the lighthouse pictured above on that day,  it may have been the power of suggestion, but I felt a unique sort of gravity in the air.  I believed wholeheartedly in the spirit world and how certain places on our Earth had a special vibration.  (Now I really sound like the other folks in the town where I live: Santa Cruz, Homeland of the Hippies!)  It was a stunningly beautiful day and I found the setting to be perfect for contemplating the indigenous people who died and, according to their Maori tradition, whose spirits used that very point for a jumping off point into the next world.

At that time in my life I was not yet jaded by mental illness – my bipolar disorder experience was still light years away, and I was able to take in those experiences in a naive-but-wondrous fashion.  It has been gratifying for me to remember that epoch in my life which was virtually free of any thoughts about my ever having a mental illness.

We are more than our diagnoses, thank God, but it is so easy to forget that fact; at least it has been that way for me.  By my writing about the trip I took to New Zealand thirteen years prior to the bipolar diagnosis, it has been a mini-vacation for my weary brain. While looking at pictures of myself taken at Kare Kare and at other North Island spots, I see a young woman who did not view herself as seriously damaged.  Sure, I wasn’t thrilled with my shyness, my frizzy hair, my zits or my zaftig figure, but I felt that my brain was fairly intact and, compared to the surfers and hippies back in Santa Cruz, it was actually pretty damn good! 😉  I was still 100% drug-free at that point in time!  I was also wrinkle-free! (I now have what I call my “bipolar wrinkles”, i.e. two deep furrows between my brows, but ah, I’m in my 40’s now.)

The bit of authentic joy evident in my expressions in those shots would become almost permanently wiped out with my clinical depression later on.  Now some of that joy has returned with writing this blog, with reading my friends’ and strangers’ comments and “likes” here, and for being able to once again focus upon goals other than getting out of my bed.  Thank you for traveling with me just a wee bit into New Zealand.  I hope with all my heart that if you feel drawn to that country, you will have the opportunity to go there someday.

Kia ora!  (That is Maori for “be well/be healthy”.)