Electroboy A Memoir of Mania

ISBN-10: 0812967089

ISBN-13: 9780812967081

Edition: N/A

Authors: Andy Behrman
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Description: A rollercoaster ride of a memoir plunges readers into the terrifying, hyper-real world of manic depression, and through it, to healing. Behrman reveals his raging mania, which landed him in jail and, ultimately, led him to try electroconvulsive therapy for relief.

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Book details

List price: $15.00
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 2/11/2003
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 5.00" wide x 8.75" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.462
Language: English

Andy Behrman graduated from Wesleyan University in 1984. A free-lance writer, he lives in New York City.

I've got to be strong And try to hang on Or else my mind may well snap And my life will be lived for the thrills -Dr. Everett Scott The Rocky Horror Picture Show Electroboy is a memoir. However, certain names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals whose paths crossed mine at a time in their lives from which they have since moved on.
6:35 a.m. I'm lying between my chocolate brown, maroon, and hunter green paisley Ralph Lauren sheets wearing Calvin Klein briefs and feeling very un-Lauren, and frantic and guilty for wearing Calvin Klein briefs. I start worrying about whether or not it's acceptable to wear Calvin Klein briefs and sleep with a Ralph Lauren comforter. At last I decide that it's perfectly okay to mix and match. The elastic is irritating me, so I push the briefs down and they get lost in the sheets for a few days. Now I'm totally naked and relieved. Is it okay to sleep alone naked? I won't tell anyone.
These sheets are supposed to be comfortable. That's what the saleswoman told me-something about the high thread count.
Six hundred. She should recommend sleeping naked to her customers. But the dramatic swirling pattern agitates me. $100,000 split between Dave and me isn't fair. I'm in the mood for French toast. I can't get comfortable, so I get up and put on Abba's "Waterloo," turn on the lights, and start counting $100 bills from a shoe box I keep underneath my bed. Fifteen minutes later I've got $85,000. I double-check it. This time it comes to $83,000.
Shit. I'm not going to count it again. I put three 3-inch-thick piles of cash back into the navy blue shoe box with "Ralph Lauren" embossed in gold on it. There's also 25,000 deutsche marks in the box-about $10,000. This is my German reserve, my strudel money. I put it back under the bed. I rubber-band $50,000, bring it into the kitchen, and stack it neatly in the freezer next to some Perdue chicken breasts, an old pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, a frosty bottle of Absolut, some half-empty ice-cube trays, and a bottle of amyl nitrate. It'll be safe here. I'll probably go through it quickly anyhow.
I get back into bed. Dave is a fucking cheat. He doesn't even deserve a dime on this deal. I'd love a bagel. The trucks outside sound like rockets being launched. They carry milk, soda, fruit, and beer. All of this will end up in supermarkets today. I walk back into the kitchen, take an Amstel Light from the refrigerator, and swallow three blue Klonopin and two plain white Ambien to try to knock myself out. I look in the mirror. Five more pounds to go. Legs look good. Big deal. That's a genetic thing. From my balcony, I see a man walking his cocker spaniel. I open the sliding glass door and drop the beer bottle four floors down onto the street. Just see him as a moving target and feel the urge. It doesn't hit him, or his dog, but he looks up and curses. Asshole. I give him a slight nod. Go through the mail. Pay some bills. After twenty minutes I realize that the pills aren't working. I can't get myself to fall asleep. This stuff is crap. Thank God the fucking insurance company foots the bill for this shit and not me. I get into bed and try jerking off to a video, but that doesn't work either. Probably because I'm so fucked-up and exhausted. I'm not in the mood for phone sex either. I throw on a pair of jeans (no briefs) and a black cashmere turtleneck. I've got to get out of my apartment and go somewhere. A diner, another after-hours bar, or for a walk up Madison Avenue.
Early-morning window shopping. Fuck it. I pack my passport and prescriptions, a suit, and a dozen rolled-up canvases, then reach into the freezer and grab a rubber-banded wad of money. I feel like I should wear a matching black cashmere mask over my face. I'm stealing from my own freezer. An inside job. I've got an appointment with Dr. Kleinman at 8:30 a.m. Fuck him. He'll get his cash either way. Press for the elevator. Beer in hand. Good morning to the doorman. I'm not worried what he thinks. I hail a taxi. Where to? Kennedy Airport, I guess. I open the window and let the breeze blow on my face as we cross the park. We're picking up speed. Thank God.
9:30 a.m. There's a flight to Tokyo stopping in Los Angeles, so I buy a ticket with cash. $8,600. Grab a hot dog with ketchup and onions. $3. The plane smells like Dove soap. Everyone in first class was probably showering at the same time this morning. It's a nice smell. Still, something tells me that this is going to be a painfully long flight. Usually it's fourteen hours. Time for "life-jacket follies." I already feel restless, and we haven't been in the air for more than two hours. That must be Ohio down below. The plane is filled with Japanese tourists. On my way to the bathroom I notice a few Madonna look-alikes with bleached blond hair sitting in coach. I squeeze a pimple on the side of my nose, and some pus squirts on the mirror. I leave it. I hate this flight. I really prefer to keep moving, and the layover makes me anxious. I stay on the plane. It's like coming down from a good cocaine high and waiting for the next "crew" to arrive with a supply of new "provisions." But it was the first available flight, and I'm in a rush. Got to get to Tokyo to sell art and make some deals. I've done it tens of times before, but this time I feel strange. Too energetic. I haven't slept in two nights. And none of the medications are calming me down. We're flying near clouds that seem like they're in arm's reach. If I could just stick my tongue out the window and suck one of those amorphous nimbus or cumulus or whatever-Mrs.-Robinson-called-them-in-fourth-grade clouds deeply into my lungs, maybe I could get rid of this feeling. I turn toward the young Japanese woman sitting next to me. Eigo-o hanashi masu ka? Yes, I speak English.
In fact, she speaks perfect English. Her name is Emiko. Emiko Kawaguchi. River-Mouth. That's a silly name. At least in English. She could be an Indian maybe. Little River-Mouth. That sounds normal. She's wearing a Jewish star around her neck. She could be Jewish, too. I ask. She giggles. She tells me that a Jewish friend gave it to her for Christmas. I tell her I'm Jewish. She gets excited. Don't get so excited, Emiko. She asks me about the skateboard with a skull and crossbones dangling from my left earlobe. I tell her that I'm not in a religious cult or anything and that I recently had it pierced in Milan. I'm an art dealer, I tell her. That sounds strange. She loves Haring. Basquiat? Yes, but not as much. The conversation is painfully staccato. I can't keep this up for eight more hours with Miss Emiko. I want to bail out. I ask the stewardess for a vodka to wash down a Klonopin. There's turbulence. I could do a much better job flying this jet plane than our pilot. I should walk into the cockpit and demand to take control. Ask nicely like my parents taught me. How hard could it be? Don't you just switch on the automatic pilot? But I wouldn't want to go to jail. Emiko looks at the yellow pills in the palm of my hand and giggles with her hand over her mouth. We're flying at 35,000 feet, and the sun beats down on me through the window. I've slipped into the Land of Stiff Neck and Drool, a warm and sunny place. I'm just about to start kissing and sucking on my ex-girlfriend Allison's breasts when the stewardess bumps into my left shoulder and I abruptly straighten up in my seat. Dream ruined. Is it a dream? Is it day or night? My contact lenses are dry and I'm thirsty. I take two Prozac, two more Klonopin, one lithium, and one Anafranil. I try to squeeze my feet back into my boots, but I think I've gained some weight on this flight. I flip through Vanity Fair for the eleventh time. I do not care for Demi Moore. I sample all the scent tabs. Descent. Seat backs in their upright position. I walk off the plane with my carry-on bag and canvases and wait for my luggage at the baggage claim. Then I make my way through customs after my long and rehearsed explanation that I am carrying my own paintings and that I'm an artist. I am. I take a cab to the Akasaka Prince Hotel. I don't know if I'm exhausted or wide awake or hungry or horny. I phone the concierge and ask them to send up extra towels. I take a half-hour shower. I check out the view from the thirty-eighth floor onto Akasaka-tons of bright neon and Tokyo Tower. For a minute I think I can see H&H Bagels in the distance. That must mean I need to get something in my stomach. The last thing I really ate was a hot dog at the airport. God, Manhattan is fourteen hours away. By plane.
Oz Manic depression is about buying a dozen bottles of Heinz ketchup and all eight bottles of Windex in stock at the Food Emporium on Broadway at 4:00 a.m., flying from Zurich to the Bahamas and back to Zurich in three days to balance the hot and cold weather (my "sweet and sour" theory of bipolar disorder), carrying $20,000 in $100 bills in your shoes into the country on your way back from Tokyo, and picking out the person sitting six seats away at the bar to have sex with only because he or she happens to be sitting there. It's about blips and burps of madness, moments of absolute delusion, bliss, and irrational and dangerous choices made in order to heighten pleasure and excitement and to ensure a sense of control. The symptoms of manic depression come in different strengths and sizes. Most days I need to be as manic as possible to come as close as I can to destruction, to get a real good high-a $25,000 shopping spree, a four-day drug binge, or a trip around the world. Other days a simple high from a shoplifting excursion at Duane Reade for a toothbrush or a bottle of Tylenol is enough. I'll admit it: there's a great deal of pleasure to mental illness, especially to the mania associated with manic depression. It's an emotional state similar to Oz, full of excitement, color, noise, and speed-an overload of sensory stimulation-whereas the sane state of Kansas is plain and simple, black and white, boring and flat. Mania has such a dreamlike quality that often I confuse my manic episodes with dreams I've had. On a spree in San Francisco I shop for French contemporary paintings, which I absolutely love, and have to have on my walls. I spend the next two days in the gallery obsessing over the possible choices. I am a madman negotiating prices with the dealer. I'm in a state of euphoria and panicked about the prices, but I go ahead and buy them anyway, figuring I'll be able to afford them somehow. Two weeks later the paintings arrive, in huge crates, at my apartment in New York. I'm shocked. I really did buy them. I own them now. I could have sworn that weekend was a dream.
Mania is about desperately seeking to live life at a more passionate level, taking second and sometimes third helpings on food, alcohol, drugs, sex, and money, trying to live a whole life in one day. Pure mania is as close to death as I think I have ever come. The euphoria is both pleasurable and frightening. My manic mind teems with rapidly changing ideas and needs; my head is cluttered with vibrant colors, wild images, bizarre thoughts, sharp details, secret codes, symbols, and foreign languages. I want to devour everything-parties, people, magazines, books, music, art, movies, and television. In my most psychotic stages, I imagine myself chewing on sidewalks and buildings, swallowing sunlight and clouds. I want to go to Machu Picchu, Madagascar, Manitoba. Burundi, Berlin, and Boise (Berlin wins-I absolutely need to watch the Wall come down-CNN coverage isn't good enough for me).
When things quiet down in the slightest, it's hard to lie in bed knowing that someone is drinking a margarita poolside at a hotel in Miami, driving 100 miles per hour down the Pacific Coast Highway, or fucking at the Royalton Hotel. I have to get out and consume. Those are the nights I might end up hailing a cab to Kennedy Airport and boarding a random flight. Once I found myself in St. Louis, once in Vienna. (It's better to end up in Vienna.) I want to be a chef, a model, an architect, a surgeon, and an astronaut. My mind consumes information at an incredible rate, and I organize this overflow using an intricate system, printing images in my head as I take in the data, laying it out visually in my mind, and later transcribing the images to notes. For example, I can visualize an image of letters, memos, calendars-even portions of dialogue. It's like having a photographic memory, except I am consciously aware of processing the information.
Manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is a disease that crippled me and finally brought me to a halt, a relatively invisible disease that nobody even noticed. Its symptoms are so elusive and easy to misread that seven psychotherapists and psychiatrists misdiagnosed me. Often the manic phase is mild or pleasant and the doctor sees the patient during a down cycle, misdiagnosing the illness and prescribing the wrong medication. One doctor treated me for severe depression with antidepressant medication that drastically increased my mania, turning me into a high-speed action figure. Another believed that I was just under too much pressure and needed to find myself a less stressful work environment. Yet another suggested group therapy as a way to improve my interpersonal skills and to draw me out of my depressio n. I was so entrenched in the manic-depressive behavior (or was it my personality?) that I was certainly in no place to make a judgment about my own condition. Today I can diagnose my moods and behavior, differentiating between extreme happiness, too much caffeine, and mania.
More than two million Americans suffer from manic depression, usually beginning in adolescence and early adulthood; millions more go undiagnosed. It runs in families and is inherited in many cases, although so far no specific genetic defect associated with the disease has been found. Manic depression is not simply flip-flopping between up and down moods. It's not a creative spirit, and it's certainly not joie de vivre. It's not about being wild and crazy. It's not an advantage. It's not schizophrenia. My euphoric highs were often as frightening as the crashes from them-out-of-control episodes that put my life in jeopardy. Contrary to what most psychiatrists believe, the depression in manic depression is not the same as what unipolar depressives report. My experience with manic depression allowed me very few moments of typical depression, the blues or melancholy. My depressions were tornadolike-fast-paced episodes that brought me into dark rages of terror.
Manic depression for me is like having the most perfect prescription eyeglasses with which to see the world.
Everything is precisely outlined. Colors are cartoonlike, and, for that matter, people are cartoon characters. Sounds are crystal clear, and life appears in front of you on an oversized movie screen. I suppose that would make me the director of my own insanity, but I can only wish for that kind of control. In truth, I am removed from reality and have no direct way to connect to it. My actions are random-based on delusional thinking, warped intuition, and animal instinct. When I'm manic, my senses are so heightened, I'm so awake and alert, that my eyelashes fluttering on the pillow sound like thunder.
From the Hardcover edition.
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