Molly at age 18. How I spent $3000 in a few weeks at the equivalent of Forever 21 and my first hypo manic episode.
That moment when you're told you're bipolar 2 and you think....
Oh. My. God. I am BIPOLAR.... WTF?!
It was almost like being told “you’ve been blind most of your life but just kept trudging through, running into walls.” I feel like, duh, of course I’m bipolar and not in the “oh stop talking so fast, what are you bipolar?” High-larious.
Don’t get me wrong. I think comedy will be a huge part of my process as I walk alongside it, if not through it. I think of my real life examples that I now understand this disorder to have affected or perhaps caused. Some of them comedy gold and some, a little sad.
But let’s pause, because I feel a little guilty saying that out loud.
Why? Because I think it may be me trying to excuse away my behavior.
I certainly can’t go back in every argument, exciting time I've had, every growing pain I've ever experienced is BECAUSE I have been diagnosed with a mental illness? Can I? Nah. Sometimes I'm just bossy. Sometimes I know I'm wrong and usually apologize. Sometimes I know I'm right and still apologize to get past it.
I think it’s very important to learn from my past behavior and episodes of mania and see them in a new light, a bipolar 2 light. With new information comes new awareness.
My first real remembrance of hypomania was when I was 18 years old.
Age 18. Curlers.
Look at those cheeks. One too many grilled cheese sandwiches, eating late at night after a show.
Eighteen feels like a long time ago and I’m pretty sure I could go back in time and kick my 18 year old ass….well at least I could DEFINITELY out sing and out dance her.
My first experience with hypomania was when I went away to college at Pacific Conservatory of The Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California. Michael Jackson's trial was held in Santa Maria because it is near Neverland Ranch. You're welcome for the little tid-bit of knowledge.
I was attending college with my high-school boyfriend. Not my husband, who is also my high-school boyfriend. Keith, my actor high-school boyfriend. We auditioned for the school and twenty five were accepted. Hooray! We got in! Let's live together!
My first problem.
I had an awesome relationship with Keith, but we were not ready for this. I was not ready. I was not an adult. But I could not be swayed. Spoiler alert: We are still very good friends and work together, a lot.
Launching so quickly into adulthood, I started to spin out of control. College was very intense and for the first time in my life I was working hard. Really working. I had finally found my passion for learning. It took a stern talking to by a teacher who caught me on my earphones listening to music in a rehearsal rather than watching the professional actors and teachers and learning from them. It took creativity to teach me discipline.
My nights were late and my days were long.
PCPA was in session Tuesday through Saturday, with our classes in the day and rehearsals at night. PCPA runs a repertory theater alongside it's conservatory. How did I respond to these new stressors in my life? The first three months I spent $3000 at the Santa Maria mall. I spent the entire amount of money from my parents for that semester.
I told my parents. I came home for Christmas break. They put me in therapy. I got a little better.
During the second semester I had my first round of chronic tonsillitis that knocked me out for a couple of weeks. The school allowed to take a few days off. In an awkward meeting students were told that I was being allowed to stay home during classes and rehearse at night. It was my first experience feeling proud to be the one who pushed through it. I felt put upon a pedestal for being a person that was allowed to be sick and still perform. Hooray! Look at me! I'm saving the world one musical at a time while my throat slowly closes. Take that bitches!
I mean you guys, I was literally dying for my art. A little dramatic I know, but I was literally in DRAMA SCHOOL...so therefore I deem it worthy. I know what you're thinking, isn't acting school is all relaxed and a bunch of dramatic people sashaying around the room, yelling out the word yellow and exploring how it made us feel?
Yeah, it was exactly that.
The drama was real and we could sit down and chat about it but let's just say that we had a mardi gras party, I went as a sexy swan, Keith as Superman and at least one person came naked in purple paint. Enough said.
Most of us were driven and the school was strict. I needed that. I graduated from high school with a 2.9. I’m thankful I had found what connected me to discipline. I craved discipline. From that very day I got that verbal smackdown I began to work hard and get better at my craft.
Sick during the day and rehearsing at night and being thrown up in the air in a basket toss while belting a high D. (A little braggy? Maybe….it was pretty awesome). About this point I don’t remember that much, or it starts to feel fuzzy and I remember it like a dream, but now I realize it was a haze of mania mixed with illness mixed with hormones mixed with bad diet and BOOM.
I went into overdrive, pushing pushing beyond my physical boundaries.
Here’s the vision I remember the most. Sick. Tonsils swollen. Tired from not sleeping. Tired from not napping because I am wired during the day. Cold then hot from a fever that was spiking, dropping and going back up again. I’m back at school for the first time and I’m eating dinner in between an afternoon rehearsal and a class in speech and diction, and then at 7 pm I am to record background vocals for a show at a recording studio.
I’m late. Why? Because I’m trying to fit it all in. And now I feel my heart start to pulse, and my gut churns. I run to my car. Turn on the ignition..
...oh, did I mention it’s raining?
The car doesn’t start. Because it was raining I left my head lights on and now the battery is dead. I look at my watch. Fifteen minutes to go 3 miles. I think, "I’ve got this." I feel my tonsils getting bigger and put on my hoodie, my music in my backpack and start running. In the rain with my tonsils growing larger and my stomach churning. I get a mile ½, It’s pouring and I hear out of my good ear “Molly? What are you doing?”
I look to my right as other cars splash by and see the dean of my school looking at me like I'm crazy. Exhausted and embarrassed, I get in. He drives me to the recording session. I dash inside, not late and proceed to belt past my tonsils.
Just thinking about all this right now, my heart starts to pulse.
I call it a pulse because it’s more of a quickening as the day goes on. It increases with pressure through the day.
Emotion bubbles up as I write this. Because 18 year old Molly doesn’t know that this behavior followed by illness is about to repeat itself for 20+ years and I’m exhausted for her. I feel bad for her. She’s about to sing for audiences night after night with her tonsils twice the size. With her ears flooded. I can see myself looking back at my cast mates. Am I on key? I can’t hear the pitch so well. They say I am. And I was...for 23 years. I’m still going.
God this sounds so dramatic , but guys I am an actress, so I'll indulge myself. My 41 year old self is currently yelling back at my 18 year old self and I feel helpless because she’s about to get real real sick, in both her body and mind. And she’s about to become such a good actress that she fools her friends. She fools her family. And she fools herself.
How's that for dramatic?