By Bruce Goldstein
New York City and me
When people see me pushing my blue-eyed daughter in a stroller down Lexington Avenue, they have no idea that I start my day off with thousands of milligrams of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. They just see a proud dad—an ordinary bald guy with a goatee—smiling on a hot summer day. Hi, my name is Bruce and I’m one of many manic-depressives living in the most multicultural, unpredictable mood-swinging melting pots of the world: New York City.
When “normal” New Yorkers think of summer, they think of sipping cocktails at outside cafés, unbearable humidity and flip-flops. When depressed New Yorkers think of summer, they think loneliness, self-pity and locking themselves in their dark apartments. As for the Manhattan manics, they don’t think. They do whatever the heck they want. Like going on wild shopping sprees in Times Square or running naked through Bethesda Fountain screaming, “I’m the Messiah!”
As for me? I’ve been all three. I’ve sipped dirty martinis with extra olives in Soho. I’ve needed my mother to call me every morning to get me out of bed. And I’ve blown $18,000 on helicopter rides flying over volcanoes on the Hawaiian Islands. But things are different now. I’m 40. I’m a husband. A daddy. An author. And I’m stabilized. Well, as much as any of us can be.
Woke up on the wrong side of the “head”
Yesterday I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or should I say head. I just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. So I popped my chemical cocktail, drank some coffee, took a shower, and left for work. As I was walking up Madison Avenue my mind was racing. Then my heart started racing faster than my feet. And I still had no idea what was causing this anxiety. Maybe it had to do with my new job in advertising or being a new father. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t just snap my fingers and make it go away. So I embraced the buzz. I took a deep breath, focused on the present and exhaled through my nose. And after I tuned into Bob Marley on my iPod, I continued along my journey to Ad-land.
Unfortunately listening to “Everything’s gonna be all right” and doing yoga under my desk only calmed me down so much. I was having a really hard time focusing on work and talking to my co-workers, so at lunchtime I escaped to one of my city safe havens to reset myself—Bryant Park. A few years ago when my anxiety was so out of control that I couldn’t sleep for months, I would pace around the park for hours in the freezing winter ‘til I would wear myself out. Now here I was again. Fortunately, thanks to my current medicine regimen, my anxiety was nowhere near as intense as it was back then. And thank God it was sunny.
City Life—My mania cure
It was a gorgeous day. Everybody was out and about—eating sushi, getting a tan, and typing away on their laptops. As I sat there on the grass rectangle, surrounded by skyscrapers, I opened up my senses and took it all in. I let the background buzz, the white noise of the city come forward. I heard horns blowing, a fire engine tearing down the block, people laughing and screaming, and a cacophony of cell phones ringing. By the time the jackhammers chimed in by smashing up the pavement, I was starting to feel like myself again. I had returned to the urban vibration that I functioned best on—the insanity of New York City frequency. I must’ve just shortcircuited. Some people find the city overwhelming, but the intense pace keeps me going. I need the bright blinking lights of Broadway to keep me alert. I do my best writing at loud coffee shops. The medley of honking cabs and the earth-shattering subway sounds is my favorite soundtrack.
A few weeks ago, I took my wife and daughter to Connecticut for the weekend to see the family. We walked in the park. Had a barbeque on the deck. Rolled around on the grass with their dog, Foxy. It was a relaxing time. But two days was enough. I started getting antsy. I needed to get home. Fast. I needed to plug myself back into my manic zip code. So we kissed everybody goodbye and hightailed it out of there.
I was driving out of the Midtown Tunnel, heading down Second Avenue, when suddenly a taxi driver cut me off. As I was cursing my head off, Brooke turned and smiled at me. I smiled back. “Honey,” I said, “It’s good to be home.”
Bruce Goldstein is bp (Bipolar) Magazine contributor and author of Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac.