Losing My Mind

Losing My Mind

Status: Finished

Genre: Non-Fiction

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Status: Finished

Genre: Non-Fiction

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Summary

Losing My Mind is a story of struggle and survival. It chronicles my entire life up to age 34, but the main premise of this book focuses on the 13-year period following my bipolar diagnosis. I was diagnosed in 1995, at age 20. Subsequently I experienced numerous manic and depressive episodes that landed me in jail dozens of times, as well as institutions and psych wards. I also experienced and survived homelessness, addiction and living in group homes. I eventually overcame bipolar disorder and now live a normal life, but getting here was not easy. I wrote this book to bring awareness and attention to this and other mental illnesses. I hope to inspire others with this illness, and encourage and empower people from all walks of life.
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Summary

Losing My Mind is a story of struggle and survival. It chronicles my entire life up to age 34, but the main premise of this book focuses on the 13-year period following my bipolar diagnosis. I was diagnosed in 1995, at age 20. Subsequently I experienced numerous manic and depressive episodes that landed me in jail dozens of times, as well as institutions and psych wards. I also experienced and survived homelessness, addiction and living in group homes. I eventually overcame bipolar disorder and now live a normal life, but getting here was not easy. I wrote this book to bring awareness and attention to this and other mental illnesses. I hope to inspire others with this illness, and encourage and empower people from all walks of life.

Chapter2 (v.1) - College Daze

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 26, 2017

Reads: 24

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: May 26, 2017

A A A

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I entered UMass Amherst in September 1993 to study journalism. Writing had always been my strength so I figured having a journalism career would be fun and rewarding. UMass Amherst is the second biggest college in Massachusetts, second only to Boston University, and is one of four UMass campuses in the state. The Amherst campus is in essence a city in itself, extending about one mile from the Campus Center in all directions, and houses over 27,000 students. The university owns significant amounts of land in the nearby towns of Sunderland and Hadley. The campus consists of two main campuses, South College and North Campus. South College consists of the linguistics department. The DuBois library, which is a high rise library in the center of the campus, was intended to be an annex to South College. Designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer, the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center is located adjacent to the Student Union and is accessible via passageways from both the Student Union as well as from the main level of the parking garage.  Above the concourse level is the Campus Center Hotel, a five-level full service facility with 116 rooms, including four suites located in the Campus Center. The North Campus is mostly dedicated to science and engineering, and most of the buildings there are newer than their counterparts in the humanities. There are six residential areas on the campus, North, Sylvan, Orchard Hill, Central, Northwest and Southwest. I lived in the Southwest Residential Area which is the largest residential area on the UMass campus, housing 5,500 students. There are eleven low-rise dormitories and five high-rise dormitories that are each twenty two stories tall. It was built in the 1960s, and all the buildings are built in the modern style. The five high-rise dormitories are named after the four U.S. Presidents from the state of Massachusetts (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, and John F. Kennedy), and George Washington. The campus also has its own bus system, which is free to students. Students can ride the bus to Amherst Center, which is the center of town consisting of stores, shops and restaurants, the Hampshire Mall in Hadley, and all of the nearby colleges in the area for free. Nearby colleges include Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College in Northampton and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, which are neighboring towns. Because of this the area is frequently referred to as the “Five College Area.” All of the stores in Amherst Center are run by students of the colleges in the area. Amherst is truly a college town. There are also many restaurants and stores right on the campus. Students have access to many social events like parties, live musical events and shows, outdoor activities like barbeques, art exhibits, film festivals and multicultural events. UMass Amherst has a very diverse student body, with students coming to the school from many countries around the world. There are also many places for students to gather and socialize on campus including dozens of designated study areas, game rooms, parks and the campus pond. Major sporting events, such as UMass's hockey and basketball team games, are held in the Mullins Center, amidst the fields to the west. Other locales for sporting events include the Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium (where UMass holds its football games) and Garber Field, which is an artificial-turf field adjacent to Boyden Gym used for lacrosse, field hockey, and various team practices. There was always some kind of sporting event going on as UMass has basketball, hockey, lacrosse and football teams. UMass Amherst is a beautiful campus with so many things to do and places to go, and I knew this was going to be an incredible experience. I was very excited and felt very lucky to have gotten a scholarship to study there, and I planned to make the most of this opportunity.

 I ended up getting my own dorm room in the Washington building on the 20th floor. I was lucky because most students had to share a dorm room with someone else. I also got a part-time job at one of the dining commons on campus. I felt like I was finally an adult. I was in control of my life and responsible for making sure I went to class and work, unlike high school where my parents and teachers were there to keep me in line. I also believe however, that this was a dangerous time for me, almost too much freedom. I started partying all the time. The thing about UMass Amherst is there is always something going on, no matter what time of night it is. It was a constant party, and I loved it. Living in Southwest was like living in New York City. I was able to make friends easily, as all freshmen entering college are looking to make friends, so it’s pretty easy to meet and approach people. I quickly became best friends with this kid we called Nine. He was from Lynn, Mass. and it seemed like we had a lot in common. I also met this white guy named Matt. Matt was the coolest white kid I had ever met. He liked hip-hop music and reggae, and he always had weed so we hung out with him every day. There were also a lot of my friends from high school that were students at UMass. Sometimes me and my friends would go from dorm room to dorm room to smoke weed and drink. People were so friendly and would offer to hang out with you even if they didn’t know you. Every day I was almost certain to get high. I even experimented with mushrooms a couple times. But I was always afraid to try acid (LSD), I had heard too many horror stories about it. I got so caught up in the fun and partying that I started to fall behind in my studies.

In October I met this girl named Jackie. We met in the hall way of my dormitory. She was standing in the hall with some girls I knew from the building. I had just come from working out so I was sweaty and had my tank top on. As I passed by me and Jackie’s eyes met briefly. Jackie asked the girls “Who is that?” The girls replied, “That’s Calvin, isn’t he cute?” Jackie said, “Yeah he is, let’s go meet Calvin.” So the girls came and knocked on my door and introduced me to Jackie. Man, Jackie was a knockout. She was tall, very shapely, with cocoa brown skin, big brown eyes and curly black hair. She was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen; everything about her was perfect. They came in my room and we all hung out and talked. Jackie asked me, “Why didn’t you ever try to talk to me? Am I not cute enough for you?” I replied, “I did try to talk to you one night at a party but you ignored me.” She laughed and shrugged her shoulders. Jackie and I hit it off right away, and within a week she became my girlfriend. Jackie was a suburban girl from the nice part of Worcester Mass. She had been raised in a Christian household and didn’t have much life experience. She had pretty much been sheltered from the outside world by her overprotective father, and if I had a daughter that looked like that I would be overprotective too! She had never been in trouble and never experimented with drugs or alcohol. She was a good girl with a good upbringing. Jackie and I became very close, and within a few weeks she decided to move into my dorm room with me. She kept her dorm room but moved a lot of her stuff into my room. Living with Jackie was great. Jackie loved sex and it was almost a fantasy to have a girl like her. She was in fact somewhat of a nymphomaniac, which caused me some concerns that she might cheat on me if she had the opportunity. But we were together almost all the time so I knew she wasn’t cheating because she was always with me. I tried my best to feed her appetite for sex and keep her satisfied so that she would have no reason to cheat. She was a great girlfriend. She was smart, kind and very attractive, and I felt lucky to be with her. She was also a good student and we often studied together; we were even in some of the same classes. I tried to put Jackie under my wing and teach her about life. She was so innocent that I almost felt like I was her father. I had experienced so much at such an early age and I wanted to share my wisdom with her. I think that was one of the things that Jackie was really attracted to; she told me no one ever talked to her the way I did. I really opened up to Jackie and told her things I had never told anyone else before. She was a great listener and offered her support and encouragement and always told me that everything happens for a reason when I would tell her of the struggles I had endured. She told me that she believed in me and she knew I could do anything I put my mind to. She helped me to become a less angry person and accept things the way they were. She also helped me financially, helping me buy some of the things I needed, because I received no support, financially, emotionally or otherwise from my family once I got to UMass. Before I left for college various family members made promises how they were going to help me but no one ever did. I was alone and on my own once I got to UMass, left there to fend for myself. It was like they didn’t even care that I was in college trying to make something of myself and needed their help and support. But at least I had Jackie. She was there for me when my family wasn’t. I fell in love with Jackie and planned to marry her one day.

Jackie never had any urges to experiment with anything despite my regular drug use, until one weekend when I took her to Boston. We stayed at my best friend Dru’s house. I had bought a half ounce of weed from my cousin and we also had a lot of alcohol there. When Jackie said she wanted to drink that night, at first I didn’t want her to. But she insisted that she could handle it and she was grown so I said “OK, but don’t drink too much!” Jackie ended up getting wasted. She drank some beers and a couple shots of rum and spent most of the night crawling on the floor and alternating between laughing and crying. But she must have liked it because the next day she said she was going to try weed. Sure enough the next night she smoked weed with us and got “blasted” as we used to say, and she was off and running from that point on. That weekend I felt like my behaviors and habits had changed this once innocent suburban girl to a big city bad girl. There was some guilt there but I figured she would have done it anyway, if not with me then with someone else. However I now felt that it was my duty to protect Jackie.

When we got back to UMass after that weekend Jackie started smoking weed with me every day. I hung out a lot with Nine and Matt and she would come along. She became part of the crew. We had a lot of fun that first semester, and I was really enjoying the college life. Despite our constant partying and weed smoking, we both managed to at least keep our grades decent, and did fairly well on our final exams. When it was time to leave for winter break it was hard on both of us. Jackie and I had been together every day for the past three months, so being so far apart wasn’t going to be easy. But we decided to remain a couple during this time and not mess with anyone else while we were apart. We would talk every day and resume our relationship when we got back to UMass. We stuck by our promise to remain monogamous and we talked for hours every day. I think that’s what kept our relationship strong. But I missed her so much and couldn’t wait to get back to school.

We came back to school in late January, 1994. When I got to the campus I went to get the keys to my room. But there had been some kind of mix-up after last semester with my housing and they told me I didn’t have a room. They said to find someone to stay with for the weekend and go to the housing office on Monday. So I looked up some of my old friends and through them found out where Jackie was. When I first saw Jackie it was like a warm sensation filled my body. We both just stood there at first, looking into each other’s eyes, then hugged and kissed passionately. I told her about my housing situation and she said I could stay with her over the weekend. Our relationship had not lost any of its spark and we just picked up where we had left off. On Monday I went to the housing office and found out that my best friend Nine had an empty bed in his room, so I took it. When I told Nine we were going to be roommates he just let out this big “YYYEEEAAAHHH!!!” We were jumping around and hugging each other. We were so happy and excited.

In my second semester I started slacking on my school work and partying more. I went to class most of the time but sometimes I was so hung over from the night before that I would just sleep all day. My relationship with Jackie also started to change. I started to not trust her because so many guys were hitting on her every day and we weren’t together all the time like last semester. It just didn’t feel the same anymore. All that magic from the first semester was gone. I started smoking weed heavily and it got to a point that my whole day consisted of finding someone who had weed, going and buying the weed, and going home to smoke the weed; I didn’t care about anything else.

Before spring break Jackie and I broke up. We got into a huge fight because while I was in her room, some guy called there. When I asked her who that was, she tried to lie about it and said it was an old friend. I knew she was lying, and feared she had been cheating on me. So we started arguing, yelling and screaming at each other like we both had lost our mind. It hurt me to know Jackie had been lying to me this whole time, and I wanted to end it before I got hurt anymore. So after yelling at each other for several minutes, I finally said, “It’s over between us!” and walked out of her room. A few days later it was time to leave for vacation. I took the long Greyhound bus ride back to Boston, and spent my vacation crying and hurting inside, because I blamed our break-up on myself. I felt like if I had done things differently, she probably would never have cheated on me. I also felt guilty about introducing Jackie to drugs and alcohol, and believed that I had messed up her life. When I got back to UMass after spring break Jackie wasn’t there and I never saw her again. I heard rumors that she had gotten pregnant and had moved down south with her new boyfriend, but I never knew what really happened. After that I didn’t even want to be at UMass anymore. I had fallen too far behind in my studies, lost the love of my life, and had ruined a chance to get a free education because of my irresponsible and reckless behavior. With an academic scholarship, you have to maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to continue to receive scholarship money. I knew there was no way I was getting a 2.5 GPA that semester. Some of my friends who were on scholarships were leaving too. They had also fallen victim to the party lifestyle, neglected their studies, and were in danger of losing their scholarship; Nine was one of them. I started feeling really lonely being up there by myself. I really started to miss my family and wanted to be home with them. On April 15, 1994 I withdrew from the college. I left UMass and moved back home with my mother in Allston, and started looking for a job. My college life was over, but I planned to take a break from school and maybe go back in a year or two. I felt like I had a lot of growing up to do, but I was young and had plenty of time to get it together and eventually go back to school. Little did I know what was about to happen to my strongest asset, my mind…

 


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