It was my freshman year when I stopped sleeping. Part of it was Kit and her pain. This was before she began waging her war on me, when I was her only solace and she told me everything about her life. I heard about the anorexia and the insomnia. I heard about all of it, and there was nothing I could do about it but watch and hurt for her.
I had a bottle. It was a green glass bottle with a knight’s head on it, and it sat on my book shelf in my room where light from the outside street light could hit it. That bottle was the focus I used when I was trying to sleep. I would stare at it and watch the way the light gleamed around it, casting its green-gray light in every direction. The bottle had been given to me by my grandfather and it helped me sleep. But when Kit grew ragged from lack of sleep, I gave it to her wrapped in black tissue paper.
My insomnia came back, and with it a wild display of mood shifts that could not be controlled. At one moment, I would be flying. My heart racing. My body vibrating. I would know I was unbeatable, uncatchable, and unpredictable. I knew that nothing could stop me and that I was a god. The next moment it seemed I would fall. I would break on the ground and crawl. My only desire was my own death and I would hide from everyone at every turn.
The sleeplessness became more of a problem and I realized I had not slept but seven hours in a week. That’s when I went to my mother. She let me miss school one day and found an outpatient mental health facility in town for me to go. I walked in, and I don’t remember much.
The woman who saw me was a resident still training for her doctorate. She sat me down in a room I don’t remember and asked me questions I can’t recall answering. I remember her hair was long and brown, and her clothes were simple but she was well dressed. Her tone the entire meeting was very calm and she seemed pretty confident when she diagnosed me with what she called manic depressive.
Well, that was the old word for bipolar. When I got home, I told my mother and she exploded. Rose screamed at me that I was not going on pills. I was not going to therapy, that it was all in my mind and I needed to get myself straight.
She asked how a student could be trusted to give a diagnosis anyway. I told her the woman’s notes had been examined by the doctor overseeing her. She asked why they were they asking those kinds of questions anyway when the problem was I wasn’t sleeping. That was what I had been sent for. Why was that not what they treated?
I told her I had been given pills to help me sleep, but I needed to be able to be treated for manic depressive as well. Rose slapped me. She looked panicked. She was irrational at that moment, stomping back and forth in the living room, her head down, fuming.
“You tell no one about this, do you hear me?” She shook her head. Her face was so red. “No one needs to know about this. You can’t be,” she said as she continued to pace. “You just can’t be.” She spun and pointed at me. “You tell no one, especially your uncles. Wrath cannot know. No one can know.
“Go to your room!” she shouted.
I got as far as my door.
“Get back here!”
Back in front of her, I looked at her, seeing her near mad with rage. She started to talk but only slapped me. “Give me those sleeping pills,” she snapped.
I handed her the bottle.
“You can have one tonight when you go to bed. You’re not going to get stuck on a drug. That is how they get ya.” She tipped the bottle and poured out one pill. “You get one. That is all. The rest stay with me.”
Well after her explosion, dinner. After dinner, then I went straight to bed. I took my pill and stared at my ceiling for ten hours.
The next day she gave me two and I dropped. I fell into the deepest sleep I had ever had, and I woke up about 20 hours later.
That was the last I ever talked about my disorder until I started dating Bekah. When I told her she jumped. She had experience with it and she knew she could help me handle my disorder. She said they had changed the name to bipolar, and she would help me for the rest of my life with this part of my life, if I would let her.
In the seventies, there was a movie made by Martin Scorsese that depicted a loner, unstable and dangerous, who wanted to assassinate a presidential candidate. That movie was called Taxi Driver. That movie was based off of a man I will call Thistle.
How do I talk about the man that so many questions have been asked about? How do I talk about the man I will call Thistle and make any sense of him? Let’s talk around it and maybe find some kind of basis to start from. Let’s try to put into words the man who effected the history of America so greatly.
In 2016, the United States elected a man named Donald Trump as president. I will not get into my personal thoughts on the man, but I will say that I think progress has a way of fighting itself. Progress begs for a backlash, and Trump was ours.
We had finally gotten to a point in this nation where a black man could be president. Barack Obama had been elected twice by the public, and he was fought on every step. A black president was a massive step forward in solving the racial problems in this country, and while no one expected him to win, win he did. A lot of racists began to hate everything he did right away. They attacked his policies and his decisions, and there was a movement to stop his movements in every direction.
I remember a man who ran for senator I think, may have been representative, whose entire platform for his race was simple. “I will fight Obama at every turn. I will stop everything the man does and vote against him every time.” And that guy won. He went to the capitol and he made that fight. Never read a bill. All he had to know was if Obama backed it, and if he did, this guy voted against it on principle. What was that principal? The black man wanted it, so no.
After the Civil Rights movement, a similar thing happened. Suddenly the man up for president was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t know his prospects. He was running against Nixon, who everyone hated. I don’t know what policies this candidate was running on, but all knew his affiliations with the Klan, and he was doing well in the polls.
If all progress has a backlash, then this man was the backlash for the Civil Rights. Could he have turned it all back? No one will know. Would he have tried? Well with his ties to the Klan, we can say he had plans to. It looked for a while as if a Klansman was about to be in the Oval Office. Then Thistle.
Now the first thing I did as soon as I found out about this guy was read his autobiography. It is actually a journal that takes us through the weeks before his act of violence and shows us what he was thinking and what he was doing. It is the diary of an unwell, unhinged man, whose only goal was to be famous.
He had failed at everything in his life. He was sheltered and his growth was stunted in every way. He made his way from New York to Canada in search for any opportunity to assassinate Nixon. According to his journal, his first target was “Tricky Dick.” But that fell through. Every chance he had was thwarted, and after one failure after the next, Thistle moved back down the coast and decided his aim would be better spent on the other candidate.
I do not think his act was done for righteous reasons that he kept hidden. I think Thistle really did want to be famous for killing a man, and it did not matter what man that was. But when I read his diary, I learned a few things.
One was that he is, without a doubt, bipolar.
Well, that is a genetic disorder. It can show up in a family when it never has before, but that occurrence is very rare. None of Char’s family or Rose’s family have ever been bipolar. It is just not in the blood.
Thistle is Bramble’s older brother.