It was not until she was in college that Jessica was officially diagnosed with Manic Depression. Her roommates had seen her wandering in her nightgown late at night near their apartment, and noticed that she was not acting like herself. They sought help and, eventually Jessica was put in the hospital, where she was given medication to keep her mind under control. When she came back home to live with my family and me, she seemed sane and most importantly, safe. Taking her medication brought some normalcy into her life. Then, secretly, she stopped taking them.
Jessica said it was the side effects that made her give up her medication, but whatever it was, it began some of the most horrifying few months of the lives of both my sister and everyone she was close to. Off her medication, her health and sanity quickly deteriorated. Jessica began to have trouble talking to and relating to people. She stayed up late nights having conversations with herself, and everyone in her family feared for her safety.
As the days went on, Jessica's actions became even more scary. During the days, she would blast music out of her window thinking that she was "preaching to the world". She began to think that she was Janis Joplin, and would wander around the neighborhood singing to strangers. She held "Inner Child" sales of all of her belongings on the front lawn, but no one would buy. In her room, she heard planes flying overhead to pick her up, and would put signs on her window for the planes to see. At one time, she thought she was a secret servicewoman working for the president. All of these actions may seem strange or even funny, but living through them was incredibly painful, and each day, my family lived in fear that Jessica would hurt herself or someone else. Ultimately, all of the caring words and suggestions given by those who were close to her seemed to be eaten up by her mania; Jessica seemed to be the only person in her world, and only she could know what was happening to her.
Eventually, during one of her late nights walks through the neighborhood, Jessica was pulled over by the police, and was involuntarily put in the hospital where she was forced to take her medication. After a horrifying commitment hearing, Jessica stayed in the hospital until she was well and ready to come home.
Jessica lived at home with my parents as she healed from the trauma of the hospital and her many months of manic episodes. She took her medication and welcomed the love and support of my family as she learned to accept what was going on in her mind. This was not an easy time, and even with the medication, Jessica was often depressed and confused about herself and her illness. She frequently questioned what she had done to deserve the punishment of being mentally ill, and why she had to take drugs the rest of her life just to be "normal" like everyone else. Deep down I think she resented the medications and felt that they were slowly "washing away" her true self. But Jessica also understood that she needed the medication to survive. Without it, she would again lose control of her mind.
Jessica went back to college, and began studying psychology hoping to graduate and become a therapist. She spent time with the family, and made new friends. Best of all, she met and fell in love with her soulmate, April, whom my family agreed was the first partner who truly loved and cared for my sister. Especially now that she had a loving partner, Jessica felt the pull to move on and make her own changes in her life. So after a few years, Jessica did just that. She moved.
It was time. Although Jessica still was not completely used to the realities of the world around her, moving out became the most important goal in her mind. Of course my family and I were worried about whether Jessica could handle living on her own. However, we knew that this independence would give Jessica back some of the much-needed power taken away by the medication which had for so long controlled her life.
All Photographs ©2006-2007 Boris Dolin
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