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When You’re Bipolar, It’s Better to Give Than to Receive

By: Conor Bezane

I still make mixtapes. They may be on CD, but, to me, they will always be mixtapes. Music is my higher power in AA and even though I don’t go to very many meetings anymore, music still plays a pivotal, necessary role in my recovery — for my dual diagnosis of bipolar and addiction.

My recovery is emboldened by music. Every day, I listen intently to music for two hours or more, kind of like a means of meditation. I do nothing else but sit and listen, focusing on the music.

My music runs the gamut. When I’m feeling chill, I listen to the cool sound of Thelonious Monk or Billie Holiday. When I’m peppy, it’s classic punk bands like NOFX and The Misfits. Indie rock fills the void as I groove to the sound of bands like Bright Eyes and The Mountain Goats. And when it’s time to relax and get ready for bed, it’s Beethoven’s piano concertos. I’ve got music for every mood.

And I love sharing that music with others.

As a bipolar man, sharing a gift with someone is a special feeling. Since some people think we are, in a sense, “damaged goods,” it’s an opportunity to right the ship and prove we are wholehearted, and authentic. We who are bipolar tend to go above and beyond, and it feels great.

I especially like making mixtapes for my 9-year-old nephew. I gave him my old iPod Touch since I do most of my listening on my phone now. I think of a theme and meticulously select the best songs that fit the theme. Then I listen, and listen again, and relisten, organizing the mix to ensure everything flows together.

The latest mix I have him was inspired by a question he asked me: “What is punk rock?” I used to be a punk rocker in high school, so this was a fun mix to make. I edited out the naughty words.

Even though almost no one listens to CDs anymore, I load the mixes on his iPod and hope the CDs will become artifacts or mementos from his childhood.

I use Pixelmator (an alternative to Photoshop) and make album covers on glossy photo paper. And I seal them in shiny blank CD jewel cases with the tracklisting on the back. It takes me hours to complete this process from inception to finish, but I enjoy doing it more than almost anything.

Giving the gift of music fills me with glee. I’d much rather make a homemade CD for someone rather than purchase something from, say, a department store. It’s sincere and from the heart. And since I am a sensitive soul – like many of my bipolar counterparts — it is an act of kindness that is necessary for my being. And as an added bonus, I get to listen to the mixes myself.

For Christmas last year, I made a mix of unconventional X-mas music that most haven’t heard, and I sent it off along with Christmas cards to all my friends and family. I, like many of my bipolar comrades, am a perfectionist. So of course I took it to the next level, taking my sweet time picking fonts, shooting and editing photos that were perfect for the CD. I wanted to give out something tangible yet lovable. And I think my recipients enjoyed the end result.

My sister, Colleen, and I grew up in the age of ‘80s new wave, so a few months ago I dug out a Halloween photo from 1985 of her dressed as a glam rocker, which I scanned and stuck on the cover of the new-wave mix I gave her for Christmas 

My fellow bipolar-addict friend Erin is also someone who relishes in acts of kindness. She is one of the most selfless people I know. 

For my birthday, she knitted me a winter hat in my favorite colors, purple and green. She’s always giving me adult coloring books and colored pencils and pens, because she knows I like to color while sitting in front of my lightbox, which helps my seasonal affective disorder. She also gives me souvenirs from her travels. And Erin is my only friend who without fail picks me up in her car before we go out.

See? Overachiever. Bipolar to a T.

Erin is the proud owner of Splishin’ Crafts, an online boutique you can find on etsy.com. She crochets hats and scarves and creates delicious homemade fudge of many stripes: milk chocolate, dark chocolate raspberry, mint chocolate, pumpkin, banana walnut, salted caramel, and peanut butter cup.

For my six-year anniversary of sobriety earlier this month, she gave me a heart-shaped box of my favorite, mint chocolate.

Erin baked me banana bread earlier this winter “just because,” and also since she knows I like it without nuts. And, of course, Erin didn’t forget the cream cheese frosting — icing on the proverbial cake of kindness.

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