There are two things I don’t talk about much. One – I was captain of my cheerleading squad in high school. And two – I was in a sorority in college. I don’t usually mention either because of the stereotypes conjured up by both. However, I assure you neither fits the bill. I went to a small private high school so cheerleading was less about school spirit than finding any excuse not to have to wear school uniforms on Fridays. And joining a sorority in college was less about sharing make-up and hair tips than finding a way to have more than one female friend. It’s a lot easier to meet guys as a freshman girl than it is to meet other girls. I had an entire pledge class of really cool “I have a lot more guy friends” girls to prove that theory undeniably true.
Anyway, I mention the sorority because it’s where I chose to live sophomore year. And it’s how I chose my roommate. I’ll call her Sue, mostly because that is not her name and partly because I’ve grown somewhat forgiving of Sicklet Sue as the years have passed. Knowing more about manic depression now than I did then, I can look back on Sue’s erratic and disturbing behavior with less contempt and more compassion.
She was a really fun girl when we met. Sexy and sassy and always game for a good time, Sue and I had a blast. We became fast friends and living together seemed like a natural extention of that comraderie. What I didn’t know about Sue at the time was that she suffered from a mental instability that caused inexplicable bouts of sadness or anger that swelled up without warning. I never saw them before we moved in together because she’d hide out when they came on. All I knew was happy Sue. Happy Sue was a blast. Sad Sue hibernated. My mistake was offering to move into the cave.
We didn’t live together for long. If I remember correctly, we separated sometime before Christmas break. Maybe it was even sooner than that. I’d be surprised if you told me we made it through Thanksgiving, come to think of it.
Sue did a lot of storming out of the room for no reason. She imagined conflict and fabricated drama and suffered life-threatening ailments that turned out to be common colds. (I know because I escorted her to the hospital in the middle of the night. She had threatened to ride her bike.) To say she overreacted to everything would be a gross understatement. The final straw came when her dad called my dad. Apparently, my boyfriend was a drug dealer and his daughter was a virgin and her being in the presence of him was destroying her innocence. For the record, neither allegation was true. Not even close on either count.
That’s when I’d had enough of Sue. I went to the powers that be and laid out an ultimatum. Get her help or get me out. Sue refused to take her medication, and we split.
I’ve heard bits and pieces about Sue’s progression over the years. She’s had some professional success from what I can tell. I know nothing of her personal life or her social interaction. But I do know that I tend to soften in my assessment of her as details fade with time. I know a lot more now than I did then. I understand a little better now how difficult it must have been for her to fight the demons in her head, let alone admit they lived there in the first place. I wish she’d been okay opening up, but I do get why she didn’t. Society’s grown a lot since then. I’d like to think so have I.
Part Three – All Shades of Crazy – The NYC experience.