Pre- Hospitalization #1:
I never knew the word “hipster” before moving to New York. It confused the shit out of me. When I moved to NYC at the ripe age of 18, I had the art kid style: skinny jeans, skinny genes, fun ironic T’s, and the usual high tops. I was just another hip little art student in New York City. My future was pre-determined in my head: I’d get through Parsons the School for Fashion Boot Camp, get my polished piece of paper, and soon thereafter, my fame would skyrocket. I wasn’t alone having these dreams. Plenty of people at that school which functions dually as a reality show set think they are the next big thing. I thought I was the most driven, had the most potential, and the ingenuity to pull it all off.
Things went real well during the first month. I was making friends. People knew me. Many liked me. I had a diverse and expansive group of friends, found a boyfriend that I got close to, and was on top of my game. Seasons began to change; homework began to pile. Even for the simplest assignments, I’d stay up- drawing, sketching, or building.
There was, of course one flaw: Johnny, the suitemate that dually functioned as a drug dealer. It was both convenient and annoying. I strongly disliked him from the beginning- walking around in his Grateful Dead track jackets and constantly blurting, “I got the haze, man.” Then there was Maxwell: the suitemate I grew fond of soon after meeting. He was a dapper guy in his Members Only jacket, though I doubt he’d still sport this hipster staple, it was him that taught me how to be hip. Can’t forget about Alex… the roommate. I had known Alex prior because we lived together during the pre-college program, which feels like a lifetime ago. I was lucky to have him. He was the epitome of a Fashion Dinosaur. Now he’s a member of the post- Parsons Mafia. I’m sure he’s doing great things in the fashion industry. We were so different in so many ways. So there we were: two homos and two breeders in a suite in Loeb Hall, the New School dorm on the corner of 12th and 3rd. Though to this day I remember being immediately drawn to Maxwell, a nine according to Numerology. Nine is the only all-good. I call it the magnet, in that nines tend to draw others in.
Maxwell and I hit it off. He introduced me to some cool cats, like Rena, from his hometown of San Francisco (or the surrounding Bay area- whether or not it was the city proper is not important to me). We’d blaze in Tompkins Square Park. We’d all get burritos. A lot of bonding happened in the suite. I recall fashioning a “doob tube”, a paper towel roll stuffed with dryer sheets that you’d blow pot smoke into and out the window in order to avoid getting ‘written up’ for smoking in the dormitory. We named her Debby, Debby the Doob Tube.
My best childhood friend was in New York as well, but I only saw her when she came to visit me in the hospital when a spider bit me in the night in Loeb Hall. Living in NYC would have been harder to adjust without Elspeth close by. The spider bite threw me for a loop right before the first day of class, but I bounced back.
I met my boyfriend at Parsons standing in line to get our IDs. I glanced at him, nodded in acknowledgement, and he smiled. That day I poked him on Facebook. Soon after, he poked back. Was it love at first poke? To this day I don’t know if it was ever love, but it’s the closest I’ve ever been. When I say his name, my heart skips a beat. It’s music to my ears… Juan. It may or may not have been love, but there was more lust than either of us could handle.
The first week of class all of the Studio Foundation students at Parsons went on a boat cruise around Manhattan. Juan was wearing a light grey V-neck and maroon booty shorts, which he later admitted, “I wore these for you,” as we started making out in my dorm after the cruise. We grew close and he had a strong community of folk that moved from Miami to NYC like he. I was quickly introduced to them. Juan, his Miami friends, and I went out on the weekends.
When Juan took me to my first Brooklyn party, in Williamsburg right by McCarran Park no less, I was bombarded by these people… the way everyone dressed seemed to say, “Look. This is what I wear.” I didn’t get it: is this what a hipster is, and if so, what’s the problem?
My community was building. I was adjusting nicely to the city. That short month or so was the best of my life. Good friends, amazing sex, and productivity. I was living the life. Maybe I was too high all of the time. Maybe I shouldn’t have given all my Ritalin to Rena. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried so tirelessly. I should have given myself a break and gone to bed. Perhaps the spider bite threw me off. Maybe I fucked myself up when I did foxy right as the summer ended.
The pages of my once- blank, spiral-bound sketchbook began fill with to mid-tone pencil marks. I kept close track of assignments for classes, sketches, doodles, and notes for class. I used post-it notes to keep track of assignments. The post-its were put up on the back of my dorm door and taken down as assignments were said and done.
Three weeks into the semester, the efforts took a toll, work got harder and harder. Monday’s assignments came in and I was tired. By Tuesday, I was beyond at the point where you are so tired that everything is just a bit silly. Organic inspiration of living in the ‘center of the universe’ flowed freely through my veins. I was struck by an epiphany: my new aspiration was much more specific than starting my own line. That was too simple, too done. I began thinking about starting an eco-friendly clothing store with a grassroots element integrated into the infrastructure of the brand. Parsons cracked the work whip and I begged for more. People started to commend me for my work ethic. Making conversation, many complained about the workload. I’d rebuttal by saying it wasn’t enough. Everything I learned that week fed into the grand epiphany. I was working harder than I was taking care of myself.
Wednesday came and I began to have scattered and tangential thinking. On Wednesday, I walked into a bodega right next to Loeb Hall to get cigarettes and saw TV reporters talking about Busch’s reaction to Iran possibly having weapons of mass destruction. At that point, the war in Iraq was well underway. Being in the college bubble, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening in the media. Was the US was going into war with Iran as well? I immediately called my sister, who confirmed that we were not at war with Iran, and she seemed concerned. I was unsure why she seemed so worried. I got over the thought of war and didn’t realize then that soon after the conversation I had with my sister, she called my mother, crying, saying that she thought I was becoming manic. I spoke of feeling more aware of myself, in that I was feeling “self-actualized”, a term that I learned in high school psychology. My brother is also Bipolar, so at this point my family and I have seen a mind degraded to mania…
I began to calm myself down with pot. I wasn’t sleeping so marijuana served as a way to give the mind a rest from the scattered thinking. I smoked every chance I got, despite my crazy schedule. It calmed me down, it was very social and, at the time, being with people was so much more glamorous.
Thursday came, and that’s when I began to make false connections. Come Thursday, we had to sit in a lecture for Lab class. I was intensely interested in every word that the lecturers said, recording almost every major point in my sketchbook filling its virginal whiteness page after page. Two Fashion-wannabes were chatting behind me, and having a heightened sense of sound, I turned and hushed them at every word as if quieting a child. After awhile I was fed up, and wrote them a note, filling a whole page in my sketchbook saying, “SAVE GIGGLE/LAUGH TIME FOR LATER, I WANT TO HEAR… K? U GUYS ARE FASHION DINOSAURS,” and held it behind my head as to say: “Don’t fuck with me” and “Shut the FUCK up”. It was my first step in taking over the concrete jungle by making the Fashion Dinosaurs extinct. Fashion is a cutthroat industry, and I was ready to exterminate the Fashion Dinosaurs: those rich, Parsons fashionistas that think their shit’s glam. It was a simple plan, but some might call it delusional or grandiose. I figured everyone at Parsons wants to be the next Marc Jacobs, but I wanted to be the next Charles Darwin.
Meanwhile, the lecture wrapped up… but I had a simple question for the “green” architect lecturer. I raised my hand. Nobody called on me. I was the only person in the auditorium with my hand raised, though. I raised it higher. I stood up and raised it. Finally, a professor told me to go up to the stage and ask the question myself as the students were beginning to head out of the class. I went up intending to ask the architect a question, and it ended in an argument. I wanted to ask something like, “If global warming happens in full, what will architects do about the rise in sea levels? Will we build large walls around major port cities? Will we raise our cities upwards?” He didn’t understand my question, as I had a hard time vocalizing it. His tone was condescending. I got angry. I wanted to know the answer to my question (and still do to this day) but after about a minute or two of miscommunication, he finally said the likes of, “Oh, no, I don’t know anything about that.” This conversation really got me going. Was I the first to ask this question? Could I single-handedly solve global warming?
Juan met me outside of the auditorium, venting. He seemed uninterested. Maybe he, too, was confused. When I explained my question to the architect and the response, he said, “Maybe you’re the first to think of that.” That took me back and more so when he said, “You’re really smart”. The events of that week just pushed my ego further and further into cloud nine. Thursday went on, and I somewhat consciously noticed my speech became increasingly pressured and rapid. I invited Juan over to do homework in the studio space of Loeb Hall, and I couldn’t shut up. I chivalrously offered to carry his portfolio, he refused and I insisted, adamantly. Bringing things up into conversation, when asked to repeat what I said, probably because I was talking faster and less relevantly than usual, I couldn’t remember what I had just said.
That night, I logged into Facebook. I saw pictures of Elspeth’s new college friends and them going out to clubs with their fake hair and faker tits, and thought that coming into my own, I’d need to cut her out of my life in order to be successful in New York. Why is she becoming such a fake-ass party girl? She once was “hip”, whatever that means, but was SHE a ‘hipster’? Was I? Should I axe Els in order to be hip-er? It bothered me so much. Depression cued in when I was bringing this inner conflict up to acquaintances outside of Loeb. I couldn’t control my emotions. I cried for a false feeling all over the busy streets of Manhattan. People consoled me, telling me to let her know how I felt. I did.
By Friday around midnight, my Twin Towers fell. My mind’s eye saw Elspeth in the way of my master plan of being the fittest to survive on the gridded island. I called Elspeth, crying, saying: “One of us has changed, and for the sake of our friendship, you need to meet me” and “There’s either weird [stuff like my brother] going on, OR… I can see all my dreams coming true before my eyes and I have complete control over it.”
Mind you, I was in the middle of a drawing assignment. So far into the drawing that I didn’t think I had time to eat. I was munching on Captain Crunch and an energy drink from Duane Reade. We met in Union Square Park. I was wearing slippers instead of shoes. I hadn’t been showering. I met her in the dog park and asked over the phone that she turn around, and when she did I requested that we discuss her deceased mother. She too began to cry and said, “Yes. I still haven’t gotten over it.” I showed her a scribble in the first page sketchbook among other thoughts I had jotted down when a post-it note wasn’t available, saying that my goal in life was to be like how “[Her mother] was to [our town] to the NYC Fashion industry.” Her mother was a philanthropist, second mother, and a true nine, if I have ever known one. We talked to her about how everything in my life to this point has been a controlled experiment and that my childhood has fully prepared me for this moment. At this point my thoughts were moving at a mile a minute. I told her, “You’re a Capri [cigarette] Girl” and threw her Camel Lights across the park then handed her a pack of Capris I bought prior to meeting her. Nothing made sense to the viewer but to me it was all too clear.
I asked Elspeth to spend the night with me at the dormitory. She kindly accepted, but was confused about what exactly was going on. I took her up to my suite and I discussed my childhood and how everything in my life to this point has prepared me for Parsons. In my head, it was like having another part of the self, available to discuss the recent turn of events. She was drunk. To this day I wish she wasn’t and that she could have told me straight that I wasn’t making sense. She came down to the studio space to sit with me as I finished the drawing homework. She encouraged me to call it quits, to stop developing the composition further, to go to bed. She puked in a trash barrel in the laundry room and as she did, I still couldn’t stop talking. She passed out on the studio table as I completed my drawing just in time for class. She suggested I take the day off. I told her the Parsons attendance policy is too intense to allot a day so early in the semester to skip class.
She asked for clothes to wear for her class, and in my manic mess I thought she was asking for a persona makeover. In reality, she just wanted to change out of her party clothes from the night before. I sent her off, and I went to class. Walking to class, I felt chosen. Thinking to cut Elspeth out of my life was like the fall of the Twin Towers. I saw my dreams exploding from grandeur into a pit of confusion. It was a sleepless, hazy set of regrets. What can I say? I was manic. I made the false connection that perhaps the 9/11 attacks somehow correlated to the date I thought Els ought to be oust. After all, September 22nd divided by two friends equals 9/11. Math, the internet, coincidence, and human behavior all tied into the episode. I felt completely nine. I felt like the world’s first “organic hipster”. I felt like God.
The truth is, mania feels good. It’s like an uncontrollable flood of inspiration, a major hard-on, and social elevation all in one. You don’t realize what’s happening, but don’t care. Mania is total elation. Everything you do is connected to something else. As an artist, I make everything a performance when manic. All things are coincidence, and everything is divine.
Class was terrible that day. I had the hardest time focusing and I asked to leave early. The professor let me under the condition that I do the homework to turn in for the following class. I jotted it down in my sketchbook and dashed to the dining hall to shove pizza down my throat… the first actual meal since starting my homework the day before. After Johnny and I got into an argument, I took Maxwell into my room and told him that my room was “backstage” and that everything I did outside of my room was going to be a front. He seemed to understand a little.
I saw different cities and regions attracting a certain type of people, and thus, a trait, and therefore a number according to Numerology. I thought Boston, where I come from is like the two: peaceful, smart, and polite. New York City, like nine: natural attracts the attractive. Once I knew a person’s “numbers” I felt as though I could predict their interaction with others and circumstances. It was a sort of numerical Darwinism that I began to call “Bio-Numerology”. I related each number to an animal, and thus, a prominent gene. I saw the concrete jungle in a completely different light. I told Maxwell and Rena this, and they were taken back. It both made sense and didn’t at the same time. I tried to tie in nature vs. nurture and the human genome project.
In my plan to rid of the Fashion Dinosaurs, I had to have my universe- my suite, at a perfect balance. Johnny needed to go. I became fixated on my attempts to rid Johnny from our space. It was a crucial step in my master plan.
I kept track of my thought process via post-it notes educating those around me what was going through my head and writing nasty notes to Johnny, the undesirable suitemate. The post-its quickly took over the entire suite. I even picked some out of the trash that someone, probably Johnny, had thrown away. Many were mostly geared toward getting him out of the room. Some illustrated my thoughts on the destruction of climate change.
That night, I intended to get some rest. I may or may not have tried, but I know I didn’t succeed. I recall yelling out the window to noisy passer-bys that I was trying to rest. The city was buzzing. There was no way I could sleep in the city that doesn’t. I called Juan over the phone saying that I needed to have sex with him in order to fall asleep. After staying in the dorm that night smoking with whoever provided and would listen to my ramblings. I went to bed at 4am, after sketching for an hour, and woke up at 9 or 10, in a jolt, as if my mind were saying I didn’t need the sleep. I walked over to Alex, waking him up saying, “A thick, Black Sharpie will solve our Johnny problem.” As if Johnny was the actual problem, granted he did threaten to psychically hurt me numerous times. Alex said, “…Don’t go crazy.” Time stopped at that moment. I took two steps back and stared at him in disbelief. Is this what was happening?
I took a Sharpie and wrote on the Resident Advisor’s dry erase board “Johnny sells drugs out of his room.” Then I crossed out “Johnny” and wrote my name, as I had earlier been giving out my Ritalin instead of taking it as prescribed. It was all a good idea in my head. I knocked on the door and talked to the RA, showing her the board. She seemed concerned.
The Resident Advisor did what she had to do, taking me into her office and calling a second RA. Soon, I was on the phone with the director of Health Services. I hung up the phone, and explained to the RAs that I felt as though I was talking to my mother. I tired to convince them and surreptitiously myself that the problem was Johnny- not me. I vomited false concerns about fear that he’d soon kill himself, being the least popular suitemate. I told them that he reminded me of my brother. In trying to project my image of Johnny onto him as a neurotic fool, I dug myself deeper into denial.
Bursting into the door of the RA office came the director of Student Wellness. She told me that my parents were concerned. I told her there was no reason. My speech was an appropriate rate and tone. Having slept for a few hours, I kept my cool. They took me to my suite and talked to Maxwell about what was going on. He said that there was just tension between Johnny and I and that the past week it had been getting worse. They made note of my post-its and seemed to be putting the pieces together: I was the one scribbling on posters around the dorm, writing prophesies about global warming.
Soon thereafter, I was told to meet the director of Wellness in the courtyard, or “Moondeck” as we called it. She told me about how some people have a hard time adjusting to living in New York, and I admitted that I was and how I wanted to change my name from Matthew to Darwin. She said that name changing is “One way some people adjust to living in New York.” The meeting ended, I called my mother, and finally burst into tears admitting that I missed my dog. She encouraged me to come home.
Elspeth met me at Loeb to take me to the Chinatown bus back home to Boston. She promised that we’d smoke a blunt with a mutual friend, who happens to be a nine, upon arriving in town and that we could sit together on the bus. Once we arrived in Chinatown, I was extremely over-stimulated. Everything moved so fast and the crowds were overwhelming. I became increasingly agitated talking to Elspeth and she would have to repeat herself again and again. She began to ask me what I had just said, and I felt as though I was being tested. I withdrew one hundred dollars from the ATM, and called my parents telling them that it’d cost them that amount in order for me to come home, even though the bus is merely fifteen bucks. I said, “100 is just a number, right?” I recall trying to buy an apple from the fruit stand on the way to the bus and tried to pay with a debit card, saying, “PAPER! PAPER! PAPER!” I tried to explain to Elspeth how paper currency would soon be obsolete because of deforestation and global warming. Els tried to calm me down but it was beyond the point of control. I bought a one-dollar hot dog with one of the twenties I got from the ATM and told the man, “Keep the change” in a mumbling voice. He asked if he could really keep such a generous tip and I responded by saying “YOU ARE THE FUTURE! Get a DEBIT CARD MACHINE!”
Elspeth told me to hurry because we were going to be late for the bus and responded by moving my body in robotic motions, while arguing. Before getting my ticket, Juan called. He asked what was going on to which I responded, “I can’t really explain… but just want to say I love you… and I will talk to you… tomorrow.” Consciously knowing something was up, I hung up before giving him a chance to respond. This was the first time I had ever used the word ‘love’ in our relationship. To this day I know not what he would have said to respond.
I paid twice the amount needed for a bus ticket and took off in one of the buses that had one seat left. I sat down next to someone studying some sort of mathematic graphs. I told him that there was an easier way of doing that, to which he brushed off by laughing. I quickly asked the student next to me if I could sit alone, to which he responded by saying the bus was full. As the ride progressed, I called friends from home and NYC alike, telling them how precisely I felt about them in my grandiose tone. Those four to six hours on the bus felt like an eternity, but I kept busy, making graphs and jotting down notes in my sketchbook. I jotted down the most important thing I have ever written as the sketchbook was filing and blank pages were dwindling. It read, “The Origin of Wardrobe by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Clothing in the Struggle for Fashion.” That note would soon evolve into the name of my brand. It was clever, but to me it was genius. Next, I came up with my theory about “Bio-Numerology”. In my sketchbook, as if Einstein were coming up with his Theory of Relativity, I wrote, “IF numbers are a product of evolution via the human race and numbers, lines, letters, and sounds that humans create ‘make sense’, THEN… Numbers themselves can predict our own interaction as human beings.”
I spent the remainder of the bus ride pondering and refining the theory in my head, passing the sleeping student scraps of paper from my sketchbook. My sketchbook illustrates how changing my name to Darwin would “reverse the magnet” that was pulling me back to Boston and I could truly achieve my dreams. I can imagine how uncomfortable my neighbor must have felt. The bus pulled in to South Station, I wrote him a note saying, “Thanks for sitting next to me,” and drew a fish with legs to represent evolution. I did it: I had my theory that could save the world. My store idea was as good as gold. My universe was balanced, life was perfect… or beyond such a state into a realm of nirvana.
I met my parents outside the station and time suddenly seemed to drag on. I realized my voice was different talking to them. It was slow, and words were carefully chosen. They asked how I was feeling and I told them I wouldn’t answer any questions about my mental health “Until tomorrow.”
The next day my father drove me to McLean Hospital. There I was until the thoughts stopped racing. During my time there I was tied to the bed, in locked door seclusion, and meds injected into my ass. If I could go back in time, I would start Parsons all over with the knowledge that I am Bipolar. Life would have been so much easier with that simple diagnostic label. Some months later, I realized I was just some hipster living in New York.