(Editor’s Note: The following story is based on a true incident, but the names have been changed for privacy purposes.)
Awakened by the incessant barking from the dogs outside her bedroom window, Alicia squinted her red, swollen eyes as she strained to look at her alarm clock. Did it say 10 a.m. or was it 11? She noticed that she was fully clothed in the jeans and sweatshirt she had worn the day before when she met with Ms. Peterson, her therapist, to discuss changing her medication for manic depression. After arriving home, she vaguely remembered throwing herself across the bed during one of her crying episodes.
As she rolled over, she glimpsed a pile of papers lying in the corner next to her closet. Today, she thought, would be the day she would sort through that pile–a compilation of bills, receipts, newspaper fliers, and expired coupons. She half-smiled to herself as she tried to understand why she always saved everything. Perhaps it stemmed from her chaotic childhood. She could picture her mother, hands on her hip, with her finger pointed down at her saying,” Alicia, try not to waste anything. Keep everything. You never know when you will need it some day!” Or, perhaps it stemmed from being in and out of foster homes since she was 11 years old and always needing something familiar to hold on to. So, even at 31 years of age, she was still hoarding everything.
Alicia bounded out of bed. As she reached for the doorknob, she saw the outline of her body in the full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door. She couldn’t help but notice that in the four weeks since she moved into her apartment, she managed to put on extra weight. It was evident by the bulges on her hips and thighs. She rationalized that the weight gain was from the new medication her therapist had prescribed, or from the loneliness she felt since she moved from her sister Janet’s home to her own apartment. She reminded herself that she had decided to be independent, she couldn’t live with Janet and her husband forever. It had been two weeks, however, since she had spoken with Janet, and she needed to call her soon.
As Alicia walked to the kitchen, she glanced at the calendar on the wall. Excitedly, she realized that today was October 31–Halloween–and the boys and girls at her apartment complex would be knocking on her door for treats. Hurriedly, she changed her clothes to get to the bank before 3 p.m. so she could get some money to buy candy.
Fondly, she recalled having gone trick-or-treating in her neighborhood as a young girl with her own brothers and sisters. Janet and her mother would diligently sew together sheets, seed bags, or whatever they could find lying around the house to make each of them a special costume. Janet would be responsible for taking all of them. What excitement! What squeals of delight at coming back home, opening up their bags of goodies, searching for their favorite candy bars, and eating as many as they could before mother would take them.
“Why couldn’t I dress up now too?”, she wondered. Remembering that the bank had a sign in the lobby that encouraged anyone to dress up on Halloween to get free candy, Alicia decided to wear a costume. Hurriedly, she searched through her closet and dresser drawers to find something suitable to wear. Nothing! Perhaps she should call Janet after all. Maybe she could give her some ideas. With that thought, Alicia glanced in the direction of the linen closet. As she began looking through its contents, she pulled out a white, king-sized sheet and began making a ghost costume–cutting out two eyes, a nose, and an opening for the mouth.
Within a few minutes, she pulled the sheet over her head, and took out a black belt to wrap around her waist. She placed a black hat on top of her head and looked into the mirror. Smiling, she felt pleased with the way she looked. She slipped on her tennis shoes and telephoned for a taxi. “He will be there in 10 minutes, ma,am,” the voice on the other end said. She hung up and wildly searched for her purse. She had it the night before because she had made out a list and threw it inside. Her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar honking sound outside her door. Frantically, she threw open the door and told the driver to wait just a moment. Trying desperately to remember where she had thrown her purse, she suddenly recalled throwing herself and her purse down the bed after yesterday’s meeting with her therapist. Reaching her hand underneath the bed, she touched a familiar object. She pulled on the handle knew she had found it. There was another honking sound. Jumping to her feet, and being careful not to catch the sheet in the heels of her shoes, she raced toward the door and locked it behind her.
“Where to?” asked the driver.
“I need to go the bank on Maple Street,” she replied.
“No problem,” said the cab driver.
Alicia sat quietly, looking through her purse for her checkbook and list. She broke the silence by asking, “Do you think you could recognize me in this ghost costume?”
Looking through his rear-view mirror, the driver smiled and said, “Since I have never met you before and have never seen your face, I doubt if I would recognize you.” Alicia sat back in her seat and smiled to herself.
As they pulled in front of the bank, the driver said, “Here you are, miss. That will be…” But before he could finish, Alicia asked if he could wait for her as it would only take a few minutes. He agreed to wait since he did not have another rider to pick up and noted that he would keep the meter running.
Inside the bank, Alicia noticed that only two tellers were on duty and no security guard. Two people were waiting in line and a woman was writing out her bank deposit slip at the table. Nervously pacing back and forth, she read the name plate in front of each teller, then headed toward Ms. Cochran’s window.
“What can I help you with today?” asked Ms. Cochran as she smiled at Alicia’s costume.
In a polite manner, Alicia whispered, “I need to ask some questions about withdrawing a large sum of money. Can you help me?”
“You will have to go to Ms. Applegate’s window since she handles large withdrawals,” replied Ms. Cochran. Alicia proceeded to Ms. Applegate’s window and stood in line.
Looking up from her previous transaction, Ms. Applegate asked, “May I help you?” Nervously fumbling through her purse, Alicia pulled out a crumbled piece of paper and handed it to the teller. Silently, Ms. Applegate began reading the note. It said, “I have a bomb. If you don’t hand over your money, I will blow up the bank!”
Hesitating and bewildered, Ms. Applegate looked up at Alicia but proceeded to hand her two stacks of bills with bands around them, while her left hand rested on the silent alarm underneath the table.
Alicia quickly stuffed the money into her purse and ran out the front door. Once inside the cab, Alicia told the driver to take her back to her apartment complex. Tearing off her costume, she stuffed the money into the shopping bag that she had also brought with her.
Curiously, the cab driver asked, “Is everything all right, miss?” Alicia smiled and said, “Everything is just fine now.”
After driving six blocks, the driver began hearing loud sirens. Perhaps there was a fire nearby or an ambulance on its way to a hospital, but his thoughts were interrupted when he saw the blue flashing lights behind his cab. He pulled over to the side of the road to let them pass, but they also stopped–one in front of and one behind his cab. Alicia started crying as the police officers, guns in hand, ran toward the cab. Dragging the stunned cab driver from the front seat, the first police officer began reciting, “You have the right to remain silent…” The second officer opened the back door of the cab where Alicia sat sobbing. Stumbling to her feet, the police officer began reciting, “You have the right to remain silent…” He picked up her purse and shopping bag, pulled out the two stacks of bills and the sheet, then proceeded to police headquarters.
In the meantime, Alicia’s sister, Janet and her husband, John, were just sitting down to dinner.
“John, do you know what tonight is?” asked Janet.
“Huh,” John grunted while continuing to read the evening edition of the newspaper.
“Tonight is Halloween and the children in the neighborhood will be going trick-or-treating,” Janet replied.
“You know, costumes, trick-or-treat, candy, popcorn,” she continued.
John, suddenly aware of what she was saying, peeked his head out from behind the comics. However, before they could continue their conversation, they were interrupted by the sound of the telephone. Startled, Janet jumped from her chair to answer it.
“Hello? Yes, this is Janet Gentry. Officer who?” she asked. “What?” Janet’s voice asked questioningly.
“Who is it?” John asked, looking up from the newspaper.
“I see,” Janet responded again, obviously listening intently to the voice on the other end of the line. “Are you sure this is not a Halloween trick?” she asked. At this remark, John leaped from his chair and hovered over Janet. In a sign language all of his own, he tried asking Janet who it was and what did they want.
Nodding her head up and down and repeating, “Yes, I understand” a number of times, Janet finally said goodbye and hung up the phone.
“What was that all about?” John asked.
As John sat with mouth and eyes opened wide, Janet relayed the details of Alicia’s escapade. That evening as they watched the late news, they saw the videotape of costumed Alicia pacing back and forth inside the bank before the robbery.
The next day, still stunned and in disbelief, Janet searched through the early morning edition of the local newspaper until her eyes finally saw the article entitled, “Ghost’s Trick Yields No Treats.” Sighing, Janet called to tell her mother about Alicia’s latest episode.
Three months after the robbery as Janet sat in the courtroom during her sister’s arraignment, she silently prayed that Alicia would receive a lenient sentence. Alicia pleaded guilty to the charges and was given a six-month prison sentence with ten years’ probation upon release.
Alicia continues to take medication for her bipolar condition, sees her psychologist on a weekly basis, and relies on family members for additional emotional support.
Symptoms and Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder affects millions of American adults each year. It is a mood disorder caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that can result in extreme mood swings from manic highs to manic lows.
Some common symptoms include:
1. Depressed mood most of the day, feeling sad or empty, fearful.
2. Significant loss of interest or pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable.
3. Significant weight loss or weight gain.
4. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
5. Fatigue or loss of energy.
6. Feelings of worthlessness.
7. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions.
8. Thinking about death or suicide.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder:
Many people manage their symptoms, and feeling better often involves a combination of education, medication, and therapy.
Additional information can be found on the SeroquelXR/bipolardisorder website.