By Ryan Sloane
With some summer night’s heat so oppressive you don’t want to venture outside, there’s always a great book out there that can make the doldrums of the humidity and stale air just go away.
Such is the case with the biography, “Polarized: Sex, Lies and Family Betrayal,” the story of Joseph DeBlasi, formerly of Staten Island, N.Y., who shares his experiences of being bipolar.
Much of the book depicts how DeBlasi was faced, at a very young age, with having to deal with the highs of mania and the lows of the depression the disease caused — and still does cause to this day. But it’s important to know a little background on DeBlasi before reading the book — and we certainly hope you will give this one a read.
When DeBlasi was a young boy, not even 10, his parents were divorcing. His father, a prominent doctor on Staten Island, decided he didn’t want his soon-to-be ex-wife gaining custody of the boy, so DeBlasi writes of how his dad “kidnapped” him to make sure of it.
DeBlasi was too young to realize much of what was happening, he says in the book, so he went along with his dad’s plan and would live with him for many years. But in the process — and when it came time for a judge to decide the custody issue, DeBlasi writes about how his dad and his lawyer coached him into lying in court about what he’d supposedly witnessed his mom doing.
DeBlasi says his dad and lawyer drilled him incessantly, getting him to say he’d witnessed his mom and her new boyfriend engaging in sexual activity, though in reality, no such thing ever occurred.
In the end, the judge granted DeBlasi’s father full custody, but this was only the beginning.
Unsavory details revealed
As time went on, DeBlasi learned to cope with living with his dad — and then, shortly thereafter, his dad’s second wife.
But in the book, DeBlasi describes, in vivid detail, when his father was away or working in a hospital as a younger doctor, how his stepmother began to force him to have intimate relations with her.
He wasn’t even 13 yet, and DeBlasi’s own stepmother, he writes, forced him into doing the unthinkable. And it lasted for years. But because the statute of limitations had expired, when he finally came to grips with what had happened to him as a young boy, he writes of how he could do nothing to bring his stepmother to justice.
Instead, he and his brother, Kevin, decided to write “Polarized,” with the hopes that others, who might be the victims of sexual abuse and/ or mental illness, would realize they’re not alone.
The manic state
As he grew older, DeBlasi enjoyed life. But when he finally had a chance to leave the nest once and for all — and to go to Rutgers University for undergraduate studies — it all began to unravel, DeBlasi writes.
It was there his mania developed. At first, he had no idea what was wrong. But he knew he was always depressed and he couldn’t get out of bed on numerous occasions. “I wanted to kill myself many times,” DeBlasi said. “I didn’t want to live. “If I had had access to a gun back then there’s no question in my mind I would have killed myself.”
While he did get treatment — he saw psychologists, psychiatrists, counselor, etc. — DeBlasi still suffered from the effects of the mania. Sometimes, medication helped. But not always.
And twice, in 2000, it got really wild.
First, DeBlasi, who had been visiting his mother in South Florida in March 2000, writes about how he decided to visit the New York Mets’ spring training facilities in Florida.
The first day he showed up, he says he demanded a tryout with the team, telling the team’s Vice President of Communications Jay Horowitz that he “had a better arm than Mike Piazza” did. (Some might have agreed with that in 2000.)
When he was told to leave, he obliged — but he came back the very next day, banging on a table with his fists, demanding to get on the field, he says.
But the police were called and they arrested DeBlasi on charges of criminal trespassing. The story was picked up by several New York newspapers and was even discussed on WFAN. And then, he was hauled away to jail, but was able to bail himself out after spending a few hours behind bars.
It was an incredible manic high that he describes in vivid detail in the book.
DeBlasi had also spent a lot of time that year at the New York Jets training camp on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island. He wanted a tryout with the Jets, too, because of a manic episode, but this time, DeBlasi’s brother, Kevin, was able to arrange a “faux tryout” thanks to the Jets’ then vice president of security, Steve Yarnell.
While he was impressive for a non-athlete, DeBlasi writes, he didn’t make the team.
But these were just two examples of many he shares in this book about how a man, once abused by his stepmother, went on to experience some of the most heinous things, much of which he attributes to his mental illness.
DeBlasi and his brother are now on a crusade of sorts to ensure Joe’s story gets out to the masses — and to ensure that anyone who is the victim of sexual abuse and/or who suffers from mental illness knows they’re not alone.
And they want people to know there truly is hope.
DeBlasi is currently doing well — but still has his moments, his brother Kevin says. The mania can come on, unexpectedly, at any time — for an unknown period of time. But for the most part, it’s under control, and he’s living a normal life with a wife and young daughter.
“If one person can take something away from this story, there’s no question we’ve done it all right,” Kevin DeBlasi said. “It’s our hope that people of all walks of life will take time to read the stories Joe shares. Just because a person is mentally ill, or because a person has been abused, it doesn’t mean that person has to eternally suffer.
“Joe is a perfect example of that, as the book will show.”
‘Polarized’ is available on Amazon.com. Visit bit.ly/Polarizedbook to read reviews and/or to purchase it.
Below, listen to the first six chapters of the book. Warning: There is some graphic content.