A simple place to start is here: we’re sensitive. We feel things hard and fast. We feel things quiet and deep. We feel
things huge and open. We feel things heavy and slow. Sometimes we feel too much and crash to a place where we
don’t feel anything at all; the walls of depression are so strong that they drown out sound and light like the
cinderblocks of a psych ward cell locked up inside our souls. Sometimes we don’t feel anything at all because we’re
so busy talking to angels or spies that we check out of what everyone else calls reality for a while. Sometimes we
don’t remember anything at all because we stepped out of line, got stuck on too many damn tranquilizers, and are
drooling on ourselves in the Quiet Room somewhere. Sometimes we archive every last nanosecond of the world’s
most perfect afternoon in the infrastructure of our brains. Sometimes we feel nothing at all but pain. We’ve got thin
skin. The world creeps under our fingernails and into our dreams.
And where do you go with that? Because the world’s pretty crazy itself these days. Do you pour it into crooked little
paintings and big-voiced songs? Do you drive too fast and scream at people who get in your way? Do you hide with
it in bed or rage with it at work? Do you smother it with a martini or a prescription for Prozac? Do you wear it in a
smile like an electric sunset or in a blank stare like a broken screen?…
… When he told me it seemed like I was probably
Bipolar Type II and started listing off diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV that actually
seemed to describe the patterns of my life, I was grateful. It was a relief, really, to think
that there was a biological basis for all these behavior patterns that had been alternately fantastic and so incredibly
difficult to live with, that had made most people in my life think I was this inspiring, creative, grab-life-by-thehorns
kind of woman who had no idea how to handle herself and ended up being a total wreck as much as she was a
superhero. It was a relief to think that all of this misery was not because I was just weak or difficult, which had been
my familyʼs take all along…
…Because the map they gave me was terrifying. It was something like this: You will take psychiatric
medication for the rest of your life. You will need to see a doctor constantly and always be on the lookout for sideeffects.
We will test your blood and your kidneys and your liver function every 3 months. You must have health
insurance. You will need to live in one place. You must describe your disorder to all your friends and family, and they
will watch over you, and you must trust all of our authority over your own, because you are not trustworthy. You will
go to bed at a reasonable hour and get 8 hours of sleep every night and if you donʼt we will need to put you on more
drugs. You should try to have a steady job, but you might not ever be able to, because this is a serious disability. And
if you donʼt follow these instructions you will be totally out of control and it will just get worse and worse. People
like you are dangerous if left untreated. Donʼt be one of the ones who has to be hospitalized over and over again.
Trust me, Iʼve read the studies and you havenʼt