On Saturday night I was having dinner with my 85-year-old mother at a neighborhood restaurant. It was early and there were only two other parties at the tables next to us. We began chatting and it turned out that one of the other diners is an actress whose one-woman play will be premiering in October at a small community theater. As a writer, I was thrilled for her. After 14 years, I recently sold my memoir to a London publisher and I couldn't be more delighted.
As mother and I continued eating our meal, I decided that before leaving I would give the actress my name and phone number. I've always dreamed of writing a one-woman play about bipolar disorder although I'm not sure how big an audience I could draw. The problem has always been that while the illness is devastating, I tend to write about it with humor.
Even when I'm terribly depressed, I come up with ideas that amuse me. When I had a bad experience trying to find a support group, I decided I would write a one-act play called Support Group Auditions that I'd pattern after Chorus Line. The reason why is simple. Writing about sadness and despair makes me feel more sad. Poking fun at it has always enabled me to laugh at the absurdity of the situation and more importantly...to survive.
Early on, an "A-list New York publisher" rejected my manuscript because it wasn't sad enough. I was furious. "Norman Cousins wrote about the healing power of laughter in dealing with physical illness," I said to my husband. "Why can't I have the same freedom in writing about mental illness?"
"It's probably because no one feels comfortable with your poking at an illness that causes so much despair," he answered. "Clearly they don't understand that you've suffered more than most."
"I wonder what the criteria is for allowing someone to write about bipolar disorder with humor," I mused aloud. "I think it should be their level of suffering."
We were both stunned by what I'd said but we laughed out loud. Since my suffering has been legion, I figured I can write about this illness however I choose. [to be continued]