Monday, April 9, 2007

Life Mirroring Art (Part 1)

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]

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. There are so many downbeat blogs about bipolar disorder. You'd think that no one lives a "normal" life. God bless you!

MaryLou from Austin, Texas

Anonymous said...

You'd think by going online that there are no happily adjusted "bipolar" people in the world. Sure the illness is difficult. Sure it's devastating. Duh? But who wants to read about that side? I'm with you babe!

Sylvia from Long Island

Anonymous said...

Add my vote. Doesn't anyone else with this illness ever laugh?

Mandy from Chicago

Charlie said...

Can I be in your support group? I sing and dance and play the piano. Oh yeah, I also write bad poetry!

Charlie from Minnesota

Annie said...

Well, I don't have bipolar but my grandmother did. And if you'd like my vote, you have it. I think laughter is healing. ;-

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Susan! Thought I'd stop by yours. I posted your link in my blogroll and would love it if you'd post mine as you suggested.

http://thewritepoint.wordpress.com

Blessings,
Annie

marja said...

I have seen a humorous solo performance by someone about living with bipolar and it was hilarious and well received.

Another person who lives in this area is well known for her humorous performances about bipolar disorder. She is doing a great service in educating the public - in a way they enjoy. Her website is www.victoriamaxwell.com. She calls herself Bi-Polar Princess. She's a writer and performer.

Rob Johnson said...

Susan,

I would attend such a performance. You have such wit and humor.

Rob

Wellness Writer said...

Rob,
Another post I'd forgotten, although I often think about writing a bipolar play. Again, thanks for commenting because it reminds me to put this idea on my "to write" list.

Susan