This is the final part of a chapter (a short one) that I eliminated from my upcoming book, Bipolar Depression Unplugged: A Survivor Speaks Out. The reason it's "out" is because when I started writing my memoir 14 years ago, there were very few books about bipolar disorder so people could relate to my experience. But times have changed and as we all know, there are dozens (albeit still very few that provide hope, I might add.) Some names have been changed for reasons of privacy.
"Uh, how can I help you?" he asked in such a quiet voice that I could barely hear him.
"I’m interested in buying the best books you have on manic depression," I said, sighing. I was becoming so fatigued that I had to force myself to talk. "Can you make some recommendations?"
"No, uh, I can’t," Virgil said. "The bipolar buyer, well, um, she's not bipolar but she buys the bipolar books, is on vacation."
"Oh," I said with no energy and great sadness. "Is there anyone else who knows this stock?"
He shook his head. "If you leave your phone number at the cash register, she can call you in a few weeks."
A few weeks sounded like eternity. I turned away from Virgil because I could feel the flood gates opening. After I’d taken a handkerchief from my purse and wiped my eyes, I turned back around to find that he was gone.
I guess my fantasy had been to read about people who suffered from depression or manic depression and were otherwise highly functional. But the information I read was discouraging and disheartening.
Of the more than 19 million North Americans who experience a depressive episode each year, I learned that only one out of three get help. There were stories of people who had stayed in bed for years or walked around like zombies. Some common characteristics of the clinically depressed are low self-esteem, helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
I read about people who felt so bad they had to be institutionalized and others who attempted suicide. I learned that untreated depressions can lead to chronic and severe illness; that relatives of people who suffer from clinical depression are two to three times more likely to have depressive episodes themselves.
The good news was that manic-depressives were often considered charming, charismatic, and creative. Famous bipolar writers included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, and Emily Dickinson. Composers like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter were bipolar, and bipolar artists included Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock.
I was relieved to find that more than 2.5 million North Americans suffer from manic depression and that it is treatable. I guess misery loves company. The bad news was that 20 percent of manic-depressives kill themselves.More than 60 percent abuse alcohol and/or drugs, the more untreated episodes a person has, the more difficult it is to treat subsequent ones, and the norm is for patients to see three to four doctors over an eight year period before getting a proper diagnosis.
I closed my last book. By now tears were streaming down my face. I put on my sunglasses and walked out of the bookstore. What a nightmare!