Except for being personally diagnosed, every aspect of my life is touched by people with bipolar disorder. From friends, to family, to my students, it seems like this disorder is more common than most people would think. Many years ago, before it was well known, a close friend’s mother was diagnosed with it. Her symptoms were severe. When my friend’s sister and nine-year-old son also received the diagnosis, I tried to learn as much as I could about it from her. One thing that always stayed with me was that she said, “Imagine that the rest of the world is crazy and you are the only normal one.”
This was what she felt her family members were experiencing. I always tried to keep this in mind when working with my students who are bipolar. Reading Derek Thompson’s memoir, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’ve Lost My Damn Mind: A Manic’s Mood Chart, about dealing with this disorder was truly a blessing for me because I feel it will help me deal more effectively with my students who have this diagnosis. The more I can understand about what it is like to experience this, the more effective support that I can provide to them. Providing the proper support can help have a huge impact on them completing their educational goals.
Organized in blog entries, Derek tells his personal story by organizing the symptoms into sections rather than chronologically. I felt this idea was incredibly creative and seemed to help the book flow better. I would have expected it to seem disjointed, but since each entry stands alone, it was actually very helpful to do this in this manner. Organized as a mood chart, he breaks the book down into three sections with differing levels of severity which are reflected by colors of the rainbow. The first section covers depressed, then normal and finally elevated (manic).
I really admired the author for writing in a manner than included a great deal of both insight and humor. Readers will find themselves captivated by his experiences and the fact that he is able to maintain a sense of humor about all that has happened to him. The amount of personal information he shares is also extremely helpful because I felt that by sharing everything, even the embarrassing experiences, will help others relate to him, and in turn gain a greater understanding of the experience of being bipolar.
I also think that Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’ve Lost My Damn Mind will help remove some of the stigma associated with being bipolar. Obviously, it isn’t an easy mental health condition to have to live with; however, reading Derek’s story will help people who don’t have it understand that the ones who do are human beings who deserve compassion and respect for having to ride the rollercoaster they are on. I highly recommend this book for people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and for those who deal with those who have it, including both professionals and loved ones. Derek Thompson’s memoir has had a huge impact on my life, and I really appreciate his willingness to put it all out there.
(Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views)