I’ve dealt with depression and a bipolar condition all of my life. When I was younger, I didn’t know what it was. At that point, it just manifested itself as a heavy sadness that would hit about every six months or so and last for about a week. Unfortunately, as I grew older and got knocked about by life every so often — especially when I got hammered through no fault of my own and didn’t see the reason for it — that cycle accelerated and started lasting longer.
During those intervening years, I also pushed my writing hobby (probably cathartic in the beginning) into a full-time career. This meant I was (and still do) living primarily out of my own head. That’s not always a pleasant place to be. Too many nightmares exist there. I’ve learned throughout my life where all the weak points are. When I’m in a downward spiral, I attack myself unmercifully. When I’m in an upward spiral, I can’t sit still.
I started figuring out my own coping mechanism, based on materials and books I’d read, but that was only after I figured out that what I was going through was different than what other people dealt with. My first clues as to what I had to face were given to me by friends that suffered from the same anxieties and pressures. These conditions aren’t easy to deal with for the person who has them - or for the people around them.
When I first read about Terri Cheney’s book, Manic: A Memoir, I immediately wanted to review it. Here was a successful person who admittedly dealt with the same issues I had. I didn’t know how honest she was going to be about those problems.
After reading Cheney’s book in a single sitting (because I was mesmerized at watching a train wreck in motion and thinking how similar our strategies for self-destruction were), I have to admit I couldn’t find a single pulled punch. Cheney lays her life out there for inspection and offers no apologies for it. I have to admit that in a lot of ways, she had it worse than I did. I had kids at an early age and couldn’t allow myself to go full-tilt down some of the dark passageways she explored. My kids were my anchor, though I know this isn’t always the case for everyone.