While writing a memoir, I thought can I really reveal that much of myself. It is easier now for me to talk about my own mental health, because it does not define me. I am not bipolar. I am a person living with the chronic condition. The stories I tell of the disease do not betray my privacy in its entirety. This condition of bipolar is no more defining of who I am, than the fact that I have brown hair. The difference is my hair color can be seen and the mental illness must be revealed.
Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis is an unpublished manuscript. I wrote it essentially stream of conscious style in a matter of four months in 2010. I spent the next two years, off and on, revising it and trying to make scenes that came alive through fiction writing techniques. The result was a pretty damn good story. With that in my mind, I started to query big literary agents with the naïve notion they would represent an unknown former journalist.
After a round of defeat, I accepted that I would simply be content having written it; I resolved to consider the process cathartic and that its value was to help in my healing process. I didn’t see it as commercial product that deserved space among bookseller’s shelves — physical and virtual. The manuscript, then 260 pages and 70,000 words, was stored in a two black binders out of sight. As much as I tried to place it out of my mind entirely, it continued to nag at me.
Nearly three years after my episode of psychosis, someone very close to me suffered a serious physical health event. The result was a life sentence of coping with a chronic illness, and I needed to learn how to be a support. The similarities of coming to terms with any chronic illness could not be denied. The isolation and confusion that comes when you are knocked off your pedestal of ignorant normal life is the same regardless of the category of ailment. Support and answers are hard to come by in an accessible way.
The result of my psychiatric inpatient stay was a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which can be treated, but not cured. The result of my loved one was a disease with a different name. We both were left with no choice but unending daily treatment to manage our health in the context of disease impairment. We are both healthy today, because of treatments. Yet the disease persists.
I see my story, not so much as about myself, but about the things that break us and how we heal. I anxiously set out on another round of agent seeking, again without satisfying results, this past spring.
This summer, I rewrote the memoir in its entirety with the reader in mind. The story was no longer part of me; I simply became the narrator to an event that happened. The result is something that is accessible to an audience. With a clearer understanding of the purpose of the work and its place, I sent it to better targeted agents and indie presses representing psychology memoir. I am trying not to check my email excessively waiting for a response.
I am resurrecting my blog returning to its original goal. Words, Crazy Words was inspired as a place to talk about mental health. I chickened out and published other work. Regardless of the result of the publishing world to pick up Stress Fracture, I must find a way to contribute to the discussion of mental illness.
Every illness needs stories. People with mental illness often walk silently afraid to appear crazy. I am more fearful of secrets and vowed to live my life out loud. With prose, I have found a whisper that reveals the tragedy of psychosis in the context of a bipolar illness and the hope that treatment offers. My voice is quiet and capable of telling just one story of a disorder that manifests itself uniquely in each person who is afflicted. I aspire to lucidly reflect on an illness which has crippled my mind and efforts to the point of insanity.