My sister has bi-polar disorder, which used to be called manic depression. It didn’t manifest itself until she was in her early 20s, specifically one weekend when she was with me in Seattle. Her usual shy and quiet demeanor was taken over by a personality that didn’t need sleep or food, one who thought nothing of buying expensive jewelry using a closed checking account or convincing a car salesman to let her “test drive” a car by herself, which she then drove 100 miles. I called her husband and our father, who drove down from Vancouver, helped me find her and wrestled her into the back of Dad’s car, she literally kicking and screaming. I was scared out of my mind with worry and fear, fear for her and also for myself – was this what was in store for me? She’s been on lithium ever since, more than 20 years, with a brief interlude during her pregnancy 16 years ago, which landed her back in the psych ward right before and after the birth of her son.
I also suffer from both anxiety and depression, but the swing from one to the other isn’t quick and my anxiety doesn’t have manic tendencies. Regardless, mental illness is something I’ve been dealing with my whole life, first vicariously through my mother and now with my own issues. I’ve done a lot of research but most of the writing is so dull I can’t take much of it, so I’ve been enjoying the book Halfway House by Katharine Noel, which tells the story of a teenager who literally goes off the deep end (to the bottom of a pool), and is diagnosed as bi-polar. The story is told from her perspective as well as those of her parents and brother, I’d recommend it.
The last book I read was called Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. This is without a doubt the least linear book I’ve ever read, and although it was frustrating at times to my ordered mind, I appreciate how difficult it is to come up with a method of story-telling that is unique, and the imagery is incomparable.
Here is the first “chapter” in its entirety (if you’ll forgive the indulgence):
Hush, mother says. Madeleine is sleeping. She is so beautiful when she sleeps, I do not want to wake her.
The small sisters and brothers creep about the bed, their gestures of silence becoming magnified and languorous, fingers floating to pursed lips, tip toes rising and descending as if weightless. Circling about her bed, their frantic activity slows; they are like tiny insects suspended in sap, kicking dreamily before they crystallize into amber. Together they inhale softly and the room fills with one endless exhalation of breath: Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.
From there the book goes back and forth between Madeleine's dreams and how the family deals with a member in perpetual sleep.
As I mentioned in my last post, typing with just the index finger on my left hand has hampered my ability not just to type, but to think, it seems. I’ve been depressed on and off, frustrated at how long it is taking for my finger to heal and anxious that I still can’t bend the joint. As with all things, you never know the true value of something until you no longer have it (or the use of it, in this case).
I still have two pieces of good news to share, but they will have to wait for another day, I have to go see Miss now.