Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mood Swing

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.


  1. Donna-
    Thanks for the reviews. I've been looking for some good summer reading, and these two sound pretty good.

    I recently "discovered" a new author. I'm going to write about him on my blog today.

  2. Even though they are small joints they can take a while to heal, based on my own experience only.

    You've peaked my interest in the Bynum book, but it will have to wait until I finish my new book club's selection for this month...Freakonomics :I

  3. i'd love to read these 2 books. although i am not bipolar i sometimes suffer from abrupt highs and lows. The highs are not manic and the lows are not seriously depressive, but they annoy me nevertheless. thanks donna!

  4. Hi Donna, Depression and anxiety are something I have struggled with for most of my adult life. It isnt easy.The roller coaster of 'Mood Swings' are enough of a challenge, I cant imagine dealing with full blown bi-polar disorder. I hope your sister is doing better now.Your reviews of these books sound so very intriguing. I'll look for them in my local book shop. I need to know more about this. I've been wanting to make up a summer reading list. Thanks for commenting about Teddy, your reminder about the unpredictability of abused animals was timely and helped me take a deep breath and start over. T-T (as we call him) seems to have gotten over the incident very quickly. I dont even think he knew it was me in that moment of panic....I think I might be the one who has to relearn trust.... Things have settled into business as usual and my wound is almost entirely healed. Hope your finger is healing likewise. Joints take longer to heal especially when ligaments and tendons are involved. Go slow and rest . Perhaps you will invent a whole new method of four fingered typing? As for being interviewed... Yegads.. Okay. Do it. I offer myself upon the altar of... whatever. :)
    Take care, Hummingbird. Xoxox

  5. I have a friend who was raised by a bi-polar mother who was and is out of control. My friend spent most of her life being afraid she would turn out just like her mother.

    She was diagnosed several years ago as bi-polar and it's taken years to get her dossages right on her medications. But she isn't now or ever was anything like her mother. She is a neat lady and I'm proud to call her my friend.

    Even with mental illness we have choices. We can wallow in them like my friend's mother and make the illness be responsible for who we are. Or we can be like my friend and do everything we can to see that the illness doesn't rule our lives.

  6. I have friends who are bi-polar and know what a wild ride that can be - a challenge for all concerned! Glad your sister is doing better these days. Thanks for the book recommendations. Hope all is well with you - sorry I haven't visited in a while, as have been preoccupied with too many guests and deadlines. xo

  7. I wish you wellness and peace (and good news!)