Sejal A. Shah has posted an interesting personal essay on bipolar disorder in the Kenyon Review Online. While I haven’t experienced the degree of illness described by the author, I’ve had enough of my own mental health challenges in the past decade to recognized many of conditions she describes:
- The exhilaration of mania — There was something frightening in the chaos, beautiful and disturbing. The outlines, “POW!” as though a comic book, a superhero. I did, for a time, feel powerful before crashing. It’s a seductive power, and avoiding this emotional drug comes only from discipline and the experience of repeated failures.
- Becoming a target for predators at your most vulnerable moments — when they sense you are unsteady, ill-equipped, unable to fight back.
- The unrelenting pressure to hide the disorder — Disclosures of cancer elicit sympathy, gifts of casseroles, rides to the hospital, or other support. Disclose a mental illness and observe the response. Our culture finds mental illness distasteful, unfortunate, a moral failing.
I’m still searching to find my own voice in the public discussion about mental illness. I respect those who are already speaking out.