(QUestions from readers)
Who’s your favorite bipolar celebrity of all time?
- D.K., Texas
Dear D. K.,
Assuming we’re talking about “known” and “diagnosed” bipolar celebrities, that’s an easy one: the late, great Carrie Fisher. I loved her wit, warmth, and wisdom, particularly around her disorder.
As for my favorite celebrity bipolar, that would have to be the incomparable Kay Redfield Jamison, author of Touched with Fire, An Unquiet Mind, and others. Any Bipolar I person my age who says otherwise is not worth her s̶a̶l̶t̶ lithium.
What’s the most amusing question you’ve been asked about your experience with mental illness?
Jen S., Boston
There have been many, but my favorite was asked about a year ago at a happy hour. I had just begun sharing my story more publicly and decided to “test” it on four co-worker friends. Given the remoteness in time of my manic episode, I was not too worried about discussing it; what really concerned me was that my history of shock treatment might cause people to doubt my intellectual ability.
There was silence as the last words sank in. Then came the question: “So, were you already smart before you had the shock treatment?” This was fantastic! Far from thinking it had dulled me, someone actually thought shock treatment might have given me an edge! And who’s to say that it didn’t?
I still laugh when I think about that moment.
Aside from taking medication, what is the biggest change you have made in your daily life to avoid relapse?
Recovering in Reno
By far my biggest focus has been getting enough sleep. Shakespeare called sleep the “balm of hurt minds,” and, as usual, he wasn’t wrong. Prior to my manic episode in college, I was the queen of the all-nighter. Most of my best English papers were fueled by midnight oil.
In the months following my diagnosis, every medical professional I talked to emphasized the importance of sleep. Having experienced many hypomanic late-night lifts, I had no reason to doubt them. In the years since, I have also felt how lack of sleep can also fray nerves, driving anxiety and depression. I have been amazed at its incredible power to reset me.
There have been challenging, sleep-deprived moments in my law career, particularly during the early firm days, and I have worked to shape my lifestyle to accommodate my need for sleep (and sanity). I still may have an occasional late night out with friends, but I am careful to “catch up” on my sleep when I do. It’s a small price to pay for sanity.