Polishing the Facets of Life with Bipolar is a memoir by E.M. Sebree about learning to live with bipolar disorder.
Like many people bipolar, she was first diagnosed with depression, which was triggered by sexual abuse. While she was still in high school she became manic, and she shares the psychotic symptoms she experienced and her subsequent hospitalization.
I thought she provided a great illustration of the totally illogical logic that mental illness can produce, writing:
I also remember being hot then cold and being told that I was bipolar. In my mind they had told me that I was a polar bear, which made sense because I linked it to being so cold and wanting to sleep all the time.
The book covers issues around identity. She talks about core characteristics of herself being present even when she was very ill, but also about a feeling of losing her identity and trying desperately to remain the same person as she once was.
Another piece of the story that really showed the mental illness experience was secretly stopping her med, relapsing, and being hospitalized again.
Despite this happening when she was in college, she graduated with a social work degree and went on to get her master’s degree.
At one her jobs: “I had told two of the higher-ups and I will never forget how their eyes popped and their mouths dropped simultaneously. It took everything that I had not to erupt as they questioned whether the clients triggered my own emotions and issues.” I’ve also experienced firsthand these kinds of negative attitudes from professionals who should know better, and it annoys me that it should have to be like this.
The author explores the idea of needing someone who is “strong enough” to love her, and touches on concerns about having kids with a serious illness and medications that would need to be stopped. She also writes about how difficult it is when fellow Christians equate her illness with a lack of faith.
One of my favourite lines from the book was:
Chaos is my homeostasis
It’s how I regulate emotion
At the end of the book, she writes about what she has gained from her illness. She also addresses the idea that “I am not my disorder”, saying “I AM bipolar in every sense of the word.”
I thought this book was well done. It’s relatively short for a memoir, and I thought the author did a great job of capturing the key pieces without getting bogged down in extra detail. This approach makes it very readable, even for people (like me) whose concentration isn’t so great. I’d say it would be a good read both for people living with mental illnesses and for people who are curious to learn more about bipolar disorder.
Polishing the Facets of Life with Bipolar is available on Amazon (affiliate link).