For Robin Williams it was comedy. For the members of Broken Light Collective it is photography. Regardless of what it is, everyone needs an outlet. Not just those struggling with illness – everyone needs a healthy way to get our thoughts and problems out of our heads and into something productive. For me it is this blog; I like to get my story out into the universe in hopes that it will help and inspire others. This desire to share my outlook on illness has lead to a curiosity about the stories of others. Or maybe it is the other way around, and the stories inspired me to write. Probably both.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney is an outlet like I’ve never seen before. This graphic memoir is a 250 page comic strip about the author’s struggle with Bipolar Disorder. It is funny, insightful, sad, and magical. Some pages are filled with manic text, swirling around in an almost incoherent manner. Then, in the section about depression, a small figure moves slowly out from under the covers in bed to under the covers on the couch with no verbal commentary at all. Like in Bipolar Disorder itself, both are profoundly powerful. Ellen has created a beautiful graphic of a girl trapped on a merry-go-round to describe different moods more clearly than any description I’ve ever heard from a doctor. Her creativity is astounding and as I made my way through her book I was once again reminded that I am not alone.
Some of the most important tools I have ever found in my journey with Bipolar Disorder are books, specifically memoirs of others who share my illness. Stories that share similar struggles of others make us feel less alone. They create a community of lived experience that we can all learn from and draw from in times of trouble. Whether it is tips to surviving illness, like in Two Bipolar Chicks’ Guide to Survival by Wendy K. Williamson and Honora Rose or heart wrenching stories of hospital stays and psychosis in Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher, each lived experience can contribute to a fuller view of illness itself and how to overcome it.
These three books approach the same illness from wildly different perspectives and each has taught me a great deal about where to find strength. Check them out for very different takes on how others cope, survive, and thrive through chronic illness. The fabulous ladies behind each have certainly found their outlets, and through those outlets they have helped countless others. Now what’s yours going to be?
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com