Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney offers a candid look at a period of her life over the course of several years treating her bi-polar disorder.
Forney picks up every rock of her life during that period and shows us the grimy underside. She (literally) draws the merry-go-round ride that describes the mood-swings of manic-depressive, or bi-polar disorder. Her diagnosis was crushing.
Throughout her memoir, she discusses her strongly held stereotype of the “crazy-successful artist”, insisting that all the greats were crazy (and presumably untreated) and if she treats her condition she will ultimately become boring and not creative. She struggles with this idea more after her therapist suggests she has a condition which may require drug treatment. Forney wants to get “better” but insists that she and her art will be negatively affected. This is a common image held by people with mental disorders.
It sounds a bit like, “I am who I am and I want to feel good about myself, but there’s something wrong with me. If I acknowledge that and treat this condition which ultimately contributes to who I am, am I making myself less than myself.”
In Forney’s eyes, her mental disorder is simultaneously a stigma and a badge of honor or a membership card into “The Van Gogh Club”, as she calls it. Thankfully, she had a wonderful support system of friends and family who were able to help her cope with her diagnosis and treatment.
Forney cycled through many drug treatments before (acknowledging that recreational drugs may have been affecting how her body reacted to treatment and) finding the correct doses that balanced her mental state while allowing her to flourish creatively.
Forney was fortunate to know about her mother’s struggles with mental illness and had been seeing a therapist before being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Not everyone has the support they need. If you or someone you know needs help please use the resources listed below or call 911.
Palm Beach County Helplines
Crisis Line – 24 Hr/7 Days a Week 211 or 561-383-1111 (PBC)
Abuse Hotline 800-962-2873
Homeless Helpline 800-493-5902
Mobile Crisis Team 561-383-5777
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255, 800-784-2433