Artist Ellen Forney started seeing a therapist because she was feeling blue but when she became “jazzed,” her therapist referred her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. Ellen resisted medication at first because,
Along with my romantic preconceptions about what being a crazy artist meant . . . were my terrified preconception about what being a medicated artist meant.
In other words, she was afraid she would lose her creativity if she tamed her disorder. She consoled herself by reading about other authors and artists who probably suffered from bipolar disorder or major depression and considered herself in good company. Once her therapist educated her of the risks of the disorder, such as possible suicide, Ellen decided to try medication. Treating bipolar disorder is not that easy, though – it took a while to find the correct balance of medications and treatments to successfully treat Ellen.
I love memoirs and enjoy graphic memoirs as a change of pace, so when I saw Vasilly’s review of Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, by Ellen Forney, I knew I wanted to read it, and I’m so glad I did. Treatment certainly hasn’t quashed Forney’s creativity because this book is well written and beautifully illustrated.
Finding the right balance of treatments wasn’t easy for Forney and it’s something she’ll have to work on the rest of her life. I admire her openness and honesty in this book – she bares all, literally and figuratively, and it’s not always pretty. Because of her disorder, she participated in some risky behavior and she shares it all with her readers. (If things like that offend you, this may not be the book for you.) I learned so much about bipolar disorder and how it affects those who suffer from it and think I understand it better after reading her account. The saddest part is that being properly treated can costs thousands of dollars a month, and I’m sure there are many people who go untreated because they can’t afford it. Forney said her insurance doesn’t cover mental health care but she was lucky to have her mother’s support.
If you or someone you know suffers from bipolar disorder, Marbles is a must read. I’m sure it will bring comfort and encouragement to many people.