Yesterday the Atticus Review published my essay, Book of Proofs. I’m happy and proud to have the essay out in the world. I was asked recently why I choose to write about my mental illness. The fact of my writing about my mental illness is such a fundamental part of me that I rarely think explicitly anymore about why I choose to do it. But the reasons are all still there.
I write about my experiences with bipolar disorder so that other people with mental illness will see a part of themselves reflected in the words. When I was first diagnosed at age 22, I couldn’t find much writing that I related to. It was lonely, isolating. I hope to help people to feel less isolated.
I also write about my experiences with bipolar disorder to educate, to try to instill empathy in those who otherwise don’t have much experience with mental illness. The first time I was hospitalized, I found myself in an emergency room surrounded by people who didn’t treat me like I was a person too. I overheard one doctor say to my then boyfriend that I wouldn’t remember anything that was happening because I was mentally too far gone. Since they believed I wouldn’t remember anything, they didn’t bother to explain to me what was going on, or to say kind words. The experience, to put it mildly, was traumatic. I vowed to write about what I remembered to teach people that even while insane, I was human, and worthy of compassionate care. To teach people that anyone with a mental illness is human, and worthy of compassionate care.
This essay began its life as a series of poems. These poems formed a section of my poetry book which appeared in my MFA dissertation. I tried for years to get the poems published with little success. Eventually, I took out all the line breaks, added some text, cut some text, moved things around, and turned the poems into this essay. I showed it to a writing friend, who was encouraging, and then sat on it for four years. This summer I found the essay in my files, cut the part my friend had suggested I cut, and sent it to the Atticus Review with a promise to myself that I’d send it to many other magazines this fall when submission periods opened. Only, to my great shock and delight, the Atticus Review accepted it. It is published now in their latest issue, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.