I’ve been obsessing for a while about all things bipolar. I know it, and those close to me know it, and if you’re a regular reader of “Birth of a New Brain”, you know it too! I have always believed in the adage “moderation in all things”, but I haven’t been able to incorporate that wisdom into my own life lately. Case in point? My nine-year-old daughter’s perspective.
Avi cuddled with me at bedtime last night. She read her favorite book The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories by the Sisters of Georgetown Cupcake by Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis Lamontagne. I snuggled beside her and read one of my many bipolar books on my Kindle. She looked at the Kindle screen and said with a rather intimidating tone of authority, “Mom, you’re reading too much about bipolar. That’s all you read. You need to read about something else!” I knew in my heart she had a good point. Why am I this way? Well, the fact that I’m working on my book about bipolar has something to do with it. I like to case out my competition by checking out new publications on Amazon. I’m also always on the search for bipolar-themed books that will inspire me and help my recovery process, which is a lifelong job.
I’ll be honest – there are a lot of bizarre books about bipolar being published nowadays. I’m entertained by seeing the endless array of themes that come up. Some book covers have been particularly eye-catching, such as one that features an S&M-style photograph which has nothing to do with bipolar disorder as far as I can tell. I’ll leave it at that, since I try to keep this a PG-rated blog.
In a previous post I wrote about “B.D.” which is my term for before diagnosis. B.D. consists of days when I didn’t read a single tome about bipolar. B.D., for me, was when the word “bipolar” was practically unheard of and manic depression, my preferred term, was used instead. I read tons of books as a teen and I became a literature major at U.C. Santa Cruz, but I didn’t pick up one book about mental illness during my four years of school. I took an eclectic mix of classes at the university, and unofficially minored in film production.
As a teenager in Los Angeles I loved going to the movies in Westwood, and losing myself in another world. I daydreamed about a film production career and I interned for the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. During that internship, I participated in an itsy-bitsy, amateur film shoot which was anything but glamorous. I felt I would have been a great film director or casting agent, but I never pursued my dream to work in film.
Over the years since I graduated from college I’ve had phases when I’ve gone to many movies during my non-depressed times. I’ve also enjoyed a fair amount of couch surfing while glued to various television series. Nowadays both feature films and T.V. series, when well done, really take me out of my bipolar obsession and that’s no small feat. These visual mediums give me a break from what one of my closest friends and I refer to as “looping” about bipolar. I find that if I take a complete break from bipolar-related material, I can return to reading about it or writing about it in a more refreshed and circumspect way.
Recently there have been three television series that I’ve been captivated by, and I want to share them here with you. I don’t know your personal tastes, but chances are good that one of these three series will appeal to you! I have a medical drama, a thriller, and a historical drama. (Sorry no comedy today, although “Californication” was a big favorite that I’ll save for another post.)
In the medical drama category there is “Nurse Jackie” starring Edie Falco – it is so well done, I don’t know where to start, exactly. It has a top-notch premise, cast, direction, pretty much everything. Edie Falco plays Jackie Peyton, a highly respected, longtime nurse who becomes addicted to drugs. I don’t want to give out any spoilers here (I hate spoilers!) but I’ve been riveted by the five seasons I’ve seen so far. I highly recommend that you watch the first episode and take it from there. (For the record, I never watched “ER”, but I did get hooked on “Private Practice” and I was known to watch a few seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy”.) And now on to the thriller. I noticed lots of buzz about the Jane Campion-created miniseries “Top of the Lake”, but its plot involving an abused twelve-year-old girl really freaked me out. (I’m the mother of two young girls…) However, one day on impulse I ordered the disc from Netflix and I decided to give it a try. Those of you who’ve read my earlier blog posts know I have a love for all things New Zealand, and that I hung out on the very beach where Campion filmed her acclaimed movie “The Piano”. I haven’t watched all of Campion’s work, but I was curious about “Top of the Lake”. Apart from the plot, I knew it starred Elizabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) and Holly Hunter (“The Piano”), two actresses I respect from “Mad Men” and “The Piano” respectively. This is a realllllly disturbing miniseries! It won all sorts of awards and I can see why. I watched all seven episodes in one weekend. Filmed and set in New Zealand, the drama follows a detective (Moss) investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. It contains WAY graphic violence and rape themes, plus vivid sexual scenes, so please do not watch this show if you are sensitive to such topics. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to watch it, but I did view it without having nightmares afterwards. I found the series fascinating, especially Scottish actor Peter Mullan’s spine-tingling performance. The luminous, unforgettable New Zealand landscape plays its own unique and powerful role. Best of all, the “b” word (bipolar) didn’t come up once, although more than a few of the characters obviously suffer with assorted mental illnesses. Then there’s the BBC period drama series “Call the Midwife” which takes place in late 1950’s London and is based on the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth. It stars a bunch of talented British actors I’ve never heard of, and the first episode is narrated by Vanessa Redgrave. The series has gotten rave reviews. One of many raves is from the Washington Post: “the cast is marvelous, the gritty, post-war set pieces are meticulously recreated”. This show is also graphic, especially when women in labor are shown, but since I’ve had two children I was interested in how the 1950’s midwives handled their cases. I’ve only watched the first episode, but I am hooked and luckily there are three seasons in store for me. Again, the “b” word is missing from the story lines so far, and I hope it stays that way. (Thanks to my friend S. for the recommendation!)
What do you do that keeps you from fixating on bipolar and “takes you away”?
I’m always looking for inspiration!
As always, big thanks for reading,