Several of my friends and coworkers live with bipolar disorder and I thought that I was pretty knowledgeable about the condition. But after reading Derek Thompson’s book Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I’ve Lost My Damn Mind: A Manic’s Mood Chart I gained an even deeper insight into what it means to live with the illness.
As opposed to being written in a chronological time sequence and instead organized by mood states, the book is actually a series of journal entries and revealing conversations between Thompson, who lives with bipolar disorder, and his therapist.
Through revealing and brutally honest entries, Thompson shares the rollercoaster of his condition through the lens of his mood states. Through this method, the reader is able to dive into the condition with him and gain insight into the experience. Sometimes this is unsettling, but it is always revealing.
Even in the tough times, Thompson maintains a solid sense of humor, which helps temper the seriousness of the subject matter. What was particularly insightful for me were the detailed descriptions of the emergence of a manic mood state. At one point, Thompson is on a train at an airport when a manic episode jolts him, seemingly out of nowhere, into his illness, hijacking his plans and sending him back to recovery. Several times, after launching onto a promising career path, his illness abruptly boomerangs him back to his family home for rest and recovery. And while Thompson is clearly discouraged, he finds a way to resolve and strive for another shot at his dreams. These entries were particularly well written and helped me navigate through my own feelings and confront my own unawareness and judgment to allow a greater understanding to emerge. As I traveled through the rhythm of these paths, empathy and understanding were cultivated, not just for Thompson but for others for whom I care greatly.
I understand better what it may be like for someone who may be moving along through their life, making plans and proceeding with regular ease only to have the rug pulled out from under them by the creep of the darkness of depression or the carnival of mania. And how, at times, unpredictable and out-of-the-blue the mood change can occur as if literally a tornado appeared out of a clear sky to alter the entire landscape.
Thompson is clearly a gifted writer. And although at times the entries became repetitious, the book was well designed and edited so that, in the end, I was left wiser and grateful, feeling better equipped to be the friend, the coworker, the family member to those whom I am proud to call friend—those courageous men and women and children I love who live with bipolar.