The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Broken to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
Ronald Reagan was president, the “me generation” and Wall Street traders were king. The imposing buildings and Ivy traditions of Dartmouth sucked the life right out of my soul. And, as if the “demons” only resided in New England, my depression returned with a vengeance. I dropped out of med school within two weeks. I didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t focus on more than a paragraph in an anatomy textbook. My academic discipline evaporated and once again I had no capacity to withhold data. My brain could not make simple calculations. Sentences blurred on the page. I could not absorb new concepts like those in anatomy and physiology. A consummate navigator in Israel, I could barely find my way around campus. The darkness was back. I was petrified.
I spent the rest of my twenties alternating between six months of debilitating depression and six months of relative clarity and energy. I went back to Israel in pursuit of a geographical cure. This worked for a time, prompting me to believe that this was indeed Divine country and I’d been called there. Then the depression hit again when I was living in Tel Aviv and, through the distorted, chronically negative eye of the depressive, I came to the conclusion that that had been a fantasy. I couldn’t feel or remember the gifts from Noam or re-member the majesty of the Red Sea. I wandered the streets of the city without bearing or focus. Feeling completely alone and too far from home, I got on a plane to Boston.
At age twenty-eight I was living in Boston and in full on depression. I had just dropped out of another grad school, this one at Harvard. Some friends who knew I liked to be outdoors learned about a job in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts that seemed to fit my qualifications. I somehow managed to go through with the interview and land the job. Though I was afraid that I would not be able to make it away from friends and family, I figured I had little to lose, as the isolated life of winter in the city only exacerbated my pain. Maybe the “geographical cure” could work again, as it had in Israel. So I moved to the Berkshires.
This proved to be an elixir for my soul—the beauty of the land, the easy access to physical exertion in nature, the yoga practice I learned from my roommate, who studied at the local ashram, the healthy eating I picked up from the abundance of local macrobiotics. This was followed by a move to the University of Massachusetts for grad school, where I landed among a tribe of wonderful kindred spirits—progressive, outdoorsy, warm, loving friends. I lucked into fabulous work in my chosen field—organizational development—with the acknowledged world leader in the work, and through that network, met a guy from Milwaukee named Joe.