I am not writing this book to tell my story, I am writing it to save lives.
I could barely get out of bed, my limbs were so heavy. I was compulsively picking at my fingers until they were bloody, burning, and painful. I was showing up for my life without really being there, dragging myself through every day. The idea of getting in the car to drive for 90 minutes to Boston in order to see a therapist—I had seen so many over the years—was overwhelming. I longed to sleep and never wake up, but I was too scared of what eternal hell might lay on the other side of suicide.
My friend Annette volunteered to drive. We arrived at Dr. Perlman’s office at 4:00 p.m. I immediately regretted being there. Stacks of books and piles of papers littered the floor. There was barely a place to sit. Dr. Perlman sat opposite us with his computer screen and Blackberry lit up. How could this guy think straight in a mess like this? He’s a slob and he’s distracted, I thought. He’s not even paying attention.
At six feet four inches, Dr. Perlman himself towered over us. He had silver hair, a trim beard, clear blue eyes, and tortoiseshell glasses. The only thing I liked about him was the silver hair. Maybe he had some experience.
He began his intake with a series of pointed, clear questions. All of a sudden I wasn’t repeating the story I had told a thousand times before to a blank-faced medical professional. Instead, I was answering questions no one had ever asked me before. That 30-minute session would be the one that saved my life.
I am a successful, Ivy League-educated business trainer with corporate clients all over the world. I have a husband who adores me, two teens on the cusp of becoming adults, and a spacious, welcoming home on 10 acres of land in Western Massachusetts. People who have worked with me know me as an energetic, progressive-minded, forward-thinking, spiritually grounded visionary who is the founder and co-leader of WeTheChange, a movement of over 400 badass women CEOs of purpose-driven companies. What they don’t know is that at age 21, as a 4.0 Brown University student headed to medical school, I experienced my first major clinical depression and brain breakdown. I’ve kept the fact that I have suffered for most of my life from mental illness hidden. Until now.
Bipolar Disorder affects over 60 million people worldwide. There are international medical journals dedicated to it, non-profit organizations supporting people who have it, and hundreds of thousands of therapists and other mental health professionals treating people who have it with talk therapy, medication, and other healing practices.
But I am not Bipolar. I am Bipolar II. I was not successfully diagnosed as such until I was 46 years old, 25 years after that first collapse. Knowing the difference between Bipolar and Bipolar II is a matter of life and death. I didn’t write BrainStorm to tell my story. I wrote BrainStorm to save lives.
A memoir that contains several important appendices as well as practical information throughout, this book describes my journey from sickness to health, from mental incapacity to mental wellness, from the brink of suicide to a vibrant, productive, and happy life. BrainStorm is one woman’s journey from devastation to health, offering hope, understanding, and a solution to those who suffer with Bipolar II and their loved ones. You can survive, you can thrive. There is a path to healing. BrainStorm also provides essential, life-saving information to mental health practitioners of all kinds, who have consistently misdiagnosed and thus unintentionally harmed their Bipolar II patients.
This disease almost killed me. Now that I am living fully with it well managed through multiple strategies, I am passionate about helping people who are suffering from depression and mental illness. Like Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Vintage, 1996), it is my hope that BrainStorm will be a lifeline for people suffering from any kind of depression, especially Bipolar II. And Show them there is a path to healing.