depression

Live, On the Road, In the Big Apple

John McManamy Health Guide March 28, 2007
  • I’m in a hotel room off of Times Square in New York. This is one of those Priceline deals that come with a catch. The price is reasonable, but the room is tiny, even by New York standards.

     

    How small is the room? Even the insects have to slouch down and slink sideways. (Rimshot.)

     

    Let me back up a bit.

     

    I have already given two talks to NAMI groups in Connecticut. Most of my NAMI audiences are parents who are very concerned about their kids. They come to listen and learn and their questions to me are very sharp and perceptive. I had excellent turnouts at both venues, and very much enjoyed my conversations with the people there. As a bonus, the organizers are first rate people.

     

    The morning after my last NAMI talk, I rode into New York with Janice and Demitri Papolos, authors of the ground-breaking book, “The Bipolar Child,” which recently entered its third edition. Although Janice is the outgoing one in this dynamic duo, and the one I’m usually conversing with, this time I’m doing practically all my talking with Demitri.

     

    We’re rolling down the Merit Parkway, with me in front, as Dr Papolos in the driver’s seat gives me a private master class on the fine points of temperature regulation in the brain and how it affects sleep (which in turn does a number on mood), not to mention genetics, diagnostics, and novel treatments he is working on.

     

    There is a lot of uninformed discussion out there on early-onset bipolar, but none of it is coming from the Papoloses. All their work is concerned with rigorous examination in both the lab and the real world, and on enlightening and educating clinicians, researchers, educators, parents, and the general public. The misguided fear-mongers who criticize them invariably have proved to be too lazy to talk to parents of bipolar kids, much less read their book.

     

    We pull into a parking garage in the city. A jack hammer inside is going full blast, which forcefully brings an end to our conversation. Ah, New York, New York. Just like that I’m in a super-charged atmosphere, and instantly the three of us peel off in different directions.

     

    After checking into my spacious (by quark standards) hotel room, I head off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a rendezvous with Anne Sheffield. Anne is one of a select handful of people (about two, as I recall) who write on mood disorders from a relationships context. Her book, “Depression Fallout,” is a must for anyone of us in a loving relationship or thinking of entering one (or for that matter, considering bailing out of one).

     

     

    There is a special exhibit at the Met about the art scene in Barcelona at the beginning of the twentieth century that includes Picasso in his early days, plus Miro, Dali, and, of course, Gaudi, not to mention a host of unknowns who deserve to become knowns.

     

    Over some real New York food (bagel and lox for me), Anne poses a question I have difficulty answering. She is working on a manuscript on stigma, and wants to know if, when I’m depressed, I admit to being depressed.

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    I do to my bipolar mafia, of course, but with outsiders it’s different. Out in public, the mask goes on. I only used “the bipolar excuse” once, I tell her, after considerable thought. I had been called for jury duty and had turned up with every intention of serving. But this was to be a five-week trial. My illness, I knew, could not hold up to the demands of sitting still in a corner of a windowless room for that long. I felt a tremendous sense of shame in having to admit this to what turned out to be a very enlightened judge.

     

    My recollection of the event comes as a revelation to me. The stigma of this illness is obviously a lot worse than I thought.

     

    After a short nap, I wake up and take a good long walk. New York is the hypomania capital of the world, and I am sparking off the energy. The temperature, after weeks of bitter cold, is in the seventies, and people are everywhere, in a carnival mood. I only sit down to catch up on email and for dinner, then it’s more walking late into the evening. I love this city.

     

    Today, I head out for a speaking engagement this evening in New Jersey, then down to DC.

     

    This is John McManamy, reporting “live” on the road.