Bipolar Disorder–From Diagnosis to Recovery

Why A Mom & Son Tell Their Story

Walks on the Margins: A Story of Bipolar Illness

(Available here)

The day I realized my son, Max, had bipolar disorder, he’d called at 5 a.m. and told me to turn on the television.  The truth was in the programming, he said. A new world was emerging.  Holding out hope that the world really had shifted and not Max, I turned on the TV.  But I knew the idyllic family I discovered on a Leave it to Beaver rerun didn’t reflected the new world of which Max had spoken.  Max was diagnosed with Bipolar I that afternoon.  He was twenty and a junior at a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Iowa.

Since that morning, I’ve spent hours on psychiatric units from Colorado to Philadelphia because I’ve never wanted Max to feel alone in his illness.  I listened as words tumbled from my son’s manic being.  I dug his ruined poems froKathy and Maxm the trash where he’d tossed them in disgust.  For me, Max’s verse was a reminder of his promise and one of many souvenirs through the maze of bipolar disorder. I’ve sat with other patients too, whom I’ve come to treasure like characters in a novel—a patient who asked me to his senior prom and called me Ruthie; a tattoo-covered drug dealer who depended on the cinnamon gum he knew I always carried in my pocket.

And Max? He wandered the streets, always seeking something intangible and unknown.  Of his illness he writes, “She was the promise, the one that could never be made good.  But a promise so great that its very mirage crippled even the strongest of wills.”   He returned to school the next semester, embarrassed by his failed prophesies and discomforted by the suspicious glance of friends.  And of depression he writes: “Quick was the rant of suicidal ideation to snuff out any lingering hope for a normal life.  The question of how to end it turned into minute-by-minute thinking. I awoke disgraced, morning, noon, or night, Monday or Friday, the same lingering taste at the tip of my dry tongue, like a name whose thought made my mind blank.”

In Walks on the Margins, A Story of Bipolar Illness, Max and I write about what it means to suffer from mental WalksMarginsfinalcover_177x261illness.  Though reliving the years of confusion and fear was difficult, the writing helped us make sense of the chaos.  We’ve tried to tell an honest though often painful story that ends with the understanding that mental illness is for life but that redemption and recovery are possible.  We hope that others with mental illness and their families will find comfort in the book and will realize they aren’t as alone as they may think.  We also hope that by putting a face on mental illness, we have succeeded in breaking down the barriers of stigma and made human and understandable an illness that so many fear.

Walks on the Margins isn’t just our story.  It’s the story of thousands of others who have mental illness and of the families who love them.

The book is available on Amazon.


Bipolar Disorder–From Diagnosis to Recovery — 5 Comments

  1. I am deeply touched by K. Brandt’s love for her son and for humanity in sharing her life as a mother and bringing to awareness the challenges of their illness. I have not as yet read her book, but the brief introduction points to deep disclosure of her personal life’s experiences. As a psychotherapist, I am only too aware of the profound need for support of the significant ones for the patient if some of the illnesses are to be managed effectively. I look forward to reading her book and gaining insights about their journey towards mental well-being.

    • Thank you so much, Joe! The book was a difficult journey for both me and my son, Max — often painful but ultimately rewarding. I believe we need to tell our stories in order to support others, raise awareness, and promote understanding about mental illness.

      You’re so right about the importance of support from family and friends for those who have mental illness. Without that support I believe the odds of ending up in jail and homeless increase exponentially. I’ve become very involved in NAMI because it educates, supports, and empowers families so they have the strength and resources they need and know how to take care of themselves as they support their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives, and husbands who struggle.

      • well, when mine first started, it was when my gran died. i felt like i wasnt real, notihng around me was real and so low and miserable. and slightly crazy.i have had it again recently as i had a still born baby boy and this time round have had thoughts of killing myself, how ever i am still here and fighting it (as well as anxiety).the best tip is to keep ure self busy, go out when ure feeling really low, be with friends who make u feel good, do things u like. you will find that stuff u used to like will not be as appealling as me if u want will try to help u more x Was this answer helpful?

  2. Such a moving struggle. Your story is one that should be shared and you are brave to do it. I hope you continue to write and I’m sure this will help to reach out to others. All the best Diana

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