Since Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate was published, readers have asked me if I know about mania from personal experience. The answer is, “yes,” but the novel is not my family’s life story. My experience with mania comes from a close friend who had his first full-blown manic episode in his late thirties. It came as a shock to all of us, but then, as Clare does in the story, his wife and I pieced together examples of what were undoubtedly mini-manias he experienced stretching back to his early twenties.
To make sure that the novel was consistent with what some people experience during a mania, I consulted with psychiatrists and interviewed people who are manic-depressive. After that, gaining more scientific knowledge was pretty much a slog through psychiatric books and articles. I did, however, enjoy reading the autobiographies describing the pain of mania and depression, particularly those of Kay Redfield Jamison (An Unquiet Mind) and Patty Duke (A Brilliant Madness).
It was important to me to describe bipolar disorder in a way that wouldn’t portray people with the illness as dangerous. I had an encounter that showed me how frightened of manic depression people could be. I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles in my new state, waiting for a very long time on my third attempt to get a state license plate. I had brought a yellow tablet and a couple of books about bipolar disorder with me because I knew it would be a while. When I finally was called to the counter, the clerk suggested I take a number and wait at yet one more window. I don’t do well with bureaucracies in the best of times and this was my third attempt to comply with the law, so I protested, raising my voice. Very quickly, a giant security guard was at my side and the DMV manager hustled over to the counter, speaking very softly and slowly while she kept glancing at the book and papers I was holding to my chest. It was only later, after assurances that everything would be just fine and the very large security guard was walking me the door, that I realized that the book facing the manager from the bottom of the stack was titled Coping with Manic Depression.
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Photo by Crystal (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia