When the book I wrote, “God Placed Her in My Path-Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder,” was finally printed I found myself in shock. I could not help wondering how my story, which was now about to be opened to the entire world, would affect our family. It was a “coming out of the closet” moment for me.
Seeing my experiences written in the book, now placed on my coffee table, made me realize how much prejudice and stigma have surrounded mental illness throughout history. I feared that my account might result in more prejudice and stigma. I worried that I had not characterized my daughter properly and that I might have done injustice to her, her children, and the rest of my family. I wondered if those who personally cope with bipolar disorder might feel misrepresented in the book.
Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” a novel depicting relationships between black women and the white families they served in an era when prejudice and stigma reigned, writes the following: “I was afraid I would fail to describe a relationship that was so intensely influential in my life, so loving, so grossly stereotyped in American history and literature.”
In her book, Stockett quotes a remark made by Howell Raine in his Pulitzer-Prize winning article, “Grady’s Gift.” This is what he writes: “…For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.
Prejudice and stigma about mental illness have caused people to believe lies for centuries. Those belief systems make it impossible for us to sort out our true feelings and actions. I am saddened that there are many who still believe that bad parenting and even demon possession cause brain disorders. It is inconceivable to me that one might believe that any other organ in the body can malfunction and cause sickness, and yet deny that the brain is also capable of malfunction causing mental illness. But, that is the power of prejudice and the stagnation caused by stigma in our society!
As I reflected on these things, I realized it was impossible for me to look at my book objectively while trying to predict the reactions of my diverse readership. At that point, it was much too late to stop the presses. It simply was what it was – my true story, my advice to others, and thirty days worth of reflections to help others get through life with mental illness in their families. Therefore, I saw no other option but to surrender the results of the book to God for whatever He wanted to accomplish through it. Only time would tell.
Through the book, “God Placed her in My Path-Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder,” I hope in some small way to break the prejudice and stigma of mental illness in our society.