Friday, August 20, 2010

Scattershot: My Bipolar Family / a memoir by David Lovelace

"What I knew of the world mutated continually, all a huge metaphor now--broken and heavy and rolling straight toward me." (p. 179)
What if both your parents were certifiable manic-depressives? For David Lovelace, who grew up as the middle of three children born to an artist mother and Presbyterian minister father, this was just the case. It was his mother, Betty Lee, in whom the disease first found a victim. Only then in 1949, as she was first succombing to severe depression and suspended manic episodes, it was delusional schizophrenia which the doctors believed her symptoms most reflected. She would remain in and out of institutions over the next forty years, always on and off medications, unendingly and tragically devastated by the disorder's symptoms. His father's own inclinations of illness began as his erratic behavior over the course of David's young life began spiraling out of control. Continued eccentricities and peculiar (though often funny) habits became increasingly visible to a confused and disturbed David all the way up until David's own diagnosis in 1986, a year when he, his father and younger brother were all likewised committed. Only David's sister, Peggy, was left alone by the disease, her sanity a godsend for the whole family throughout the years.
Much like Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind (B JAMISON) or even Jeannette Walls' more recent work The Glass Castle (362.82092 WALLS), Lovelace meshes the problems of mental illness and dysfunctional family life with endearing, picquant candor, illuminating the world of loved ones affected by mental illness as much as those stricken with the affliction. Despite spending years fleeing his childhood home and his family's seemingly doomed existence, the author reveals that he's come to accept things as they are, optimistic about how life can win out over disease and illness. Lovingly, he reveals each of his family members as an especially unique individual, stating that the clan's mutual creativity and distinct personalities are as much a result of the "family condition" as a product of it. (616.895 LOVELACE)

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