“Yet why not say what happened?” Sejal Shah uses this line from Robert Lowell in her stunning account of being bipolar, taking medications, dealing with neurodiversity and an invisible disability and the demands put on a faculty member of color in academia. Her essay just came out in KENYON REVIEW online this week and I feel so encouraged in my impulse to finally come out with my own neurodiversity (a term I’ve never embraced). Here’s the conclusion of Sejal Shah’s essay, but it’s all worth reading: “No one has to know your diagnosis—it’s true. But everyone deserves to be seen and known. And to get any support, you have to be willing to say it, claim it. Disclosures of cancer elicit sympathy, gifts of casseroles, rides to the hospital, or other support. Disclose a mental illness and observe the response. Our culture finds mental illness distasteful, unfortunate, a moral failing. Managing a mood disorder is exhausting—a taxing second job. It’s also a job invisible to most people in my work and personal life. Would I rather be neurotypical? Maybe; it would be easier. But would I be me? Who would I be? They say creativity arises in part from brain chemistry. Living with manic depressive illness has shaped me, created the contours of my adult life. I don’t tell everyone, but I am telling more.”
My fractured nonfiction flash “Little Colored Pills” on being bipolar and taking medications is finally out in SWEET: A LITERARY CONFECTION.
I wrote “Little Colored Pills” in a generative workshop on hybrids that Lidia Yuknavitch taught in Silverton, Oregon in fall 2017. We read Carole Maso’s wonderful, experimental The Art Lover in advance of the workshop. During the workshop some amazing free writes about bipolar sisters and mothers by fellow workshop students inspired me to read my freewrite about being bipolar aloud too. This was the next piece I wrote there. I was supposed to read it on the last day, and then there wasn’t time, and I felt so frustrated and silenced. I’m pleased that it’s been published, and in SWEET in particular. If I’m going to get anywhere with THE LUNATICS’ BALL, I need to accept being “out.” Because yes, “why not say what happened?”
I was in SWEET many years ago, back when the amazing writer and founding editor Ira Sukrungruang was accepting submissions. (He wrote me from his phone! He said my two flash were remarkable!). They've published so many creative nonfiction writers I admire profoundly. Just a sampling: Patrick Madden, Renee E. D'Aoust, Sarah Viren, Paul Crenshaw, Karen Babine, Chelsea Biondolillo, the late William Bradley, Karen Craigo, Joey Franklin, Amy Yellin, Melissa Mathewson, Brenda Miller. Until now I haven't managed to get in again, not for lack of trying. So I'm particularly thrilled to have "Little Colored Pills" in this latest issue.