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Excerpts

Summary

Judy brings together her 20-plus years as a clinical social worker and her 20-20 hindsight regarding her husband Jim's year-long manic episode. Partly a personal account, partly self-help, What Goes Up addresses the manic side of manic-depression, as Judy tells her story of loving, living with, and losing a brilliant but bipolar man. This is the book Judy wishes had been available to her at that time, guidance on how to maintain one's own sanity and strength in the face of such unpredictable and intense behavior.

  • Foreword by Xavier Amador, Ph.D.
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • DSM IV: Manic-Depression Diagnostic Criteria
  • Introduction
  • Song: It's Sobering

From the Introduction

A person who is manic presents his views emphatically and is extremely persuasive in his perspective that it is everyone else, not he, who is acting differently and who is responsible for the chaos.  His mind is sharp, and his perceptions are heightened.

The people who love that person can get heaved off balance.  They need resources for ballast.  During the year that Jim was manic, I searched for people to talk with and books to read to assist me in staying grounded.  I wanted to know how best to deal with him, what to expect, how to hang in, yet not be damaged.  Although there was a lot to read on depression, there was surprisingly little to read about loving someone who is in the midst of a manic episode, especially if the person cannot be hospitalized. 

This book is intended for those who love someone who is in the manic phase of manic-depressive illness.  I hope that what I present will serve as a counterbalance to the persuasive voice of the manic person.  My wish is to help normalize and dilute the feelings of impotence, guilt, confusion, and self-blame that can only weaken a caring person and make that person more susceptible to the impaired reasoning and countless accusations of the person who is manic. 

This is not a how-to book in the usual sense, for I did not know how.  Nor is it a how-not-to book.  Manic-depression is far too individual an illness for that.  I simply want to present my experience, which I hope will help you to continue to trust your own perceptions and stay strong.  You will need your strength. 

While the manic person is flying high, so full, so convincing, so strong, it does not seem possible that he or she will ever crash.  This is especially true if it goes on and on as it did with Jim.  However, eventually the mania will run itself out, and what almost always follows is a deep and dark depression.  This is when the potential for suicide increases dramatically and is also when you will need a great reserve of strength. 

I did not have this reserve.  No one gave me this specific counsel, that how you deal with the person when he is manic sets the stage and influences how you will deal with him when he becomes depressed.  What weakened me and slaughtered my ability to be of much help when Jim eventually, but so quickly, plunged into depression was how confused and ungrounded I had become during the year that he was manic.  The problem over and over again that year was my inability to remain clear and certain that Jim was mentally ill.  Manic-depression is a cycling illness, and Jim was not cycling.  Almost everything I read stated that an untreated manic episode usually lasts four to six months.  As the months wore on, I lost the belief that Jim would ever crash. 

In addition, Jim was incredibly forceful in his argument that he was not mentally ill, an argument supported by all the interesting projects in which he was involved. Over time, I fell more and more into an acceptance of his reality and into a state of doubt about my own perceptions.

I know you love your person, so I would never suggest that you not have hope.  Rather, it is my wish to help you balance hope with reality.  Hope is a good thing.  Love is a good thing.  But with someone who is manic, you will need a special kind of love.

Part I
What Goes Up . . .

Chapter 1: Made in a Laboratory
Chapter 2: Jim's History
Chapter 3: Warning Signs Unheeded
Chapter 4: Suddenly, the Last Summer
Chapter 5: The Summer Ends
Chapter 6: The Bad Year Begins
Chapter 7: Family and Friends
Chapter 8: Codependency or Love?
Chapter 9: Getting Help
Chapter 10: Pulling Apart
Chapter 11: Finally
Chapter 12: Reunion

From Chapter 6: The Bad Year Begins

This next twelve months from August 1996 to August, 1997, I call ¡§The Bad Year.¡¨  I never in a million years thought Jim¡¦s mania would go on that long.  Everything I was reading and everyone I talked to, which included mental health professionals as well as people who were manic-depressive themselves, spoke of untreated mania as lasting three to six months.  But Jim¡¦s mania went on and on. 

After Jim exploded out of our life together on August 24, he traveled for about six weeks visiting family and friends, leaving chaos and shattered relationships in his wake. He stayed very active and on the move.  In the first seven months of The Bad Year, Jim put some 60,000 miles on our truck before it fell apart due to his frenetic driving and lack of attention to maintenance. 

To his credit, over the course of that year, Jim did some good work organizing the Clean Air for Big Bend project for the area near our Texas home, writing long articles and attending meetings.  He also immersed himself in his photography, taking and developing thousands of photographs.  It continually confused me that Jim seemed so productive when he was supposedly mentally ill.  I could not reconcile how he could think so unclearly about me and so clearly about his work.

Anyone suggesting to Jim that he was anything less than fine, even the simplest question, ¡§How are you, Jim?¡¨ would make him harsh and defensive.  With a person who thinks he has the Answers to the Universe, confrontation or the implication that he is not okay are both useless and senseless.

That entire year I spoke of Jim as ¡§different,¡¨ not sick, partly in my determination to stay respectful of him and partly due to my buying into Jim¡¦s own assessment of himself, which led  to my confusion as to whether he was, indeed, actually sick.  His persuasiveness seemed to jam my own sense of what was happening.  I often felt less than fully sane.  Jim¡¦s ability to continue to function despite being so ¡§different¡¨ threatened my reality over and over, eroding my confidence in my judgment and damaging my ability to trust my own perceptions.


Part II
. . . Must Come Down

Song: You're Soaring
Chapter 13: The Beginning of the End
Chapter 14: The End of the Beginning
Chapter 15: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Chapter 16: Recommendations