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Bipolar Disorder Explained: Author Tells Her Story

By Matthew Kiernan / News Editor

Estimated to affect five million Americans, bipolar disorder is impacting many lives in many ways.

Lizzie Simon, author of “Detour- My Bipolar Trip in 4-D”, came to Torp Theatre last Wednesday to discuss her life growing up with bipolar disorder and advise people on how to treat it while promoting her book.

“If it’s left untreated, it can be really destructive,” said Simon. She said that the media misconstrues what bipolar disorder effects are and that the stigma of bipolar disorder lives within the individual.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness, which organized the event, was praised by Simon as being something all families and students could use as something to learn more about bipolar disorder as well as other disorders and find ways to treat them.

After treating a mental illness, Simon advised that people continue working with others to keep themselves positive and healthy. She said that if she could have it her way, she’d have it so that insurance companies provide insurance for mental therapy and said that it’s just as important as other aspects of a person’s health.

Simon had members of the audience come up onto the stage to read excerpts of her book “Detour”, which described times in her life when bipolar disorder had negative effects on how she functioned in what would seem to most people as normal aspects of life.

“I didn’t ever imagine that I’d be disabled,” she said.

She found that as she grew up, she became successful while attending Columbia University and later going on to work with MTV and HBO on shows about bipolar disorder. “I had been a powerless teenager and suddenly was consulting these major media organizations.”

She spoke about her life as a youth – suffering through bouts of mania and depression, going through high school, but believing that she hated it like every other normal student and ultimately pushing her mental illness aside to become successful while she attended college in New York City.

At 17 years old, Simon had been writing about suicide and was sent to a therapist by her family, even though she explained that they had been loving and very supportive. After lying to the therapist to avoid seeing them, she was taken to a doctor where she was misdiagnosed with depression and was given the wrong medicine.

Simon described her years surviving most of high school and a trip to Paris that followed. She explained how her disorder was interfering with her life as she detailed a night when she thought she was a cat and the Central Intelligence Agency was chasing after her.

Simon went to Paris to finish her senior year of high school where she thought she could put memories of suffering from bipolar disorder in the past.

She said that throughout her life she was in destructive relationships that weren’t healthy for her. To make up for suffering from bipolar disorder, she would achieve greatly in other areas in her life such as academics.

“Making the most of your mind is your life’s work,” said Simon.

NAMI has a support group at CCSU that meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Blue and White room in the Student Center. The group meets to share stories with each other and have others to relate to who may have a mental illness or know someone who does.

As advice to families, Simon advised that families see therapists and said that she sees it as an important step in treating a family member with a mental disorder. She said that family members need therapy in dealing with mental disorders as well as the person suffering from it.