When Mr. Norm told me about the new Graphic Memoir “Marbles” by the cartoonist Ellen Forney, I had to get it right away. This book should be disturbing and sad for me, but it wasn’t. It was more funny than disturbing, especially during her manic stage. I have to say, the depression section was pretty hard to absorb, and it disturbed enough to have a dream about me suffering from depression again that night.

I don’t know if labeling this as my favorite part of the book is correct or not, but I laughed really hard when I read this. There is a part where Ms. Forney confronts her dad and tells him about her diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder. She tells him, so casually “But I’m ok. I’ve got it under control.” She hasn’t hit depression yet at that point. Actually, she was at the height of her manic stage when she had that conversation with her dad. The reason this was so funny to me was, because, that’s exactly what I told Mr. Norm every time he invited me to the weekly bipolar conversation group at the local church. He would say, “Well, you want to come along today?” Then I would tell him, “I got it all under control! Plus, if I do go, I am going to wait until I am hypomanic again. I am more fun then!”

The other day, Mr. Norm and I were talking about the book Marbles again, and we were laughing so hard talking about some very accurate descriptions of being bipolar and her genius sense of humor about it.

“Can you bring me that book? I bought it on my Nook but the screen is so small and it was hard to read it. I just want to take a look at the actual book.”, I asked Mr. Norman when he came into the shop for a coffee. “Are you working tomorrow?” “Yep!” “I will bring it tomorrow!”

So when the next morning came, and Mr. Norman came in, I ran up to him and said, “Did you bring it?” so excitedly, without even saying hello. “I did! It’s on the table where my bag is!”

I walked to the table, while Mr. Norman finished his order of coffee. I happened to be on my short break right then. I picked up the book and randomly opened it. Imagine the irony when I found myself looking down at this page.

Marbles, Ellen Forney
Marbles, Ellen Forney

There she was again! Saying that she’s ok! She’s got it under control! That sounds so much like me!

I couldn’t stop the big laugh coming out of my mouth. I probably looked pretty ridiculous, laughing out so loud in the middle of the cafe(we had a full house, too), while everyone is focused on doing their own things on their computers, there I was laughing, with a mysterious book in hands. Alone. Standing up, too.

Have I really got it under control?

Honestly I don’t know. Actually, no, I have not got it under control. I am in no control of this matter. Neither the doctors. I cannot trust them, and trust me, I have very high, high respect for them. But my diagnosis wasn’t very thorough, and he prescribed me an anti-depressant medication as if I came to him with a simple cold. I did not know that treating bipolar with anti-depressant is highly risky. The result was very dramatic. The anti-depressant intensified my bipolar disorder, the sneaky underlying current-a big current, too!- and I ended up with a big psychotic tsunami that destroyed everything.

Five year later, I am finally laughing, reading about the hysterical reflection of bipolar disorder. This really shouldn’t be funny. But she made what’s not funny so funny, and I guess that proves how great of an artist Ms. Forney is. Well, a brilliantly CRAZY ARTISY, as she says in the book.

As for me, it was another busy Friday morning at the coffee shop. I had so much appreciation today for my manager who works really hard to make this troubled ship stay afloat. Despite the revolving issues around the store situation, she is able to pull it off, showing up to work, doing her tasks, being in control, and all this while working 50 hours a week. I think that’s pretty amazing. I can’t do what she’s doing. My condition won’t allow. So before leaving the store, I left a note for my manager, saying:

“Dear L. Thank you so much for your moral support in my recovery from Depression. This job has been a blessing for my recovery! I know how hard you are working and I appreciate all your hard work. I thank you.” 

I don’t know how people seem so in control. I don’t know how people can go on and keep hanging on. It has been so hard for me. Unless I control my environment, I cannot survive. I operate out of a very tight margin. I only work 20 hours a week, and it is not easy to survive on that income. I need support from my family, and I had to learn to be humble enough to receive help. That was not easy for me at all.

But here I am, five years later, writing a thank you note to my manager because I truly feel that this small job I have is a blessing. To have a supportive sister who took me into her nest is a blessing. To care for my nieces and nephew has been the greatest blessing I have ever received. To be able to put mom and dad at ease finally because I am mentally stable is a blessing. To be able to feel God’s love again in my heart, to be able to think about Jesus, and to be able to keep my focus on Him is a blessing. Everything is a blessing.

“Observe, observe perpetually, was his rule”, Virginia Woolf wrote about Montaigne. I was out walking in the late afternoon sunlight, reading that passage. So I looked up, to observe. There was a tree right over my head, and a squirrel was bouncing around the branches. I could see the top of the pine tree being shuffled by the playful squirrel. When the squirrel finally emerged out of the tree, I had a big smile on my face upon discovering his cute presence. He was a little baby one, and he sat on the bare edge of a branch with his tail held up high, looking far ahead. He was enjoying himself, and I was enjoying him. Happily, I walked back home where I would be greeted by my sister’s three cute little children much cuter than the squirrel I had just observed. It was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I was to be off from work for the next three days. Plenty of time to observe them.

I am so blessed, I thought.

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