What’s the difference between “crazy” and “creative”? Is there a difference? And if you take away the “crazy,” will you also be taking away the “creative”?
These are just some of the questions Ellen Forney found herself grappling with right before her 30th birthday, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly, all those manic highs that she’d once thought made her eccentric and endearing and whimsically artistic took on a scary new meaning.
Though it shed light on some of her behaviors, she was also terrified of what it meant in the long run. Medications might help, but there was the chance that they’d dull her senses and take away her artistic abilities. Then again, the other option wasn’t much better: people diagnosed with bipolar disorder were at a high risk of suicide and recurring hospitalizations; not treating her condition could also lead to more extreme manic episodes that might be harder to control. And so, with a lot of uncertainty, Forney began her rollercoaster ride of different treatment plans and medication combinations.
It was an uphill battle for a long time. In addition to dealing with the emotional toll of experiencing both mania and depression — and being aware of it post-diagnosis to apprehensively recognize the signs of what’s coming next (like curling up at home all day and crying nonstop) — Forney struggled with the philosophical debate of the “crazy artist.” It was hard to know what was really “her” and what was her illness, so taking medication at the risk of losing herself was scary. She found out she was in great company as far as “crazy artists” were concerned, and sometimes that bit of knowledge served as her own worst enemy.
Figuring out the right medication combos was also nightmarish and led to some extreme side effects. She’s very up front about the medication aspect of her treatment, and even touches on the monetary side of treating her condition; she’s very clear on how the prices of the medication and the therapy sessions put treatment out of reach for many people suffering from mental health issues.
I loved this book. Forney’s artwork is amazing (I was first introduced to it via Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), and her book is just really relatable. It’s dark sometimes, but it’s also very funny and charming. As far as graphic memoirs go, she completely nails it.
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me was released in November 2012 by Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin Book Group.