About The Dark Side of Innocence

The Dark Side of Innocence is an insider’s look at the rapidly exploding phenomenon of childhood bipolar disorder.  Back when I was growing up, the illness had no name, and no one ever dared talk about it.  I simply called it “the Black Beast,” and let it have its way with me.

After fifty years of silence, here’s how I finally came to write a book about those troubled early years.

When my surprise bestseller Manic came out in 2008, describing my adult life with bipolar disorder, I received hundreds of emails from readers.  The most heart-rending ones, the ones that I kept coming back to over and over again, were from parents of bipolar children.  They were desperate:  Why were their children acting like this?  Did I know of a cure?  Had I experienced any of the symptoms their kids were going through?

Intrigued, I began to research the subject, and was surprised to discover that over one million children have been diagnosed as bipolar.  In fact, there’s been a shocking four thousand percent increase in the diagnosis since the mid-1990s.  Clearly, there was a need for more information, more research, more clarity.

I hadn’t written much about my own childhood, nor did I discuss it in great detail in the interviews and speeches I gave after Manic’s publication.  The truth is, I didn’t like to think about it.  My childhood wasn’t just a strange one; it was a sick one, and it was painful to revisit that period.  But writing has always been intensely cathartic for me, and I thought that perhaps now, at last, it was time to excavate those buried memories – not just for the sake of all those parents who had reached out to me, but for my own recovery. 

To my astonishment, once I started writing the memories came flooding back.  I recalled in terrifying detail what it felt like to attempt suicide at the age of seven; to battle manic demons at ten; to resort to hypersexuality and alcoholism and cutting to keep my depressions at bay, when I was barely old enough to drive.

I relied on what had worked in Manic:  I explored my illness from the inside out, from a personal rather than clinical point of view.  Finally, I was able to confront the ghosts that had haunted me for so many years.  I emerged from the experience stronger, more complete, and with infinitely greater compassion for all those whose lives are touched by this baffling and fascinating illness.



   

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