Behind smiling eyes – the beginning of my memoir

When I was fifteen, my brain broke.

A magnificent childhood of love, nature, kindness and curiosity was abruptly replaced with loud intrusive thoughts of despising myself, a deep mistrust of every person who came near me and an obsession with God and punishment and hell.

By sixteen I was in a deep, unrelenting numbness and by seventeen I was wildly psychotic. I didn’t know it then but this was the onset of bipolar disorder – an incurable illness that would brutally hurl me back and forth between mania and depression for several more years before I heard that diagnosis. Somehow for all those years I was able to hide my illness.

These posts are my admissions of serious mental illness which is cloaked by a polished image of academic success. It’s a story that occurs far too often – the truth is there are many people like me hiding their illness for one reason or other.

Read the continuation here.

*    *    *

Over the next few months I am writing my memoir – a process I have started twice before in the last six years. Each time the manuscript has been scrapped; the first because I was unhappy with it and the second as I was closing down my life in preparation for suicide which, blessedly, did not end up happening.

I will be posting sections and excerpts of what I’m writing here on my blog, so be sure to follow me to keep updated!

I’ll warn you now that some of the posts might contain triggering content for people who suffer from mental illness or are close to people who do, and I’ll endeavor to post a warning at the beginning of these types of posts as I publish them.

Lastly, I won’t be writing in chronological order but rather scenes and sections as I recall them or feel ready to write them. Part of the reason I’m writing this memoir is for the therapeutic value to myself of reflecting on the events which have led me thus far and appreciating the challenges I’ve met and overcome, so sometimes events will appear out of order because I’m following some therapeutic writing exercises.

The theme of my memoir is not just bipolar disorder, but how mental illness emerged in my life and posed extra challenges to the goals I was trying to achieve. I know there are a lot of students out there who struggle with mental illness and I want to share how bipolar disorder and other secondary illnesses affected my ability to study, especially at university when life is often a little disordered.

I want people to know that they’re not alone, for every person they know has a mental illness there’s several more who hide it. Some of these people are the ones you’d least expect. Mental illness is not suffered only by the homeless, bag ladies, cat ladies and the person you saw muttering to himself on the sidewalk last week. There’s a whole secret world of people in high-up positions with successful careers, beautiful families and polished outfits, but behind these smiling eyes lies a deep unsettling truth – suffering on sometimes a deadly level. It’s not only possible to have a serious mental illness and lead a successful career, it’s demonstrated every single day by millions of people around the world. This secret world is only unearthed when you start to talk about your own mental illnesses. I hope by talking about mine then people will start talking about theirs and we can end the silence.

Next memoir post: A brewing storm

You can read my author bio here. For a little bit of background information on bipolar disorder, visit my page About Bipolar Disorder.


14 thoughts on “Behind smiling eyes – the beginning of my memoir

  1. jennymarie4 says:

    I think it’s wonderful you’re writing your memoir and speaking out about mental illness. I’m a mental health advocate, and believe that the more people talk about it, the less stigma there will be. Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to reading it! Thanks for visiting my blog and the follow. It’s nice to connect with you. Take care, Jenny

    • Kerrie says:

      Thanks Jenny! I certainly agree, so while it’s still quite scary for me and only early days being open, I’m determined to help break the silence 🙂 Thanks for your comment! You do a wonderful thing advocating for us all 🙂

      • jennymarie4 says:

        Thank you so much! It is scary to open up. Once I did, I was amazed at how many people could relate. I’ve met so many nice and supportive bloggers here! 💕

        • Kerrie says:

          I agree, the more I talk the more I find other people in similar situations. I also remember how much reading blogs helped me comprehend what was going on when I first got diagnosed and how much it helped me feel less isolated. There are many of us here, yes! 🙂

          • jennymarie4 says:

            Yes, there are! It truly helps to know that you’re not alone. When my doctor told me my diagnosis .. panic disorder, he told me millions of people get panic attacks. I couldn’t believe it! I really thought I was odd, and no one would understand. So it was a big relief to know others could relate! 😊

  2. Janice Wald says:

    Hi Kerrie,
    I am sorry to hear about the struggles you had earlier in life. Your site must offer enormous support to people who go through those challenges like you did. I knew people like that. They could have used your blog as support.
    I met you on Danny’s site. Maybe you can check out my blog. I offer Blogging Tips and I host 10 blogging events each month including parties like Danny.

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