Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Colitis, bipolar

It’s been a while. Two basic things have stopped me from writing, both with twisted, deep roots. Let me explain.

First, I’ve been having medical problems. My doctor now thinks I have colitis, which is no death sentence, but means I’ll have to radically change my already radically changed diet, and possibly go on some medication with some drastic side effects. All of this worries me – I want to change as a person, but I don’t want the limitations and stigma attached with a disease.

Example: In 1990, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – manic depression. This was after a year of a corny therapist in high school, and another year of Prozac and therapy during my freshman year of college. Prior to the diagnosis, I always thought my depression, my imbalance, would be something I could hide until it was all over. I ended therapy in high school, a few weeks before graduation, and thought it was just a chapter behind me, like when the inner ear infection goes away and you finish the bottle of antibiotics and you’re on your way.

In the first year of college, when the depression returned, I hid the therapy well. Prozac was not a household word, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. In 1989, everyone and their brother hadn’t been on an antidepressant – knowledge opf drugs for mental health was limited to memories of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest or something. I kept it inside, and seldom told anyone. No problem.

So I was diagnosed with manic depression, put on lithium, and got used to blood tests. I had more side effects and limitations, and I gained some weight. But I only let my inner circle of friends know about the medication, the doctors. I never “came out”, because I never felt a need to. I can understand how gays would want to come out and avoid telling lies about something as basic as their sexuality. But to me, the lithium and the therapy was something very personal, something I didn’t tell to the world. I didn’t want special attention or treatment – I wanted to define my own personality, and avoid mixing the diagnosis and the label with that.

I kept with this plan, and kept in the closet, so to speak. There were small limitations that bothered me – I would never be able to fly a plane. I would never be able to work for the CIA. Oh well, I would never get drafted, something that comforted me during Desert Storm. Prozac became a household name, and I saw many attention-hungry people who told every person in the world about their “problem” and how they were on Prozac. Lightweights.

[2020 update: I’m not bipolar as of a dozen or so years ago. I was misdiagnosed. Someone tell my mom this, because any time she hears the word ‘bipolar’ she has to call me and tell me about it.]

Anyway, I’ve kept in the closet for the most part, although I’ve told a few people. (and I guess this post tells a few more, although I’m lucky if 3 people read this thing). And now I’m faced with another sickness that might not be as closetable as the depression. I could have to take a steroid to calm down my large intestine, which could mean weight gain, insomnia, osteoperosis, etc etc. So I spent all weekend worrying about that. I guess my solution is just to take what comes to me and to keep on fighting for my health. I’m feeling somewhat better on the diet – it’s been almost 3 months, and I’ve lost 15 pounds. I don’t even remember what a quarter pounder tastes like. It’ll give me more inspiration to write more, and hopefully I will.

The other reason I haven’t been writing is the usual mix-up about why am I even writing a journal, and is all of this stereotypical and boring, and am I wasting my time, etc. I can’t answer that right now, but I felt compelled to write, and had a lot to talk about, so I’ll write today. Who knows about tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens.

I met the writer Kevin Canty on Saturday and saw him read at Elliott Bay Books. I loved his short story collection and wanted to check out his new book. It was a quiet reading, but he said a few things that I liked. I read all of his new book last night and loved it…

All out of steam now – time to think about work…