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.