A Personal Memoir of Bipolar Disorder
by MICHELLE MAY KRACK
Peer Wellness And Outreach Coordinator For The “Peace Zone” Evansville, IN
Bipolar disorder found me at thirty-one years of age. A happily married wife of twelve years and a mother of four children ages eleven, nine, seven, and two. I have had the support of my husband, Tim, for forty-three years. Bipolar disorder was not readily discussed at the time of my diagnosis. Little did I know I would become a messenger of hope and strength for my family, some of which had similar diagnoses and substance abuse issues. My disorder does not define who I am. It is in God’s plan to place me where I am today. Great faith has carried me through some of the most difficult and darkest times of my life. My family has been my staunchest support through it all.
I was blessed growing up knowing my maternal and paternal grandparents and great-grandmothers. Examples of ethical, hardworking, and diligent people, I owe my life to them and wish they could see the work I am doing now.
I grew up surrounded by beautiful woods that were my playground, in rural Posey County, Indiana. For the most part, I was a happy-go-lucky young girl. I was an average student and enjoyed art over other school work. I kept a locked diary. My writings contained the dark secret I kept growing up. There were whispers of my dad’s bipolar and I learned early how to survive the roller coaster life that was the norm with my dad. After one particularly distressing episode when I was in high school, I screamed running from the house, “I am not going to live like this!” This became the turning point for me.
I never showed signs of the illness until the year I had many stressors including Tim almost dying from meningitis and my two-year-old being badly burned. This helped tip the scale that brought on the bipolar. There were sleepless nights. I exhibited manic behavior such as having tea parties in the wee hours of the morning of a school day with my daughters. I believed my husband was Jesus, then the devil. I scared the wits out of my children and Tim. There were hallucinations. I took my clothes off in the fenced-in view of my yard while to neighbors screaming “I need help!”
The doctors who saw me in the emergency room thought I had schizophrenia but with the family history, it was determined I had bipolar disorder. The genetic disorder had been passed down from my father and his father, triggered by life’s stressors. Tim was so afraid I would not take the medication but I accepted the illness and the fact that I had to take the medicine daily and be diligent with therapy. I had no desire to repeat the way my dad had lived and realized how it could affect my family. There was that lived experience of what hell was like and I did not want to repeat it. There is no apology for the illness I have. It was not up to me to have bipolar disorder.
Personal responsibility is integral while on the road to recovery. That recovery had been mine for ten years. Subsequently, a carbon monoxide exposure in a school cafeteria, where I worked, disrupted the normalcy I had enjoyed for nearly a decade. The carbon monoxide brought on the mania, extreme anxiety and agitation, severe headaches, sleepless nights, physical limitations, and even suicidal thoughts. I didn’t have a plan. I only wanted the pain and mental and physical suffering to end. The nightmare lasted a year. It seems I have recovered fully except for a nervous tic. I beat the odds of the doctor saying, “She may always have the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.” My initial treatment for bipolar was twenty years with lithium. My dad took it as well, though his struggles with alcoholism rendered it useless. The chronic lithium therapy eventually ravaged my kidneys to stage three kidney disease. I had to be put on different medications. Daily, I take Saphris and lamotrigine (Lamictal). It has been the perfect “cocktail” for one. Only five weeks after I started the medication did I notice a change in the way my brain was working. It was like a light bulb had gone off. Focus and recall allowed me to enjoy reading and I began writing and writing my story. There was a feeling of purpose and determination that I had never experienced before. I wrote the book in five months’ time. The message was clear. YOU do not have to live like this. Alone. Suffering. There is hope and recovery.
The name of the book is Michelle May Crack!: A Personal Memoir of Bipolar Disorder. May is my maiden name, with my married name Krack pronounced “crock” but commonly mispronounced “crack.” My story has suspense, mystery, romance, action, and humor. My dream was to write the book and that dream came true. My future hope is that it’s made into a movie. To date, my children- although predisposed genetically- do not show signs of bipolar disorder. Of course, there has been some situational depression or anxiety that can be expected in life. My family is straightforward about our mental health. That is paramount. We are there for one another.
I found my purpose when I began mentoring at the Peace Zone Recovery Center eight years ago. I have never felt happier or more fulfilled (except with my family) working with people with mental health and substance abuse issues. My lived experience helps me with insight to help others. Challenges are met head-on with understanding, compassion, and a desire to give hope to others. I have learned that adversity makes a stronger person. We learn from our past.
I am thankful for my journey in life and that I can help others and would like to leave this message, “Let purpose and determination empower you.”
Current Professional Experience and Certifications:
Peer Wellness and Outreach Coordinator for the Peace Zone Evansville, IN
Certified Recovery Specialist Community Health Worker CRS/CHW
2014 Mental Health America Consumer Advocate Award for the State of Indiana
Licensed Practical Nurse, LPN
NAMI Evansville Board Member (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Mental Health Advocate for the Vanderburgh County Mental Health Court
State Certified 2nd Class Firefighter and EMT with the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department
Substitute Rural Mail Carrier on Rural Route 8 Evansville
President of Tekoppel Area Neighborhood Association
St. Agnes Catholic Church altar and sanctuary decorator
Parent Assistant for the Mater Dei Cross Country and Track Teams
Inspector at Vanderburgh County Election Polling Location
Presenter for NAMI Family to Family
President of Evansville Firefighters Local 357 Auxiliary
Brownie and Girl Scout Leader
Member of Midwest Writer’s Guild
Member of St. Boniface Catholic Church
FOOTNOTE: Michelle’s memoir, Michelle May Crack!: A Personal Memoir of Bipolar Disorder, is available through Amazon and Kindle. It also can be found at Your Brother’s Book Store, Blue Stocking Social book store, and Posh on Main Street. It can also be found at USI, U of E, Ivy Tech, and local Evansville high school libraries. Copies are also available at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library and Willard Library.
You can reach Michelle personally at email@example.com.