“This beautifully-written, colorful, often raunchy life story reveals what it is like to live with undiagnosed, untreated bipolar illness. Through conversations with his alter-ego Carlotta, Davis comes to understand his tumultuous childhood, his often self-destructive adult journey, and ultimately himself.”
Distinguished Professor of Psychology University of California, LosAngeles
“There is no place to hide in Carlton Davis’ edgy memoir. Armed with a take-no- prisoners candor that spares no one – least of all himself – Davis stalks his own past, searching for clues to a life doubly challenged, by childhood trauma and mental disorder.
His portrayal of his own waywardness – compellingly conveyed through powerful drawings, imaginative reconstructions and journal entries – reveals a brave man on a life-saving quest, striving, as one of his fellow travelers puts it, to “make art out of our incarceration.”
Ellen Leopold, author of Under the Radar: Cancer and the Cold War
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bipolar bare took five years, four drafts, and a lot of perseverance to write. It was a labor of love and a re-experience of much pain, but was worth it. This book allowed me to put my demons to rest. I came to resolution with my mother about whom I had had a thirty year obsession. I came to understand what happened to me in my childhood and how it affected me in my adulthood. I came to awareness that my problems weren’t just circumstantial, but were part of the hard wiring in my brain. Writing this book helped me, and I believe it can help others by providing a road map of one man’s journey from ignorance and denial to insight and acceptance of mental illness.
The book has several premises. The first is that insight and acceptance come about through a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Unraveling my life’s story from the perspective of mental illness is the psychotherapy. This was encouraged by my psychiatrist. The events of my early life and youth influenced the later onset of Bipolar Disorder and perhaps increased its effect. Coming to grips with these neurotic issues at the very least freed me to deal with a monster that lay hidden beneath — the genetic predisposition to Bipolar Disorder.
Medication unscrambled the brain chemistry which is the root cause of my Bipolar Disorder. The wild mania and excessive depression were chemical poles that my mind traveled between. There were stops along the way where I was sane, sober, rational, and fully functional. Then there were times when I sped through these periods to the poles of insanity, often assisted by the self-medication of illegal drugs. A predilection for illegal drugs whether it be alcohol, or in my case marijuana and cocaine, is in itself I believe a marker of mental instability too little recognized.
The second premise of this book is that often the self, especially the mentally ill self, feels divided. William Styron spoke of feeling a second self in his book, “Darkness Visible – A Memoir of Madness” in which he writes:
“A phenomenon that a number of people have while in deep depression is
the sense of being accompanied by a second self – a wraithlike observer who,
not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate
curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides
to embrace it.”
bipolar bare is written from two perspectives: my own and my muse’s, Carlotta, a female of considerable verve. Much of the book is a dialogue between her and me. She is the wraithlike observer, sage commentator, and humorous provocateur. This division of me into two parallels the feeling I had many times that I was two people inhabiting one body: one male and one female. At the height of my Bipolar Disorder this split was cataclysmic.
Last, this work of non-fiction, which includes the fictional dialogues of Carlton and Carlotta, is meant to be resoundingly truthful in each real encounter. I bare all the good, but particularly the bad. I wanted nothing to be censored. To be healed is to reveal all. Not only does it make for an exciting and challenging story, it is cleansing. Every thing is stripped back to its essence. The fundamental ground is restored. I hope the restoration in my story can provide therapeutic good for others. I hope too some may find in reading, just a damn good tale well spoken of my internal and external Odyssey in search of mental health.