Carlton Davis finds the way to recovery in ‘Bipolar Bare’
By Carl Kozlowski 08/05/2010
Carl Davis readily admits he’s lucky to be alive. Davis is not only the survivor of abusive parents and California’s notorious foster care system, but he also survived crack addiction that for a decade followed him in and out of some of the most famous drug rehab centers in the country.
It was his third stay in Pasadena’s Las Encinas Treatment Center that finally helped Davis overcome his demons enough to once again live a normal life. The main reason his life changed for the better was that doctors there finally realized he had been suffering all along from an extremely severe and rare form of bipolar disorder.
His condition included having a “dissociative second personality” that Davis named Carlotta. It wasn’t a fully separate creation of his mind, as in schizophrenia, but Carlotta was an often-present “second voice that’s like the voice guiding you at the wheel when you’re driving a car,” he says.
Davis recently completed a memoir of his journey called “Bipolar Bare,” and is now parlaying its wild tales of despair, madness and ultimate redemption into a tour that’s taken him to speaking engagements in England, Wyoming, Minnesota and, most recently, Pennsylvania.
“I felt I had to write it because it was the key to understanding my own situation,” Davis explains. “I originally thought all of my troubles in life were from when I was a child caught in a nasty divorce case and kidnapped by one side of my family from the other. But when I was in the hospital, they found that I had a chemical imbalance that caused bipolar disorder. I went through 30 years of journals and looked at the evidence. The book came out of the evidence and the way to present it.”
“Bare” took Davis five years to write. He dealt with the stress of his memories by limiting his writing time to a couple hours each morning, and then spent the final year editing. While the book is sometimes harrowing in its intensity and occasionally darkly funny, it maintains a consistent thrust and intellectual writing style that is sure to make a rewarding read.
In the end, Davis hopes that the book will not only provide a clearer picture to outsiders of the ravages of mental illness, but also a sense of hope that it can be overcome. He’s been sober and has maintained a stable marriage and home life since 2002, and today he hopes his book will help shed light on the work being done at Las Encinas.
“It was a mixed experience, but at the end it was a good experience because I found my psychologist,” says Davis. “They forced me into a locked ward and gave me a doctor I couldn’t stand. They had me attend a hearing that proved I was well enough to leave the hospital. They said I was free to leave, but I said that I didn’t come to leave. I came to get well, and they put me that time with the doctor who finally worked out. I finally got the right meds for being bipolar and my whole mindset changed overnight. The desire to smoke crack went away overnight.”
As is often the case with people struggling with addictions and mental disorders, Davis admits that one element of his condition has not changed.
“Carlotta is still called upon as my muse,” he says. “When you’re bipolar, extreme mood swings bring out your second voice, your second silent personality. It now works for me, but my wife just rolls her eyes.”
“Bipolar Bare” can be ordered at Amazon.com or Bipolarbarebook.com.