Interview on Childhood Bipolar and a Memoir of Madness

The Bipolar Burble blog welcomes Natalie Jeanne Champagne, author of The Third Sunrise, A Memoir of Madness. Natalie was diagnosed with childhood bipolar disorder, spent much of her youth in psychiatric hospitals and at the tender age of 26, has written a memoir about her travels through bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addiction.

What was it like being diagnosed with bipolar at a young age? Did you get the sense you were sick at that age yourself?

This is difficult to summarize. I knew something was different about me from a very young age. I had two siblings and so I had some sort of reference point. I watched as they were able to go to school and have friends over. I was unable to go to school. I would stay up all night kicking my bedroom walls with a feeling of agitation and anger I could not understand. Certainly my parents could not understand. Children do not run up and down the stairs all night. They don’t destroy their bedrooms, ripping the paint off the walls, and then sleeping for days after.

Juvenile Bipolar Disorder

Before I was diagnosed, age twelve, my family and I knew I was sick but we did not know why. But as we ruled out everything else, ADHD, depression and anxiety it became clear: I was a very sick little girl and, yes, I had juvenile bipolar disorder. What was it like? It was terrifying. An excerpt from my book details the experience: My psychiatrist and the medical staff are not sure why I become so agitated. I throw anything within my reach; I pull my hair; I scratch myself; and I use the plastic cutlery to fashion weapons to harm myself. I become so angry that when I am locked in the small concrete room, the “Quiet Room,” with the little nylon mattress, I tear at it until it rips, pulling out the springs with my fingers and scratching myself until I bleed, until they slide the concrete door open and take the mattress from me. Six staff members carry me down to a different room; this one is windowless and has padded walls so I will stop smashing my head against the concrete. I bite the staff and I spit on them. I fall asleep in the fetal position on the concrete floor, exhausted, with a small acrylic blanket covering my body.

 
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