My Bipolar Story: The Crack in the Wall

A personal story about life with bipolar disorder. Well, not only about bipolar disorder, but the twists and turns life can take.

This is a story I never thought that I would write; now I might be the only one that ever reads this, but if I'm not, then I hope that all those who read the story, will read it with an open mind. I hope that this story will finally ease the hurt, torment and despair that I have ever felt. This is not a story of malice, nor is it meant to hurt anybody; it's purely a reflection of my life the way that I've lived it, my innermost thoughts and feelings. I hope that through this story, I and everyone else will be able to understand ME better. My wish is that any resentment that anyone feels towards me, because of the things I have done, will be eased once this story is read.

This is written by me, about me, and for me. For the first time in my life, I'm going to be selfish, and yes maybe a bit ruthless. I have to be because if I don't do this now I never will, and it will be an additional regret in my life. I have omitted to use any surnames, as there are certain individuals who would not like to be known to others.

When I wrote this, I believed that I was writing the story just for myself, as a kind of self-healing, but I have since come to realize that although I accomplished the self-healing, I also hurt some members of my family. I am normally a very honest person and when I wrote my story the first time, I was writing it with so much anger inside of me. It has taken a lot of soul-searching to realize that one year ago I was really looking for retribution of some sort. I was still in the process of feeling very sorry for myself. It fed my EGO when people said, "how on earth did you get through all that," or "you are quite remarkable for all that you've been through." I understand now that the emotional pain I experienced was not unique in any way, and I'm sure that many people have gone through similar experiences. It has taken thirty-five years for me to be able to say that I can recall my memories without feeling as though my heart was being wrenched from my body. I have used the obstacles in my life as stepping-stones on my path to inner peace. As Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking it makes it so."


I hope that this bipolar story will finally ease the hurt, torment and despair that I have ever felt. The story of a bipolar person.I was born on 24 September 1958. I never knew my birth father, as I believe that he was a very abusive man, so my mother had no choice but to leave him. When I was about three years old, my mother Nita married Barry who later adopted me. My sister Louise, who is eight years older than I am, came to live with us. We were the average middle-class family. These three people where everything to me. I loved each and every one of them with all my heart. I couldn't bear it when there was any kind of disharmony in our home; I always thought that one of them would leave me and never return. This type of insecurity stayed with me for many, many years.

I used to feel physically ill if there were any sort of disagreements in our family. I was a terribly shy, unconfident child. When I was 7 years old, I was sent to ballet and modern dance lessons. My mother thought that this would help me to gain more confidence in myself. Fortunately, I had a natural talent for dancing so I excelled at it. I became a very good dancer. It was silently understood that I would make dancing my career. I know that my mom and dad hoped that I would go and join The Royal Ballet Co. in London. Had I been 'smart' that is exactly what I should have done. I was very strong-willed and I always thought that I knew better than anyone else did. That was to be my downfall. Although, through my years of experience I realize that life seems to be made up of 'I should have' or 'if only' and really, at the time that I made my choices I probably 'would have' done exactly the same things.

From a very young girl, my sister was my confidant and I her's. We would tell each other everything. So, I guess in a way, I was quite mature in the way that I thought about life. My parents were strict on me, but as long as I was with Louise when we went out, then everything was okay. Our family was very close and we had a lot of good times together. In some ways, I was spoiled by my parents, my sister, grandparents, and other relatives. I was Marléne the dancer with a bright future ahead of me. I was the one person in the family that was going to 'become someone'. I know that my mother wanted me to have everything she didn't have. She wanted me to have a career. She was being a normal parent. She went without so much just so that I could go to dancing. She made all of my dancing costumes, and they were always the most beautiful costumes. She would sew day and night, often having to unpick and sew again. I never realized how much effort she put into my costumes and she was self-taught.

My teenage years fell in the midst of the Hippie era, 'peace brother' and all that nonsense. Most of my friends smoked pot and took other drugs, but I could see what it was doing to them and I decided for myself that the drug scene was definitely not for me. It must have been a very challenging time for parents in that period. My parents became very strict with me at that time. I wasn't allowed to go to discos or anything like that. I know they were trying to protect me, but when you are thirteen or fourteen it means a great deal to be able to do whatever your friends are doing. I so wanted to be able to go to the places that my friends went to, but my parents felt that I would succumb to the wicked deeds that were going on all around us. I never felt the need to take drugs or smoke cigarettes so I couldn't understand why they wouldn't trust me. At the same time, their other worry was that I would become pregnant, so I was repeatedly lectured about sex. I was told, 'never let a boy have his way with you' because then I would be labeled as 'cheap' or 'easy' and then I would never find a good husband. I suppose it didn't help matters that I was quite pretty and had a good figure. Well, we all managed to survive that period of our lives and I think that my parents were very grateful that I remained drug free with my virginity still intact.

Towards the middle of 1973, my family started to fall apart. I don't know what went wrong between my mom and dad. They started having lots of arguments and there was always tension in the air. I spent a lot of time crying and worrying that they were going to get divorced. I also spent a great deal of time at my sister's home. Louise and her husband lived just around the corner from us. When the tension got too bad at home, I would go there for some peace and a good talk. One evening, my parents had a terrible argument and I was called into their bedroom and told that my father wasn't actually my father and that he had adopted me when I was three years old. I was devastated. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I remember I just ran out of the flat and went to my friend's place. I felt as though my whole life had been a lie. Everyone knew that Barry adopted me, and I never knew it. It had never crossed my mind. I thought of Barry as my 'real' dad. No one had ever given me any reason to think otherwise. What on earth was I supposed to do with this knowledge? I mean did he just stop being my dad. Then when they decided to be friends, would he be my dad again? This was extremely traumatic for me. I didn't know what to think. However, life goes on, my parents seemed to resolve their differences and everything went back to 'normal'. The subject of me being adopted never came up again. I felt that maybe I had dreamed up the whole thing.

In 1973, I did particularly well in my dancing and it reinforced my parents' belief that I should take my dancing to a further level. My dancing career was discussed at length and my parents decided that when I finished school at the end of 1974, I would be allowed to go and join one of the dance companies in London. This would've have been a wonderful opportunity for me. I had so much to look forward too. Every one would be proud of me and I would've fulfilled every ones' dreams. However, life doesn't always go the way we plan it to go.

I turned 15 in September 1973, my sister was expecting her first baby, and I had found out that I was adopted. Wow! What a year! Now turning 15 might not seem like much of a milestone, but it was for me, because that's the year my whole life changed. Oh boy! Did it change?


My nephew Zane was born on the 16th October 1973 and about a week later, I met David.

It was a Sunday. I had been to the beach with friends. When I got home, my parents were out, so I put on some music. I then went and gazed out of the window. Something caught my eye. I looked up and there was this guy staring at me from a flat across the road. After awhile of staring at each other, it became clear to me that he was enjoying the music I was playing. The music was rather loud! He asked if he could come over to visit me and I said no I would rather meet him downstairs. [My parents would've freaked out if they had come home and there was a strange guy in the flat] We spent the next hour or so talking to each other. When my parents came home, we told them that we had met each other at the beach and guess what? He just happens to live across the road. What a coincidence [the lies young people tell]! Anyway, my parents were fine about the whole thing and David was allowed to visit.

I couldn't believe it when David told me that, for a few weeks, he had been watching me but he didn't know how to approach me because I seemed so unapproachable. I thought to myself 'what on earth is this guy talking about.' I mean hell! This was me, plain little me. This guy could've had anyone he wanted. What on earth did he see in me? It was like a dream come true for me when, two days later, he asked me to be his girlfriend. It was hard for me to grasp that someone could feel so strongly about me in such a short time. I can remember the night after we met, we were walking to my front door and he was rubbing his hands together, so I asked him if he was cold or something and he said 'no, I'm just so happy to be with you.'

David was my first boyfriend and from the word go I loved him. Besides being a good-looking guy he was also a very kind and gentle natured person. He treated me as though I was the most important person in the world. I had never had this kind of treatment from any other person before, so as you can imagine it developed into a very intense, passionate affair, and when the girl is 15 and the boy is 19 there are definitely raging hormones. David and I would talk for hours and then there other times we would just be quiet and listen to music. Just as long as we were together, we were happy. I know that we cannot ever turn the clock back in time, but yes, I do wish I had been a bit more sensible. I wish that I could've believed that what we had was good and could have lasted. David was prepared to wait for me to finish school before we became physically involved, but I was such an insecure young girl and I thought that by taking things into my own hands I could make everything right. How wrong I was!

I desperately wanted to become pregnant. I wanted to live my whole life with David and I was prepared to go to any lengths to achieve that. I believed that if I was pregnant then no one could keep us apart. My parents would have to agree to us getting married. I firmly believed that I had everything sorted out. Well my wish was granted. I'm reminded of the saying; be careful what you wish for, it just might come true!

At the end of January 1974, we found out that I was pregnant. David had just turned twenty and I was still fifteen! As you can imagine, all hell broke loose. All my parents' dreams that they had for me, had in an instant been shattered. This was something that happened to other families, not ours. Even in 1974, this was any families' worst nightmare.

Once all the name calling and death threats had been handed out, our parents decided that they would give their consent for us to get married. Although my parents signed the papers, they would have absolutely nothing to do with David. They wouldn't allow him to visit me at home. I had to meet him downstairs. It was terrible. We spent a lot of time sitting in the park or visiting my sister. We were due to get married on Saturday 6th March 1974. About two weeks before we were due to get married, we rented a flat so that we would have somewhere to stay after the wedding. We used to go and sit in that empty flat and talk. We both hoped that my family, especially, would settle down and accept us.

On the Sunday before we were supposed to have been married, David took me home. When we got home, my father asked David to come inside. Well! David and I looked at each other as if to say 'at last they must be coming around'. What a shock awaited us. They never invited David in to be nice. They invited him in to tell him that he must get out of my life. He was never to come within a hundred yards of me. They didn't want him to try and contact me in anyway; if he did they would have him arrested. They had laid a charge of 'statutory rape' against him. David had to pay me money each month for what they called 'damages'. I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest. The next day my parents decided to add salt to the wound. My father made me get out all the photos, records and anything else that David had given me. While my dad sat there, I had to tear up all my photos, and then he broke all the records, then I had to go and throw all of it into the rubbish bins downstairs. I wasn't allowed to throw anything away in our bin, just in case I tried to salvage something. I'm sure my parents thought that if I got rid of all the things that reminded me of David, then I would be fine. I would just get over it. Out of sight, out of mind was the motto of the day.

They tried to get me to go and have an abortion, but I flatly refused. Then they went to the welfare to find out how to go about having their daughters' baby adopted. They were told that the only person who could sign the papers would be me. But! [don't get excited], because in the very next breath they went on to tell me all the things that would happen to me if I didn't consent and sign those papers. I would be thrown out on the street with nothing; they would disown me, all sorts of wonderful threats like that. They obviously said all that to frighten me. They succeeded. I reluctantly agreed to all that they wanted. When the time came I would sign those papers. After all, at that stage in my life, I didn't have too many options open to me.

Even with all this going on, I still believed in my heart that David and I could find a way to be together and to keep our baby. Whew! I was badly mistaken. The Gods', the universe, in fact the whole damn lot were all against me at that time of my life. I knew that what we had done was wrong, but what I couldn't understand was that, to me, it wasn't the worst thing on earth to be done. Even at fifteen, I knew the enormity of the situation. I knew that it wasn't socially acceptable. I also knew that this was 'big stuff'- getting married and having a baby. I might have done a stupid thing, but I wasn't stupid. I didn't think like the usual fifteen-year-old. I knew exactly what I wanted and that was David and the baby.

The days, nights and months that followed were sheer torture. Even when we moved to another flat in a different area, it didn't help. No change of any sort can erase memories. They stay with you forever. I remember when I had to go for check-ups at Addington Hospital, on the way home I would go into the baby shops and wonder what it would feel like if I could buy baby things for my baby. Oh boy! I wanted that baby so much.

During my pregnancy, more traumas awaited us. The first thing that happened was that my sister and her husband divorced. When I was about eight months pregnant my father left us. I don't know what went wrong between my mom and dad. All I know is that my mother, sister and I were a very miserable threesome. The only bright light in our lives was my little nephew. It was an extremely stressful situation for the three of us. We were all locked into this intense sadness, none of us knowing how we were going to get out of it. It was as though the powers that be said 'here are these three people that deserve a lesson in life, lets dump the whole lot into their laps , yes let's do it, cabooshhhhhh.' I mean, at that time, we couldn't have even tried to comfort each other, as each of us were going through so much of our own trauma. I'm not sure what lesson was supposed to have been learnt by all that sorrow and unhappiness.

At about 12.30am on the morning of the 30th September 1974, I woke up with pains everywhere, and I thought to myself that maybe the baby was on its way. I got out of bed and went through to the kitchen. I made tea, in fact over the next couple of hours I had plenty of tea. I tried to time the pains. They were irregular and extremely painful. I would get the time on the clock but then the pain would become so intense that I would forget where I had started. I never woke anyone up to help me; I did it on my own. I thought to myself 'my mistake, my pain.' Well as you can imagine it was a very long night. Eventually at about 5am I managed to get some kind of order going and I figured out that the pains were about 5 minutes apart. I want you to imagine this. A young girl six days after her sixteenth birthday knowing that within a few hours it would all be over. The baby would be taken away and she would never see it, hold it or be allowed to love it. Not only was I going through physical pain, I was going through such emotional pain that I didn't know which felt worse.

At 6am I woke up my mom and my sister. My sister went to fetch the guy that was taking us to the hospital [supposedly a family friend]. The whole way to the hospital I had to listen to this guy preaching about how young girls shouldn't get themselves into the situation that I was in, and if they did then they should either abort the baby or give it up for adoption. This idiot had no idea what he was talking about. My sister eventually told him to shut up. In stony silence we arrived at the hospital. My sister stayed with me the whole way through the 'labour,' she rubbed my back for me and spoke to me quietly, trying to reassure me that everything would be okay. The doctor sedated me quite heavily, but even through that drug induced state I knew exactly what was going on. Their reason for sedating me was that since I was a very young girl, giving birth to a baby that I wasn't going to keep, they didn't want me getting all hysterical [for goodness sake, I've never been hysterical in my whole life, oh no! not me, I just hold it all in]. They wanted me nice, calm, and accepting

Amongst all the pain and the drugs I still kept thinking that there would be a way to keep this baby. It didn't seem right that I had gone through so much with no reward. I thought to myself that if God was out there surely he would step in and help me. No good luck was coming my way, not that day anyhow. I remember thinking to myself that if I could just look out of the window, be very strong, and not look at my baby then I would give her up for adoption. I was strong. It was pouring with rain that day. I remember thinking that because I couldn't cry God was doing it for me. In fact he was doing a good job; he was crying buckets full of tears for the misery that was in that room, that particular day. It would have been nice if he could have stopped it all. I gave birth to my baby at 11.15am on that cold, rainy Monday morning. I heard her cry and that was the end of it. They whipped her out of that room so quickly. Louise, my sister, was standing outside the delivery room and she saw the baby. That I only found out many years later. I don't remember too much after that, the drugs, the trauma was just too much for me. It was very difficult in hospital as the ward that I was in was fairly close to the babies. I would wonder if it was my baby that was crying. They never gave me anything to dry up my milk; they made me experience that as well. I really paid the price for my mistake.

Three days after I arrived home the lady from the welfare office took me to register my baby and to sign the adoption papers. I registered her in David's and my name; I couldn't bring myself to register her with a father 'unknown'. I did know the father and I was still very much in love with him. So I went against what everyone told me and I put him down as the father. After registering her I was taken directly to the court to sign the adoption papers. I would like to erase that day from my mind. I was told repeatedly that I was doing the right thing for my baby. Now I ask you. Whom was I doing the right thing for? Not for my baby, she had a mother who loved her. Even if I was young I would've looked after her very well. Not for my family, they just saw all the hardships that awaited us, instead of seeing what it was doing to me. I was torn to pieces inside and I didn't know how I was going to get through the rest of my life. At the court they tell you that you are signing these adoption papers of your own free will. In my mind I was certainly not signing those papers of my own free will. I signed because there was absolutely nothing else that I could do. I was sixteen years old, no great education to speak of, and no husband. There was no way that I could have supported her. There was too much against me. All I got out of the situation was many years of grief. When I got home I told my mom that I had been to sign the 'papers' and all she said was 'well at least now we can all get on with our lives.'

Six months after the baby was born, I met David at the beach. We decided to meet the next day to discuss how we still felt about each other. We wanted to get back together, but my mom and sister saw David and me together. When I got home I was told again in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to go out with David again I would have to leave my family. Now there are confusing statements about this. My mother swears that she didn't say anything of the sort. In fact she reckons she said the exact opposite. Well if that's the case why did I decide not to meet David? Why then did I decide that there wouldn't be any kind of happiness for David and me? Why did I try and commit suicide a few days after meeting David? Would that be the actions of someone who has been given full consent to do something that they had wanted for so long? I don't think so.

After the attempted suicide, the doctors wanted to keep me in hospital for counseling, which I refused. What did happen was that I started to bury all the hurt. It was the only way that I could survive.


In January 1977, I met Gary. Later that year we married. My son Ryan was born on the 7th February 1978. It was wonderful to be able to hold him and feed him. He was and still is very precious to me. My daughter was born on the 19th December 1979. This was another great occasion for me. I now had two beautiful babies to love and take care of. Unfortunately, Gary was not the ideal husband. We argued a great deal and he became very abusive towards me. When my daughter was 2months old, I had to go back to work. Things between Gary and I were not good. He became very jealous of the attention that I gave to the kids. He would pick a fight with me all the time. I felt as though I was being pulled in all directions. My children need me, they were only little. Gary wouldn't help me with anything. I became mentally and physically drained. I lost far too much weight, my hair was falling out, and I had a continuous headache. I was working at a pharmacy at that time. One day the pharmacist called me into his office and asked me what my problem was. I told him that I didn't have any problems that I was aware of; He gave me stronger tablets for my headaches and advised that I se a doctor as soon as possible. A few weeks later, my mom came up to Newcastle to see us. She was shocked when she saw me. I weighed 35kg. I looked terrible. She asked if I would go and see a doctor while she was with us. I agreed.

The doctor sent me to St. Anne's Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. The psychiatrist that I saw was a wonderful man. The first day that I was there, he listened to me for hours. When I had finished my tale of woe, he sat there and looked at me for a very long time. Then he said to me, 'Marléne, you are the same age as my granddaughter, [I was 21] and in all my years as a psychiatrist, I have never seen anyone as young as you, go through so much trauma. I was in hospital for two and a half weeks. In that time, I was given a course of six electro-convulsive treatment [shock treatment], drips everyday and loads of anti-depressant tablets. In addition to all of that, he counseled me everyday.

Gary and I eventually moved back to Durban. Things between us progressively became worse and worse. The physical abuse had now extended to my children as well. Gary and I divorced in April 1983 I was 24 yrs old.

On the 3rd of May 1983, I met Bruce. Bruce was and is a wonderful person. We married on the 2nd September 1983. He adopted Ryan and Carmen. Our son Myles was born the following year on the 16th June 1984.

When I was pregnant with Myles, I went into depression. I couldn't understand why. I had a wonderful husband who loved me, my children had a loving father and we had a nice home. As I was pregnant, I couldn't take any tablets so I went to see a psychologist. His theory was that I was depressed because I was pregnant. This might sound stupid, but it isn't. You see, every time that I became pregnant; my subconscious mind would revert back to all the stress and trauma that I had experienced with my first pregnancy. Bruce was very understanding and supportive and once I understood everything the rest of the pregnancy went off well. We were advised not to have any more children.

In 1987, we moved to Colenso, so that our children could grow up in a small town environment. We all thoroughly enjoyed Colenso. The kids had so much freedom. I became the local dance teacher. I staged two variety shows to raise money for various charities. It was a very good time of our lives.

In June 1991, we bought a house in Ladysmith. It was not a very good move. Buying the house put us into a lot of financial difficulty. In March 1991, we agreed to look after two Taiwanese children, they were little girls, one was five years old and the other was a one-month-old baby. We agreed, as we desperately needed the money. They lived with us from Monday - Friday and they went home on weekends. My niece Carly also came to live with us. We now had six children in the house, three teenagers and three little ones. As you can imagine it was rather hectic. In March and April 1992, my mother and Bruce's mom and dad came to live with us as well; this took our household up to eleven!! Five adults and six children. I did everything for everyone. I did the washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and looking after the baby and the bigger ones as well. I think I would drop dead if I had to do all of that now. We got through it all and everyone seemed happy enough. The only down side was that I started getting chronic headaches and I was battling to sleep. Maybe I should have looked at those symptoms more closely, but I didn't, I was too busy looking after everyone else to worry about my problems.


My rollercoaster ride began in May 1992. I went from being a self-sufficient, contented, happy person to an emotional wreck. I was utterly miserable and I couldn't make out why. Bruce's theory was that I was doing too much and that there were too many people in the house. He was probably right, but when our parents left, nothing changed. I just seemed to get worse. The headaches got worse. I was only sleeping for about 2 hours a night and all I wanted to do was cry and cry and cry some more. I remember thinking to myself that I must 'pull myself together' but the more I tried the worse it got. I really thought that I had put depression behind me. I know my family meant well but they couldn't understand why I should be so depressed. I had everything that I had ever wanted. I needed to know how to rise above the depression. I needed to know how to feel good about myself again. No-one could give me the answers I so desperately needed.

Eventually, I went to hospital in Ladysmith. My doctor tried everything. He gave me five sleeping tablets every night, still no sleep. I just could not sleep. After two weeks of all this, armed with Prozac and sleeping tablets I went home. The Prozac had an adverse effect on me and my family suffered. I wasn't sleeping and neither was any one else. I was vacuuming and washing carpets at two in the morning, cooking the next days' dinner, you name it, I did it. Poor Bruce, sitting in the lounge just being there for me, telling me that he wasn't tired; meanwhile he must have been exhausted. THANK YOU is not a big enough word for the gratitude I feel for the support that he gave me.

Obviously it couldn't continue. The whole family would have been on Prozac. I was referred to a psychiatrist in Durban. I knew that I had to go but I didn't want to go as my youngest son Myles would be celebrating his eighth in the time that I would be away. I felt very awful about leaving Myles; we had never been apart from each other. When I had been in the Ladysmith hospital, I had seen my whole family twice sometimes three times a day. It was too far for them to come and see me in Durban. I felt as though my whole world was coming to and end. Bruce eventually called our family doctor in and between him, Bruce and the kids; they managed to convince me that two weeks wasn't forever.

By the evening of the first day, I was ready to go home. I didn't feel so bad. I had already phoned Bruce and told him that he must come and fetch me the next day. He must have thought to himself 'please God, keep her there, the kids and I need to get some sleep.' The doctor arrived later and once again, I went through my life story. He never said too much, psychiatrists never do. However, he did say that I was having a massive nervous breakdown. He explained to me that a girl of fifteen does not have the emotional maturity to cope with the kind of trauma that I had experienced. After having the baby when I was so young I had not received any sort of counseling. But, as we all know in that day and age, young girls were not counseled. They were expected to forget the whole miserable experience completely and get on with their lives. Many years later, I found out that Dr. L had not been too optimistic about my recovery. In fact, he said to Bruce that if I made ten more years it would be a lot.

That evening I was given an injection to put me to sleep. It didn't work. The nurses could not believe that I was still awake. Eventually at about 2am the nurse decided to phone Dr. L to find out if there was something else, they could give me. He could not believe that I was still awake. The nurse told him I was very much awake in fact, I was standing opposite her drinking a cup of tea. I was given another injection and when Dr. L arrived at 6am, I was still wide-awake. Years later when we spoke about that night, he told me that he could not believe it when he got that call, because one of those injections would put a six-foot, one hundred and eighty pound man to sleep very quickly.

It was established that I was suffering from Bipolar Disorder; this is when the Lithium levels in the body go out of sync. The Lithium Level in the body either becomes excessively high, which causes a person to become unusually energetic requiring little or no sleep whatsoever, or they drop too low which then causes severe depression. Lithium is a type of salt that all human beings have in their bodies. In the person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, their body makes either too much or not enough. When someone who suffers from Bipolar goes into severe depression, the person cannot physically and mentally 'snap out of it.' Once that person hits the bottom unless treatment is administered they will more than likely commit suicide. It is like any other disease in the body. For example; if a person suffers from Diabetes, they need Insulin to regulate their sugar levels and if they do not receive the Insulin, they will go into Diabetic Shock, then a Coma and they can die. It is the same with any chronic illness. The difference between Bipolar and other chronic diseases is that Bipolar deals with the emotions. When I tell people that I suffer from Bipolar, they look at me as though I come from outer space. As intelligent as people claim to be these days you would think that they would understand a bit better. It is still a socially unacceptable disease to have, even now.

Over the next two weeks, I was given another six 'shock-treatments,' these treatments are very effective as they accelerate the recovery of the patient. My medication consisted of Lithium, anti-depressants and tranquilizers. I joined the chronic medication syndrome. I was told that I would have to remain on the tablets for the remainder of my natural life. By the end of June 1992, I was declared well enough to return home. I should have been as good as new. However, I was not happy. I fought the treatment. I did not want to have to take tablets for the rest of my life. I did not like Dr. L. It was too far to schlep all the way to Durban every time there was a problem. I put on so much weight. I went from 52kg - 74kg in a matter of four months. I had never been a fat person, but now I wasn't only fat I was obese.

I tried very hard to appear happy. My family had been through far too much with my illness and me. I felt that I could not keep doing this to them. Gee whiz! I was on every tablet imaginable, I had all the support that anyone could ask for and yet I still felt absolutely awful. If I didn't understand any of it, then how on earth could anyone else understand? I will try to explain, imagine your saddest moment of your life............ now multiply that by 100............. now multiply that by 1000............... [Hope you are still with me] now multiply that by 10000..............and keep going until you cannot multiply any more. Maybe you can understand a little bit, of what I was feeling. This is what is called the depths of despair; this is the mind of a person contemplating suicide. What would YOU do if your mind were in that state of hopelessness? I bet you would think about it.

On Good Friday 1993, I tried to commit suicide. I never did it to hurt anyone, in my very disturbed way of thinking that day; I firmly believed that I was doing the right thing. [This is the rationale of a suicidal person] I thought that I would be doing everyone a favor. I believed that Bruce and the kids would be better off without me. I would not have to feel despair, sadness, loneliness and emptiness any more. It engulfed me. I could feel it in every pore of my body. It overwhelmed me and was totally unbearable.

I swallowed 30 Leponex tablets; they are a powerful tranquilizer/sedative. My normal dose was one per night. You can imagine what 30 of them were going to do. I had washed my hair, bathed and in my pajamas by 3.30 in the afternoon. I had also phoned my sister-in-law Jennifer and thanked her for all her support while I had been ill. Jennifer thought that it had been a very strange call and a few minutes later she phoned back, but by then Bruce had found the empty pill bottle. I was rushed to hospital. My stomach was pumped, and I was given a coal-like liquid to drink. After all that they still couldn't get all the tablets out. The doctor tried to insert a drip but all my veins had collapsed. I eventually lost consciousness. Our doctor told Bruce that I had a 50/50 chance of survival. He said that I might die during the night, or I could become a 'vegetable' or I could make it and live. Well, I made it; my will to live is obviously far greater than my will to die. Thank God for that. I would have missed out on some wonderful things that have happened since then. There were repercussions. My daughter resented me; she could not understand that I would want to leave her like that. My eldest son was away at a friend's house when it happened and we didn't tell him until he got home on the Easter Monday. He said that he was glad that he wasn't there at the time. He also said that it did not seem real to him, as when he left home I was 'ok' and when he returned I was still 'ok'. My youngest son was only eight at the time. He says that he will never forgive. H e thinks that I planned the suicide over a period of time.

If I could turn back the clock to that awful day, with those dreadful feelings and change the way I felt. My God! I would. It took an instant to decide to end my life and that instant did so much damage. I looked at those tablets in my hand, and I thought to myself that they could end all my sadness, such terrible sadness. I wouldn't have to feel EMPTY anymore, and for the time that it took to think those thoughts was the one and only time in my 33yrs of life that I never thought of my children first. I know that words cannot erase the damage that was done, but I wrote a poem to my children, trying to explain how I felt. It's called:


I thought my heart
Would break right in two,
That terrifying day
I did wrong by you.
I know that these words
Don't make amends
For what happened that day
But I recommend
You hear what I say.
Leaving you was not my intention,
I never knew
How to change direction.
I never gave a thought
To all I'd leave behind,
I was so distraught
I never meant to be unkind.
I saw myself losing hold
Of my resistance.
Daily thinking was
Bringing me down,
Twisting my mind
Beneath the ground.
Mistakes are wrong choices
Made by us all,
There are no rejoices
Only an open fall.
So hear me please
When I say this to you,
I'm sure you will agree
I did wrong by you.

Somehow I managed to get myself back on track. In 1994, we moved back to Colenso. We were always much happier in Colenso. I started teaching Ballroom and Latin American Dancing in Colenso, Ladysmith and Estcourt. The whole family joined in and we had lots of fun. Myles showed a lot of potential. He and his dance partner ended up becoming Junior Champs for the Kwa Zulu Natal region. I even managed to reduce my weight from 74kg - 58kg. Generally, we had 'picked up the pieces' and moved on.

My rollercoaster ride was not finished yet. August 1995 found me back in hospital, having another six shock treatments. I've often wondered to that 'powers that be' WHY, OH WHY? When everything was going so well in my life did this sadness, emptiness and utter despair return time and again to torment me. I often used to wonder what I had done that was so wrong. You have to understand that when I went into these depressions I was never hysterical in any way. It was more of a regression from the world. I did not sleep and I became very quiet and withdrawn. Once again, I came out of hospital, brushed myself off and started all over again.

May 1996, I bought a dog grooming business. Carmen and I ran it and we thoroughly enjoyed the work. We sold the business in November 1998 as Bruce was given a promotion in Pietermaritzburg.


In January 1997, I decided that I would go to the adoption agency and find out if I could eventually meet my daughter. As she was over 21yrs of age, they didn't foresee a problem, provided that she wanted to make contact. This was a dream that I had cherished since the day that I had given birth to her. I knew that someday, somehow I would meet her. Firstly, the agency had to get in touch with her adoptive parents and if they agreed then they would hand everything over to their daughter. In August 1997, on the Friday before Princess Diana died, Adrey contacted me. We agreed to set up a meeting at Durban beachfront for the Sunday. On the Friday night when she phoned me, I couldn't believe that I was actually speaking to this child that I had longed for, for so long. We spoke for an hour and a half. I was ecstatic. The next two nights were the longest nights of my life. When I first laid eyes on her, I couldn't believe how much she looked like David, except she has red hair. When David was young his hair was blonde and my hair is dark brown, hence the red hair.

We both aren't very emotional people but we did have tears in our eyes when we first saw each other. I couldn't grasp the fact that we were actually hugging each other. It was mind-blowing. I can't find the words to describe the feeling I felt. We saw each other fairly regularly over the next year and I even saw her on her birthday! She made it very clear that she loved her parents very much. I was happy that she had found a wonderful home with parents that adored her. It would have been nice if we could have been friends, but I think that was asking too much of the situation. Except for the first meeting, she hadn't told her parents that she was in communication with me, and that we saw each other quite often. Adrey and her boyfriend Wayne even came and spent a weekend with us in Colenso.

Towards the end of 1998, Adrey phoned me to confirm my postal address. I had hoped that I would be invited to the wedding. That was wishful thinking. A few days later, I received a letter in the post from Adrey. She asked me to stop contacting her because it was upsetting her mother. She also asked me to respect her wishes and give her up just as I had done before. As you can imagine I was terribly hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it. I had to let her go, again.

My rollercoaster ride with depression still wasn't finished as I had another big 'breakdown' in August 1998. I received another six shock treatments. I was getting so tired of this up and down all the time. I was tired of feeling miserable and depressed, I'm sure every one else was as well. After another two weeks in hospital and I went home feeling just as miserable as when I went in. I counted all my various tablets and they amounted to 600 in total. It was a Sunday and I planned my suicide for the Tuesday, because Bruce would be at work and the kids would have gone back to school. I intended to take all the tablets. I wouldn't be found alive this time. BUT...........The strangest things happen when you really let go.....................

Later that day, I was lying on my bed. I happened to glance over at the bedside table. There where some little books there that my mother had given me earlier to read. I had taken them just to please her; personally, I had no intention to read them. [The books are called: The Path of Truth] Anyway, the most amazing thing happened: I was particularly drawn to a little book with a yellow flower on it. [Yellow is my favorite color] I picked up the book and just opened it at random. This is the message that was sent to me: 'Are you sad, lonely or afraid? If you are then the one course open to you is to seek out GOD in your soul, for your depression grows only in YOUR acceptance of separation between yourself and HIM.'

The transformation in me was instantaneous. I felt complete calmness in my mind and my body. I believe this is called synchronicity. It changed my whole perspective on life. For the first time in many years, I felt wonderful. The hopelessness that I had been feeling literally vanished. There are miracles, they do take place. We just have to look in the right places. That day was the turning point of my life and I do THANK GOD. God is never too late; he's always right on-time. He certainly proved it that day. He gave me my miracle; he gave me back my life!

After that experience, I read every book that I could find on positive thinking. It changed the way that I thought about life and the Bipolar. It helped me to see that by fighting it I was only making it worse. I learned to accept it and manage it. I know when the signs are setting in and before it can take a great hold of me, I go and see Dr. L, he adjusts my tablets, and everything goes back to normal. I read a passage in one of Dr. Reg Barrett's books. I try and live my life by this rule, well most days anyhow. It goes like this: Imagine if you had a bank account that credited your account each morning with R86, 400.00 that carried over no balance from day to day, allowed you to keep no cash in your account and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day....What would you do? You would draw out every cent and use it. Well here is a little secret: You do have such a bank account and its' name is TIME; every morning you are credited with 86,400 seconds. Every night it cancels whatever you haven't used to good purpose, it carries over no balances, allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you and each night it burns the records of the day. If you failed to use the day's deposit, the loss is yours. There is no going back, no drawing against "Tomorrow'. So draw on this precious fund of seconds and use it wisely in order to get the utmost in health, happiness and success.


In 1983, I enrolled in a Reiki Course. Part of the training was that we had to carry out 'self-healing' this entailed; 1) Affirmations - these are sayings that help clear the blocked energies in the body, it helps to raise all sorts of suppressed emotions and issues, which once dealt with certainly make you feel a lot better. The sayings are said twenty one times a day for twenty-one days. It has been scientifically proven that our subconscious mind takes twenty-one days to change its' thought pattern. 2) Self- healing; this is a hands-on healing done on yourself also for twenty-one days. Reiki has helped me tremendously in accepting and understanding certain events in my life. I now have a better understanding as to why I had to give Adrey up for adoption. Because of what I learned in Reiki, I delved deeply into cosmic cycles affect our lives and the choices that we make. I am finally able to accept and understand why Adrey was never allowed to belong to me. I wrote a poem about my reflections on the matter, this is how it goes:



After writing this poem, my way of thinking about Adrey changed. I was finally able to let her go. At last, I felt at peace within myself. I wish her well. I know that she has had a good life and will continue to do so. I look at myself as the vessel that had to bring her into this world. Her parents were unable to have children, but Adrey had obviously chosen them as her parents and the only way for her to get to them would have been through me, or someone like me. This might seem a little strange, but to me it's a logical explanation.

There are still some days when I feel sorry for myself, but then I think of a little speech that my youngest son Myles gave to me. He is a very perceptive young man and he told me that in order to be a 'whole' person, with no hang-ups, I'd have to mend the DAMN WALL. You see, he explained, 'if the railing at the top of the DAMN WALL is broken, you will fix it, because if you don't someone could fall off and drown. If it breaks again then you will fix it again. Then you might notice that the walk way is splitting. You will need to fix that too. Then he said, 'if you are smart, you will send divers down to the bottom of the wall to see exactly what is going on. And you know what Mom? They will come back up and tell you that there is a big CRACK in the dam wall and it needs to be fixed, because if it isn't then it doesn't matter how much work you do on the top, if the base of the wall is cracked everything will just keep breaking.' Then he said to me, 'Mom, you have to fix your 'DAM WALL' because if you don't, one day it might just collapse and it just might kill you.' I thank Myles for his intuitiveness. I thank him for making it all so clear to me. This is why I've written this story.


2007 - What a year that turned out to be. I connected with people I never thought I would see again, well not in this life anyway.

Bruce, my daughter Carmen, my granddaughter Jasmine and I went to visit my father in Philipolis. I had not seen my father for 33 years. We had a very nice visit with him and we still keep in contact with each other.

The second event was that I managed to contact David. The last time that I saw him was also 33 years ago. David and his wife Diane came to visit us. David, naturally, was very interested to find out all about Adrey. I gave him one of the photos of Adrey. I was pleased that he has had a successful life. Diane said that it came as no surprise to her that David and I would see each other again. She said that David had been through a tough time as well concerning Adrey and I. I have to say a very big THANK YOU to both Diane and Bruce for allowing David and I to meet again. Without their support, the meeting could never have taken place. This next poem was dedicated to all the young people of the 1970s' especially the ones that thought they knew it all.


Life was so sweet in that period of time,
Rodrigues, Pink Floyd letting out a chime.
That was when she met him; I'm telling you it's true.
At first, it was magical, wonderful; they felt it was their due
Holding hands, sitting in the park, riding motor bikes too.
Feeling all excited when he knocked on the door,
She thought her heart would fall through the floor.
Oh! To be fifteen, no cares to be seen,
What a life, it was so happy it would seem.
Then the passion started, that's where the fault did lie,
They never thought ahead, this was no butterfly.
Their love was not enough for what lay ahead.
This was the most unspeakable thing that anyone could do.
It was the 70's after all, when youth was misconstrued.
What happened was really sad, these two had disobeyed.
So torn apart they were, by moms and dads a plenty,
This, they said will never do, they said it none to gently.
The boy was sent away to places unbeknown,
Do not return they said or your life won't be your own.
The girl was harder hi than he,
For she had lots of suffering and traumas, he did not see.
Now you might think this tale is filled with untruths,
But everything is true as truthful as can be.
Today she's a woman of forty-nine and fifty-three is he.
So many years have gone, so many things they've done.
The child they created is alive and well,
They each have great partners, this I think is swell.
After thirty-three years they met again, I know this to be so,
Oh! The wonderment of families makes a happy soul.
She's glad to have met him, and seen how he is now,
The tears that were once shed are replaced with a smile.
She's very glad to have shared this tale with all of you,
And remember when a butterfly lands on your shoulder, she's thinking of you.

There was one last meeting that took place. I managed to contact Adrey. She was sorry for the way that she had treated me before. Since we have been living in Pietermaritzburg, we have had an unlisted telephone no. She said that she had tried to find me but she wasn't successful. I told her about David and she was very keen to meet him. David was also very keen to meet Adrey. We set up a meeting. David and Diane could not believe how like David she was. Adrey has a little girl of her own now and we all met her as well. Unfortunately, that was the last time that I saw Adrey. I don't know if our paths will ever cross again. I still wish that some day she will find a place in her life for me. If it doesn't happen, I will be alright because I know that she has loving parents and a loving husband and child.

Bruce and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and in a few days, I will be celebrating my fiftieth birthday. I never thought that I would see these milestones in my life. I realize now that life is not about choosing the easy road; it's about choosing the road that is the most beneficial to you. For me, it's been a road where I learned to be compassionate, kind and considerate to everyone, including myself. If I had not experienced all the good and the bad, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I've had many obstacles in my way and many big mountains to climb, but climb them I did. In fact, I'm still climbing them, but they seem to be a bit easier now. I know I could never have done it all on my own. God knew it too, he knew that I had chosen a very rough road and he knew that I would need help, so he gave me the most wonderful family that any one could wish for. Bruce, Ryan, Carmen, Myles, my mother, sister and a whole host of other people have been my lifeline. They have stood beside me through all the depressive years, the 29 shock treatments, attempted suicides, back operations, you name it, these incredible people have been there and they still are.

Whenever I find myself being a bit righteous or I think that my views on life are the only ones that there are, I humble myself and remember this saying:


Ed. Note: Marlene is a member of HealthyPlace and shared her story after the HealthyPlace TV show on the Devastation Caused By Untreated Bipolar Disorder.

next: The Day I Was Diagnosed as Bipolar
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, March 17). My Bipolar Story: The Crack in the Wall, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: April 3, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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