‘Marbles’: Coming out as bipolar


The author Ellen Forney likes to say she’s had three coming outs. First, she announced that she was bisexual — not too hard for someone who lives in Seattle and whose mother is a lesbian. Second, she came out as a cartoonist (rather than becoming a therapist, as she had originally planned), landing gigs at Seattle’s alt-weekly “The Stranger” and writing comic books including “Lust” and “I Was Seven in ’75.” But her third coming out was the most difficult. She had to tell her friends and family that she has bipolar disorder, a long-term mental illness that, when left untreated, can even lead to suicide.

In the 12 years since she was diagnosed, it has gotten easier to tell loved ones about her condition, as well as to manage it. But her new graphic memoir, “Marbles,” raises the stakes. In it, she publicly lays bare her affliction: For her it entailed hypersexuality, a pharmacopoeia of medications, and friendships that were strained and broken. She tracks the ups and downs of her illness from its highs, when she was “vibrating with sexual energy” and hooking up with friends and strangers alike, to the crushing lows, when she took Tegretol (Carbamazepine) and could no longer have an orgasm. Forney, with a darkly funny honesty and powerful imagery, illustrates what it means to have a disease that affects only 1 or 2 percent of the adult population—but that most people are afraid to talk about.

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