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Submitted Literature

Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders

By Julie Lomoe

Review

Julie Lomoe, an Art Therapist and passionate US advocate for the mentally ill, has created in Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, a murder mystery with a mental health theme – one that differs vastly from popular crime fiction that stigmatises mental illnesses. The novel opens with Erika – Director of WellSpring Mental Health Day Centre – discovering the body of Stephen Wright, a service user with Bipolar Affective Disorder and a history of alcohol addiction.  At first, Stephen’s death seems to be an unexpected suicide – the truth is much more sinister.  This novel features an array of characters with mental health problems, from paranoid schizophrenia to antisocial personality disorder, and frankly considers the co-morbidity of mental health problems and addiction issues, both causative and consequential.  Crucially, Lomoe exposes a variety of commonly held misperceptions and stigmas that surround mental illness.  Character Erika herself has BPAD and struggles with her enforced ‘coming out’ with this – in particular, with the automatic assumptions that it leads the police and others around her to make regarding her inability to deal with stress and supposed unreliability as a witness.  Erika is not a flawless heroine in the novel – she acknowledges her vulnerability and learns to work with rather than against her illness. 

Key Themes:

  • Bipolar Affective Disorder
  • Revealing Reads
  • Societal Pressure

Significant Quotes / Pages

56 – “Walking back to WellSpring with Rishi, I thought about Kevin Winthrop.  The unexpected attention was flattering, and it reminded me of the loneliness I’d been feeling lately.  I began brooding about the directions my life had taken since my acute bipolar episode three years ago.  I’d quit my hospital job, lost my husband, and after a few mania-driven shopping sprees, lost my credit rating as well.  With medication and therapy, I’d been able to resume functioning fairly normally, but it had been rough.  Those two years of dumbed-down temp jobs had taken a toll on my self-esteem.”

101 – “All week, every week, I played the roles of calm, judicious administrator and sensitive, empathic therapist, and my creative side was suffering serious neglect.  What had happened to Erika Norgren, the edge, avant-garde musician?  I knew the answer: a few years back, she had succumbed to her distaste for chronic poverty and shelved her fantasies of stardom, yielding to Erika the sensible, bread-winning social worker.  On the surface, the sensible Erika was doing a decent job of things, but the outspoken, artistic Erika was smothering inside the respectable shell.  Artistic Erika wanted to burst out and be heard.  Watching Jeff’s creativity flower day by day with only fueling her jealousy.  She was sending those acid waves of pain in protest, screening ‘Let me out or else!’”

 

221-2 – “Maybe crazy was just a word to Mark, but it was a scary one to me. I was exhibiting some classic danger signs: sleeping too little, talking and thinking too fast about too many things, inventing grandiose schemes and convincing people to buy into them through the sheer energy of my enthusiasm. What we have here, I thought, is a storm watch, not a storm warning. In the parlance of TV weathermen, it’s a watch when there is the possibility of a flood or a tornado, a warning when the dreaded event is dead certain.  What a brilliant analogy!  My cleverness bought on a fit of the giggles – inappropriate affect, another warning sign. No, not a warning, only a watch.  Nothing to worry about.

Besides, the subtle signs of mania could be considered signs of creativity.  Many of the world’s most brilliant artists, composers and writers exhibited manic behaviour, whether they were formally diagnosed or not.  When it came to acting manic, I was in the exalted company of genius.

The very fact that I could step back and scrutinise my own behaviour objectively meant there was no cause for alarm.  During my handful of full-blown manic episodes, I’d been convinced of the absolute rightness of my every word and deed.  Now, I was still capable of entertaining a smidgen of doubt.”

 

Reference: Julie, Lomoe. 1996. Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. College Station: Virtual Bookworm Publishing, 2006

Reviewer

- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 20th March 2009