Simon, Lizzie 1975(?)-
SIMON, Lizzie 1975(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1975.
CAREER: Freelance writer and producer. Worked as creative producer at Flea Theatre, New York, NY.
AWARDS, HONORS: Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health grant, 1999.
Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D was the inspiration for the MTV television documentary True Life: I'm Bipolar.
SIDELIGHTS: At age seventeen, the future seemed to hold little but the promise of success for Lizzie Simon. Growing up in a loving and "intellectually robust family with diverse creative interests," she "remembers the atmosphere as always 'exciting and upbeat,'" according to Wendy Braun in an interview with Simon for the Saturday Evening Post. While spending her senior year of high school abroad in Paris, she began to experience the excitement of international learning and the incipient freedoms of adulthood; meanwhile, a spot awaited her on the incoming freshman rosters of Columbia University. However, Simon suddenly found difficulty expressing herself and interacting with other people. "When she returned home for the holidays to visit her family . . . Simon felt jittery, worried, and riddled with anxieties," Braun reported. A psychiatric consultation resulted in a diagnosis of depression and a prescription for Paxil. While she returned to Paris to complete the remainder of the school year, the drug eventually drove her to a psychotic breakdown, complete with delusions and paranoia. Simon was sent home, and after further medical examination and questioning, the family history of bipolar disorder was unearthed. Doctors had the answer they needed at last; Simon was manic-depressive and experiencing severe, unpredictable, and debilitating mood swings. Simon tells the story of her ordeal with manic-depressive disorder, and offers hope to other young sufferers of the disease, in Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D.
From an early age, Simon reports, she knew her thoughts and inner landscape were different from that of her peers, although these difference were never a source of trouble. "My parents thought that I was moody or creative—they never thought I had a mental illness," she related to Braun. But in the full grip of the disorder prior to diagnosis, her world changed in ways she could have never anticipated. "I had never been so tortured: I felt a mass of pain at every instant, and it was deepening, thickening," Simon writes in Detour. "I could not speak of it because I had lost the consciousness needed to identify that something was wrong. Lizzie ended. I was something else." "There is a romantic notion about bipolar disorder, but there is nothing romantic about it," Simon stated in her interview with Braun. "In fact, I really wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy." Fortunately, treatment with lithium helped bring the disorder under control.
In preparing to write Detour Simon traveled the country, talking to young sufferers of bipolar disorder and reporting on the experiences in understanding, confronting, and overcoming their condition. Part of her effort to conquer her illness has become a mission to educate and assist young people in coping with the disorder. She advises them to find out all they can about bipolar disorder, and to help explain the implications of bipolar to family and friends. Perhaps more importantly, Simon stresses that sufferers "not allow the diagnosis to become their identity," as she told Braun. "Young people need to know that being diagnosed with bipolar is not a death sentence," she added. "They can achieve anything they want."
Kliatt reviewer Patricia Moore called Detour "an invaluable resource," and stated that it is "one of the few accounts of bipolar disorder written by a manic-depressive who can cogently and powerfully recount an individual's successful" attempts to confront and overcome their condition. Loree Davis, writing in Library Journal, called it an "honest memoir" and a "first effort well done," while a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded: "It's no easy thing to provide a glimpse into the churning melancholia of bipolar lows, but Simon manages it—with considerable effect indeed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Simon, Lizzie, Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Detour: MyBipolar Road Trip in 4-D, p. 551.
Kliatt, March, 2004, Patricia Moore, review of Detour, p. 33.
Library Journal, June 15, 2002, Loree Davis, review of Detour, p. 82.
Medical Update, November, 2002, Cory SerVaas, "The Challenge of Being Young and Bipolar," p. 1.
Saturday Evening Post, January/February, 2003, Wendy Braun, "The Challenge of Being Young, Creative, and Bipolar" (interview), p. 50.
Lizzie Simon Home Page,http://www.lizziesimon.com (November 18, 2004).*