New writer Mark Lee Kirchmeier who describes himself as “an oxymoron,” is on a mission with his novel to educate the public and dispel myths perpetuated by some TV shows.
Kirchmeier, who has written ten short stories involving being bipolar and alcohol and drug abuse, was on a quest to educate the public about bipolar disorder when he wrote his first newly published novel The Province of Hope.
“My family was in denial about my bipolar illness,” said Kirchmeier in a recent interview. “I suffered because of their denial. They thought, ‘Oh, he’s got allergies.’ I love my family and things are better now though. I’m not bitter. I was bitter for a long time. I’ve forgiven my mom. It was years ago. I’m just concerned about young bipolars, especially gay ones.”
Kirchmeier, who started writing and publishing at a very young age, said bipolar people will self-medicate with alcohol, sex, and drugs often and that they don’t show a lot of good judgment in their hypo-manic state.
“It’s chronic and it doesn’t go away,” said Kirchmeier. “I know of many cases when the parents won’t get their child treated. I was unable to write or focus before I started taking Abilify. When I was young I would become depressed and have nightmares. I stopped writing at 14 and at 19 started having psychotic episodes. I lost my twenties.”
According to Kirchmeier, who has been sober seven years, Province, published by Publish America, is about some of the pitfalls people with the illness seem to get into, particularly his obsession with his first love, even though he’s not treated particularly well.
“I don’t know why there is such a stigma with bipolar disorder,” he said. “I’m concerned about bipolars’ treatment in the press. We’re treated the way we are because of how we’re treated on TV.”
Kirchmeier, who has been hospitalized seven times, said he self-medicated and it became a habit before he was diagnosed bipolar.
“I have friends and my old friends have returned to me,” he said. “You have to keep taking your meds even if you feel good. I get upset at people like Tom Cruise for criticizing medications. A psychotic episode needs to be dealt with seriously. I don’t want people to lose their twenties any more. I’ve had parents call me and say they think their child may be bipolar.”
Kirchmeier, who has been in a relationship for 20 years, is currently working on several projects including his next novel whose working title is Children of Eve, a sequel to Province that is ten years into the future. He said he plans on addressing AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in his novels.
“All relationships struggle,” he said. “Straight and gay relationships are the same in that all relationships struggle. I think it’s universal. Gays can be involved in committed relationships just like straight people.”
Kirchmeier, who said he thinks of himself as an advocate, said bipolars are not dangerous and that there are only three or four million bipolars in the world.
“I wanted to write about the bipolar person so that he’s not violent,” he said. “Not everyone who abuses alcohol or drugs is bipolar. A parent has to be educated. Listen to your child. I think parents know that there’s something wrong with their child at an early age. I know people who get to their forties and not be diagnosed till then. In severe cases like mine there is mania and psychosis. I know that scares people. I went into psychosis and was not helped. I eventually got help but only because I got so severe. This was an intervention with my parent’s friends. I suffered brain damage because from mania.”
Kirchmeier said bipolar people almost always have a high IQ and that they can be writers, actors, and artists.
“So many of us are like dim light bulbs that can’t burn brightly until we are treated,” he said. “I’m an example. I still go up and down but it’s controlled on Abilify. I have friends that watch me. My problem is more mania than depression but I have suffered from depression. I’m not worried about it. I’m going to live for today.”
Kirchmeier advises aspiring writers to write a journal even if they can’t think of a novel idea.
“I’ll write things down and they’ll end up in a short story,” he explained. “Keep everything you write. Write about your families. And for bipolars, write about the struggles of the family. My family didn’t understand at first about the book but they’re supportive now. I’m concerned about the lack of insurance regarding bipolar people. They need to have help to get their medications. I was lucky and unlucky. I was always protected by my family. They bought my medications for me when I needed them.”