I went to the Ryan Litch Sang Bipolar Foundation’s annual dinner dance in Palm Beach on Sunday night. I did not know a soul besides Joyce and Dusty Sang, Ryan’s parents, whom I met a couple of years ago when I wrote a story about the Sangs’ efforts to raise money for research into early onset bipolar disorder and to help find an empirical test for bipolar.
At age five, Ryan began exhibiting symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, a serious mental illness which manifests itself with recurring episodes of mania and depression. Unbeknownst to everyone, Ryan had decided to stop all prescription mood stabilization medications because he did not like their powerful side effects.
He believed he could control his illness, a decision all too common with Bipolar Disorder. When Ryan suddenly entered a manic episode, he had nothing to help stabilize his brain chemistry. He had not slept in days, and in order to sleep, he self-medicated. Tragically, Ryan passed away in his sleep. Ryan was 24-years-old.
It was a swank affair – black tie, champagne and lots of beautiful people with eye popping bling. Ruh-roh. My idea of jewelry is the permanent henna tattoo that wraps around my left wrist. I felt a teeny bit intimidated with my fake diamond earings, my one and only snazzy dress and my rental car. Thank God for Crest Whitestrips. At least I could stand there and smile if I nothing else.
But, no, as soon as I was introduced by my gracious host, I felt fine. “Christine has just written about book about her depression, bipolar and alcoholism…” Wow. That kind of intro usually provokes stammering and raised eyebrows. But not here. Everyone at this party had been touched by bipolar – whether a child, sibling, parent or other loved one. We all shared this one, very private secret about which we rarely speak. We all “get it” – as I like to say.
The walls fell down and, man, did we talk. It was so amazing to hear others tell their stories – what worked for them and what didn’t, …