Me & Her begins with police knocking on Karen Tyrrell's motel room door. She is sure the police have the wrong room as they are calling someone else's name. But then she remembers falsely registering under that name. She opens the door and is confronted by four policemen, a nurse and a doctor. She is taken to a hospital's psychiatric ward where she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Harassed by parents
This autobiographical memoir reads like a mystery as Karen searches for remedies and reasons for her bipolar disorder. A starting point in her search is stress. Karen recounts how the parents of one of her students harassed her. They turned the teaching job she loved into a burden she dreaded. She could not sleep and just wanted to escape dealing with those parents. So she ran away to a motel.
After being transported to the psychiatric ward, Karen refuses to cooperate. She refuses to take any medication. Instead, she undertakes her own research into her mental illness. Karen approaches other patients she suspects have bipolar disorder and interviews them. She takes extensive notes. Her illness worsens and she is prevented from returning home to her husband and children. To get out of the hospital, Karen agrees to take the medication.
Experimenting with bipolar
The medication helps control Karen's bipolar disorder. She is released and returns home to her loving but concerned family. She finds a caring psychologist. She has supportive friends. Her school colleagues support her and she eventually returns to teaching.
But then Karen decides to experiment with her illness. She craves the manic energy that seemed to make her so creative. So she deliberately stresses herself and denies herself sleep to induce a bipolar episode. Karen becomes psychotic. She thinks she is psychic like the main character in the television show
Medium, which is one of her favourite shows. She believes she can communicate with the dead and psychically heal people.
The memoir takes the reader on Karen's quest for wellness. Will she see through her delusions? Will her family, friends and work colleagues continue to support her? Will she discover why she is susceptible to the illness? And most of all, will she recover?
Me & Her is written in a simple style with little medical jargon. It contains a lot of information about bipolar disorder. The memoir reads more like a page-turning thriller than the exploration of a medical condition. It is a book for those with bipolar disorder or who know someone with the disorder. It is also a book for anyone who is interested in how people live with a mental illness.
Six years after that night in the motel, Karen Tyrrell says she has triumphed over the illness. But she is careful to avoid things that might cause her illness to return. She lives with her family in Brisbane and writes young adult and mystery novels.