An Author Reveals His Secret in The New York Times

My book's role in the story was reduced to one line; I understand the choices made by the columnist and her editor, however, as it's a well-written and informative column.

In the column, mention of Committed was reduced to one line; I understand the choices made by the columnist and her editor, however, as it’s a well-written and informative column.

While it’s not a subject I’ve written about much on this blog, a key narrative theme in my book Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road is my coming to terms with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The publication of the book essentially “outed” me, in a manner in which I had the most control; my own words. I also knew that since Committed–a literary memoir from a small press–was unlikely to be a bestseller or read by many I cross paths with in my day job, my condition would still remain unknown to many people.

No more. I agreed on Monday to be interviewed by New York Times columnist Alina Tugend about my condition; the story (in my mind anyway) was about me outing myself with my book, but it took a different turn. Still, I am the featured person in the story, with a photo and everything (the photo shoot occurred Tuesday, while I was doing a reading of Committed at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland). The story went live online yesterday and is in today’s (Saturday) print edition.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds now.

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

22 Responses to “An Author Reveals His Secret in The New York Times”

  1. charlotterainsdixon Reply November 15, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Oh Patrick, you are a brave and wonderful man. And so is your memoir.

  2. Patrick, wow!!!!! The New York Times!!! I see “Committed” skyrocketing now! Totally excited for you🙂 And though I understand your angst over more people becoming aware of your bi-polar condition, it is something that has become relatively commonplace AND your book may help people. I honestly don’t think this is the type of condition that sparks judgement so much as understanding and hopefully empathy. As I told you, my boyfriend is not just bi-polar, but paranoid and schizo-effective. No meds helped him and his day-to-day can be torturous. I also believe my father is bi-polar, too, but he’d never admit it, that’s for sure!

    I see nothing but good coming from this NYT article. I say it deserves a party! *confetti falls* *horns blow* *crowd cheers*😀😀😀

    • Hi Donna,

      Thanks for the horns and confetti! Yes, thank you for noting here your own history with it. The National Alliance on Mental Illness believes 10 million Americans are bipolar, although many are undiagnosed and many more are diagnosed but are untreated, usually by choice.

      When I was writing this book I read a number of memoirs about people with mental disorders. Many were quite good, but they all highlighted sensational moments of breakdowns, hospitalizations, and schizophrenic episodes. Many of us struggle but have been fortunate not to have rock-bottom moments like that. It may have made my book less interesting to a mainstream press because of the lack of sensationalism, but I think it reflects the lives of most of those 10 million.

  3. I say it is the perfect thing, Patrick, which will point you in directions previously unconsidered, and lead you down what may be your true path (whatever that might be). I work with someone who is bipolar and she trusts me, so she shared, but I have told no one we work with and neither has she. Does it affect her work? A little, but she, like you, has learned to cope, compromise and do what is needed to care for herself and do the job well.

    You are giving people like her a voice. You are being the brave one, to take that step forward and stay silent no more. It takes courage, strength and moral fortitude to do that in the face of not knowing what will happen, just knowing this needs to happen.

    No, you didn’t anticipate the article taking the turn it did (seems they almost always do take turns like this!) – but it was meant to happen. I think it will help you step into your own strength, your own power, and make a true difference for others in the process.

    I salute you not only saying “yes” to the article – but to taking those first, oh-so-challenging steps to put yourself, and your story, on the page in the first place! Its what has lead you here, and will be a catalyst for good things to come.

    • Thank you for your support, Amy. You know, you mention how your friend struggles at work at times. When I came out to my boss (the one mentioned in the article) he talked about what a valued employee I was, a creative thinker and doer. Bipolar minds do a lot of divergent thinking–making uncommon connections–which is also associated with creativity. I told him that what he valued in me is also a part of my condition, that I wouldn’t wish it away because I believe it is part of my core creative being.

      • She is indeed quite creative, which is probably why she and I get along so well! She has mixed bipolar, and she says having both mania and depression at once can be quite a challenge. But she manages it well, and takes good care of the person we support. 🙂

  4. I somehow feel you will be okay in the future. Kay Jamison also revealed. So many people have the condition, and the planet cavorts between schizophrenia and bipolar, and the weather vs. emotions, reflects that. If we are not vulnerable at this time in history, when will be. We would be stones. I am undoubtedly a fan, and I think I am because you had the guts and the call to share your process of what I call getting a Muffa, MFA to the regular crowd of aspirants. It’s all a slug, and sometimes giant leaps. I think a lot of people have your back. Have a good day,

    • Esther, your comments read like poetry to me; thank you yet again. You’ve read my memoir so you have some context as well. I’ve read two memoirs by Jamison, and her first, where she reveals it even while a leading practitioner in bipolar research, was inspiring. She had more too lose than me.

  5. Brave!!! Thanks for being real. I look forward to reading it😄

  6. Bravo! I’m not bi-polar but my mother was. I think that article is going to put Committed into the stratosphere, no matter that the book gets only a one-line mention.

    • Thanks, let’s hope you’re right about the stratosphere!

      Thanks you for sharing that detail about your mother. A singer-songwriter I interview in the book revealed the same thing. Many people have a loved one with a mental condition, and my book is as much about living with someone with one as it is having one.

  7. Patrick, I was truly moved by “Committed,” and now this NY Times article will give more readers a chance to be enlightened about bipolar-ness. I’m not going to say disorder. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us at the Writer’s Center. You carry a torch for the rest of us to speak and write our own truth. And thank you for your wise words about blogging. I wish you continued success.

    • Thank you so much for this comment, and your encouragement. (And for tolerating the disruption of my Writer’s Center reading by the NYT photographer!) It was great meeting you.

      I’ve been thinking about the word disorder. My mind certainly isn’t “ordered” in a conventional sense, but I actually think that’s a good thing. I like the way I think and wouldn’t change that part of me. I recall some in the disabled community preferring “differently-abled.” Perhaps I and others are “differently-ordered.”

  8. Hi Patrick, long time, no talk.🙂 I’m just starting to get back into the blogging world again, and am re-connecting with my old writer friends! First off, CONGRATS on the completion and publication of your memoir! That’s such a huge accomplishment; you must feel very proud.

    Secondly, I just read the New York Times article. I think what you’ve done is very brave. I’ve suffered from anxiety for most of my life, and I am always scared to tell employers. Recently, I left corporate America and started working for myself, and I feel much better. I therefore do understand the stigma, and I think people like you are leading the way in prompting a public conversation which needs to happen.

    I am going to have the buy Committed and read your work!

    –Shari

    • Hi Shari,

      Yes, I was pleased to see in my blog feed that Rogue Writer was back! Congrats on finishing the novel, and best of luck with the agent search. Wish I could help you on the latter front; I didn’t find much interest in a literary memoir by an unknown among agents, so I submitted directly to small presses.

      Thank you for your encouragement. You know, the NYT columnist who tracked me down said she first thought of writing about disclosing mental disorders to your boss when talking with the editor of The Atlantic, who published a book about his history of anxiety. My work history–chronicled in occasional references in COMMITTED–involved seeking employment where autonomy was high and continuous interaction with others was low. I told the columnist (this didn’t make it in, nor did about 95% of what we talked about in two long calls and several email chains) was how even though I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been before due to new meds I started on about 5 years ago (not too long before the road trip in COMMITTED), my current employer has 12,000 employees, and we’re part of a larger cabinet agency that is part of a larger federal government. My largest employer in my career had 50 people; at my job before this one I was the CEO of a nonprofit with three full-time employees and two contractors. So this has been a challenge, but I’m coping.

      By the way, your website looks fantastic (well, both do). I ended up leaving this site as is, but I have a newly updated author site that I’m pleased with: http://www.patrick-ross.com . Hope you like it!

      Patrick

      Patrick

  9. I truly hope your disclosure doesn’t have an impact on any future jobs you apply for once your two year tenure is up, Patrick – assuming you even need to apply for them, what with the success of Committed, of course🙂

    Having walked the mental illness path myself, I know it’s still treated with, at best, caution and, at worst, hand-wringing paranoia in some areas of the workplace. I worked in a fairly high-pressure software engineering environment, and on one occasion when I was given a job to do that, frankly, I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to handle, I suffered a mildly large ‘wobble’ that, without going into too much detail, resulted in me doing a Panic-Attack AWOL for a couple of days. The almost instant result was that I was quietly but swiftly transferred to another, rather ‘special’ department. Special for these reasons: all projects handled by this department were ‘stand-alone’ projects – as in, only requiring one person at a time to work on them rather than a team all working together, so your work couldn’t ‘affect’ other people’s work, if you see what I mean – and all the people in this department had what Human Resources tactfully referred to as ‘problems fitting in with the work environment.’

    There were three of us. Me, transferred within a couple of days of the aforementioned ‘wobble’ – the only one I ever had in the four years I worked there, incidentally, but since I did disclose my mental health history in my Personnel form when I accepted the job I guess I invited certain conclusions to be drawn when things went a bit pear-shaped… Then there was a guy who was openly gay, and therefore upsetting all the old-school ex-major-generals-turned-software-engineers in his old department. He was transferred shortly after turning up to work on a Casual Clothes Friday sporting a t-shirt bearing the legend “I can’t even think straight” – which I thought was pure genius but apparently his boss and several co-workers threw a bright blue fit. And last but by no means least, a guy who was technically brilliant but very likely somewhere on the autistic spectrum when it came to social interactions with others. Conversations with him felt a bit like standing in the path of a speeding truck; he would lean right into your face and TALK VERY LOUDLY at you and… well, let’s just say he didn’t do tact or empathy very well. He was transferred after several of the things he’d told several different middle-managers would go horribly wrong with their latest ‘software innovations’ – albeit in his typically not-very-endearing manner – actually DID go wrong exactly as he predicted they would. Unfortunately for him, it was AFTER they’d publicly ridiculed him in front of their bosses for his aforementioned predictions. Which, quite obviously, meant He Was Trouble.(?)

    We christened our little departmental workspace ‘Anarchy Corner’ (privately of course) and all got on like the proverbial house on fire. So even though we were initially all transferred for negative reasons, ultimately it worked out well for us. We did a lot of good work for our department, and we became the best of buddies because we all ‘got’ each other, even if no-one else in the company did🙂

    So i guess what I’m saying is that even when a situation seems negative initially, it can turn out to be a good thing in the end. But I’m sure you’ll be fine, Patrick. You have a good, solid track record of excellent service that your boss is happy to attest to – and legions of us, of course, your loyal fans.🙂

  10. Hey Patrick, congrats on all that is happening. It’s all good. Hang on, man. Life is about to get real interesting ! Cheers, Cliff

Chime in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: