In her first memoir, Manic, Terri Cheney wrote of her struggles as an adult to make a life for herself while trying to cope with being Bipolar. After receiving many requests from parents, Terri sat down to write another memoir, The Dark Side of Innocence, about living with the disease during her childhood, tween and teenage years.
The Dark Side of Innocence is not a scientific or medical look at Bipolar disorder. It is a highly personal account of what it was like growing up with this illness, which she thought of as the “Black Beast” inside her. This unpredictable Black Beast ruled her life by manipulating her moods. The worst part was that Terri never knew when he would show up or leave and change everything.
The book begins when Terri is 7 years old and she tried to commit suicide because she couldn’t complete a homework assignment on time. Every emotion, such as fear, was so extreme, that her reactions to them seemed normal to her. We follow her through highs and lows of Bipolar disorder from age 7 until she is 18 and leaving for college.
One wonders how her parents and teachers never caught on to her disease. However, in the 1970s, Bipolar disorder was not thought to occur in children and Bipolar disorder in general was not discussed and recognized as it is now. Another reason why the adults in Terri’s world never saw her disease is because Terri did everything she could to hide the Black Beast. She was a popular, straight A student.
I would recommend that all parents and teachers read The Dark Side of Innocence. Not only is it a fascinating read that I could not put down, but with cases of childhood Bipolar disorder on the rise, Terri’s account might help you see what signs to look for in your children or teens.