Shannon Cuthrell: Bipolar Life is a Great Repression

ShannonI’ve lived through ten years of struggle over the course of one year. I find it necessary to say that my life never truly began until I left the confines of “home” (as they call it) and went to school in the freedom-ridden mountains. My mind had never been so jumbled and so simultaneously clear until that point. Before discovering that my brain was plagued with the depths of bipolar disorder, I experienced my first bout of blissful mania and unbreakable depression. Maybe it was a mix of all of these things, coupled with the newness of being away from home that caused me to write more than I ever had before. I learned more about myself in one year that I did in an entire lifetime. I then wrote a memoir called The Great Repression that told a story through poetry of the frenzied embodiments of manic-depression. Ahead is one of the poems that I wrote in retrospect of my year that basically explains everything about my mind’s transformation.

When Freshman Year Got Weird

I’d driven myself into madness,

spending a year of my life chasing an acid trip.

I fought a second Cold War against my thoughts,

against my throbbing brain, bleeding with the innocence I’d left behind.

My moral compass, cracked and battered against my racing thoughts, shattered.

I tried to take a different road but there was a stone in my shoe.

I prostituted my creativity to the impression of others

and purposely let myself go to the rum, the bodiless monster.

I became a martyr of normal and a slave to weirdness.

Part of me perished the day I stopped caring,

the day I listened to the screaming voices and didn’t look back.

I sacrificed myself to a vicious persona,

who swallowed me up whole and spit me out dry.

After the mania subsided, everything slowed and my mood began to slump and sink, as did my body. I wrote this from the depths of my depression:

The Summer of the Darkness

The bleak air swallowed my eyeballs as I stared at nothing

and everything.

My thoughts were pregnant with the words,

“why won’t it shut off?”

My nightmares threw parties during the day,

indulging them selves on MY territory.

“That’s MY record player you’re spinning!”

No matter how much I yelled,

they never opened their ears to me.

I wished I could sleep to pass the time

so that every second didn’t drag like a millennium’s struggles would.

It was like arduously studying for weeks and failing the test;

like passing a pearl-studded cross picketed on the side of the road

and discovering later that the person whose face had been planted to the pavement

was a childhood friend.

Every moment a devastation.

It was like rummaging through chest drawers trying to find, find find!

But you don’t know what you’re looking for.

It was like running like lightening to escape who’s behind you,

but you don’t know who you’re running from.


With only my exhausted heartbeat to accompany my forced breaths.

It beat like the sound of dripping water

hitting the linoleum flood

from the leaked ceiling on a rainy July Thursday.

Death had manipulated me and seduced me

with her dry mouth, scented of lumps of blood.

I remember when the knife danced with my wrist

with every intention of draining my body of everything.

And nothing.

That’s what it’s like when you’re depressed. You have everything and nothing. You feel everything and nothing. That’s why it’s so important for anyone struggling with depression to know this: it’s only when you’ve sinked to the bottom of the ocean that you can truly see the shore differently than how everyone else sees it. I wish I had someone to give me that hope when I was in it. And I certainly was in it.

Mental health advocacy is the spinal chord of a better society. With its foundation, we can prevent suicides tenfold, reduce late blooming diagnoses and increase overall awareness, which leads to a smarter, healthier generation.

That’s what’s so beautiful about foundations like Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Why Give to DBSA? Because every dollar they receive helps them assist someone on their way to recovery. Every year, DBSA assists millions through nearly 300 chapters and more than 700 support groups around the country, through their online educational materials and wellness tools, and through the many other ways that they support their peers living with mood disorders. The only way that they can do this is with support from members of the DBSA community.

For more information, please contact the Development Department at (800) 826-3632 or

Shannon Cuthrell

Shannon Cuthrell is an English and Journalism major from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. In addition to being a dedicated student, she also devotes a significant amount of time to writing poetry, observing the great Appalachian mountains and consuming copious amounts of coffee.