Margaret Crockett was 17 and a freshman at College of the Redwoods in Eureka when she began to show signs of bipolar affective disorder.
“One of the counselors signed me up for five hours of college sports a day,” she writes in her memoir “Falling in Endless Spirals.” “I tried to keep up, but I began to feel as if everything were slowly teetering. Then it felt as though everything had finally stopped. When everything stopped I no longer had control.”
Despite her struggle with mental illness, Crockett, the youngest daughter of Smith River lily bulb farmers Joyce and Davy Joseph Crockett, earned her associate’s degree in 1979 and entered Humboldt State University in 1982. But she dropped out after only two quarters. She returned home to Smith River.
“I was doing some weird stuff in the town of Smith River, and Mom took me to Medford to be put in the psych ward of Rogue Valley (Medical Center),” said Crockett, who now lives in the Portland area. “I was there for a short time and diagnosed with a potassium deficiency and malnutrition. Then my parents took me out before they had a diagnosis of bipolar because I didn’t have any insurance.”
Crockett said she feels she could have finished college if her bipolar disorder had been diagnosed and controlled with medication.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of an elevated mood known as mania and usually alternates with periods of depression. Crockett said just before she was diagnosed in 1990 she was put in the Orange County jail after driving down the freeway at approximately 100 mph during one manic episode.
Crockett was diagnosed at Oregon Health Sciences University. Doctors also found a brain tumor, she said, which they treated with radiation. After her diagnosis, Crockett said she became a hazardous waste technician. She was at that job for 19 years until a herniated disc left her unable to work.
Crockett said she had two manic episodes during that time.
Crockett began her memoir in 2009. She said she hopes her book helps people who are struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness. Crockett said she also hopes her memoir helps her family’s neighbors in Smith River understand what she was going through.
“A lot of the people in Smith River thought I was weird,” she said. “And that was hard to deal with. I wanted people to know it wasn’t my fault.”
Crockett said she began her memoir after taking a creative writing class at Portland Community College. She said English was one of her favorite subjects.
Shortly after beginning her memoir, Crockett said she was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. She said had a mastectomy on her left breast and chemotherapy.
“Falling in Endless Spirals” went on sale on Amazon.com on April 14. It became available via Kindle on April 29.
“It was pretty cool,” Crockett said. “I checked every day to see how many copies I’ve sold.”
“Falling in Endless Spirals” is available at www.amazon.com.