Bipolar Bare: My Life's Journey with Mental Disorder
by Carlton Davis

"Carlotta has been many things in Carlton's life: muse, nurse, showgirl, cocktail waitress, and whore. I am half of a package that's normally male, but whose aspirations and desires are at times female. The body of Carlton stays the same, but the mind splits... High [on drugs or alcohol], we lost all inhibition and did crazy things."

This is a fascinating, complex memoir. Writer Carlton Davis is also an architect and an artist who has long lived with mental illness. This memoir chronicles the onset of his problems, his treatments, his relapses, and his recovery. Today, at over sixty, he is not institutionalized, no longer suicidal, and no longer abusing substances. His artwork (good, but sometimes terrifying) is featured throughout the book.

Davis had an unhappy childhood: his mom abandoned him before he is six, never to be seen again until he found her  decades later. As a young boy, Davis wished to be a girl. He graduated from Yale as an architect, worked in his field, married, had a daughter, divorced, and remarried. One wishes to hear more from his second wife, Ginger, "the long-suffering but strong-hearted redhead," who has hung on  through so many volatile years.

Davis writes about his treatment for suicidal ideation, addiction, severe depression. During dialogues with Carlotta, he examines his past to find answers and peace. Quite recently, he was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Properly medicated, off drugs and alcohol, he is now leading a normal life.

Carlotta is confusing—is she his feminine side? She calls herself his muse/nurse. She is playful, optimistic, even, and sometimes a whore. She is presumably based on his mother, at whom he  was, for years, extremely angry.

She explains herself: "I, Carlotta, am not real. Carlotta is the voice Carlton hears in his head and what he imagines me to be... This is not schizophrenia, where the voice is audible and directs its charge, but a manifestation of thinking where the voice speaks the alternative viewpoints to every situation. Many people discourse with a voice in their head. Abraham Lincoln did."

Did Carlton Davis have multiple personality disorder? The female virtually disappears after his recent diagnosis, years of talk therapy, and the right drugs.

The value of this memoir, grueling in parts to read, is that the man is clearly not "crazy" and, by its end, he is functioning the way most of us function, well, most of the time. One assumes writing the book helped. Bipolar Bare should provide hope for those with a mental illness and/or their family members.

Return to USR Home