Susan Dime-Meenan

Susan Dime-Meenan was born in Chicago, a large city in the central United States, in 1955. Her family life was happy. Her parents loved her, and she often had the company of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But from the time she was in primary school, Susan knew that there was something wrong with her. She sometimes felt empty and sad, and when she felt that way, she was shy and quiet. At other times she was happy, friendly, and energetic. Susan didn't find out what was wrong with her until many years later, when she was twenty-seven. Then she discovered she had a mental illness called manic depression. More than four million Americans are manic depressives.

Sometimes victims of this illness are ‘manic’. They are excited and full of energy. Hundreds of thoughts run quickly through their minds. They feel very powerful. They make plans to do wonderful and difficult things. They spend lots of money on things they don’t need. They do dangerous things without feeling any fear.Sometimes manic-depressives are ‘depressed’. They feel bad about themselves. They can’t enjoy life. They don’t want to work or be with other people. They think about killing themselves and sometimes they do this. Manic depressives often have physical symptoms because of their illness: they have pains in many parts of their body and think that they have a serious disease. Susan was like this.

While she was a teenager, she started to have many strange medical problems. She had nosebleeds that she couldn’t stop. She vomited for no reason. She had terrible headaches. She went to see doctors about her problems. Sometimes they thought she had a problem with her nervous system. Sometimes they thought she might have a blood disease. Sometimes they thought she had brain cancer. The doctors did several ‘exploratory’ operations to see if they could find the cause of her problems, but they found nothing.

Susan got married when she was nineteen. She hoped that that would solve her problems, but it didn’t. She kept having headaches and feeling pains. A year and a half later, she left her husband.

Even though she was feeling sick, Susan went to a special school to learn how to be a court reporter — someone who takes notes at trials. At the age of twenty-three she started her own court reporting business. The business was successful and soon Susan had lots of money.

That was when she became seriously manic. For the first time in her life she started going to parties frequently. She started working harder and harder too. She often got up in the middle of the night and worked for two or three hours, and then got up early and arrived at the office at eight-thirty. And she started spending her money carelessly. She overdrew her bank account and she started to steal money from her own company.

About this time Susan decided to get married again — to a lawyer called Dan Meenan. A week later she went to a doctor about her headaches. He gave her medicine that should not be given to a manic depressive. She started having hallucinations. She called one of her friends and said: “I’m in the shower, and there are bugs everywhere. They’re crawling up and down the ceiling.” The friend called Susan’s parents and they came to help her.

She decided then that she wouldn’t go to any more doctors, but her mania kept getting worse. She spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes and she flew thousands of miles to Los Angeles to see friends twice a week. When she got back from her honeymoon she started to lose touch with reality. She went to court wearing old clothes and no makeup. She started to worry about her office being bombed. She stopped eating. She began to talk so fast she couldn’t pronounce her words properly. Finally Susan’s husband took her to a mental hospital and had her locked up . She stayed there for 28 days and was treated with the right kind of medicine for her illness. Since she got out of the hospital, her life has been better, but she still has to take 16 pills every day.

- information from an article by Susan Dime-Meenan and Dianne Hales in McCall’s, 94.01; and from www.mentalhealth.com