The Tattered Tapestry
A Family’s Search for Peace With Bipolar Disorder
On Monday, January 13, 2003, a twenty-six-year old pregnant woman with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, committed suicide. Her name was Kara Smith. This book is a record of a family’s nine-year battle to keep Kara safe and preserve the independence that Kara needed.
Tapestry is a narrative with three voices: Kara’s father, Tom Smith, Kara’s twin brother Kevin Smith, and from Kara in the posthumous publication of Kara’s writings. This book takes the reader through the unwinding threads that lead to Kara’s irrevocable act.
Tom Smith’s narration dominates as he tells a gripping story of a family’s multifaceted struggle with Kara's disease. Kara’s twin brother contributes a meticulous hour-by-hour record of one of his attempts to find his sister during a manic flight. His honest reaction to the vortex created by Kara’s struggles with this disease is essential to this book.
Kara’s voice is heard in her selected writings. Kara was a promising writer and this reader is left with the desire to have heard more of her thoughts as her reflections on her disease and her critique of existing memoirs by those who have major depression are well worth reading.
The father’s statement that Kara's manic depression murdered his daughter is wishful thinking. Her death occurred during her fourth suicide attempt. Kara, made repeated unhealthy and willful decisions. From her own research, she knew the risk she was taking when she went off her medications after two years of stability.
As a woman with bipolar disease and a mother with two adult mental health consumers, I found myself nodding in agreement and recognition throughout this book. It reflects my own experience and is similar to that of other families I have known who have an adult child with major depression and/or bipolar disease. If her family’s love and care alone could have saved Kara, she would be alive today.
The Tattered Tapestry is a rare record of what can occur in a family when a member enters the world of the mentally ill along with the mobility, freedoms, and responsibilities that come with adulthood. It exposes the lie that plagues those who are suicidal and believe that suicide leaves others “better off without them.”