Saudi author’s novel tackles taboo of being bipolar

Saudi author’s novel tackles taboo of being bipolar
Author Ghada Aboud (supplied photo)
Updated 10 October 2018

Saudi author’s novel tackles taboo of being bipolar

Saudi author’s novel tackles taboo of being bipolar
  • Ghada Aboud says the media over-romanticizes the illness, associating it with creativity
  • This masks the fact that people are suffering in silence in growing numbers

JEDDAH: Saudi author Ghada Aboud, published her first Arabic novel earlier this year titled “Bipolar.” What made her interested in writing about the disorder is how the media over-romanticize the illness, associating it with talent.

“Teenagers are being sold this image: It kind of makes it attractive to become depressed, miserable, sad and self-destructive when it actually is the most harmful, sad, horrible thing that can ever happen to you because people who are actually suffering are not talking,” Aboud told Arab News.

“People who are really suffering with all the pressure that’s happening and with all the judgments, labeling and media campaigns, the social pressure, the financial pressure.  The numbers are multiplying: 300 million people around the world are suffering from depression and manic depression.” 

In the beginning of her book, Aboud uses areas of Jeddah as a metaphor for the illness. “When rain comes, people in the north have better streets, better houses, they’re okay. They see it, but their houses are not ruined by the rain and their streets did not flood. Unlike the people who live in the south of Jeddah, who have a very bad infrastructure. They can’t withstand it. This is a metaphor for the mental illness. We all go through difficult circumstances, but people shouldn’t be blamed.”

“For example, if I told you I went through a traumatic love experience, and you would be able to get through it, those are your circumstances. But not my circumstances, because I have circumstances, my infrastructure, my upbringing as a child, as a teenager, made these outer circumstances, when it hit me, it destroyed me. Why are you blaming me?”

The protagonist in her novel is a therapist who is diagnosed as bipolar. “It’s very easy to sit back and lecture people,” Aboud said. “It’s very rare that we can help ourselves and get ourselves out of our own circumstances.”

The novel’s message is: “We are all bipolar somehow. It’s only normal to go through these extreme ups and extreme downs. So we have to accept our differences and our contradictions and our downfalls and our victories, and accept life as it is and accept others.”