Kirchmeier on mission with novel to educate public, dispel myths perpetuated by some television shows
New gay Dallas author Mark Lee Kirchmeier was on a mission when he wrote “The Province of Hope.” He wanted to educate people about bipolar affective disorder.
“I find that most media coverage is informative and fair, but I’m concerned about the portrayal in popular entertainment like television shows,” Kirchmeier said.
Kirchmeier said popular TV programs often portray people who suffer from bipolar disease, which is also known as manic depression, as killers and other sociopaths.
“It’s ridiculous,” Kirchmeier said. “Most bipolars are not violent.”
Kirchmeier said he knows a great deal about bipolar disease because he suffers from it. Medication allows him to lead a productive life, and the publication of his first book is evidence of that, he said.
“It’s been a 20-year struggle,” said Kirchmeier, who lives in Dallas with Eric Walker, his partner of 20 years. “It was a long time in being able to get language back and all of that because of some of the problems I suffered with medication.”
Kirchmeier’s book is the story of a young gay man just coming out who has his first psychotic episode while a college student in Arlington in 1983. He abuses alcohol and marijuana in an effort to control his racing thoughts prior to his collapse.
His affluent Dallas parents take him home with them, intent on restoring his mental health without benefit of counseling or drug therapy. He falls in love with a young male medical student going to school in Dallas, follows him to Boston and eventually returns to Dallas after the relationship ends.
“It’s about some of the pitfalls people with this illness seem to get into, particularly his obsession with his first love, even though he’s not treated particularly well,” Kirchmeier said. “And there’s not a reciprocality that there would be in a healthy relationship.”
The book, which covers about a decade and highlights the AIDS epidemic, is about the main character’s efforts to overcome his mental disease, said Kirchmeier, who volunteers at AIDS Service of Dallas when he is not writing. It is partly autobiographical, he said.
“Some of the incidents are based on my experiences while some are purely fictitious,” Kirchmeier said.
Ike Gordon, manager of Crossroads Market Bookstore, said he will stock the book. Bipolar disease is an intriguing topic, he said.
“Because of the subject matter, it could be very important,” Gordon said. “It’s pretty much not talked about.”
Kirchmeier’s book is published by Publish America, of Frederick, Md., a company founded in 1999 that targets first time authors.
Two unpublished writers who were frustrated by their failures to get their work published by existing publishers founded the company. It is not a self-publishing company but uses digital printing technology rather than traditional methods, according to the company’s Web site.
Kirchmeier said he suspects that many people are suffering from bipolar disease, but they are unaware of the symptoms as he was. Another symptom is “incredible bouts of energy that never go away,” he said.
“This is the main thing that scares me,” Kirchmeier said.
“It’s sad if people don’t know what the symptoms of this illness are and don’t seek diagnosis and treatment.”
Crossroads Market Bookstore will hold a book signing for Kirchmeier on July 20 at 7 p.m. For information about the author visit markkirchmeier.net.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 7, 2006.