Out of the Crazywoods is the riveting and insightful story of Abenaki poet Cheryl Savageau’s late-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Without sensationalizing, she takes the reader inside the experience of a rapid-cycling variant of the disorder, providing a lens through which to understand it and a road map for navigating the illness. The structure of her story—impressionistic, fragmented—is an embodiment of the bipolar experience and a way of perceiving the world.
Out of the Crazywoods takes the reader into the euphoria of mania as well as its ugly, agitated rage and into “the lying down of desire” that is depression. Savageau articulates the joy of being consort to a god and the terror of being chased by witchcraft, the sound of voices that are always chattering in your head, the smell of wet ashes that invades your home, the perception that people are moving in slow motion and death lurks at every turnpike, and the feeling of being loved by the universe and despised by everyone you’ve ever known.
Central to the journey out of the Crazywoods is the sensitive child who becomes a poet and writer who finds clarity in her art and a reason to heal in her grandchildren. Her journey reveals the stigma and the social, personal, and economic consequences of the illness but reminds us that the disease is not the person. Grounded in Abenaki culture, Savageau questions cultural definitions of madness and charts a path to recovery through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and ceremony.