Fall 1994 Mission

Jobs, mania and blue suits

Chris, 23, spent the summer as a waiter at a Colorado resort and plans to return to college in January.

These are accomplishments for Chris, a bipolar sufferer who got fired from 22 jobs in four years because of his erratic behavior.

Diagnosed at age 14, Chris often quit taking the lithium medication that controlled his crashing moods. "If I felt good, I didn't take my medication," he said.

For the past year, Chris has been in a study of the drug valproate, a possible substitute for lithium, led by Charles L. Bowden, MD, professor of psychiatry. Chris says he has never felt better. He cannot be sure he is taking valproate. Some patients receive a placebo drug. "I'm sure I am getting the drug because I feel great in comparison to what I felt before," he said.

Before valproate, Chris lost job after job in a moody haze. He has been a maintenance worker, telephone operator, janitor, waiter, food preparer and bartender's helper. His longest job lasted a year; his shortest, a week.

Bright and articulate, Chris had little problem getting a new job. "Blue suits help if you go out for a job," he said. "Blue is a good color. Dress nicely, then just go in and get the job."

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