New York, NY (PressExposure) February 05, 2009 -- Over 5.6 million men and women living in the United States today suffer from bipolar disorder. 9.5% of the U.S. population suffers from moderate to severe depression. Despite their prevalence, however, sufferers of these disorders are often hesitant to speak out about their experiences-until now. Actress and spokeswoman Wambui Bahati is breaking down walls with "You Don't Know Crazy-My Life Before, During, After, Above and Beyond Mental Illness", the tell-all novel of her own struggle with mental illness.
Born John Ann Washington, Wambui Bahati grew up in the segregated south in the fifties and sixties. She escaped that life to pursue an education and career in theater at New York University's School of the Arts, making her professional debut at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. with Godspell. From that point she went on to hold starring roles in The Magic Show, Joseph Papp's rock version of Two Gentlemen of Verona, Little Ham, Nunsense, Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, Gone with the Wind-the Musical, The Wiz and Crowns.
Despite her rising star, all was not roses in Wambui's life. Her battle with bipolar disorder and depression would eventually cost her her career, her children, her reputation and, very nearly, her life. She went from a Broadway star to a homeless mother before losing her children to her ex-husband, and after being told at the age of forty three she would spend the rest of her life in and out of mental institutions she realized she had two choices-she could die, or she could learn to live life on her own terms.
"I was just crazy enough to believe I could reinvent myself and my life," laughs Wambui Bahati, reflecting on the lifestyle changes that allowed her to move past her illness. "When I was at my lowest, I challenged myself to look at my lifestyle, mental attitude and will to live a good life."
In "You Don't Know Crazy" Wambui bears her soul about the horror of the years she spent being victimized by depression and bipolar disorder and the life changing strategies that eventually helped her to leave it behind.
"...I rewrote the script for my life," says Wambui. "Part of it involved tearing out pages filled with drama...drama is great for the theater; however, in real life drama is a drain, a drag, and stressful...I had to fire some of the actors in my life story and rewrite my script so that I [not my illness] was the star."
Bahati adds, "I'm not a doctor...I am a former patient. I know what it's like."
Today Wambui Bahati is a regular inspirational and motivational speaker and entertainer, reaching out to the community with the one woman musicals she wrote, produced and stars in, Balancing Act and I am Domestic Violence.
During the course of her performances, Bahati says, she is frequently asked what she had to leave out of her story because of time constraints. The answer to that question was the driving motivation behind the birth of "You Don't Know Crazy."
"At times hilariously funny and always relentlessly honest, "You Don't Know Crazy" presents an intelligent, informative portrayal of bipolar mood disorder and its effects on Bahati's self-esteem, career, relationships and day-to-day coping," notes Kerry Nesbit.