An Olympic sailing competitor recounts in this debut memoir that although testicular cancer was a challenge, bipolar disorder was even more so.
Hall, a child of privilege with two doctor parents, began sailing at age 5 and won his first world championship at 16. He earned his aviation pilot’s license soon afterward and went on to double major in mathematics and French literature at Brown University while he was being recruited for the U.S. Sailing Team. In 1989, his junior year, he began experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, leading to many acute manic episodes and hospitalizations in the following years. Then, in his senior year, he developed testicular cancer, eventually losing both testicles at age 23 and becoming, in his own words, “a crazy castrato.” However, while battling his health issues, he also earned All-American status in sailing three times and graduated from Brown with honors. In 1996, he finished fifth at the Olympic Trials, and in 2004, he represented the United States at the Athens Olympics, finishing 11th overall. He went on to get married, have children, and build a successful career as an expert in sailboat racing navigation, speed testing, and performance. Hall’s delusions, which he describes with clarity and insight, interestingly make a kind of emotional sense in light of his accounts of his father’s harshness. For example, he shares his father’s response when asked for his thoughts after Hall had a manic outbreak on a family vacation: “I felt disrespected. I couldn’t believe I had to waste a thousand dollars and a week of my life to be a part of that.” In contrast, Hall makes clear that his delusions didn’t make him a waste but instead made him “the star of a worldwide show being broadcast live and taped for replay…the reason They had chosen me, was to Save the World.” Hall reflects poignantly on how medications keep the delusions down but also leech brightness and significance from the world. In the end, he writes, “Maybe I can believe in magic, and still leave plenty of room around me for Reality.”
An absorbing, informative exploration of bipolar disorder from the inside.