For most of her life, entrepreneur Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of toy company Melissa & Doug, experienced deep-seeded anxiety and depression. She's now opened up about her long mental health battle in a new book, "LifeLines: An Inspirational Journey From Profound Darkness to Radiant Light."
Read an excerpt below, and don't miss correspondent David Pogue's interview with Melissa and Doug Bernstein about her ongoing journey, and about the launch of their online mental health hub LifeLines, which she hopes will help others who struggle with mental health issues, airing onMarch 14!
I entered this world an agitated, churning, distressed being. In fact, although my mother lamented I had terrible colic as a baby and was unable to be soothed, I was clearly just lashing out at my inability to feel a sense of belonging in the world I had been thrust. From my earliest memories I felt different than everyone else and not in a special way—different in a weird, eccentric way confirming I would never find acceptance. And this sense of abnormality wasn't alleviated by the fact I asked a lot of "why" questions, but not the why questions of a content, curious soul eager to explore the world in all its wonder. These were the why questions of an already desperate toddler hearing an incessant drumbeat that the hands of time were ticking away with her powerless to stop their march. That cloud of impending doom made me insistent on knowing the purpose of life if we were ultimately bound to die and turn to dust, and specifically why I had been put on this earth and what I was meant to do while here. And given I never received adequate answers, was left helpless to understand or control terrors unable to be seen or expressed.
My paramount goal each day became resolving existential questions and deriving meaning amidst the bleakness so my brain could find solace. Long before it could be comprehended or articulated, expressing inexplicable feelings through organic conception became my innate method of deciphering life's incongruities and quelling suffocating agony. This manifested itself in a steady stream of words, notes and later ideas (which eventually became products) perpetually running through my head—a ticker tape flowing between my eyebrows and the top of my skull. The words in particular were frustratingly headstrong—frenzied, raucous and beseeching me to reach up, grab hold, and pull them down to be transcribed, or threatening to disappear into oblivion. I tried heeding their plea by scrawling them onto whatever was at my disposal—notebooks, toilet paper, napkins, my skin, walls and scraps of paper I later found shoved in pockets or socks, between my mattress and box spring or strewn beneath my bed. But although I wished to suppress these words since their ferocity and darkness were terrifying, they were relentless in demanding freedom and unwilling to surrender. The analogy I envisioned in restraining them was sitting on an overly filled suitcase (my brain) and attempting to zip it shut as its contents (the words) were fleeing from every egress. For I was instinctively impelled to submerge the incessant chatter, as the burden of recording its perpetual flow was overwhelming and destroyed my efforts to lead a normal life and fit in.
From "LifeLines: An Inspirational Journey From Profound Darkness to Radiant Light" by Melissa Bernstein. Copyright © 2021 by Melissa Bernstein. Reprinted with permission.
For more info:
- "LifeLines: An Inspirational Journey From Profound Darkness to Radiant Light" by Melissa Bernstein, in Hardcover and eBook versions, available via Amazon and Indiebound