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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 47-year-old woman who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (manic depression) four years ago. The doctor said the medication would take care of it, then he sent me home to deal with it.

The medication helped for a while; however, I became resentful and unhappy with the side effects and quit taking it. I seemed to be fine for the first six months, then boom -- manic city! I ended up at a psychiatric center for five days.

I voluntarily attended the two-week intensive outpatient program. I am back on lithium and feel good.

During the program I learned there is a mountain of information about this disorder and also support groups on chat lines. What a relief it was to learn I was not alone.

Abby, please tell your readers who suffer from bipolar disorder that there is more help available than just taking medication, and urge them to avail themselves of everything they can to cope with their manic depression. You may use my name. -- JILL E. HAYES, SACRAMENTO

DEAR JILL: Although the symptoms are different from physical illnesses, mental illnesses are conditions for which treatment is often effective. Just as one would see a doctor and take medication for pneumonia, one should see a counselor or psychiatrist for treatment of mental illness.

Readers, if you suffer from manic depression or any other mental disorder, please don't hesitate to talk to your physician about getting help.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to share an act of kindness that I experienced.

I am an American of Japanese descent, born in Torrance, Calif. My mother died when I was very young. My siblings and I were placed in a Japanese orphanage in Los Angeles.

My story takes place in the mid-'30s when I was in the second grade. At that time, and for many years prior, Asians and other non-whites were discriminated against by private citizens, businesses and government. For example, only two or three beaches were open to us, and very few of us were allowed to matriculate in the colleges and state universities.

However, the public schools were not segregated. I attended Micheltorena grade school on Sunset Boulevard. The brown bag lunch I took to school from "home" was usually a beet sandwich with a little mayonnaise and a green apple. Sometimes I got a peanut butter sandwich with an apple. The peanut butter was diluted with syrup and spread so thin there was literally no space between the slices of bread.

After a couple of months, some of the students who sat on the same bench to eat lunch noticed my thin sandwiches. One day, a Caucasian girl named Gloria sat down beside me. She reached into her lunch box and brought out a baloney sandwich and handed it to me. My God, a sandwich with a nice piece of meat and lettuce and mustard, too! I had never had anything like that before. Every couple of weeks, she would bring me another wonderful sandwich.

When the next semester began, she was not at school, so obviously her family had moved. I never saw her again, but every once in a while I think of Gloria and how compassionate she was. More recently, I began to think about how compassionate her mother must have been, too, bowing to Gloria's request for an extra sandwich for someone who had little. What a lovely person she must have been to have instilled such generosity in her little girl -- especially for someone of a different race.

I don't remember Gloria's last name, but I do remember that she had freckles and bangs, and that she wore her brown hair so short that it covered only half her ears. I hope she reads this so she'll know that even today I am thankful for her kindness. -- TOSHI FUJIKAWA, SAN PEDRO, CALIF.

DEAR MR. FUJIKAWA: If I hear from Gloria, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, thank you for sharing your childhood memory.

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