Zack McDermott: Bipolar Disorder Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

Gorilla and the Bird follows Zack’s (the Gorilla) fight to regain his sanity after a devastating psychotic break. Zack’s sudden illness took him on a harrowing journey including delusions of being filmed and receiving messages through the TV, running naked through cornfields, seeing the Virgin Mary, being arrested on a subway platform and being committed to the Bellevue Hospital. Prior to his illness, Zack had a job as a highly successful public defender for The Legal Aid Society of New York (

“Bipolar Disorder is the best thing that ever happened to me. By sharing my experience I’ve been able to hear the experiences of so many others who have a mental illness or have a loved one who has a mental illness. Today, I’d like to share my story with you. I will also discuss some practical issues, such as tips if a loved one finds themselves in a mental health crisis. Lastly, I will share my message of accepting yourself and hope.” – Zack McDermott

Zack McDermott has worked as a public defender for the Legal Aid Society of New York. His work has appeared on This American Life, Morning Edition, and Gawker, among other places. Originally from Wichita, he now lives in New York.

Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love

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