Interview: "Consumed" Author Todd Lawson LaTourrette

Feb 23, 2017

I recently got to know Las Cruces resident Todd Lawson LaTourrette, an actor of stage, film and TV. He is also the published author of two books.

His new book, Consumed, is a stand-out, because it takes mental illness out of the shadows into the clear light of day in a brutally honest manner.

I’ve never seen the story of mental illness told as clearly, as poignantly, whether here in New Mexico or to a wider audience nationally. Many families are seeking stronger advocacy to help affected loved ones, and the book serves as a good example of that.

Isn’t that right, Todd:

“I am bipolar, type I. I can presently divulge that I am mentally ill, have written my memoir (describing such, with strength, and dignity), and survived the discourse of a fragile existence. It is a daily process, dependent upon self-realization, self-preservation, and overcoming the stigma of mental illness, with which we must treat every day with medications…

Consumed tells a compelling story of submitting to, then rising above, the mood swings, and the manic highs and life-threatening lows common to the illness, including suicidal ideations, followed by suicide attempts, and subsequent institutionalizations.

Todd, tell us about the book’s title.

“Consumed is the very term which fully describes what occurred in my past, due to my inability to properly care for my bipolar disorder. My conscious decision to discontinue any medications, throughout my career with mental illness, truly consumed my entire being through the endless ruminations of my many self-destructive years.”

In writing the memoir, Todd, you realized your credibility is tied to your continuous treatment and medication…If you were to stop your med’s and lose the balance you have restored to your life, the book would be meaningless.

Dedication to the care for oneself is the key.

“My commitment to caring is first and foremost in my present life.  My number-one job is to take my medications every morning. Moreover, the refinement of the dosages is critical. I strike this balance by working with my psychiatrist, who is very knowledgeable, on a regular basis.”

“My goal and hope is to prevent future self-destructive behaviors and drastic mood swings.”

Today, Todd, you are vying for and landing roles for TV productions in Albuquerque. You did a recent book signing in Santa Fe. You have begun to reprise your earlier career, which included acting, singing and dancing stints in a New York national tour and aboard cruise ships.

“My career on screen began in 1999, when upon I was cast in my first speaking role. “Presently, I am very fortunate to have gained the respect of three main casting directors in Albuquerque, all of whom have booked me in major motion pictures and television. Most notable, I was cast in ‘the Men who Stare at goats’ ( I was honored to work with Ewan McGregor, and even had the distinct pleasure of choking him on camera.”)

“Another major picture that I was cast in was as a Tradesman in Denzel Washington’s ‘The Book of Eli.’ This was a completely different experience than my previous successes. You see, I decided to discontinue my prescribed medications, prior to shooting, but was fired before my contract ended. My mood swings were intolerable, and thus the directors, the Hughes Brothers, pulled me, and my part from the final edit. I lost credibility with casting directors and my talent agent. I was not cast again for several years afterward.”

“In 2013, my television career gained momentum, and I was cast in 5 different TV series.”

[I’m speaking with Todd Lawson LaTourrette, author of Consumed, a first-hand account of his bipolar disorder.]

The fact that you could revive your career and find a fresh start by rising above day-to-day struggles, then capture and relate them in a crisp, prosaic way, speaks volumes about your will to seek change for the better. You wrote the book in a style which makes it possible to read the whole memoir in one sitting. I know I did.

“The process of writing Consumed was lengthy. It was seven years of writing and editing, then more writing and editing. It was incredibly trying. However, the healing process was truly necessary. My hope now that it’s published is that it will assist others, by revealing the challenges/obstacles of mental health, gaining a diagnosis (should the reader recognize such behaviors within themselves, a dear friend, or loved one), and creating an effective treatment plan.”

Todd is becoming a spokesperson for a disease that is often under-recognized, wrongly categorized, or misunderstood. The book is noteworthy, because health care advocacy often centers on illnesses like cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s, but not so much on mental health and behavioral psychoses.

The disorder is more widespread in society than most of us realize.

As the former spouse of a person with bipolar disorder, I know from first-hand experience in attempting to advocate for treatment and recovery, it is at least as insidious as cancer, destroying marriages, families, friendships, careers, savings, and so much more.

“…very true Richard. My relationships with friends has always been strained, when un-medicated. My careers were constantly strained, due to my debilitating mood swings. Further, I possessed many varying jobs…from performing, to an attempted career with the United States Army. My depressive moods often caused a drastic change in professions. When manic, I spent great amounts of money (credit cards), or behaved very erratically.”  

“My greatest blessing in my life is my family…my support system; namely my very loving, self-sacrificial, and forgiving parents. I would, most assuredly, not be sitting with you today Richard, if it were not for my extremely giving, and dedicated loved ones. Many mentally ill people are not as fortunate as I. There are a great amount of homeless persons suffering from a mental illness, and thusly they are undiagnosed…without any type of treatment, or support. I am truly blessed.”  

Consumed is a book that brings mental health advocacy to a new level. In a direct, self-effacing but progressive way, it sets an example for thousands of other bipolar people, their families and friends. 

Yet, Todd, as you prove, it’s not hopeless if you have the strength and will to strike back, to escape from what you call a world of “nothingness, circumventing the unsteady bridge between stability and instability.”

“…interesting change in wording here, Richard. The back cover of my memoir states ‘circumventing the unsteady bridge between sanity and insanity’. My mother and I have talked about those terms ‘sanity and insanity’, at great length. We both are of the belief that these sentiments do NOT fully describe/are improperly used, regarding mental illness. That is exactly why I have now phrased such as ‘stability and instability’. A more accurate result is of undiagnosed and un-medicated periods of one’s life…not a permanent state of mind.”

“As I have already stated, and will continue to do so, should a person read ‘Consumed’, and witness, through my own Journey, any signs that they may be mentally ill…then do please seek assistance with a diagnoses, and continuous treatment with prescribed medication[s]. Help is available. Life should be free of inner-confliction/ruminations, and filled with hope for a brighter future. I truly hope my memoir causes just one person to take steps in the direction of mental health…my hopes will be fully fulfilled, should others deem ‘Consumed’ as helpful, even life-affirming.”

“Thank you Richard. I am honored.”

Todd Lawson LaTourrette, this New Mexico actor, tells the vivid story of his bipolar disorder in his new book, Consumed, published by Pegasus, and available on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

Todd, you are Consumed, No Longer!