Book Review: ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ by Marya Hornbacher

If you haven’t heard of Marya Hornbacher and haven’t had the opportunity to read her powerful biography ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’, this is my intervention. And you should.

After speaking to my counsellor and mentioning possible diagnoses of Autism and Bipolar 2, I decided to see if there were any books around these subjects and this was the first of my finding. And I’m glad it was. Although Marya has severe Bipolar Disorder 1, some of the things she mentions doing in her book hit home.

“My brain sometimes departs from the agreed-upon reality, and my private reality is a very lonely place. But in the end, I’m not sure I wish I’d never gone there.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

img_0500The way that she describes her experiences are both poetic and ultimately, sad. She talks about madness as if it’s  “…sitting in an old plaid bathrobe in your kitchen, unpleasant and unshaved. Madness is a rotten guest.”

Don’t we all just feel that way? Those days where you head into the bathroom to get ready for work and the day ahead but you can’t. There’s something stopping you, standing in your way and not letting you move ahead. You want to do life but you don’t. All at the same time.

I have an appointment with a psychiatrist this week and I don’t know how my mind will behave. Do I want it to behave? Do I want it to behave like a naughty toddler, kicking up a fuss so the doctor can see what it’s really like? I’m so nervous. When I was assessed before and was having a bit of an episode, I drove my car into a lorry. It was stationary. It was my fault. I don’t wholly remember it. The Mental Health Team’s response? ‘It won’t be your mind or the tablets. We can’t account for bad driving.’ Hence my fear and anxiety.

“I’m sick. It’s true. It isn’t going to go away. All my life, I’ve thought that if I just worked hard enough, it would. I’ve always thought that if I just pulled myself together, I’d be a good person, a calm person, a person like everyone else.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

I honestly take my mental health hat off to Marya for her bravery and creativity writing this reflection. At times, I felt so sad for her, then angry at the system for fobbing her off for so long, then a sense of association and finally, a wish for her to have peace and find the help she needed.

Ending the stigma surrounding mental health and especially conditions like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder and so on, has never been so important. Next on my list to read is ‘Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction and the 12 Steps’

‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ is definitely a must-read. It’s a tough read but it will just make you admire Marya Hornbacher even more.

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