Click here to read reviewer Heather Darcy's take on Madness: A Bipolar Life.
Madness is the memoir of a woman suffering from bipolar disorder and the journey she took to get to where she is today. It is a candid, blunt view of life for a person afflicted with bipolar I, the more severe of the two forms of bipolar disorder. Symptoms include weight issues (anorexia, binge and purging), runaway money issues and excessive spending sprees, memory loss, manic highs and depressive lows, and mixed episodes which can lead to suicide. Other symptoms include various forms of self-mutilation, excesses with alcohol, drugs, and sex.
Marya Hornbacher had all these symptoms and more but was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until later in life. Initially diagnosed with depression, Hornbacher believes today that because of the incorrect diagnosis as a young adult, she was given the wrong medications, which only exacerbated her bipolar condition. It is quite plausible that she could have been spared a lot of mental anguish over the years if only the proper diagnosis had been initially made and the correct treatments were available for her. Instead, she lived through years of hell as she tried to make sense of a world in which she had no control over her emotions, leading her to extremes highs and lows for years on end.
Hornbacher is a gifted writer, as evidenced by this book. What is remarkable about her is the courage and strength she had to write down her experiences and make her condition known to all. She tried to hide her disorder throughout most of her life, "pretending" to be normal. She has only recently come to terms with her problems, which means she had never truly dealt with being bipolar for a very long time. But her candid observations on her life and how she went from one phase of her disorder to another is what helped her in the long run. Despite long intervals of memory loss, during which she doesn't even remember what happened, she was able to write down the many different episodes and events that marked her disorder and finally acknowledge the fact that she is indeed "not normal" and that she needed help.
I truly appreciated Hornbacher's candid writing, and applaud her bravery in divulging what she has gone through. Madness is an eye-opener to those who know nothing about bipolar disorder, and at the same time can be used as a "guide" to those who live with or have family that are afflicted with bipolar disorder. It certainly has helped me understand some of my friends who are afflicted with it. Madness should be a "must read" for all who are dealing with bipolar disorder and those are have loved ones who are living with it. For those who know nothing about being bipolar, be warned that Hornbacher does not hold back. She is candid about what has happened in her life, and a lot of it is dark and unpleasant. With that said, I highly recommend Madness and plan on reading her other piece of memoir writing, Wasted.