From Publishers Weekly
Hornbacher, who detailed her struggle with bulimia and anorexia in Wasted
, now shares the story of her lifelong battle with mental illness, finally diagnosed as rapid cycling type 1 bipolar disorder. Even as a toddler, Hornbacher couldn't sleep at night and jabbered endlessly, trying to talk her parents into going outside to play in the dark. Other schoolchildren called her crazy. When she was just 10, she discovered alcohol was a good mood stabilizer; by age 14, she was trading sex for pills. In her late teens, her eating disorder landed her in the hospital, followed by another body obsession, cutting. An alcoholic by this point, she was alternating between mania and depression, with frequent hospitalizations. Her doctor explained that not only did the alcohol block her medications, it was up to her to control her mental illness, which would always be with her. This truth didn't sink in for a long, long time, but when it did, she had a chance for a life outside her local hospital's psychiatric unit. Hornbacher ends on a cautiously optimistic note—she knows she'll never lead a normal life, but maybe she could live with the life she does have. Although painfully self-absorbed, Hornbacher will touch a nerve with readers struggling to cope with mental illness. (Apr.)
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Like a horror-movie sequence that threatens never to end, Hornbacher’s testimony grabs and doesn’t let go through episode after episode of bulimia, substance abuse, and promiscuity. Mania with its attendant voices plagued Hornbacher ever since she can remember. Extreme mood swings finally led to diagnosis at 24 of bipolarity. Possibly genetic, given a family history rife with anecdotes implying mental instability going back for generations, Hornbacher’s bipolar disorder is a label she initially rejected, though she responded to medication for it. She married, and threw herself into overworking that triggered recurrences of the mood swings, two years of repeated hospitalization, then electroconvulsive therapy. With cutting perception and skill, she makes palpable not only madness’ losses but the things gained as well. --Whitney Scott