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Madness: A Bipolar Life Hardcover – April 9, 2008
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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
Top customer reviews
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Long before my husband's diagnosis I knew something was wrong. As wrong as it was, I pretty much diagnosed him myself before he made his way to a doctor.
We struggled a lot through the period of his illness, when it was not supervised by someone who knew more about it than us, and before the right medication and the right dosage of it was prescribed.
He refused to talk to me about it, and I did not understand what he was going through.
There is plenty of books about bipolar disorder which cover the illness from the official medical point of view (causes, symptoms, treatments). I had read plenty of them and I just felt like I was reading the same information over and over again, but I was not getting the answers to my questions.
This book gave me what I was looking for. It helped me understand what my husband was feeling and why he acted the way he acted. It helped me see that the crazy and hurtful things were not him, but the illness. It helped me position myself differently and respond differently to his unreasonable acts. Last but not least, it helped me communicate with him better and ask the right questions.
I really think that this book contributed a great deal to my now peaceful household and to my husband opening up to me about his struggles with the illness. I am not sure whether we would be where we are today if I did not read it.
I also thank her for sharing this story so far; I feel that I at least understand more about it, and can recognize it and connect with compassion and sympathy when dealing with others who have this disorder. I hope for her sake, and for the sake of millions of others like her, that the insurance companies do much more to provide better treatment options and medications, and make them affordable to everyone. I wish her all the luck in the world, and God's help, to live a comfortable, happy life. You know, we know these wonderful people, and some of them are us.
I found that Hornbacher's report of her own suffering was poetic, poignant, heartbreaking, and at-times comical. She seems to have a self-deprecating air about her at times that really warms you to her and lets you inside the mind of someone living with this hellish disease.
I passed this on to a friend who's had depression that had to be treated by ECT, and she loved it enough to buy her own copy. I'd definitely recommend this one.