It takes courage to write a bipolar autobiography – and it can also take courage to read one.
One website I saw actually cautioned bipolar people against reading these books in case they contain triggers. I am not a psychiatrist – and neither was the writer who gave that warning – but my gut reaction, and my own experience, is that bipolar autobiographies are invaluable.
Yes, the recognition and identification can be very painful! Yes, it hurts to be reminded of just how crazy or desperate or depressed we have been! Yes, it is shaming and heartbreaking to be reminded of how our condition impacts on our loved ones!
For me though it has been very comforting to read so many stories of recovery.
Also, the education and insight into effective medications and treatments is invaluable.
1. EDUCATE: For example, this is the best way to learn about the true cost/benefit trade-offs involved in medication side effects, AND – they show the many faces of mania.
The medical community tries hard to understand, but real life stories are impossible to improve on.
2. MOTIVATE: I get scared enough by all the suicide attempts, relapses, wrecked marriages, lost careers and squandered fortunes to persist with my own recovery program.
3. INSPIRE: Especially the combo of true life triumph and expert medical info in books like Patty Duke’s <i>A Brilliant Madness</i>.
4. ENTERTAIN: Sometimes compelling like a gripping suspense thriller, sometimes hilarious, often tragic – they really do make you laugh and cry. These books tend to be the kind of cover to cover, can’t put down reads we associate with John Grisham or Stephen King.
Celeb or ordinary person?
One way of dividing the genre of bipolar autobiography is into:
1. Books by celebrities, and
2. Books by “regular” people who are relatively unknown. (Until their biography becomes a best seller!)
Here are some winners from each category:
Of all the bipolar autobiography by celebrities, there are a handful I personally consider to be the absolute “must reads”:
In particular, don’t miss these must reads:
1. Patty Duke’s Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness.
Some non-celeb bipolar autobiography books that have been getting a lot of attention and critical acclaim are:
Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney
Scattershot: My Bipolar Family by David Lovelace
Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D by Lizzie Simon
I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar by Wendy K. Williamson
My Kind of Crazy: Living in a Bipolar World by Janine Crowley Haynes
Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher
These ones are my favorites because they combine page-turning readability with practical insights I have used to manage my own bipolar. They are all available as paperbacks from Amazon for around $5-$10 new or starting at just a few cents second hand 🙂