When I was newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was a bit shell shocked. There I was, coming out of a suicide attempt and psych ward and moving in with my parents at twenty-seven with a new label : bipolar disorder. What did that mean, what was it, where did it come from? I did what came naturally to me – I read. I read information on the Internet – forums, articles, blogs. The kind of stuff you can find right here on this site. I also read memoirs and self-help psychology books. I want to share what was helpful to me.
I believe the first book I read was An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. It is unique in that it shares the perspective of both -a consumer (someone with a mental illness) and a psychiatrist, as Jamison is both. It is a widely suggested read for those with bipolar disorder. Jamison also wrote a book titled Touched by Fire. It explores the link between mental illness and creativity.
Then I read Madness by Marya Hornbacher which was much more gritty and authentic to me. Hornbacher’s book, Wasted, spoke of her anorexia nervosa, a comorbid disorder with bipolar disorder in fourteen percent of the cases of bipolar disorder.
If you prefer something a bit more light-hearted, The Up and Down Life by Paul E. Jones with Andrea Thompson, is just that. As the cover says it is “The Truth about Bipolar Disorder – the Good, the Bad, and the Funny.”
By far, my favorite memoir is Manic by Terri Cheney. Perhaps that is because for me it rang most true. A successful lawyer in LA who is sometimes suicidally depressed and alternately manic. It is written in a special way that mirrors the mood swings of a bipolar consumer. Although I am not, nor was I ever, a lawyer, I know how badly you want to hide under your desk (as she did) on my “off” days.
I read The Bipolar Relationship by Jon P. Bloch, Bernard Golden, and Nancy Rosenfeld before my boyfriend did. I highlighted passages, dog-eared pages, made notes in the margins. I wanted him to know that this – THIS – is exactly how I feel. I wanted to prepare him. I wanted to let him know what he was getting into. I wanted to give him an out.
A more factual book is 100 Questions & Answers about Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder by Ava T. Albrecht and Charles Herrick. It is filled with nuggets of information about the illness and was helpful to me when “You have bipolar disorder” made no sense at all. It is also helpful to people in your support system. I read through it and marked bits of it so my family and boyfriend at the time should pay attention to in regards to my own behavior.
There are a few more books on my list to read soon – Electroboy by Andy Behrman as well as Haldol and Hyacinths, A Bipolar Life by Melody Moezzi.
There is no shortage of information out there on bipolar disorder. These are just a few of my favorites that I hope you will find helpful. Let me know what other books you would recommend in the comments section. Happy reading!