A couple weeks ago, I was on a roll reading memoirs about mental health. I started with Susan Cahalan’s Brain on Fire, which pricked my interested, then picked up Madness by Marya Hornbacher, which was absorbing though sometimes unsettling, and moved on to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, which was totally hilarious.
“In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest.” (Goodreads)
I cut that Goodreads summary short because that’s what the book’s about and all you need to know going in. You don’t even need to read the rest of my review, unless you’re really interested in knowing what I thought of the book, because it’s best to just hop right in. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it.
When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disorder.
In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to counteract violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage — where bipolar always beckons — is at the center of this brave and heart-stopping memoir.
Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: millions of people in America today are struggling with a variety of disorders that may disguise their bipolar disease. And Hornbacher’s fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change, too, the current debate on whether bipolar in children actually exists. (Goodreads)
“It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed.” – Thomas Moore
I bought Cahalan’s book about two years ago. I’d seen it promoted on various places online but didn’t pay attention to what it’s about. However, curiosity pricked me in December 2015 so when I saw the book in Barnes & Noble, I read a couple pages and was immediately hooked on Cahalan’s story. I knew then I had to buy it.
Fast forward to May 2017 when I again picked up the book because after abandoning it on my shelves for two years, I was finally in the mood to read it. Once again, I was hooked as soon as I started reading. It was as if I was reading one of those medical novels except everything mentioned in Brain on Fire actually happened because it’s Cahalan’s recount of a month she spent hospitalized while doctors scrambled to figure out what was wrong with her.