Madness: a bipolar life, by Marya Hornbacher

When I started looking for books about bipolar, this one was recommended over and over and over again. You’ve probably already read it.

The prologue starts with a graphic account of cutting – of the self harm variety. And then it gets a bit more gruesome. It’s well written from the get go, vivid as hell. The tone of the rest of the book, while it doesn’t pull any punches, is easier than the prologue.

I grew into it. It grew into me. It and I blurred at the edges, became one amorphous, seeping, crawling thing.

It’s a brutal read though. Watching the little kid Marya, who finds safety in being awake at night, battle the demons you know she’s not going to get help with till she’s an adult, is hard. And she expresses the anguish with intense skill. Watching her crash and burn is sore.

It isn’t unrelenting though (thank fuck) and there’s a sound and excellent education about the illness along the way. The further I read, the more my respect for the book and its author grew.

She grew up in the 70s – no hope of an accurate diagnosis in a kid back then, and only a little more hope in the following decades … how many people have gone through this? Being misunderstood, feeling damned, damning yourself … escape, evade, avoid, distract, hide, hate, bleed … despair.

(Those anti-psychiatry types ranting about the increase in bipolar diagnoses are fools. Obviously there’s an increase; there’s a world of mis- and non-diagnosis to set right.)

And then the horror sets in. All that time I wasn’t crazy; I was, in fact, crazy. It’s hopeless. I’m hopeless. Bipolar disorder. Manic depression. I’m sick. It’s true. It isn’t going to go away. All my life, I’ve thought that if I just worked hard enough, it would. I’ve always thought that if I just pulled myself together, I’d be a good person, a calm person, a person like everyone else.

Yeah … and there are so many yeahs in this book. Even when the story or the symptoms are very different from mine, there are still pages of yeah yeah wince yeah cringe yeah phew yeahs. But if there are far reaches of bipolar, I’m guessing the author has explored them. It seems to me she’s been to hell and back more times than I’ve had hot dinners. Those medals that Carrie Fisher wants issued to bipolar sufferers? Marya Hornbacher has already earned the whole set.

It’s tough to read, because it’s so utterly, tragically accurate. The writing is hip, the writer is ruthless – I wanted a happy ending, because I like her. I wanted a despairing ending, because that would feel real. (It’s not always about drama; in fact, it’s a relief to read such an eloquent description of the terrors inherent in a grocery store.) Telling this story was an act of pure courage, I don’t know how she did it.

The doctors offer me a paradox: tame the madness through surrender. Accept that it will be chained to me, pulling, always trying to get loose, for the rest of my life—but also know that if I respect the strength of the madness, I can live in some kind of peace. Only then will it, instead of me, tire out, and sleep.


I want to think that the impossible can happen—I will no longer need to spend so much time devoted to the daily micromanagement of my moods, the constant monitoring of my thoughts, the second-guessing of everything I do. What if everything that went through my head wasn’t inflected with the arbitrary whims and twitches of a broken brain?


Very, very, very truly excellent book. If you haven’t read it, you should. She’s a credit to humanity and its spirit if you ask me. I don’t think the ‘success’ part of story is as much what she has accomplished, as much as who she seems to be by the end of it – a compassionate human being. True compassion is rare and horribly underrated. You’ll like her mind a lot.

Life expectancy of an adult with serious mental illness: 25 years shorter than that of a person without.



Watch “Up/Down” Bipolar Disorder Documentary FULL MOVIE…” on YouTube

“Up/Down” Bipolar Disorder Documentary FULL MOVIE…:

bipolar guilt by association

There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road, loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can’t do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven’t made a difference and only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it. You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times, hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.
(his bright light – danielle steel)

Words like those in the quote are true and loving – and unfortunately, they help me as a bipolar person, feel that the world would be better without me in it. Of course, there’s a whole book there proving that people are loved and wanted – it’s just that it’s a common caveat and depressed people attach more weight to one negative word than a million positive ones.

I wish people would talk about people with physical illnesses the same way they do about allegedly mental ones. I’m sure everyone’d feel better. 

Cancer patients! What a pain in the ass! But whaddya gonna do? *plays a teeny violin*

I’m oversimplifying. I’m guiltily irritated. I’m tired of hearing how difficult I am. I’m tired of sucking it up. I have learned to bend over backwards trying not to cause grief, to the point where I’m frequently told I am far too harsh on myself. But how else??


Nick Traina, Danielle Steel’s bipolar son, killed himself when he was 19. She wrote the book to highlight the dangers of bipolar (she says one to two thirds of bipolar patients commit suicide – I’m not sure where she gets that from), and to try to help other families. That’s a very good thing indeed. I follow two blogs by mothers who have lost bipolar children to suicide and it’s heartwrenching. I do not believe there is any pain greater than that of a parent who has lost a child.

I also follow blogs written by women who have been abused, betrayed, wrecked by bipolar husbands. I’ve read so much about the effects of bipolar people on the people around them (neurotypical or not), that I feel a collective guilt on top of my very own historical guilt.

I’m guessing this is bipolar-normal; we have that extra empathy thing going for us. That’s probably also part of why so many of us off ourselves. It isn’t just that we are batshit – we do actually see the damage. I’m not the only one, right?

This post is a bit confused. I’m just thinking aloud.

It’s just that, well, it’s just as difficult for the bipolar person, you know?

Rest in peace, Nick.

simply depressed – a tina turner parody in need of a singer

I can’t believe nobody did this yet. It made me lol. Airpunch when you sing the chorus please. *dunn dunn DUNNN DUNNN*

I don’t call you, I dont need you, my heart’s a liar

You come to me, come to me you quagmire

When you come to me take away everything I need

Give me a lifetime of anguish and kill all my dreams

Speak the language of drugs like you know what it means

And I’m always wrong, take my heart and make it gone, baby

I’m simply depressed, sadder than all the rest

Sadder than anyone, anyone you’ve ever met

I’m stuck in my heart, I hang on every word it says

It tears me apart, baby, I would rather be dead

In my heart I see the pain of every night and every day

In the dark I get lost, I get washed away

Just as long as I’m here in your arms,

I could be in no sadder place

I’m simply depressed, bleaker than all the rest

Bleaker than anyone, anyone you’ve ever met

I’m stuck up my ass and hang on every word I say

It tears up my heart, baby, I would rather be dead

Each time you find me I start losing control

I hide in my bed with my heart and my soul

I can feel you even when I’m alone, oh baby, please let go


Copywrong blahpolar, 2014

 image I’m (not very) sorry, Tina Turner.