In her wry and utterly self-revealing style, Hornbacher tells her new story in Madness.
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. Her brave and heart-stopping memoir details her fight up from madness and describes what it is like to live in a difficult, sometimes beautiful life and marriage when the bipolar tendency always beckons.
©2008 Marya Hornbacher; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I think what the other reviewers have failed to see is that mental health and in this case bipolar disorder doesn't have a conclusion. Unlike Prozac Nation which nicely ties things up, this book tells it like it is. When I was diagnosed with Bipolar and my wife asked me when I was just going to get over it after 2 hospitalizations, I knew that most people don't get it. Its not about cure, its about coping. Its about living with an illness that often ends in death. Its about understanding that your boundaries are narrower than you want them to be, and that's just the way it is. Its understanding that what your mind and body are telling you may kill you if you are not careful. Its about losing time and not understanding why.
Perhaps this limits this books audience, but I'm glad I listened to it and I'm glad Mayra wrote it.
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This is a well-crafted self-portrait of one woman’s life with bipolar disorder. Marya Hornbacher is honest, insightful and brave as she describes the severe ups and downs brought on by her disorder.
During her manic episodes, Hornbacher is a classic case of manic symptoms. She experiences racing thoughts, pressured speech, constant motion, reckless behavior, grandiosity, increase in goal-oriented activities and decreased need for sleep. This version of Hornbacher is fast and furious, somewhat delusional and often a lot of fun.
When depressed, Hornbacher sinks to the lowest of lows. She loses interest in activities, withdraws from life, sleeps excessively and even cuts herself.
Further complicating Hornbacher’s illness is her effort to self-medicate with alcohol and food restriction, resulting in a substance abuse problem and an eating disorder. She is, as they say on the street, one hot mess.
Hornbacher takes the reader along as she journeys through her years with bipolar disorder, going in and out of hospitals, moving in and out of relationships, enduring extensive medication trials and crippling side effects. At the heart of the story is her family – a closely knit circle of devoted loved ones– who advocate and fight for her. Many times they are her saving grace.
If you are living with bipolar disorder, or if you know someone who is, this book is a MUST READ. Hornbacher paints a real and haunting picture of the illness and ultimately teaches the reader that, even though it is possible to die from bipolar disorder, it is equally possible to have a life with bipolar disorder. The final message is one of hope.
Narrator Tavia Gilbert reads this book with doses of levity, capturing Hornbacher’s dark humor that appears throughout. My only complaint is that Gilbert also narrated the much less stellar “Voluntary Madness” by Norah Vincent. Her narration across the two books is fantastic, but I kept getting a sense of déjà vu – as if I had read this before.
It seems ridiculous to criticize a book because it is "too honest" - if anything, this is a testament to Marya Hornbacher's gift for writing. I read this book because (1) I remembered the truly gripping writing in "Wasted", and (2) I had just read "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Cahalan.
After a gripping opening chapter, I began regretting my choice of book. It was so visceral and depressing, and at times, dull. But having finished the book, I have to attribute this feeling to Marya's intense honesty. I am glad I read it, and I have learned a lot, but when I finished I felt like I'd been through an ordeal of my own.
I imagine for someone with bipolar disorder this book is an easier read. If I could have recognized the symptoms, I might have felt more involved in the literal ups and downs of the story. As someone who has never experienced bipolar disorder, I instead found myself feeling like a concerned friend or family member. Thus I shared in Marya's plentiful defeats. I found myself noticeably frustrated with Marya's failure to stop drinking and her repeated descents into manic episodes.
As the book went on, though, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Thus, I grew alongside Marya. The narration style also went through the same ups and downs. It became less foggy as Marya began to recover from alcoholism. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it is admirable from a literary standpoint.
I also don't want to downplay the educational aspects of the book. I had a lot of misconceptions about bipolar that I didn't even realize I had. The book was not preachy or coldly anatomical. I learned about Marya's illness simultaneously as she did. In the end, I feel I am a better person for having read it, and I commend Marya's gorgeous prose and personal strength and integrity.
This was incredible! Marya, you are a fabulous writer! Thank you so very much for sharing your life and struggles with me. I also have bipolar disorder (with psychosis-that part was added during my hospital visit), and I have Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD due to child sexual abuse and a few rapes later on. That sickens me to say it. I'm trying to get myself used to it. I had recreated my life in my head, rewrote my life story, dissociating from the little girl who was abused because I wasn't going to be "one of them". Besides, it wasn't violent. How could that be considered abuse. And later, anytime it was likely to turn ugly in a situation, I'd just give in to keep safe and then how could I call it rape. That's how I kept from being one of those abused girls. The ones you feel sorry for. As if I can rewrite reality, right? If I actually could, I wouldn't have any mental illnesses. So it's been hard on me this last year as memories are coming back, I'm struggling with accepting the reality of having bipolar, and hating the fact that I feel like a cow. I gained a bunch of weight after a tubal ligation that we thought would help matters. Somehow we missed the fact that anesthesia affects people with mental illness horribly. And as we all know depression equals weight gain usually. So that's not helping. I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this but I just thought people might like to know they're not alone, just like this book reminded ME that I'M not alone either. Thank you!
I loved how much I could relate her story to my own. How she shared all of her ups and downs of bipolar and gave detailed information about her treatment, and her journey.
I have not, but I thought she did an excellent job. I will always hear Mayra's voice as hers in my head. She was very enthusiastic and had great voice inflection that was appropriate to what she was reading.
Great insight into what goes on in the mind of a bipolar person.
Why did I love "A Million Little Pieces" but felt so blah about this book? It took a while for me to realize, as the access to someone who suffers from bi-polar is interesting and rare. The answer, I found, was that in A Million Little PIeces, the author's life - even if exaggerated - was incredibly interesting. Here, the dieses is interesting, and the knowledge of discovery is interesting, but her actual life is incredibly ordinary. Finally, the reader for the first two hours was flat, and abook like this needs a voice with feeling, inflection, a sense of timing and life. She read it like a cookbook.
Her book made me grateful that I have bipolar 2. Her mania is sobering and the statics she ends the book with make one realize that loads of people have someone with real mental illness in their life and probably don't even know it. She does a great job helping "normals" imagine genuine insanity. It's painfully insightful and uplifting.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has been recently diagnosed or their family and friends to help understand, on a deeply personal level, the depths and heights this disorder can bring to one's life.
(Review by Rick) I have type II bipolar disorder & so I can relate to much of this book. I'm very glad that my mental health has usually not been as difficult to live with as Marya's. If a listener wants to hear what it's like & how to live with it, I'm not sure there is a better personal perspective book out there. Narration & flow of the book is great. Bipolar types I and II are very serious & life threatening; it's not our choice. It's a mental illness which can be treated to some effect, if the patient cooperates.
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