Many of the clients that I counsel who have Bipolar Disorder, as well as family members of those diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, have found it helpful to read about the experiences of others who have lived with Bipolar Disorder. Here are three suggested books that provide accounts of what it has been like for the authors to live with the disorder.
“An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” was first published in 1995 by author and Clinical Pyschologist Kay Redfield Jamison.
In her book, Kay tells about her own personal experience of living with Bipolar Disorder. She shares much about her life, beginning with her first manic episode as a youth and continuing until she is a fully tenured university professor. The book details her episodes of depression, hypomania, and mania, her reluctance to take medication, her many bouts of hospitalization, and her ultimate commitment to look after herself and to stabilize her mood.
With the unique advantage of having the perspective of being both a Clinical Psychologist and a patient, Kay writes with the academic knowledge of a professor at a respected university, and the personal experience of having been a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
It is important to realize that Kay’s personal experience with Bipolar Disorder occurred at a time before psychiatrists had access to the medications that are available today to help manage bipolar disorder, and when very few such medications even existed.
A Second book, “Changing My Mind”, by Margaret Trudeau, former wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, describes the highs and the lows Margaret experienced in this autobiographical format. Margaret shares in her book, first published in 2010, that she only fully accepted her diagnosis of bipolar disorder when she was in her 50s. She shares her personal insights about what living with the illness was like for her, and tells stories about how her mood swings were often scrutinized because of her high profile as the Prime Minister’s wife.
Margaret writes about having struggled with bouts of mania and depression, her behaviour inexplicable to the public and to herself, but indicates in her book that by seeking out treatment she has regained control of her life.
A third book, titled “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac, was written in 1951 and published in 1957. This book presents a different perspective to the reader than either Kay Redfield Jamison’s or Margaret Trudeau’s account. This third book is recommended because many believe that Kerouac wrote the book over a six week period in which he was experiencing a manic episode.
Described as a thinly fictionalized autobiography, the book is filled with characters from Kerouac’s real life. The book contains a constant “flight of ideas,” which is a symptom of mania. Kerouac’s writing style in the book, and noted struggle with depression, suggest that he likely could have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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