7 bipolar disorder non-fiction book recommendations

Wednesday Letter #53

I wrote an article for my website recently about why we need to include bipolar disorder in our mental health campaigns. As a follow-on from that piece, I’m sharing some recommendations for non-fiction books about bipolar disorder. 

Tristimania: A Diary of Manic Depression by Jay Griffiths

Tristimania is Jay Griffiths preferred term for her mixed-state bipolar episode; the 18th-century word was used to describe a specific combination of melancholia and mania.

Griffiths sets out specifically to capture the experience of mania while still in the midst of it. Tristimania is an unflinching account of manic depression as well as an exploration of the perceived link(s) between mental illness and creativity.

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

By her early 20s, Marya Hornbacher had written and published a memoir about living with and beginning to recover from anorexia and bulimia. That book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia became an international bestseller. Hornbacher was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, something which had likely gone undetected since childhood. Undetected in the sense that it was undiagnosed, but as Madness shows Hornbacher has been living with mental illness from a young age.

Hornbacher doesn’t shy away from the realities of manic depression, particularly when it is rapid cycling and features psychosis.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

As a world renowned clinic psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison literally wrote the book on manic depression, Manic-Depressive Illness which she co-authored with Fredrick K. Goodwin. A few years later Jamison spoke about her own illness in An Unquiet Mind, changing how many view manic depression.

It’s easy to see why. As someone who has experience of manic depression (she makes a strong case for her dislike of the switch to the term bipolar disorder) from both a clinical and patient perspective, Jamison’s memoir is a unique look at psychiatry, the first-hand experience and how the two do or don’t meet.

My Lovely Wife: A Memoir of Madness and Hope by Mark Lukach

When I first read Giulia and Mark’s story in 2015, I wanted to hear more from Giulia. And that’s still true, but I've had a newfound appreciation for Mark’s perspective since then. 

My Lovely Wife is an exploration of the changing power dynamics within a relationship and marriage when one person has a mental illness. 

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz, PhD

The subtitle of The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide is ‘what you and your family need to know’ making clear that this is your one-stop shop for detailed, yet easy to understand, information about bipolar types one and two. 

Covering everything from recognising the symptoms of depression, mania or hypomania to receiving a diagnosis. From what we know about bipolar disorder as an illness to the trial and error of finding medication/therapy that works for you. From how to manage your mood, strategies for keeping well and the importance of your family, friends or colleagues (if you have disclosed your mental health disorder) as a support system.  

A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind by Emily Reynolds

Looking at everything from receiving a diagnosis to dating when you have a mental illness; A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind is thoughtful and insightful, while understanding that there is no one size fits all answer. 

Emily Reynolds balances the personal, the private and the practical in a sensitive way.

Life with Bipolar Type Two by Eleanor Worsley

When Eleanor Worsley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type two she, naturally, wanted to learn as much about the condition as possible. She soon discovered that books about bipolar II disorder are in short supply. Most of the long-form literature focuses on bipolar type one, with bipolar two often only included in a short chapter at the end of a book—that’s if it is mentioned at all. 

Life With Bipolar Type Two blends research with Worsley’s personal experience to provide a better understanding of what it’s like to receive a diagnosis, live with depression and hypomania, find treatments that work for you (usually a combination of medication and some form of counselling/therapy), and why self-care is vital in order to maintain stability. 

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