Book Review: Madness: A Bipolar Life

“An astonishing dispatch from inside the belly of bipolar disorder, reflecting major new insights

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.

Ten years after Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, this storm of a memoir will revolutionize our understanding of bipolar disorder.”


This book is different from An Unquiet Mind (the last bipolar memoir I read) in a lot of ways, but mainly because this book was written while the author was cycling, not looking back from a more stabilized place. Because of that, this book was raw, and I mean that in the best of ways. It was honest, it read what it was like to be manic, and though my own bipolar disorder differs from Hornbacher I still related.

Hornbacher is Bipolar 1 and her swings have landed her in the hospital multiple times. Her medications haven’t helped her as much as mine have in my Bipolar 2, and it was those reasons that I see this book as a must read. This book really opened my eyes to the rest of this disorder that I don’t have first hand experience with.

It gave me a behind the scene look at the down and dirty, or what it’s like when you have bipolar as a child (as I did) but it wasn’t caught (mine was). It talks about self medicating and self harming in a hauntingly honest way. Hornbacher doesn’t try to hide anything in this memoir and that made it a wonderful read.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I read a lot more books than I review on here, to see my full reading list and ratings visit my Goodreads account here– and don’t be shy! Add me as a friend!

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