Manic: A Memoir

Manic - Terri Cheney

For someone who has not suffered from mental illness and only ever had to grapple with mild seasonal depression, books likeManic almost seem like fiction to me. I am morbidly interested in the experiences of people grappling with mental illness, mostly because I want to try and understand them.

A few years ago, my best friends sister attempted suicide. Thankfully, she was found and stopped in time, but the ramifications have continued to this day. This is one of the first books I've read on manic depression and has really helped me understand the actions my friend's sister took. While technically she is not bipolar (she has multiple personality disorder), a lot of the behaviour exhibited by Terri Cheney, particularly mood swings and depression, also describe the type of person my friend has been living with for the past years. It's amazing to see what so many people grapple with in their lives.

Even if I didn't have such a personal interest in psychology and mental illness, I would still have enjoyed this book. Cheney is a fantastic storyteller (I always feel very guilty when I read memoirs like this as if they are fiction), and the way she set up the book was interesting. Rather than giving a chronological account of her illness and various suicide attempts, she skips from one part of her life to another because that is what it feels like to be manic. It was fascinating to be inside her head, both when she's manic and depressed, but also when she is "sane". After she finally stabilizes with modern medication, it's almost as if she misses being manic although she doesn't do anything that would threaten her streak of sanity.

Overall, an educational and riveting read. Anyone interested in mental illness, or just a good memoir should read it.