5 books about living with bipolar disorder

Original photo: Viktor Hanacek from picjumbo

When I first wrote about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder my inboxes were flooded with recommendations for books I just had to read.

I can understand why, reading about something we are experiencing is almost instinctual for some people. I am one of those people. Many of the books people recommended were already on my radar. Some were already on my Kindle. Some had a bigger impact on me than others. All taught me something about bipolar disorder or myself. The really good ones did both.

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 a 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


I’ve mentioned Mark and Giulia Lukach before. I shared Mark’s initial article and an interview with both he and Giulia in some ‘this week I’ve been reading’ round-ups. At the time I would have liked to hear more from Giulia about her experience and while that’s still true, I’ve a new found appreciation for Mark’s perspective.

As an exploration of the changing power dynamics within a relationship and marriage when one person has a mental illness, I know I’ll be re-reading My Lovely Wife, probably multiple times.

A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind: My road to staying sane, and how to navigate yours by Emily Reynolds


A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind is one of the best books I’ve read about mental illness. It’s 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.

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