Terri Cheney seemed to have it all. She was a lawyer at a big law firm, lived in Beverly Hills and drove a Porsche. However, at times Cheney was crouched under her desk at her law firm unable to move. Other times she was deliriously happy, flying kites off the edge of a cliff in a massive thunderstorm.
Like 10 million fellow Americans, Cheney suffers from bipolar disorder, characterized by deep depression and manic highs. Like many people who suffer from bipolar disorder, she kept her illness hidden from her co-workers and many friends. Manic: A Memoir is the story of Cheney's horrifying yet hopeful fight against the disease that nearly took her life.
Manic: A Memoir is a shockingly raw story. Cheney writes openly and honestly about her life. She is not afraid to let the reader into her world of numerous psychotropic medications and their side-effects, relationships ruined and savings accounts dwindled. Cheney tells her story episodically rather than chronologically, which adds to the power of the events.
The incidents in Manic are not defined by time, but rather what mood Cheney was in. Manic? Hypo-manic? Depressed? Stable? In writing this way, the author shows the different mood swings a person with bipolar illness can go through and the dramatic effect this can have on his or her personal and professional life.
Cheney graduated from Vassar and then received her law degree from U.C.L.A. Working at one of the top entertainment law firms she represented Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, among others. Teri's dying father saw her as a drug addict because of all the medications she took in an attempt to stabilize her condition. Because of his beliefs he outrageously wrote her out of his will, a graphic example of how bipolar disorder can tear apart a relationship.
In an excerpt from her book Terri writes,
Who knows what went wrong during that last [electroshock therapy] session? I personally think it was some strange gift from the gods. I emerged from that chaos a different person, with a different identity. No longer depressed but bipolar. The label mattered. It made sense of my erratic life. I had never understood how, for several months at a time I could function with such a high level of competence, only to be followed by equally long periods of hiding under my desk, under the covers, in the dark.
It took Cheney years to understand and accept that she had bipolar disorder. The electroshock therapy left her with some short term memory loss, but by the end of the book, on new medication she is as stable as she has been for twenty years.
Cheney's story is not that of a miraculous recovery, but rather a heartbreaking story of one woman's ongoing fight to live with bipolar illness. If you're interested in learning about the wild highs and devastating lows of manic depression, Cheney's frank memoir provides a unique insight.