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Book Review: The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness by Ned Zeman

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My sister is bipolar. I have a very hard time understanding what it is like to have a mental illness. While Ned Zeman is not bipolar, his memoir The Rules of the Tunnel: My Brief Period of Madness gave me a little insight into what life with a mental illness is like.

A contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Zeman’s memoir reads like a piece of fiction because experiences like his only seem to happen in books or movies. Zeman, a success in the magazine world, interviewed celebrities like Julia Roberts, chased adventurers like Tim Treadwell, who lived and died among the Kodiak Grizzly Bears in Alaska, and others. Many of whom suffered from manic depression. Zeman became a little too obsessed with their lives while writing their stories.

As one gets deeper into Zeman’s memoir, it is not the stories of the celebrities and adventurers that woos you in for more but it is his own downward spiral into depression that fascinates you. Never understanding what my sister experiences but always curious, Zeman’s story lures a reader in with great detail even when he doesn’t quite remember. An experience described as amnesia, Zeman rebuilds his life after two years of treatment that he doesn’t remember because of multiple treatments, powerful antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and probably most likely also an internal need to suppress the painful memories of his experience.

The book is hard to put down though definitely not a lighthearted summer beach read. The Rules of the Tunnel is a powerful insight into a disease that affects 35 million Americans. It is a book that could be made into a movie because Zeman’s story is powerful, touching, heart wrenching and, most of all, real.

If you or someone you love is suffering from major depressive disorder, this is a great book to read for a firsthand perspective. Even if you don’t know someone with depression, it still is a great read. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Rules of the Tunnel.

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