Little is known about bipolar disorder, a debilitating disease that affects millions, and for which there is no sure cure. This disturbing book allows the reader a glimpse of the nightmare world of the bipolar. It's a frightening experience.
Terri Cheney was a high-powered attorney in the entertainment field and was looking after her dying father when her bipolar disorder took over, and almost ruined, her life. The disease had its outset earlier in her life, but by a tremendous feat of will she managed to stave it off, excel in academics, and pursue a prestigious career. But the illness of her father pushed her over the edge.
No one would envy Terri Cheney's life. In her manic state, she soared above the clouds, felt no need for food or sleep, and had dangerous encounters with untrustworthy and violent men. She did, however, relish the "three-quarters hyper" state, when she was happy, cheerful and productive. Unfortunately, the hyper state was only a transitional state between extreme mania and debilitating depression.
When she was depressed, she could barely lift her head off the pillow. Going to work was out of the question. Somehow, she managed for a time to avoid revealing her mental state to her colleagues or her prestigious clients, but the attempt cost her dearly. She made two serious attempts at suicide.
This book reveals how precarious the state of a mental patient is. Medication is vital to managing the disease, but the pharmaceutical regimen must be tailored to the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all nostrum. Many patients react adversely to the drugs commonly prescribed for this illness. There are also side effects, some of them potentially serious. And patients are by no means "normal," even if medicated effectively. They must still struggle with daily ups and downs, some of them quite debilitating. For example, Cheney, an intelligent and talented woman, had to give up her legal practice because it was too deleterious to her mental state.
The book is well written and effective in delineating the ravages of this disease. If I have one quibble, it is that Cheney did not arrange the book in strict chronological order. Had she done so, it might have revealed something valuable about the progression of the disease. It is also somewhat confusing to the reader as it moves back and forth from various periods of the author's life. But this is a minor flaw. I found the story of Cheney's struggle immensely vivid and moving.