From Publishers WeeklyHornbacher, who detailed her struggle with bulimia and anorexia in Wasted, now shares the story of her lifelong battle with mental illness, finally diagnosed as rapid cycling type 1 bipolar disorder. Even as a toddler, Hornbacher couldn't sleep at night and jabbered endlessly, trying to talk her parents into going outside to play in the dark. Other schoolchildren called her crazy. When she was just 10, she discovered alcohol was a good mood stabilizer; by age 14, she was trading sex for pills. In her late teens, her eating disorder landed her in the hospital, followed by another body obsession, cutting. An alcoholic by this point, she was alternating between mania and depression, with frequent hospitalizations. Her doctor explained that not only did the alcohol block her medications, it was up to her to control her mental illness, which would always be with her. This truth didn't sink in for a long, long time, but when it did, she had a chance for a life outside her local hospital's psychiatric unit. Hornbacher ends on a cautiously optimistic note—she knows she'll never lead a normal life, but maybe she could live with the life she does have. Although painfully self-absorbed, Hornbacher will touch a nerve with readers struggling to cope with mental illness. (Apr.)
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I vaguely remember reading Hornbacher's first memoir, Wasted, several years ago. I couldn't recall very many details from that book, but I did remember a few random bits that stuck with me over the years. At least I thought I had remembered them. After finishing Madness, I have the impression that Wasted and Madness were, in fact, written by two different people.
I recalled Wasted as an interesting, but not terribly exciting account of Hornbacher's struggle with eating disorders. Madness, however, felt as though I was taking a roller coaster ride through Hornbacher's brain. When Hornbacher was up (or in a manic phase), I turned page after page anxious to see where she was going to end up. I wanted to know what she was going to do. But at the same time, I dreaded the continued up, up, up motion because I instinctively knew that eventually we would have to come down-and the journey down was not going to be fun. And it never was.
I've read other memoirs and books about bipolar and mental illnesses, some good, some not, but Madness sticks out as being one of the most blunt. Rather than relying on introspection to try to understand her illness, Hornbacher uses her behavior and in-the-moment thoughts to convey who she is.