Friday, February 01, 2008

Manic: A Memoir

Terri Cheney’s account of what it is like to live a life divided between states of almost hysterical mania and bottomless depression is remarkable for its frankness. Cheney makes no excuses and offers no apologies for her behavior in either state of mind because she wants others to fully understand that she suffers from a mental illness, bipolar disorder, over which she has little control. Hers is a life dependent on medication and the complete avoidance of alcohol for it to bear any resemblance to “normality.”

Cheney’s life has pretty much been one roller coaster ride after the other. She has attempted suicide more than once and has come very close to being successful. She spent years as a high-powered, and even higher-priced, entertainment lawyer during which her clients included the likes of Michael Jackson and major movie studios. And even during the good times she knew that another valley was always just around the corner, so near, in fact, that she often could trigger a wild mood swing by simply picking up the nearest alcoholic drink she could find.

Manic is written with alternating chapters that mirror the kinds of mood swings that Terri Cheney endured for most of her life. Cheney does not attempt to tell her story in any kind of chronological order. Instead, the reader comes away with flashes of Cheney’s memory of what it was like to be frantically manic and out of control one day and lost in deep depression the next. Her story makes little sense to the reader, and one wonders if Cheney’s life makes any kind of coherent sense even to herself.

This is an interesting look from deep inside the head of someone who has survived the worst of what bipolar disorder can throw at a person and who is willing to share her experiences with the rest of us. I came away with a much clearer appreciation for what this illness is like for those who suffer it and the hope that modern medicine reaches the point of being able to more consistently treat and control it.

I only wish that Cheney had written a more complete memoir. The book would have been much more meaningful had it included descriptions of her childhood, her school days and the times she first realized that she was beginning to rebound from manic to depressive behavior on a regular basis. She hardly mentions the impact that her behavior had on family and friends although she admits that when in a manic stage she thought only about herself, even consciously stealing her best friend’s boyfriend at one point.

Thankfully, Cheney seems, now that she has finally found the proper medication, to have more control over her life today than during the times she describes in Mania. Perhaps she has another book on this subject in her, one that gives a more complete picture of who she is, how she and those dearest to her have been changed by her illness, and what she is doing today. I would really like to know.

Rated at: 3.5

No comments:

Post a Comment