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Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Bipolar Book Club. For our very first selection, I am reviewing New York Times bestselling author, Terri Cheney’s, latest book, Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual.
If you do a simple Google search for books about bipolar disorder, the number of resources available is staggering. It would be natural to become overwhelmed by all the choices available.
That’s where I come in. I have made it my business to sift through the vast number of books about bipolar disorder and review one book each month on my blog, My Big Fat Bipolar Life. That way, it saves you the legwork, and you know at a glance if a particular book is worth the read.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into March’s Bipolar Book Club selection: Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual.
Synopsis of Modern Madness
I don’t know about you, but when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I could have really used an owner’s manual. It would have been helpful to have a book at my disposal that was a comprehensive look at bipolar disorder that didn’t read like an article in a medical journal.
Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual is that book. Terri Cheney does what she does best: she weaves the facts of bipolar disorder with her personal account of living with it. But she takes it a step further.
Cheney covers virtually every aspect of bipolar disorder from symptoms, suicidality, and relationships, to medications, coping skills, and tried-and-true therapeutic protocols. She also includes a healthy list of resources in the appendix.
What I Loved About Modern Madness
1. I love how Terri Cheney combines the facts about bipolar disorder with her personal journey, so the book reads more like a memoir than a textbook.
What Terri Cheney does well is combine the facts of bipolar disorder with a candid look at her own journey. She doesn’t pull any punches as she recounts the horror story of the worst moments of her bipolar journey, and she does it in a way so that anyone who lives with bipolar can easily identify with her journey.
Cheney sucks you into her narrative until you feel you are walking right beside her as she navigates the many difficulties of living with bipolar disorder.
2. I love what I call Terri Cheney’s instructional cheat sheets.
In Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual, Terri Cheney does something that I find ingenious. On a few select subjects, including relationships, she provides what she calls “instructions for use.” Think a numbered to do and not to do list for relationships with someone who has bipolar disorder.
Cheney informs us of what was helpful to hear from people when she was depressed, she talks about the “rules” of suicide (what to expect from others if you make an attempt), and four things to remember when dealing with a person who refuses to seek professional treatment for bipolar disorder.
3. Terri Cheney shares two of the most important phrases you can say to someone who is struggling with bipolar disorder.
In the relationship section of Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual, Terri Cheney encourages you to have your loved ones say five words to you when you are struggling with depression: “Tell me where it hurts.” That in itself is genius, as long as your loved ones are willing to sit down and really listen.
But even more ingenious than that, she shares the nine words that are always the right response to whatever you hear from your family member who is entrenched in the unrelenting symptoms of bipolar disorder: “I love you and I want you to live.”
It may seem like a simplistic response, but Cheney recounts how remembering those nine words saved her life on those dark nights of the soul when she was thisclose to attempting suicide.
What I Didn’t Love About Modern Madness
1. The use of “I am bipolar” instead of “I have bipolar” was like nails on a chalkboard for me.
Terri Cheney addresses this issue in the book. The use of “I am bipolar” versus “I have bipolar” is a personal choice.
Here is why I think it’s so important to choose “I have” over “I am:” The words that you use after “I am” have the power to change your life. You live what you believe about yourself, so if you let bipolar disorder define you, it gives bipolar power it shouldn’t have.
There is another, more practical, way to look at it. If your doctor diagnosed you with cancer, would you say, “I am cancer?” Of course you wouldn’t because cancer would be something you have, not who you are.
It’s much the same way with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder may be your diagnosis, but there are about a hundred things more interesting about you than that.
2. The use of “committed suicide” instead of “died by suicide” troubled me.
Some would consider this criticism another semantics issue. And in Cheney’s defense, she used the term “died by suicide” at least a few times. But overwhelmingly, when she talked about suicide, she said “committed suicide.”
I know what you are thinking. You think I am being really picky. And yes, in a way you are right, but hear me out.
When I read a Finding Meaning by David Kessler, he perfectly explained the reason the words we choose to talk about suicide are important. He said that when we think of the word commit, there is an association with a crime. Kessler said that suicide is not a crime; it is a tragedy, so we should choose our words accordingly.
Although “committed suicide” was the accepted phrase for a long time, there has been a shift from “committed suicide” to “died by suicide” in the past few years. I think it is important that we choose our words carefully when we speak about suicide.
3. I could not read this book in one sitting because it really triggered me.
This is not a critique of the book. It is more like a nod to the powerful writing skills of Terri Cheney.
When Cheney writes about her personal experience with bipolar disorder, she does it so vividly that you feel like you are in the room with her as she walks through the various nuances of disease.
I felt like I was standing right beside her as she recounted the heaviness of depression, and I could taste the allure of mania, even while hating the destruction that follows in its wake.
Sometimes, experiencing the word of bipolar disorder through her eyes was too much, so I had to put the book down and come back to it another day.
If you are looking for a beautifully written book about the reality of living with bipolar disorder that is jam-packed with useful information about the mood disorder, Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manuel is the right book for you.
The combination of the facts about all things bipolar and Terri Cheney’s personal account of her own struggles makes this a must read whether you were recently diagnosed or you were diagnosed years ago, like me.
>>Click here<< to get your copy of Terri Chaney’s latest book, Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual. You won’t regret it.