Bring Me To Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety by Eleanor Segall describes her journey with mental illness, from pre-diagnosis through her work on recovery.
It’s written in clear, simple language, making it easy to understand for readers with no background knowledge of mental illness.
She begins by talking about her Jewish heritage and how she comes from a long line of survivors. Her faith is a theme that’s woven throughout the book as a source of comfort for her.
Eleanor was not the first in her family to develop mental illness. Her father first became ill when she was quite young, although it was only years later that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Narratives from her dad appear throughout the book, which gives an interesting alternative perspective to her subjective descriptions.
She describes how her illness began in high school with depression, and then on a trip to Israel she became hypomanic and disinhibited. She wasn’t properly diagnosed and treated, and her hypomania progressed to psychosis and the need for hospitalization. This whole process impacted her self-esteem, making her feel “like a freak”, and this progressed into social anxiety, which appears throughout the book along with the bipolar disorder.
After she graduated from university, her parents divorced, which triggered a relapse of her illness, including depression and suicidal thoughts. She described feeling like a failure for claiming Jobseekers Allowance, which is a great example of the guilt people with mental illness can experience when accessing something they’re genuinely entitled to.
A death in the family prompted a switch to mania with psychotic features, and she describes the various difficult events that occurred with the calm wisdom of someone who has really come to terms with her illness.
She ended up hospitalized. At a tribunal to challenge her assessment hold, she burst into song. She admits that while she can see the humour in it now, the situation was very distressing at the time. This is a good example of how behaviours that may appear comical are actually anything but.
When she left hospital, “I had no confidence and was a shell of a person.” She attended a day hospital program, where her slow recovery began The book includes a number of her journal entries from that time , and even though she was unwell at the time, it was still recognizable as the same voice.
She then began writing, first on her blog, and then for several mental health charities and high profile publications. She explains that “Writing was a form of therapy for me, and I found it truly healing.”
One thing that struck me about this book was that it’s not just a story of illness, it’s a story of a rich life. There’s a lot of kindness and positivity in the way she talks about other people, and hope is present even in the descriptions of the darkest times. Eleanor’s big heart clearly shines through the pages.
I’ve followed Eleanor’s blog since I first started blogging two years ago. It’s been quite remarkable to see her grow into a strong advocate and a well-published writer, and it’s wonderful to see that this is the next step in her journey.
Bring Me To Light is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
You can find Eleanor on her blog Be Ur Own Light.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.