Book Review: Manic Man

Book cover: Manic Man by Jason Wegner and Dr. Kerry Berne

Manic Man: How to Live Successfully with a Severe Mental Illness by Jason Wegner, with a foreword by Dr. Kerry Barnes, is a memoir of a first episode of bipolar mania and subsequent recovery.

The book’s prologue opens with the author’s parents having called paramedics to take him to hospital. It then shifts back in time to build up to when he started to get hypomanic, which grew into mania.

The book captures the grandiosity and big ideas that come with mania, along with excessive spending and lack of sleep. While manic, the author was writing a lot, including texting and posting on social media, as well as making a lot of audio recordings, and he draws on these to construct a coherent narrative of his manic episode that probably would have been difficult to do otherwise. There are pictures of some of his writing inside the book and on the cover. Together, these different pieces give the reader really good insights into what mania is like.

The author describes how his friends and family were getting concerned about him and wondering if he was on drugs, but he himself didn’t have any insight into the fact that he was unwell.

About three-quarters of the way through the book, the narrative catches up to the prologue where the author was hospitalized. He writes about appealing his committal, and includes quotes from the panel’s written reasons for keeping him detained in hospital. It’s quite interesting to see that side of the story, along with excerpts from doctors’ notes in his chart.

The book then shifts to working on recovery, which was interrupted by a depressive episode. He worked closely with his psychologist Dr. Bernes, who wrote the book’s foreword, and together they developed a holistic program for recovery that they called the Octagon of Life. This included elements like exercise, nutrition, and exposure therapy (including writing this book) to process the traumatic experience of mania. Together, the eight elements of the Octagon of Life allowed the author to rebuild his life and achieve post-traumatic growth, and the book takes a hopeful stance that recovery is possible. The author is now pursuing a career as a teacher.

The author shows a willingness to be vulnerable and open about his experiences, even those experiences that might be considered embarrassing. This gives a very genuine picture of what it’s like to be manic. I think this book would be a good choice for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of bipolar mania, and particularly for anyone who’s been newly diagnosed.

Manic Man is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

Book cover: Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis by Ashley L. Peterson

Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis aims to cut through the misunderstanding and stigma, drawing on the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and guest narratives to present mental illness as it really is.

It’s available on Amazon and Google Play.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Manic Man”

  1. This actually sounds pretty fantastic. Seeing his actual writings from a time of mania is an interesting idea because it brings something concrete for readers to grasp and get a better feel for the experience. It also brings us closer to the writer, and it seems like he has been very open in covering what he’s been through. I’d be curious to learn more about the Octagon of Life, too. Fantastic write-up, Ashley. xx

  2. One of my psych professors used “The Inner World of Mental Illness” as a text book – it is first person accounts. It makes for interesting reading no matter where you’re coming from…(Much like “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” a semi-autobiographical novel, again, first person account of mental illness.)

  3. Thanks for sharing this one, Ashley. Bipolar can definitely be a very misunderstood illness, so books like this help. I can attest that some of the things that happen during manic episodes are really embarrassing afterwards, and they look bizarre and scary to others.

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