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.