A Los Angeles businessman living with bipolar disorder recalls his time spent in the county jail in this debut memoir.
Good’s book opens with a gunshot. In a chapter entitled “The World Breaks,” the author describes his father’s suicide at 66 years old. As a physician who was suffering intolerable pain following surgery, he misdiagnosed what was discovered to be a treatable condition and took his own life. The author, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2014, believes that his father’s decision was influenced by the same mental illness. The distinction he draws between himself and his father is that “the world broke me, but it did not kill me.” The irrational behavior symptomatic of the disorder led Good to be incarcerated in LA County Jail for 113 days. A buildup of stress caused him to throw a stapler through the window of his rented Pasadena apartment, shattering glass onto a mother and son walking on the street below. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism. The book recalls his days surviving prison as well as recounting Good’s leaving his wife and two daughters for his “long-lost love” Cora and time spent in a mental institution after being released from jail. The author describes the intensity of his manic episodes. While working in Beijing, he impulsively took the elevator to the top of a 37-floor building, found his way to the roof, dropped onto the balcony of the penthouse apartment, and smashed through the glass terrace door to escape.
Good confides that he was initially reluctant to divulge his bipolar disorder to others, as “they would not understand.” But his writing captures with clarity what it means to experience the disorder, particularly with regard to manic phases. When recalling his perilous experience atop the Beijing skyscraper, he writes: “The floor to ceiling glass was thick. The glass on the door looked thinner, though. So, I took the bench and pushed it through the door glass. It entered surprisingly easily. It shattered.” His sentences have a rapid, staccato tempo, echoing the fast-talking, highly energetic urgency and irrationality symptomatic of a manic episode. The author’s writing also captures the impulsiveness and sheer bluntness that are characteristics of bipolar disorder. On reuniting with Cora, he confesses: “All the affection and love I had for my wife disappeared. I had never heard of that happening to anyone.” As the book progresses, Good demonstrates how his understanding of his condition developed. He came to terms with the chaos associated with bipolar behavior but also discovered he “was both its instigator and victim.” He placed an emphasis on the religious taking of medication even though it allowed him to painfully remember all the people he “harmed.” This bold memoir is not about hiding from mental illness or forgetting its consequences; it is concerned with developing a deeper understanding of the self and determinedly facing adversity. Many confronting similar struggles should empathize with Good and find hope in his story.
A courageously unequivocal self-portrait of bipolar disorder.