When four out of five family members suffer from bipolar disorder, life at home is volatile.
“Depression is a slow crushing death,” writes Lovelace, who was one of the four. “Mania is a wild roller coaster run off its tracks, an eight-ball of coke cut with speed. It’s fun and frightening as hell.” He began to show the first signs of bipolar disorder in his late teens, but resisted treatment and counseling for years, preferring instead to self-medicate with a lively mix of illicit drugs, alcohol and extreme travel. Most of the action in his debut memoir centers around a destructive summer during which the author, his father and his younger brother were all committed to psychiatric institutions. Lovelace’s mother had been a depressive for as long as he could remember; he’d witnessed her horrible bouts of postpartum depression after the births of his sister and brother. His father, a minister and scholar of early American religious movements, had seemed merely eccentric until one year when he was hit with a bad case of what the family called “whim-whams.” In the depths of Dad’s depression, the family came unraveled. Lovelace fled his loved ones, and tried to hide from the reality of his own illness. His sister, the only unaffected one in the family, set out for college. Isolated at home with two severely depressed parents, their younger brother eventually lashed out and was hauled off to a mental hospital. The author describes medications and the process of recovery, but his book’s major strength is its language, which beautifully mimics his bipolarity. When Lovelace chronicles a manic episode, the prose comes in breathless, eloquent bursts; when he describes crushing depression, it’s as though all the air is being sucked out of the room.
Compelling, charming and devastating.