TRISTIMANIA by Jay Griffiths


A Diary of Manic Depression
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A visceral account of the turmoil experienced within a manic-depressive breakdown.

Griffiths (A Country Called Childhood: Children and the Exuberant World, 2014, etc.) is a dedicated recorder of her experiences. "My notebooks have always been very precious to me,” she writes, “and I travel with them wrapped, waterproofed, closer to me than my passport or money. They are footprints of my thoughts, tracks of journeys, curiosity-paths and desire-lines." What she writes in these notebooks eventually becomes stories, essays, and books, but the notebooks have also provided her with a space to try and make sense of her own mind. Griffiths, a winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, has bipolar disorder and can be susceptible to periods of mania and depression, the risk of both being heightened by exhaustion and stress. In this book, the author explores the period of time after a lengthy book project left her depleted. She was aware of being at risk of a mental break but far enough into it by the point of realization that treatment became exceedingly difficult. However, she was determined to capture as much of it as possible: the "honey on the razor's edge" of being able (or unable) to see things in new ways, hear music differently, ride the rapids of a torrent of ideas and thoughts. Griffiths is a skilled writer who ably harnesses this flood of emotions and thoughts, and her descriptions of the mania and depression are never unwieldy. There were countless times when she could have stopped writing, but Griffiths saw it through, exploring all the places her mind traveled: Greek and Roman views of mental health, the roles of friends and pets, the failings and lifelines of psychotherapy. Eventually, in order to get out of her own head and “see far horizons again,” she set out on the 800-kilometer Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Fortunately for everyone who has been affected by bipolar disorder, Griffiths—and her notebooks—survived the journey.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61902-726-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016


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