A memoir detailing the difficulty of living with bipolar disorder as well as the potential for hope.
One of eight siblings, Coghlan experienced a happy but frugal childhood on a farm in Australia. She opens her memoir with fond memories of horse riding and life on a farm handling cattle. Unfortunately, these amusing country episodes were soon overshadowed by the arrival of an older cousin with sexually inappropriate behavior toward Coghlan, the first in a chain of events that revealed her mental instabilities. After suffering her first mental breakdown and hospitalization as a teenager, she was left wondering, “Why didn’t I get real support from my family, communication with realistic advice, and understanding for someone who is at a vulnerable age and who didn’t deserve to be left alone, lost and messed up?” Soon after, the psychiatrists diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, beginning a long struggle that featured medication and relapses. Coghlan’s jobs and relationships continued to fluctuate along with her mental state, except for the constant adoration of her boyfriend, Martin. Eventually the two were married and soon after had their first child, Jacob. Despite continued relapses, a battle with postnatal depression and a strained relationship with her sister Dianne, Coghlan moves to the final section of her memoir, which “expresses the importance and the privilege of sustaining a balance through friendship, faith, and hope.” Her writing is courageous in its honesty and admirable for shedding light on the daily struggles faced by people who suffer from mental illness. However, as a narrative, her memoir feels repetitive and stiff because Coghlan approaches her story with strict, often dry reporting of her situations and emotional states. At one point, she writes of an altercation with a fellow patient, saying only that “she was an angry patient and not one to mess with. She went somewhere else.” Coghlan’s is an important story, but here and elsewhere she misses opportunities for moments richer in dramatic tension that would affect her readers even more.
A personal tale of mental illness that is hopeful yet not as powerful as it could have been.