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Madness: A Bipolar Life

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  6,903 ratings  ·  503 reviews
An astonishing dispatch from inside the belly of bipolar disorder, reflecting major new insights

When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar,
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Hardcover, 299 pages
Published April 9th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Sara
May 29, 2008 Sara rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nobody. Read _Noonday Demon_ instead.
Hornbacher's _Wasted_ is probably the most perceptive book ever written on eating disorders, so I went ahead and bought the hardback of this "sequel" in which she describes her diagnosis and subsequent grappling with bi-polar depression. Unfortunately, while the book might be a photo-finish accurate portrayal of what it's like to be bi-polar, the problem with the book is that it's a photo-finish accurate portrayal of what it's like to be bi-polar. The first 50 pages are a series of vignettes of ...more
tee
Hornbacher's stories terrify me. And ashamedly, the entire time that I was reading 'Madness', all I could think about was how glad I was that I am not that crazy. It also proves the fact that human beings can be very resilient, tenacious fuckers. Having also read 'Wasted', I can't believe this woman is still alive. She's like an extreme-condition crash test dummy.

I've struggled with rather severe anxiety for years, with derealisation, panic attacks and so on - and each time I've had these episo
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stephanie
i have to say, she totally won me over. it was amazing because i wasn't sure if Marya Hornbacher could do it, but she redeemed herself by being more honest and upfront and REAL about her illness and willingness to get better than she was in Wasted, and more than Elizabeth Wurtzel ever, ever did.

this is best example of mania i have ever read. it is so true to life, and so true to form. it's really impressive how much insight she has into her illness when she lacked so much before - but it's l
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knig
Marya Hornbacher is better known for her memoir ‘Wasted’, which she wrote, no, published, at the age of twenty two , and which went viral, in which she spares no gruesome detail of her frankly horrific ‘altercation’ with anorexia and bulimia, and in which she drops to just 52 pounds, almost dies (hmmm, obviously), but emerges triumphant (well, barring infertility, osteoporosis and some other organ failure residuals, I forget which), to beat the disease, finish off college and publish a book, did ...more
Ron
I read Hornbacher's first memoir, Wasted, a decade ago and was impressed by the strength of her voice then. But while she'd managed to fight back against her eating disorder, it turns out that she hadn't even begun to deal with her alcoholism and, more fundamentally, had only just begun to confront her bipolar condition. This memoir deals with that story, with an even stronger personal emphasis than I recall from her first book. Like her first book, it's definitely not a feel-good memoir, nor a ...more
Ally
One of the most touching memoirs I have ever read. I can't get enough of Marya Hornbacher's writing. Not only that, but I'm continuously tempted to keep checking up on her to see how she is faring.

Having a friend whose sister has a personality disorder has made me almost morbidly interested in mental illness. This is the first book that has actually helped me understand her sisters behaviour. In fact, it's nearly impossible to understand considering it doesn't make sense to someone who does not
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Diane
Madness: A Bipolar Life is a riveting memoir about the most severe form of bipolar disorder called: Rapid Cycling Type 1. She describes her struggles with the demons she faces every day, wavering between madness and deep bouts of depression.

As early as the age of 4 Marya Hornbacher was unable to sleep and night and talked endlessly. Once she was in school, other children called her crazy. By the age of 10 she discovered alcohol helped her mood swings, and by age 14, she was trading sex for pills
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Jocelynne Broderick
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Anne
At the age of 24, Marya Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I bipolar disorder. This realization of why she thinks and behaves the way she does did not come at the outset of her disease. Rather, it came after years and years of cycling through incessant mania and debilitating depression. Hornbacher recalls moments from her childhood, such as her terrible insomnia and inability to stop jabbering flying from topic to topic with no coherent train of thought. She tried to poke fun at herself as all t ...more
Erica
"Read" may be too strong a term for what happened with this book, although I did read several chapters.

The book opens with Marya cutting deep into her arm -- a scene that nearly had my squeamish self retching. We follow her to the emergency room and the hospital, where she eventually manages to talk herself out of being committed.

We then journey back to her childhood, where her mania takes on proportions hitherto imagined only by the likes of James Frey. She's more manic than any manic depressiv
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Kana
Summary
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I think it did a good job of providing a chronological view of her struggle with mental illness, but it felt too much like a daily diary. 'I did this on this day, on this day I was here.' Etc.
Plus, she constantly referred to writing this book, in the book. Sort of a trippy third person view. Similar to a painter painting a painting of a painter painting a painting. Head starts spinning.
Renee
This is the first time that I read about someone with manic–depressive disorder (/ bipolar disorder) and it certainly opened my eyes. In Madness, the author details her journey of living with the illness, from her emotionally unstable childhood to the diagnosis of her illness and finally to her acceptance of the fact that the illness will stay with her for her whole life.

It gets very repetitive in the process as she went back and forth in the progress of controlling her disorder, her experiencin
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Debra Lynch
Amazing memior by an amazingly strong woman. I actually CAN imagine what it's like to live with Bipolar I, because Marya Hornbacher bring you along on her journey with painful honesty in her usual intense style. The beat of the book follows the beat of her moods. When she is low, the pace of her writing is dark and thick. When she is manic, her writing reaches a fevered pitch of vivid descriptions of taste, sound, visceral feelings, fear, panic, giddiness, and delusions bordering on full blown p ...more
Carrie
No, I'm not bipolar. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Although Amazon.com clearly thinks that I am after this purchase, based on the recommendations I'm now getting fast and furious. :)

I read Hornbacher's first book, Wasted, when a friend of mine was suffering with an eating disorder. She is a brilliant writer and I was pleased to see she had another book out, in addition to a novel she wrote a few years back. This one, like Wasted, is a compelling, disturbing read about what it is l
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Katie
Hornbacher does a great job of conveying the internal experience of bipolar disorder. It's a very good book, but I gave it just 3 stars because I can't quite say that I "really liked" the experience of being inside that world with her. One interesting thing she does is to remove the specific content of her thoughts and just describe the moods themselves -- she says she feels rage, for example, but often doesn't detail the things that are setting her off, what she's raging about.

My own experienc
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Terry
I'm a big fan of "Wasted" so I was interested in reading "Madness" because I think she's a great writer. I think this book is valuable because it is a very honest picture of living with a mental illness. Many memoirs, especially ones that deal with depression and/or eating disorders and/or dysfunctional families, sort of (sometimes accidentally, I'm sure) romanticize mental illness as a component of creativity--you know, that people who are a little unstable are more creative artists or writers, ...more
Jan
I must admit, I gave up on this book feeling it just wasn't worth my time and energy. I thought it would be interesting, getting an up close and personal take on bipolar disease since I know people who suffer from it.

I got about half way through and had enough. The story tells of the author's experience with the disease, suffering, unknowing, discovery, treatment and the "ups and downs" she goes through.

It wasn't that the book wasn't well written, but reading this story became so tedious that I
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Jessie Cross
I read this book because I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and it was actually recommended to me by my psychiatrist. I nearly went crazy (hehehe not funny!) at the beginning of the book where Marya is literally bouncing from one place to the next. It created such anxiety in me that I even had nightmares. Then the recognition of some moments. I am definitely not such a rapid bipolar sufferer but when I am in what I call a good place, I now realize that I am always a somewhat hyper. And ...more
Jessica Lane
I enjoy memoirs from people who suffer from psychiatric illness, but I found this a total slog to read after the first chapter or two. It read very much as a "and then this happened, then this happened" with very little self-reflection and alltogether too much purple prose. It was almost painful to read the continuing self-destructive behaviour unfold, and maddening that while the author does pay some lip service to the fact her behaviour and non-compliance directly contributed to the severity o ...more
Thom Dunn
There being no shortage of memoirs on the subjects of bipolar disorder and addiction, this reviewer is pleased to mark this one Best in Show for detailed first-person narration of hospital intake, broken thought processes, and emotional states. If it seems odd to you to say I found this ENTERTAINING, give me a shout and we'll.....what, talk? blog? message? --We'll write notes back and forth about the whole megillah why don't we ?
Arminzerella
Marya was not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until she was twenty-four, and prior to that she “self-medicated” with lots of alcohol to help control her mood swings. Her manic episodes can last months, during which time she is full of energy, ideas, and passion for life. But the lows she experiences are equally intense, and Marya has been hospitalized again and again when she slides into a slump and tries to harm herself. Initially, she found it difficult to take her disease seriously and it was ...more
Audrey Caldwell
Hornbacher has outdone herself. It is hard to understand mental illness, let alone to feel what it is to be in the psychotic mania and the deepest despair of bipolar disorder. But this book shows (not just tells) with surprising clarity what it is to be insane. It takes you into a mind of madness with true artistry of words that is not too abstract as to alienate you in this alien world yet fantastical enough to capture you: mind and all. The book is well balanced between events and explanation ...more
Karen
I really like these types of books. Memoirs....but any kind of memoirs....I like the one where the person has been through something rough, harsh, extreme and they share it with you. It gives you a better understanding of what people go through. Much more personal then reading a textbook or watching tv...

Marya has been cursed with bipolar disorder since she was young, but wasn't properly diagnosed until she was older. The doctors kept telling her that she had other issues and she went through so
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SheilaRaeO
I could not put this book down. It is a fascinating account of a lifelong struggle with bipolar illness and the effect it has not only on the person diagnosed but on her friends and family as well. Marya (pronounced MAR-ya) Hornbacher is an incredible writer and I was constantly amazed at the idea that she could hold together the life she did and be a successful writer while struggling so desperately with this overwhelming illness. I was at turns hopeful then despairing then back to determined h ...more
Vani
I think people who write "this book isn't Wasted" or "this isn't my/ my friend's/ my cousin's roommate's brother's experience with bipolar." Like many other people, I read this book because I read Wasted a long time ago and liked it. Actually I heard an urban legend that the author died of heart trouble after writing that book, and then saw some of her other books listed, and so was curious. This book is fundamentally a description of the experience of bipolar disorder. Yes, duh, this makes it s ...more
Heather
All I have to say is that this was a fascinating book for me! I couldn't put it down!!! It isn't a feel good, happy book but it is so important and so interesting. I learned an incredible amount about Bipolar disorder! As you read, you begin to pick up on her "cycles" and feel like you are in her head with her! I really didn't know much about it going in but now I feel like I grasp how incredibly difficult it is for a person to struggle with mental illness! It makes me grateful for a healthy min ...more
Sacha
I'm fairly familiar with Marya Hornbacher - only a week before picking up this book, I read her first memoir entitled "Wasted", an autobiographical account of her 10-year struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Shocked and stirred time and again by her ingenuous chronicles of induced vomiting coupled with radically self-imposed starvation, I thought I'd reach the apex of stupefaction. However, I was hit over the head yet again by her impressive, candid and unflinching examination of her mental illne ...more
Mallory
Marya Hornbacher is an incredible writer and human being. After reading Wasted, her memoir of her young life spent grappling with eating disorders I was struck by her honesty, bravery and ability to describe what it's like to live in her troubled mind. Years later, she was diagnosed with Type-I Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder, the most severe type of Bipolar Disorder, and her descriptions of her fluctuations between manic states, major depressive episodes and mixed states are honest, heartwrenchi ...more
Kevin
This memoir is written in a style that mimics the bipolar episodes the author is going through. The manic times in her timeline are written with runon sentences and paragraphs that left me out-of-breath as I read. Her depression is expressed through descriptions of darkness and bleakness. Both extremes are written in a way that is able to make the reader have a slight understanding of what she's feeling as she navigates her highs-and-lows.

Although it drags a bit at times, this book shows one wom
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Sharron
This is the rare book that I am always looking for to read. The author has bipolar disorder and it is obvious some of the book has been written while she was manic. She is extremely honest and forthcoming. And you get a true feeling of how overwhelming and difficult her life is and how she has made much of it worse herself. I have a loved one with bipolar so can understand some of what she has gone through. I especially relate to the problems with insurance and medical professionals. Marya doesn ...more
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Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.), in 1998, when she was twenty-three. What started as a crazy idea suggested by a writer friend became the classic book that has been published in fourteen languages, is taught in universities and writing programs all over the world, and has, according to the thousands of letters Mar ...more
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“When you are mad, mad like this, you don't know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else's reality, it's still reality to you.” 319 likes
“Soon madness has worn you down. It’s easier to do what it says than argue. In this way, it takes over your mind. You no longer know where it ends and you begin. You believe anything it says. You do what it tells you, no matter how extreme or absurd. If it says you’re worthless, you agree. You plead for it to stop. You promise to behave. You are on your knees before it, and it laughs.” 143 likes
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