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The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,282 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
“Killing yourself at any age is a seriously tricky business. But when I was seven, the odds felt insurmountable.”

As a young girl, Terri Cheney’s life looked perfect. Her family lived in a lovely house in a tranquil Los Angeles suburb where the geraniums never once failed to bloom. She was pretty and smart, an academic superstar and popular cheerleader whose father doted
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Atria Books
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Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, health
Wow. At first I kept thinking that from what I've read, people with bipolar disorder have too much intelligence for their own dang good, and just use it to hurt themselves and others. I was going to rate the book at three stars though, because I found it interesting (my scale is mostly based on how hard it is for me to put the book down).

As I continued reading, Terry Cheney's descriptions of how her bipolar disorder manifested riveted me.

page 2: "When I was depressed, I was completely paralyzed,
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent memoir that gives the reader a true sense of what happens on the inside of someone growing up bipolar, told with blatant honesty and humor, without minimizing the seriousness of the disease. Though the events, triggers, and degree of depression/mania may differ from one manic-depressive to another, the feelings, thought processes, and reflections Cheney shares is universal. As an adult, armed with the knowledge that can only come after having been diagnosed, Cheney maps out the earl ...more
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was one I found myself trudging through, only in hopes that it would get better as Cheney aged throughout each section.

The early chapters are largely focused on Cheney's family dynamic. So much so, that I was starting to feel like this book should have been entitled "growing up in a dysfunctional family" as opposed to "growing up bipolar".

As I was reading the beginning I couldn't help but feel like the book would become interesting for a few pages and then slowly dim out—every time I
Kate Wyer
This seemed like a money grab. What I mean by that is, this book did not add anything to my knowledge about children with bi-polar. Actually, even her title is out of touch with current mental health standards of talk-- you don't define someone by their illness. "growing up bi-polar" should be "growing up with bi-polar." It's incredible how much difference one word makes between being sensational and stigmatizing and being respectful of the whole person.

I'm not gonna say that she's lying about
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I had a hard time with this one. Having been diagnosed as bi-polar I was curious to read someone else's take on life. I could not relate very well. She speaks of her childhood but it comes across as overly diagnosed and analyzed as an adult. When reading about the experience of a young child I want to understand how they felt THEN. Not what the comprehend us a more mature, educated adult who has had time to come to terms with their behavior. So that was the first disconnect.
The second was how dr
Beth Nienow
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Better written, I thought, than Manic, which I found disjointed, though possibly reflective of a manic personality. Now I feel I should read Manic again
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am tempted to compile my life into a joural of stories called "Raising a household Bipolar Positively and Meaninfuly":-)
My faith is what holds together our family and continuously learning and trying new communication methods as everyone ages and their needs change. Add in the child school setting, after school programs, home life, life with family and friends, life with our church community, and my relationship strength and forgiveness with my husband. Always alert and on my toes with my nee
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I seem to be on a growing-up-with-undiagnosed-mental-disorder book kick lately, for which I have no explanation except that I find it to be a heart-wrenching, yet fascinating topic. I think what makes this so captivating is that it makes me reflect on how many children must be out there suffering, feeling alone, and living with these unexplainable demons within them. It’s nothing less than tragic.

Growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, Cheney’s life looked peachy from the outside. She earned good
Ginnie Grant
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely chilling. I suffer from Bipolar disorder and mine was early onset like Ms. Cheney's so I could relate a lot to her story. The way it's written, it reads like fast and edgy fiction but it is the absolute truth. for anyone who has ever felt like "something was wrong with them" or their children, I would suggest this book.
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
This book was excellent. I enjoyed "Manic" and the window it gave into what it's like to live with bipolar disorder. However, this book gave an even more raw account as it focused on what it was like growing up as a child and teen with undiagnosed manic depression. Very well-written. I'm glad I picked it up.
Not nearly as interesting as I expected it to be. Nevertheless, the epilogue is definitely worth reading if only because it asks the critical question - why did no one see how troubled this child was and how desperately she needed help.
Holly Vine
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent inside view of the "Beast" that drives the actions of those suffering from Bipolar Disorder.
remarkable. I was truly touched by her struggle. very courageous and brutally honest.
Claudia Putnam
I didn't get as much out of this, personally, as I did out of Cheney's other book, Manic. It was still worth reading.

There are a couple of aspects to this story that make it hard to review/assess, and they may just be the nature of the beast. Cheney, deliberately, I think, keeps her own assessments out of the story. She does not try to insert much of her adult sensibility into the story, instead attempting to tell the story as if she were filming it. This must have been extraordinarily hard to
Susan Burke
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes all we want is just to be seen. But if you have a disorder known as "bi-polar", then what you really want is hard for you to even know. Sometimes being seen is the last thing on earth you really want. What you really want is to "get the heck out of here". Terri's battle is just that, caught in the complex world of highs and lows, ups and downs, love and hate, over-elated and severely depressed. How much of the outside world do you want to allow into your private life? What parts of us ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative look inside the past experience of a child in the grips of serious mental illness. The story is relatable even if you did not experience something similar growing up. It did not pick apart situations or angles it merely told the stories as they unfolded for the child. Definitely a great read for anyone who has been through a tough time and wants to know how others have felt during a serious struggle in their mind. Parents can also use this to see how someone else's child fought ...more
Candace Thomas
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mental illness is such a stigma for many societies around the world. I believe in educating our population since a very young age and this book might fit in that educational category.
The way Terri shares her illness with the world takes a lot of courage, being so young and hunted by the Beast must have been hard.
It had been a while since I had a book that actually made it hard for me to put it down, and this was it.
There is nothing else to say but to thank the writer for her extraordinary wor
Barb Novak
Terri suffers from bipolar disorder. She wasn't officially diagnosed until college (I think), but she exhibited symptoms of the disease throughout her childhood. Although Terri was a popular child who was very successful socially and academically, she experienced extreme changes in her behavior, attitude, and energy level. One day she would work feverishly to finish a project for school perfectly and within minutes she would find herself in bed, often for days at a time, unable to find the energ ...more
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone involved with bipolar somehow
Recommended to Tara by: myself
Shelves: borrowed-library
** spoiler alert ** Being diagnosed "bipolar" (among other things) at the age of nearly 34, I often wonder if I was "born" with it, or it started very young as I often had a lot of "issues" when I was younger. I was also very young the first time I had contemplated killing myself. Although, I did not follow through an attempt as this author did when she was small, I sat in serious consideration. I was about 8 or 9yrs old. From the time of my biological father's death 1 mo before I turned 6, I st ...more
Avery Frost
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Dark Side of Innocence grabbed me first with its title. The juxtaposition of darkness and innocence has always intrigued me, so I picked the book up one day in Barnes and Noble.

And I could not put it down.

Cheney told her story in an unflinching, shameless way. She allowed us into her innermost thoughts, some of which were ones that most people would never admit having, without apology or overt explanation. She did not try to make us like her or pity her, she was simply--brutally--honest. I
May 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terri Cheney is a great writer, and has an uncanny ability to suck you into her stories. She introduces this book by letting you know that, after a success of her memoir "Manic" where she details life with bipolar disorder, she went back into her childhood and realized she'd been unstable then too. This made me very skeptical - the idea that she delved deep to access and reconstruct those memories, as part of a process to follow-up on her first book.

I also do not like how she makes her illness i
Jun 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Heart breaking and powerful.

Terri Cheney's writing style is captivating. She uses beautiful (yet dark) imagery mixed with intelligence and poise to capture a reader's attention and pull it through every story.

I love how she organized the book. From seven to eighteen and many years in between.

Just the raw honesty of her struggles with the Black Beast, her family, her alcoholism gives the reader a real insight into what kids with mental illness must truly suffer with on a daily basis.

Kitty Honeycutt
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is more dark with only a splash of innocence. It's not hard to understand how a child could be inflicted with such a horrible disease as being bipolar though, and Teri's words make you understand just how hard it can be for a child in which this condition has not been recognized. This book gave me chills, and made me realize how a hidden monster like this could exist among innocence. Terri's story was written with acute honesty which
Rhonda Clark
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having not read Manic yet, I wonder if reading this book first will provide background for the story that was actually written first. I'm curious how she wrote Manic, which I suspect goes into her being diagnosed. That's next...
Knowing what I do about bipolar, it's interesting to read about her symptoms as she exhibited them at this young age. I think it's interesting that her mother knows something is wrong with her, and she knows it too, but there's a great crevice between them -- perhaps bec
Rachel H
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book The Dark Side Of Innocence By Terri Cheney. Terri is a very talented writer who knows what she was doing when writing the book about living with bipolar disorders at a young age. She knows how to make someone want to read more, that is exactly what she did to me in this book.
The book gives you a brief view through Terri’s eyes; you feel like you are standing right next to her as her parents fought, through the multiple suicide attempts, and the countless outstanding gr
Feb 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
After writing the book "Manic" which describes her adult life dealing with being bipolar, Terri Cheney wrote this book describing her childhood growing up bipolar.

As a child, Terri knew there was something different about herself. She had a dark side that she nicknamed "The Beast". The Beast tormented her and urged her to behave in negative ways--attempting suicide several times (the first time at seven), battling with her family, skipping school, taking dares. The manic side of her kept her awa
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great follow up to MANIC. I want to re-read Manic, now that I know her back story.

I think this is a very important book. I hope that parents will devour it so their children won't have to endure what Terri went through. Of course, we live in a different time now. Terri felt very betrayed at the loss of her childhood. All those adults around her and not one of them could see that something was wrong?! I'm sure someone saw, but the 60s and 70s weren't a time of open mindedness in many areas and
Mary Anne
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terri Cheney has grown as a writer since she wrote MANIC: A MEMOIR. The prose is whimsical, funny and matter-of-fact while recounting a seriously messed up childhood experience, like planning her suicide at age 7; and conversely introspective, taking the time to help us understand her personal emotional weight of something less tragic, like when she didn't make JV cheerleading. That's the nature of bipolar, an emotional roller coaster that zigs when we expect a zag.

While MANIC was effectively wr
Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies
A follow up/prequel to Manic. I read Manic was was taken on a ride through the eyes of a bipolar woman who was suicidal yet insanely intelligent. She writes in a way that reads like a page turning novel so I couldn't resist her 2nd memoir which chronicles her life growing up bipolar. It focuses on her adolescence and as a kid how she had this "black beast" and kept it a secret from her parents and friends. During her mania she would fly through hours on end with little or no sleep and weeks late ...more
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children with bipolar 3 16 Jun 11, 2013 01:26AM  
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After graduating Vassar College with honors, Ms. Cheney attended UCLA School of Law. After years of secretly struggling with manic depression, Ms. Cheney decided to leave the law and devote her advocacy skills toward a cause that is closer to her heart: writing about her illness, and encouraging the mentally ill to tell their own stories.

--from the author's website
More about Terri Cheney...
“At least when I was an adult, I had a name for what was wrong with me: manic depression. It's easier to make sense of things - even very disturbing things like sexual acting out and suicidality - when there's a big, fat label slapped on top. But as a child, I knew nothing. I had no diagnosis. All I had was a vague and gnawing awareness that I was different from other children, and that different was not good. Different must be kept hidden.” 6 likes
“Trust is as fragile as fairies’ wings and almost as hard to find.” 3 likes
More quotes…