Thursday, August 25, 2016
I'm fairly familiar with Amy D. Brooks- only a week before picking up ...
I'm fairly familiar with Amy D. Brooks- only a week before picking up this book, I read her first memoir entitled "My Name is Amelia, and I’m a Sociopath", an autobiographical account of her nine year struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Shocked and stirred time and again by her ingenuous chronicles of heroin use, I thought I'd reached the apex of stupefaction. However, I was hit over the head yet again by her impressive, candid and unflinching examination of her mental illness in "Split: A Life of Madness".
"Split" begins with Amy's hospitalization in 2016 and hops back and forth through the four years since her first memoir. Officially diagnosed with Type I bipolar disorder (the most difficult to treat) at the age of twenty, Amy struggled for years with her inexplicable mood swings. Her manic states brought about an incredible euphoria, one that produced unusual bursts of energy and impulsivity and spawned an excessive work ethic that had her sleeping just a few hours every day. When swinging low on the emotional totem pole, Amy's bouts of depression rendered her bedridden for weeks at a time, her life as well as her house falling into disarray with suicide always on the horizon.
Her consistent struggles with her mood disorder as well as her alcoholism quickly dissolved her first marriage as well as a subsequent almost-engagement. The chronicle of her relationships as an adult and her disorder’s effects on them strike true and intensely. She explains something that many of us know but rarely see admitted and discussed; mentally ill women are frequently the victims of abusive relationships. Amy’s descriptions of first physical abuse in her marriage and an attempt on her life by a former lover then the emotional abuse of a narcissist drag us into the despair of self-hatred that mental illness spawns.
Amy alludes throughout her memoir that her bipolar disorder may have been a result of genetics - her father fell victim to mood swings similar to her own, seeming to suffer from either depression or a more manageable form of bipolar disorder before committing suicide. She is also of the belief that her disease manifested much sooner than most psychiatrists presume, thereby going unchecked, undiagnosed and unmedicated for nearly two decades. Her rapid activity coupled with insomnia, racing thoughts and variable moods (screaming one minute, smiling the next) would make her an oddity at school and her peers would eventually label her "crazy" when she began seeing a psychiatrist in her early teens. Lack of understanding of her condition and continual misdiagnosis had Amy self-medicating with alcohol, amphetamines, depressants and narcotics as early as thirteen, as well as suffering from hypersexuality and practicing self-mutilation.
Tacked onto the end of "Split" are grim facts about bipolar disorder as well as some staggering tidbits about Brooks's weekly and monthly medical expenses in order to stay psychologically balanced. She states that 25% of people afflicted with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, that a whopping 75% are misdiagnosed and that many will suffer from the effects of bipolar for ten years before seeking treatment.
Though most of her book is a cornucopian treatise of her struggle to stay mentally afoot, she admits in her epilogue, which is perhaps the strongest point of this book, that many great minds are afflicted with madness and that, having found the ability to effectively treat it, she would likely not choose to be “normal” if she could.
Bottom line: An eye-opening account on mental illness, "Split" humanizes those suffering from bipolar disorder and other psychological disturbances with Amy's honesty, sympathy and self-effacing prose. It is a memoir that unlike others before it will undoubtedly imprint itself on the consciousness of those who chance to read it.