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16 Books That Have Helped People Through Bipolar Disorder

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Living with bipolar disorder means you’re dealing with challenges every day that other people may not always understand. From the highs of mania and hypomania to the lows of depression, it can be a lot to manage.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

That’s why it can be so comforting to read books written by and/or for people with bipolar disorder. Discovering how someone else is finding their way through daily life with bipolar disorder can give you ideas for how to approach some of your own challenges, or even just show you that you’re not the only one experiencing them. Books are also a fantastic tool for loved ones — the insights they learn from reading other people’s stories can help them understand and support you better, too.

Not all books are created equal, so we wanted to find out which ones people with bipolar disorder found the most helpful. We asked our Mighty bipolar community to share their favorites, and they certainly rose to the challenge. Below, discover the books they turn to to learn more about bipolar disorder, feel “seen” and less alone, and find hope.

Here’s what our Mighty community shared with us:

1. “A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic Depressive Illness” by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman

Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, who was diagnosed with manic depressive illness (as it was called at the time), worked with journalist Gloria Hochman to share insight and guidance on bipolar disorder.

“Informative and comforting.” — Marisol G.

2. “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison

Jamison shares her experience with bipolar disorder both from her own perspective living with the condition, and her perspective as a psychologist treating patients with mental illness.

“It’s by a psychologist who [lives with] bipolar disorder. It describes the illness from both the patient’s and the therapist’s perspective. It takes the clinical facts and intertwines them the author’s personal experiences. It’s a must-read for anyone who has or who loves someone with bipolar disorder.” — Jenny A.

3. “Northern Lights” (or “The Golden Compass“) by Phillip Pullman

Published as “Northern Lights” in the U.K. and “The Golden Compass” in North America, this book is the first in the “His Dark Materials” fantasy trilogy. The book tells the story of a young orphan and her “daemon” (animal spirit), on a journey to find her missing friend and uncle in the Arctic.

“Honestly, the book I’d recommend is ‘Northern Lights,’ a children’s fantasy by Phillip Pullman. It taught me from a young age that the vibey wiggly feelings inside which make me feel so different can also be harnessed and used for good; even in a world that likes to oppress them.” — Sophie P.

4. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel explores the fictional Esther Greenwood’s mental breakdown and suicide attempt. It is based on Plath’s own experience with mental illness and was published one month before Plath died by suicide.

“I felt so known when I read it. Finally had words for my feelings.” — Tia J.

5. “Perfect Chaos” by Cinda Johnson and Linea Johnson

This memoir chronicles bipolar disorder from the perspective of the woman experiencing it (Linea) and her mother (Cinda).

“It was the first time I saw my symptoms, struggles and feelings put into words. It’s from the perspective of the daughter who’s diagnosed and learns to live with bipolar and then flashes to the perspective of her mother and how she sees the downfalls, progression, etc. Cinda Johnson and Linea Johnson are the authors. I highlighted throughout the book what I related to and agreed with. Truly saved my life and made me feel less alone with this disorder.” — Tuesday K.

6. “His Bright Light” by Danielle Steel

Romance novelist Danielle Steel turned to her own life to write this memoir about her son, Nick, who had bipolar disorder and died at 19.

“It’s the true story of the struggles and final moments of her son Nick’s battle with manic depression. I read this book at 16 right after my diagnosis and it helped me to understand and see what it is I was going through and when and how to ask for help when I really needed it. The highs and lows of bipolar are seen through Nick’s poetry and music. Really good book.” — Hope G.

7. “Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind” by Jaime Lowe

Lowe reveals how at age 16, she began hallucinating, stopped sleeping and eating and wrote manifestos in her diary and on her walls. After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she started taking lithium. Her story explores the history and science behind lithium and how it affected her.

“A memoir about her battle with mania as well as a lot of information on lithium itself. It shows the struggles of trying to find sanity and stability with bipolar.” — Taylor R.

8. “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel

This bestselling memoir explores what it feels like to have depression, and may be relatable to readers with other mental illnesses as well.

“Such love for Elizabeth Wurtzel! I’ve read this book so many times, the first time at 15 when my symptoms really started to present. It was like my Bible.” — Kim A.

9. “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me” by Ellen Forney

If you’re interested in reading a non-traditional format, this book features Forney’s memoirs of being an artist with bipolar disorder, told in black-and-white images and prose.

“It’s a graphic novel memoir of her diagnosis and how she learned more about the illness and how to deal with it. Her ability to convey feelings, ideas, explanations and descriptions of bipolar through her illustration and writing is fantastic. It got me through many rough times. I keep it on my bookshelf as an old friend – someone who really gets the frustrations I live with every day. Ellen Forney has also since written another graphic novel called ‘Rock Steady.’ This book, rather than a memoir, is more of a straightforward guide to dealing with a bipolar diagnosis and how to navigate taking care of your mental health.” — Teresa R.

10. “Manic, A Memoir” by Terri Cheney

In this memoir, Cheney discusses her life as a high-powered entertainment lawyer with bipolar disorder.

“I found this sometime between the end of high school and beginning of college and it really helped me work some things out reading about it in the perspective of another.” — Maria A.

11. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

Silverstein’s classic book of poetry isn’t about mental illness per se, but his imaginative poems still reveal honest truths and life lessons.

“There are not many emotions you can’t connect to a Silverstein poem, regardless of age.” — Maria A.

12. “Lost Marbles: Insight Into My Life With Bipolar and Depression” by Natasha Tracy

Tracy’s book shares both her own experience with bipolar disorder, as well as advice for others who have been diagnosed, as well as their loved ones.

“It’s so realistic to hear things from someone who suffers from it rather than someone who has just studied bipolar and depression. It makes you feel as if maybe all the these and feelings aren’t crazy, that they are real and gives you an explanation of why. Such a good read!” — Cierra B.

13. “Madness: A Bipolar Life” by Marya Hornbacher

This memoir is a follow-up to Hornbacher’s first book, which focused on her eating disorder. At that time, she didn’t know she had bipolar disorder, so “Madness” focuses on her experience with type 1 rapid-cycle bipolar.

“She also discusses her eating disorder and struggles with drugs, self-harm, and suicide attempts. This really helped me when I was first diagnosed in my late teens because she talks about how there were so many ‘warning signs’ of her mods disorder in her youth.” — Vanessa L.

14. “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide” by David J. Miklowitz

This informative resource provides practical strategies for dealing with every aspect of  bipolar disorder. You’ll find step-by-step instructions and information about different kinds of treatment.

“Absolutely invaluable resource for me in beginning to draw up relapse prevention plans for both hypomanic and depressive symptoms, a brilliant CBT-style workbook that really assisted my beginning to take control of my illness and live/work productively without the cycles having such detrimental impact.” — Nic M.

15. “Crazy Is My Superpower” by AJ Mendez

Now-retired WWE wrestler AJ Mendez wrote this book about her upbringing among drug addiction, mental illness and poverty, and she became a professional wrestler while struggling with her own mental illness diagnosis.

“AJ talks about the struggles of growing up poor, living with her bipolar mother and discovering she was misdiagnosed with depression when she really had bipolar. AJ also goes on with how she deals with bipolar today and how she even was a professional wrestler in WWE. It’s a great read and I would recommend it.” — Jennifer B.

16. “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie

While not written specifically about mental illness, this book reveals strategies for worrying less each day and reducing fear in your life.

“Sounds cliche but the way he has written the book really helps things. I find myself having to go back to re-read some passages to remind myself of his words. The book doesn’t cure my bipolar. It just helps put a few things in perspective even if it’s just for the day. And that’s one of the things he brings out: live in ‘day-tight compartment.’” — Diandra L.

Want more books that share insight, advice and hope about life with mental illness? Check out these favorites of our community:

Originally published: June 6, 2019
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