I love reading nonfiction books and memoirs related to mental health. I'm also a mental health writer.
My Bipolar Mind by Samantha Steiner is written as a series of blog posts that capture her recovery from addiction while living with the effects of bipolar disorder. The story begins in April 2017 she hit her personal rock bottom, and from there began her slow journey towards recovery. Of course, the full story began long before that.
Along the way, she describes her experience of rapid cycling mood episodes and multiple mixed mood episodes. After she stopped drinking, she was also diagnosed with PTSD. She explains that she began self-harming at age 12 to try to cope with the domestic violence that was going on at home.
Samantha openly shares the excuses she made for her drinking, and her thoughts that she could quit on her own without help, despite the fact that she'd experienced alcohol poisoning multiple times and needed to be resuscitated after an opioid overdose. She also shares her struggles against the desire to drink again, and the important role her partner's limit-setting played.
She provides an excellent example of how the "good" parts of mania are actually not good at all. She wrote regularly both on her blog and in her job as a writer for a website, but during manic episodes she would often become hyper-fixated on writing, to the point of neglecting her most basic needs. She explains that there were times she decided not to reach out for help because she didn't want to be hospitalized, something I can certainly relate to.
She described feeling emotionally overloaded: "I hate feeling like this; like I am drowning again, like I am getting pulled under the water and I can’t get out, and I can’t breathe. I feel like I can’t fight this or these feelings."
Unsurprisingly, stigma makes an experience, as it so often does in stories of mental illness. Someone she had known for years accused her of just making excuses, saying everyone is bipolar. We all know that people say these kinds of things, but it still makes me heart hurt each time I hear about a specific instance.
Relationship challenges are hard to avoid with mental illness, and these make an appearance in Samantha's story. She shares her difficult breakup with her boyfriend and the subsequent reconciliation that prompted some of her family members to break off contact with her.
The book ends with two blog posts that convey a more hopeful tone. In the final post, she observes "I really do feel like I am learning to love life for the first time." There's no happy ending, but instead an acknowledgement that the work of recovery is ongoing.
This book offers a raw, uncensored look into the daily realities of living with concurrent mental illness and addictions. Some bits aren't pretty, and others are downright ugly, but that's what makes it so real.