Before I begin this review, there are a few things I need to get off of my chest. One is this lead waistcoat, which was a terrible idea and it’s certainly the last time I take fashion advice from an X-Ray technician.
Secondly, despite my own diagnosis with bipolar disorder, I have tended, in the past, to avoid books about others’ experiences with the condition. I didn’t need, I felt, to be reminded of everything from which I was running at a feverish pace, usually while attempting to outpace a fever.
I was glad that people were sharing their journeys – god only knows, misconceptions about mental health abound – but I was busy dealing with my own and preferred to read stories outside of my experience, perhaps about someoneone struggling with flu, or elbow pain.
Thirdly, there was a brief moment, when I stumbled across Bring Me to Light, as someone has also just published a book about my experiences with bipolar, where I had the same feeling as the makers of Antz and A Bug’s Life must have felt during my childhood. Which can be best summed up as, “Oh, come on!” Especially as, from what I could tell, it was written by an engaging and talented human being who has survived more than anyone ought to have had to and, goddamn it, writes wonderfully.
In any case, a sense of solidarity – not to mention a deep weariness with thinking of nothing of my own work – won the day, and the book plonked on my hall carpet with the swiftness of an Amazon.
It was worth the mental effort.
I often wonder what it’s like for other people, those without direct experience of mental health issues, to read stories like ours. I’ve always hoped that they foster understanding and inspire much needed moments of connection between human beings of different backgrounds.
In truth, I mention coming to Eleanor’s story with mild misgivings because honesty is both something I value and something that Bring Me to Light delivers in lorryloads.
What struck me most about reading the book were, expectedly, the similarities between our journeys and our symptoms and, reassuringly, the differences. We both had parents that also struggled with mental health conditions, we’ve both suffered from anxieties and stress points that are in no way helped by the demands of our chosen professions. But both our tragedies and our successes have been stridently individual.
And that’s possibly the most inspirational element that works like Eleanor’s book offer. Not simply a tale of surviving, but a reminder of the personhood of those who survive – so often the first thing stripped away by stereotyping, prejudgement and ignorance.
It’s a beautiful book and it should be read. I felt less alone for reading it, which is the highest compliment I can pay to any work of art.
Bisection by, well, me is available now from Chinbeard Books and Spiteful Puppet.
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