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by Lynn Bradley
Emerald Ink, 2000
Review by Libby Fabricatore on Jun 30th 2001

Manic DepressionManic Depression, by Lynn Bradley, is a short and uninformative book about Bradley's experience with being married to a man who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. The book does seem promising at first glance. There is a very well written and interesting foreword by Donald E. Hauser, M.D., as well as a modest list of resources for help and support groups at the end of the book. There is also a good reading list included in Chapter 8. Bradley's voice is initially friendly and engaging, quickly drawing the reader into the book. It is a few pages into the second chapter that this voice is no longer engaging, but becomes irritating in a presumptuously too-familiar and knowing sort of way. This becomes evident in her tone as she relates a story of her everyday life to us:

One example is the way he stacks the dishes in the sink. He's always done it the same way. Whichever hand reaches the sink first deposits the first dish. Sensible, I suppose, except that the hand holding his drinking glass always gets there first. …The plate or bowl goes next, precariously balanced on top. If there is a bowl and a plate, the bowl goes between the glass and the plate…I walk into the kitchen, see his "tower," turn on the tap, get wet and freak…Now, this all sounds too funny. How could anyone get so upset over how the dishes are stacked? Hey, there are a bunch of women out there who would love to have their husbands carry the dishes to the sink. They'd be delighted to find dish towers."
This conversational style may be better suited for a coffee klatch with the neighborhood ladies. Implemented here, it alienates a large portion of the reading audience by sounding too friendly, and a bit patronizing. The reader also wonders whether or not her husband's ineptitude for doing dishes is a result not of his mental illness, but from a general lack of common sense.

Bradley reveals much about how she functions in relationships in general. Aside from the fact that her husband suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Bradley herself comes across as if she would be difficult to get along with, despite the best of circumstances. She enumerates a "Red Flag List" of her own behavior that she tries to avoid, which includes "Folding my arms across my chest…Cocking my hands on my hips…turning my back on him…slamming doors…complaining about him to others." While it is admirable that she is aware of her behavior, and is struggling not to engage in these actions, this list is indicative that Bradley herself has a long way to go in the department of emotional maturity.

This book is scattered with blanket statements, attempting at wisdom, but full of ignorance. "Our problems don't have to be identical, but our solutions do. If I have a broken leg, set the bone and keep it immobile for about six weeks, it will heal. If you have a broken leg and follow the same procedure, you will get the same results." The analogy she uses to illustrate her statement fails, primarily because the problem she uses is identical, not different. In addition to this, the statement begs the question, "Why would the same solution be appropriate for two people with two different problems?"

The biggest problem with this book is that its scope is very narrow. Rather than being directed towards a wider audience of people who may be related to, or have friends that are bipolar, Bradley writes only to women with bipolar husbands. She repeatedly makes reference to "your bipolar" as glibly as if she were writing a book on caring for "your dog" or "your cat." No helpful information is offered to those readers who may have sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, friends, etc. who suffer from this illness. Perhaps a more concise subtitle for this book would be "How to live with a Manic Depressive Husband." Readers who pick up this book hoping for some support or insight for other types of relationships will be disappointed.

© 2001 Libby Fabricatore

Libby Fabricatore received a B.A in English Literature from Dowling College, where she is currently the Assistant Manager of the Photography Studio. She is continuing studies in literature, creative writing and music, while other interests include art and psychology.