Book tour : Manic Man, by Jason Wegner & Dr Kerry Bernes

If there’s one thing I like more than receiving new books to read, it’s receiving new psychology books to read. And this one certainly did not disappoint!

Manic Man, written by first-time author Jason Wegner and clinical psychologist Dr. Kerry Bernes, was just published on October 14th, 2021, and is a raw, open memoir relating Jason’s firsthand experience of living with type 1 bipolar disorder.

Synopsis

The story begins with an outline of Jason’s normal life and then describes the hypomanic stage of his illness. The mania starts with his experience of taking the dangerous psychedelic drug LSD and takes off a few weeks later in Tanzania, Africa. He is in a full-blown manic episode while in Africa, and his behaviours and thoughts captured demonstrate this. Weeks of mania continued after he was home from Africa until he was tricked into going in an ambulance and taken to the hospital’s emergency wing. He would be hospitalized in the acute psychiatry ward for 57 days, and seven months of depression follows his hospitalization.

To lift himself out of his severe depression, his psychologist, Dr. Kerry Bernes, develops “The Octagon of Life,” which is the eight areas of life that he gets Jason to focus on. Following the plan, Jason gets out of depression and experiences post-traumatic growth and becomes a more successful person than he was before his diagnosis. 

Of all mental health concerns, personality disorders are certainly some of the most taboo in our society. We tend to avoid the subject as much as possible, and when we do have to talk about it, it’s usually mentioned with concerns about homelessness, danger to others and/or suicidal risk.

Which is why, amongst a sea of bleak portrayals of mental illnesses in current media, I find such a memoir essential to our collective understanding of what it’s really like living with a severe mental illness.

Representation matters, and what better representation than stories that come directly from the people living with the illnesses themselves?

Three things I liked in this book

The honesty

Memoirs are a difficult genre to write. Gloss over reality a bit too much, and your readers will be able to perceive the lies, the varnish coming off of the polished version of your life that you’d like to sell them between the pages. But be a little too truthful, and you might be confronted with intimate realities on the page that you might not have intended to share with such a wide potential readership.

Being honest with yourself and with your readers when sharing intimate personal experiences is a difficult challenge, and one that author Jason Wegner takes on without hesitation. It takes here the form of a heartbreaking but genuine description of manic episodes, from his perspective, that must have taken a lot of bravery to write and that leaves the reader with a new understanding of the trials of living with such a severe mental illness.

Speaking of recovery

One of the thinks I dislike the most in mainstream media’s portrayal of mental illnesses is the near total focus on the worst parts of people’s lives. What about the after, when a person has received their diagnosis and is in a better place to receive the help they seek in managing their condition?

Manic Man doesn’t shy away from that part of the process, and explains in more detail the difficulty of the work done by the author on recovery from manic episodes, and on managing his type 1 bipolar disorder in the future.

The difficult topics

Type 1 bipolar disorder is sometimes also called “manic depression”. This describes the two main emotional phases of the disorder, which are phases of intense mania – lasting at least a week, and during which the person usually exhibits extreme erratic behavior, and might require hospitalization for their own safety – and phases of deep depression, lasting at least two weeks.

The honest and raw descriptions of Jason’s experiences while in either one of these phases is something I found very educational for people wanting to broaden their understanding of the emotional cost and psychological effects of bipolar personality disorder on the individuals it affects.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in psychology, cognitive therapy, or just looking for an excellent memoir to read this winter.

Find it on Amazon here, and on Goodreads here.

Book tour : Take charge of your diet, by Sylvie Boulay

Let me just start with how happy I am to be reviewing this book. One of my greatest passions in life is reading, and the other one is psychology, so you can imagine how excited I was when I received an ARC of a psychology book in the mail!

Take charge of your diet, written by author Sylvie Boulay, was just released on September 30th, 2021 – and if you’re interested in any way in psychology, self-help or weight management, then you should definitely add this short workbook to your TBR.

Synopsis

This is a short, accessible workbook offering a new approach to weight loss based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Rather than proposing a particular diet, the workbook offers practical tools to help slimmers adhere to whatever plan they have chosen. Written in plain language for the general reader it is based on principles widely discussed in academic research on addiction treatment.

The reader is taken through ten easy to follow stages. These are similar to those suggested in addiction recovery, but here they are applied to weight loss: keeping a diary, building motivation, identifying unmet needs, drawing a plan, creating new habits, identifying triggers and risk situations and learning how to deal with cravings and relapse. The last chapter also contains information for family, friends, carers or professionals to support loved ones or clients through the ten stages.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. For as long as I can remember, eating has been a form of reward or coping mechanism for me – I eat when I’m bored, scared, stressed, angry… every “ugly” emotion I can’t properly process or express translates in as many iced frappuchinos (Hi, Starbucks!), molten lava cakes, pizza slices or entire chocolate bars just bought at the corner store.

I’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, now, and had some measure of success… before taking it all back on, and then some. I’m just one of many who tried on a couple of diets, and just can’t seem to make them stick.

The goal of this workbook is to help people like me figure out why we just can’t stick with it, and how to make it stop – in twelve easy to follow steps.

Three things I liked in this book

The simplicity

One of the things I look for the most in a self-help book that aims to make accessible to the general population key psychology concepts is simplicity – specifically, the way the author explains keywords and crucial concepts so that all readers will understand them, without losing any of their meaning.

Scientific vulgarization is a difficult exercise, and one that Sylvie Boulay has mastered with brio in this book.

The exercises

As interesting as textbooks or general self-help books are, in my opinion, there’s nothing that beats the workbook format in terms of practicality and direct usefulness in readers’ lives. That is – if the workbook is well-constructed, and the exercises are relevant to the theoretical materials.

Here, the exercises are pertinent to each chapter, and bring the reader to self-reflection rather than making them find pre-prepared answers to their questions – an approach that echoed my recent training course in applied humanist psychology, and that I found particularly important in the context of weight management.

The theory behind the scenes

My favorite branch of psychology is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. It is rooted in several core principles, including but not limited to :

  • The belief that psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking
  • The belief that they are also based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior
  • The following conclusion that people suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, in order to relieve their symptoms and become better adjusted in their daily lives.1

This book follows current CBT theory and its practical applications, and I found it extremely well done. The structure of the reflection, mirroring that of the 10-steps program used in addiction recovery programs, is efficient and clinically sound. Unlike a certain kind of self-help book that I will abstain from quoting here (but you know what I mean…), this is a document that can be taken with all the seriousness its topic requires.

Conclusion

Interested in weight management, CBT, or just self-help in general? Want to finally figure out what’s blocking you from feeling in charge of your own behavior, and at ease in your own body?

Then this book is the one for you. Seriously. You’ll thank me for it.

Find it on Amazon here, and on Goodreads here.

Reference : 1American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is cognitive behavioral therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral.;