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.

Spark joy, by Marie Kondo (+ the year of Less)

I’ve been reading nonstop this week – I don’t know why, or how this is happenning, but I’m taking advantage of it and reading as many books from my TBR as I can. So for today, I’m making 2 short reviews. These books were on a very similar theme, and I read both of them in two consecutive days, so I felt like they went together pretty well !

Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo spark joy

The secret to Marie Kondo’s unique and simple KonMari tidying method is to focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Ask yourself if something ‘sparks joy’ and suddenly it becomes so much easier to understand if you really need it in your home and your life. When you surround yourself with things you love you will find that your whole life begins to change.

I got this ebook from my local library, after reading Kondo’s previous book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, then watching every single episode of her TV show, and using her method to sort trough my stuff when I moved 18 hours away from home in September (with only 3 pieces of luggage to hold all of my belongings. I discarded, a lot.)

I loved the addition of the drawings – this was something that was lacking in her previous book, and that the TV show compensated for a bit : when explaining in detail how things are supposed to fit together, or how to fold or arrange objects, a visual representation is extremely useful !

I know that this isn’t a book for everyone : Kondo explains a lot about her philosophy (including why she speaks to her belongings and talks about their spirit), and from the few negative reviews that I read, it seems like Americans really have a hard time with that. It works well for me, though, so if you’re a bit into spirituality and open to a new worldview, it should be a pretty easy read !

I do think you need to have read her first book to appreciate the second one properly, though, so I’d recommend doing that first.

The year of less, by Cait Flanders
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In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

I rated this book 3 stars on Goodreads – I liked it, mostly because the more I read memoirs, the more I realize that’s something I actually do enjoy reading a lot, but most of the tips and strategies described in it just weren’t things that I could apply myself, and that made me feel a bit disconnected from what the author was describing. I have a very small monthly budget and I just don’t have the money to spend more than the sometimes bare minimum, so the “shopaholic” lifestyle is a long way from mine.

The only thing I spend more money on than I should is food, which I often used as a point of comparison while reading – I actually think I might take the challenge, adapt it a bit for myself and see if I can reduce my food spending to help me be more secure with my finances, and make my sugar addiction a bit less severe.

I really liked the structure of this memoir, though : it’s separated into months, for the months during which Cait Flanders had her ongoing “shopping ban experiment”, and it really helped with seeing the evolution of her situation more clearly.

Overall, this was an easy read, even though I didn’t get that much out of it. I suspect it might be, in part, due to the similarity with the Marie Kondo method of discarding and tidying, something the author mentions while explaining her own thought process on the subject, early in the book.

Have you read any books on a similar topic ? Do you have any books on tidying and minimalism that you would recommend ? I’m open to suggestions !