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NAMI Bookshelf July 2011


Book Review: The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know by David J. Miklowitz, Ph.D.

Guilford Press (2010), $19.95

by Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

The second edition of David Miklowitz's The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide brings an update to an already valuable book. Filled with the latest research and interspersed with anecdotal stories with which a reader can connect, Miklowitz has created a guide that is not only practical and easy to read but one with a great wealth of information.

Explained in layman's terms, and not left in complex scientific jargon, Miklowitz outlines all of the topics important to someone affected by bipolar disorder. It leaves no area uncovered and approaches each with exceptional ability. In lieu of merely summarizing topics, such as the symptomology, Miklowitz delves into the real life effects of bipolar disorder-what it is actually like to experience episodes of mania and depression. This style lends itself to a much more personal book that allows the reader to discover that bipolar disorder is not some scary abstract illness but rather something that can be approached and managed with proper care.

For many living with bipolar disorder receiving a proper diagnosis is often in itself an extremely difficult task. This instructive guide begins there and explains what one might expect to see throughout the course of the illness. From finding the right medication and therapy to learning to identify the first signs of a potential manic or depressive episode to methods for maintaining a productive life, this book provides a good synopsis of the illness as well as useful pieces of advice that can be used on a daily basis.

The use of checklists and graphs throughout the book enables the reader to engage with each of the chapters in an interactive experience that fosters an increased likelihood to refer to the book for guidance and support, two areas that Miklowitz's excels in. Whether you or your family member is living with bipolar disorder, this guidebook is a must read and ideal companion.


Book Review: My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness by Sandra Yuen MacKay

Bridgeross Communications (2010), $19.95

by Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

Exploring the difficult journey faced by many living with schizophrenia, Sandra Yuen MacKay chronicles her life from the initial periods of paranoia through the difficult process of diagnosis, acceptance and beyond. Although My Schizophrenic Life is a little rough around the edges, and doesn't contain the hallmarks of a major publisher, it makes up for its unprofessional nature in its honesty and truth.

Adeptly depicting the way schizophrenia can seemingly hijack one's life, MacKay's memoir begins by delving into the stressful and chaotic world of a person first beginning to experience the disorienting effects of hallucinations. Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, MacKay was an engaged and bright young girl. Although a bit shy, she behaved and interacted just like any of her other classmates; she was a member of the field hockey team, got good grades in school and had some good close friends. It was in ninth grade when her life began to be turned upside down. She began to be able to hear people whispering from great distances, hear people talking about her through the air vents at schools and believed a few of her classmates were spying on her through her window at home every night.

As the symptoms became more pronounced it began to greatly affect her personal life with her family and classmates. She began to lash out, accusing them of conspiring against her. Later in her ninth grade year, she was involuntarily hospitalized.

Although it took time, MacKay finally began to receive help and treatment. The remaining chapters of her memoir speak of her struggle and acceptance with her illness. MacKay's illuminating portrayal of her own illness will bear resemblance to that experienced by many others. While at times her prose is disjointed, her overarching ability to create a powerful and realistic account of her life provides a gripping story that will capture any reader.


Book Review: Sex, Love, and Mental Illness: A Couple's Guide to Staying Connected by Stephanie Buehler

Praeger (2011), $34.95

by Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator

The topic of mental illness is often taboo, as is the case with sexuality. When trying to talk about them together at the same time, you encounter an area not often discussed. Stephanie Buehler attempts to address this oft ignored and difficult topic in her new book Sex, Love, and Mental Illness.

Mental illness can have a profound effect on one's intimate and sexual relationships. As Buehler writes, "[b]ecause sexuality is one of the most basic and important forms of human expression and attachment, when it is adversely affected by mood, anxiety, and other problems, it can undermine the very relationship the mentally troubled person needs for support."

Mental health and sexual health are intertwined, each one affecting the other. Addressing both, Buehler states, will result in better overall mental and physical well-being. Throughout her book, Buehler touches on many relevant topics that anyone experiencing difficulties in their intimate relationships might have. From reading about challenges that similar individuals may have faced, some of the scientific explanation to why some individuals living with mental illness may be experiencing problems in their relationships, and tips for partners living with an individual who has a mental illness.

Mental illness and sexual health have long been seen as connected. Sexual problems are even included in the DSM. In Sex, Love, and Mental Illness, Buehler provides an easy to understand book that is appropriate for anyone in need of help with their sexual and mental health. Although discussing many scientific topics, Buehler has presented a book that is understandable even to individuals with little or no background in the study of sexuality or psychology.