Manic: A Memoir
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Manic: A Memoir

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by Terri Cheney
     
 

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"I DIDN'T TELL ANYONE THAT I WAS GOING TO SANTA FE TO KILL MYSELF."

An attractive, highly successful Bervely Hills entertainment lawyer, Terri Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder for the better part of her life—and concealing a pharmacy's worth of prescription drugs meant to stabilize her moods and make her "normal." In explosive bursts

Overview

"I DIDN'T TELL ANYONE THAT I WAS GOING TO SANTA FE TO KILL MYSELF."

An attractive, highly successful Bervely Hills entertainment lawyer, Terri Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder for the better part of her life—and concealing a pharmacy's worth of prescription drugs meant to stabilize her moods and make her "normal." In explosive bursts of prose that mirror the devastating mania and extreme despair of her illness, Cheney describes her roller-coaster existence with shocking honesty, giving brilliant voice to the previously unarticulated madness she endured. Brave, electrifying, poignant, and disturbing, Manic does not simply explain bipolar disorder—it takes us into its grasp and does not let go.

"Superb....Cheney's remarkable chronicle of her painful odyssey is as eloquent as it is brave. It is also profoundly necessary, both for her and for us." —PROVIDENCE JOURNAL

"Cheney's book is a gut-churning ride." —LOS ANGELES TIMES

Editorial Reviews

During her 16-year career as a topflight intellectual property and entertainment law attorney, Terri Cheney worked for prominent clients including Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, Michael Jackson, and Quincy Jones; but when she wasn't impressing clients, she was driving herself crazy. As this memoir demonstrates, her bipolar disorder hit her more like a train wreck than a rollercoaster ride; she gobbled down prescription pills; binges and purges; attempts suicide; resorts to electroshock treatment. Nothing worked until words: "I grew angry, first at the illness, then at the doctors, then at the patients themselves. Just spit it out! I wanted to say. Then it finally dawned on me: It wasn't their fault. The patients simply didn't have a vocabulary for their illness. Why should they? Mania, suicide, psychosis-such things were hardly the stuff of polite conversation. None of us knew how to express ourselves, because madness was one long, inarticulate howl. It needed a voice. It needed words. And so I started to write."
Publishers Weekly

Cheney, a former L.A. entertainment lawyer, pointedly dispels expectations of a "safe ride" through this turbulent account of bipolar disorder. With evocative imagery-time-shuffled recollections meant to mirror her disorienting extremes of mood-Cheney conjures life at the mercy of a brain chemistry that yanks her from "soul-starving" despair to raucous exuberance, impetuous pursuits to paralyzing lethargy. Caught in a riptide of febrile impulse, she caroms from seductions to suicide attempts while flirting recklessly with men, danger and death, only to find more hazards in the drastic side effects of treatment. More than a train-wreck tearjerker, the memoir draws strength from salient observations that expose the frustrations of bipolar disorder, from its brutal sabotage of romance and friendship to the challenge it poses to the simplest emotions, such as "the terrors of being happy" that augur mania's onset. Though she sustains an ominous mood and relays horrifying incidents with icy candor, Cheney lightens up at times, as when she marvels at the ease of masking her condition at an office that brings out everyone's manic side. But the narrative hopscotch frustrates readers' need for grounding and context that might clear up Cheney's muddled history and satisfy readers' urge to learn the fallout of her impulse-driven episodes. Her startlingly lucid descriptions of illness merit a more concise chronology. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
An attorney writes about her decades-long struggle with manic depression. It would be easier to feel sorry about the degradations, depressions and rejections Cheney has endured if she didn't spend so much time making sure that we also know how hot she is. She was a high-school varsity cheerleader, has spectacular red hair (all hers-no highlights), attracts males like moths and elicits catty comments from jealous women. She can steal your boyfriend-and will, even if you're her best friend-and out-rev you at the stoplight with her Porsche. (She got a vintage Corvette for her Sweet 16; one boyfriend drove a Lamborghini.) She graduated with honors from Vassar College, where during one of her bad periods she prowled late-night dorm corridors and ate from garbage cans. After law school, she quickly landed a prestigious job with an L.A. firm specializing in celebrity cases. For years she deceived her employers about her addiction to various prescription drugs. For years she practiced the yo-yo diet, binging and purging. She had a dozen electroshock treatments. She tried to kill herself in a variety of ways. Again, we'd feel worse for Cheney if her tortured accounts of fate's blows weren't accompanied by a parade of attractive men who find her irresistible, except for that darn mental illness of hers. The book is almost more embarrassing when she tries to tell us What She Has Learned. A Masai girl covered in sores who can nonetheless smile and a horribly disfigured woman whom Cheney comforts by stroking her beautiful blonde hair appear to exist solely to demonstrate the author's ability to see that others are actually worse off than she is. Pedestrian epiphanies like these suggest that, whileCheney may have conquered mental illness, she hasn't yet overcome the solipsism manifest on every page of her boundlessly self-absorbed memoir. Agent: Lydia Wills/Paradigm Literary Agency
People
“Cheney’s chilling account of her struggle with bipolar disorder brilliantly evokes the brutal nature of her disease...Edgy, dark and often cynical, MANIC is not an easy book to read, but it has heart and soul to spare.”
Los Angeles Times
“Written in episodic chapters that mimic the ups and downs of bipolar depression—hypomania, mania, depression—Cheney’s book is a gut-churning ride.”
Boston Globe
“Cheney...writes with passionate clarity about depression and the lure of suicide but with especially keen intensity about mania...”
Orange County Register
“Amazing and powerful...[MANIC] forces the reader into Cheney’s bipolar world, into her deep and fearful depressions mixed with her giddy, high-flying manic moods.”
Providence Journal
“Superb...Cheney’s remarkable chronicle of her painful odyssey is as eloquent as it is brave. It is also profoundly necessary, both for her and for us.”
Peter C Whybrow MD author A Mood Apart
“[a] gritty, vibrant, memoir brings this chaotic frenzy to life...through disaster and despair to end in hope. ”
Dr. Lori Altshuler
“This is a poignant and compelling memoir ...The writing is outstanding, the story is gripping.”
Andy Behrman
“Cheney brilliantly brings us along on her haunting and riveting journey of bipolar disorder. ...MANIC is extremely powerful.”
Demitri F. Papolos. M.D. and Janice Papolos
“Filled with gorgeous writing...Echoes of William Styron abound.”
People Magazine
"Cheney’s chilling account of her struggle with bipolar disorder brilliantly evokes the brutal nature of her disease...Edgy, dark and often cynical, MANIC is not an easy book to read, but it has heart and soul to spare."
MD author A Mood Apart - Peter C Whybrow
"[a] gritty, vibrant, memoir brings this chaotic frenzy to life...through disaster and despair to end in hope. "
Doctor - Lori Altshuler
"This is a poignant and compelling memoir ...The writing is outstanding, the story is gripping."
M.D. - Demitri F. Papolos and Janice Papolos
"Filled with gorgeous writing...Echoes of William Styron abound."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061430237
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/05/2008
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Manic
A Memoir

Chapter One

I didn't tell anyone that I was going to Santa Fe to kill myself. I figured that was more information than people needed, plus it might interfere with my travel plans if anyone found out the truth. People always mean well, but they don't understand that when you're seriously depressed, suicidal ideation can be the only thing that keeps you alive. Just knowing there's an out—even if it's bloody, even if it's permanent—makes the pain almost bearable for one more day.

Five months had passed since my father's death from lung cancer, and the world was not a fit place to live in. As long as Daddy was still alive, it made sense to get up every morning, depressed or not. There was a war on. But the day I gave the order to titrate his morphine to a lethal dose, the fight lost all meaning for me.

So I wanted to die. I saw nothing odd about this desire, even though I was only thirty-eight years old. It seemed like a perfectly natural response, under the circumstances. I was bone-tired, terminally weary, and death sounded like a vacation to me, a holiday. A somewhere else, which is all I really wanted.

When I was offered the chance to leave L.A. to take an extended trip by myself to Santa Fe, I was ecstatic. I leased a charming little hacienda just off Canyon Road, the artsiest part of town, bursting with galleries, jazz clubs, and eccentric, cat-ridden bookstore/cafés. It was a good place to live, especially in December, when the snow fell thick and deep on the cobblestones, muffling the street noise so thoroughly that the city seemed to dance its own soft-shoe.

There was anexceptional amount of snowfall that particular December. Everything seemed a study in contrast: the fierce round desert sun, blazing while I shivered; blue-white snow shadows against thick red adobe walls; and always, everywhere I looked, the sagging spine of the old city pressing up against the sleek curves of the new. But the most striking contrast by far was me: thrilled to tears simply to be alive in such surroundings, and determined as ever to die.

I never felt so bipolar in my life.

The mania came at me in four-day spurts. Four days of not eating, not sleeping, barely sitting in one place for more than a few minutes at a time. Four days of constant shopping—and Canyon Road is all about commerce, however artsy its facade. And four days of indiscriminate, nonstop talking: first to everyone I knew on the West Coast, then to anyone still awake on the East Coast, then to Santa Fe itself, whoever would listen. The truth was, I didn't just need to talk. I was afraid to be alone. There were things hovering in the air around me that didn't want to be remembered: the expression on my father's face when I told him it was stage IV cancer, already metastasized; the bewildered look in his eyes when I couldn't take away the pain; and the way those eyes kept watching me at the end, trailing my every move, fixed on me, begging for the comfort I wasn't able to give. I never thought I could be haunted by anything so familiar, so beloved, as my father's eyes.

Mostly, however, I talked to men. Canyon Road has a number of extremely lively, extremely friendly bars and clubs, all of which were within walking distance of my hacienda. It wasn't hard for a redhead with a ready smile and a feverish glow in her eyes to strike up a conversation and then continue that conversation well into the early-morning hours, at his place or mine. The only word I couldn't seem to say was "no." I ease my conscience by reminding myself that manic sex isn't really intercourse. It's discourse, just another way to ease the insatiable need for contact and communication. In place of words, I simply spoke with my skin.

I had long since decided that Christmas Eve would be my last day on this earth. I chose Christmas Eve precisely because it had meaning and beauty—nowhere more so than in Santa Fe, with its enchanting festival of the farolitos. Every Christmas Eve, carolers come from all over the world to stroll the lantern-lit streets until dawn. All doors are open to them, and the air is pungent with the smell of warm cider and piñon.

I wanted to die at such a moment, when the world was at its best, when I could offer up my heart to God and say, thank you, truly, for all of it. It's not that I'm ungrateful. It's just that I'm not capable anymore of the joy a night like this deserves. Joy is blasphemy now that Daddy's dead; your world is simply wasted on me. And that, I think, is reason enough to die.

This unwritten prayer was the only suicide note I intended to leave.

Christmas Eve dawned bright and cold, with snow in the forecast for early that afternoon. I was on the fourth day of my latest manic spree, which meant my mind was speeding so fast I had to make shorthand lists to keep up with it. I'd already carefully laid out what I was going to wear as my farewell attire: a long black cashmere dress—not to be macabre, but because cashmere would never wrinkle and black would hide any unexpected blood or vomit. I'd also laid out all the pills I'd saved up over the past year, including all the heavy-duty cancer meds my father had never lived long enough to take. They were neatly arranged in probable order of lethality, and grouped into manageable mouthfuls, approximately ten pills per swallow. Counting them one last time, I realized I had well over three hundred assorted tablets and capsules, which meant an awful lot of swallows. What I didn't have was sufficient tequila to wash them all down. Water wasn't an option. I needed the interaction.

Manic
A Memoir
. Copyright © by Terri Cheney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Demitri F. Papolos. M.D. and Janice Papolos
“Filled with gorgeous writing...Echoes of William Styron abound.”
Andy Behrman
“Cheney brilliantly brings us along on her haunting and riveting journey of bipolar disorder. ...MANIC is extremely powerful.”
Lori Altshuler
“This is a poignant and compelling memoir ...The writing is outstanding, the story is gripping.”
Peter C Whybrow
“[a] gritty, vibrant, memoir brings this chaotic frenzy to life...through disaster and despair to end in hope. ”

Meet the Author

Terri Cheney specialized in intellectual property and entertainment law at several prominent Los Angeles firms, where, over the course of her sixteen-year career, she represented such celebrity clients as Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, as well as major motion picture studios, including Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures. She now devotes her talents to the cause of mental illness. She was named a member of the Community Advisory Board of the UCLA Mood Disorders Research Program, and founded a weekly community support group at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Manic 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Flymaster More than 1 year ago
A stunning look into the mind of the mentally ill - here, specifically dealing with manic depression. I was grabbed from the first page. A really good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Memoirs are always an easier way to undertand mental illness. It gives you someone's reality as opposed to text book labels and diagnoses. This is both helpful for those who suffer from bipolar but would also be very helpful for family and friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a psychologist I can honestly say that Manic could be a text book for understanding Bipolar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cheney writes with illuminating prose that is lucid and riviting. I reccommend this book for anyone with Bipolar disorder or people close to those with the illness. I was refreshed to finally find a book with which I could identify unlike any before.
Shirley_Holmes More than 1 year ago
While walking into Barnes and Noble three days ago, author Terri Cheney's book The Dark Side of Innocence caught my eye. After sitting in the store reading intently for two days, I finished that one and quickly found Manic. Again, I spent the last part of that day and the next day reading Manic just as intently. Manic, unlike Dark Side which is written chronologically, is written episodically. It jumps around to different years, different episodes of depression, hypermania, and manic. But it was very easy for me to follow along. Terri Cheney's book is so heartbreaking, eye opening, and all around enlightening to the mental illness of bipolar. Having a ten year old sister who was recently diagnosed with bipolar, I have been trying to learn everything I can so I can help her when she needs me most. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in bipolar for education reason, but especially for anyone who is bipolar or knows someone intimately who has bipolar.
Anna_88 More than 1 year ago
Terri Cheney writes brilliantly and with frank detail. Her intimate struggle with Manic Depression is enlightening and moving. If you truly want to know what this disorder is like, just read Manic. I definitely recommend it, even if it is not always for the faint-of-heart. Great descriptions, wonderful style, and charming personality. I can't wait for more from this author.
ArtfullyYours More than 1 year ago
I initially read this for a school project. I didnt really know much about mnic depression but this book really kept me interested. i would recommend this book to anyone but be prepared for an impacting story. This is an eye opening book and a pretty fast read for anyone who wants to learn something new while also enjoying a good read.
island_time More than 1 year ago
Terri Cheney is a beautiful writer who talks about Bipolar like it is. I myself have Bipolar and I could not describe it better myself. Cheney does a remarkable job showing the reader, not just telling. She also has a way of making certain situations funny. I especially liked the part where she talks about giving her secretary a standing order to make sure there is nothing that would remind her of death- like dead flowers. I would definitely recommend this compelling memoir! I couldn't put it down!
georgia_girl15 More than 1 year ago
Very accurate portrayal of bipolar disorder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Will help you understand more about bi polar and how your brain functions when you suffer from being bipolar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An inside look into the life of some one who is manic depressive. A must read for patients, family, & friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will be especially insightful to those suffering with or acquainted with someone suffering with, bipolar disorder. Written in a diary like fashion you get to really understand the complexities of the misfiring brain as the author struggles with the chemical imbalance that keeps her life in constant upheaval. Bravo to Ms. Ceney for having the guts to put it all out there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So well written, she does an amazing job at capturing what it's like to feel the way only someone that suffers from mental illness can explan or understand. Thank you for putting it into words. Stay strong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Right away when I saw the title I knew what the book was about. Author Terri Cheney describes her struggle with manic depression. She initially is severely depressed but swings to full blown mania. She tries to cope but eventually seeks professional help. Her journey is graphic. I would NOT suggest people who are bi-polar read this book. there are too many triggers! am b-polar & was hesitant to read this book. I would suggest family & friends of someone with BP read this book to get a glimpse of this terrible disease.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Very well written. It really shows the picture of how people suffer with bi polar condiition. I have family members who have been diagnosed with it and I realy appreciate the courage of this author for telling her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My profession is a nurse and I come across this alot, after reading this book it has made me more aware! And to make sure I do think Co email across uncaring .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unique story. Certainly a frank insight into functioning mental illness. Worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! How difficult it must be to have this problem!
DebSimon More than 1 year ago
Fab Book, eloquently written. Having studied the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder and written countless behavior support programs in attempts to assist folks, I still did not understand what it is like to walk in one's shoes. This book whisked me into the mind and world of a person who suffers with this condition. I now have a much deeper empathy and understanding. I highly recommend this book for anyone who works in the mental health field, has a friend or family member with bi-polar disorder, or for someone simply wanting a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an attorney who also has bi polar I could totally relate to this book. Impeccably written and styled it made me both cry and laugh and realize there is hope and i am not alone. Highly recommended to anyone who wants the down low on this horrible disease from the perspective of its sufferers.
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