Families are riddled with untold secrets. But Stephen Hinshaw never imagined that a profound secret was kept under lock and key for eighteen years within his family—that his father's mysterious absences, for months at a time, resulted from serious mental illness and involuntary hospitalizations. From the moment his father revealed the truth, during Hinshaw's first spring break from college, he knew his life would change forever.
Hinshaw calls this revelation his "psychological birth." After years of experiencing the ups and downs of his father's illness without knowing it existed, Hinshaw began to piece together the silent, often terrifying history of his father's life—in great contrast to his father's presence and love during periods of wellness. This exploration led to larger discoveries about the family saga, to Hinshaw's correctly diagnosing his father with bipolar disorder, and to his full-fledged career as a clinical and developmental psychologist and professor.
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Middling, Self-Indulgent, and Unoriginal
This book, while purporting to be about the author’s father’s “madness” (bipolar disorder), is really a vehicle for the author to talk about himself. Sometimes himself in relation to his father or his father’s disorder, but mostly just about the author himself: to brag of his academic résumé, to boast about his professional career, to bluster over his “deep” thoughts on psychology and psychiatry that no one else was thinking and that would revolutionize the field, he was sure. (And despite that academic pedigree, his prose is awkward, with many truly horrible and clumsy mixed metaphors—did this book have an editor?) There is little insight into bipolar disorder, mental illness, or their treatment that many other works of nonfiction, memoir, and essay have not covered, and not covered in greater depth and to greater effect. It’s clear, although the author insists that it’s his father’s story he needs to tell, that this is a charade: the story the author truly wants to tell is merely his own.