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Top 9 Biographies and Autobiographies

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Updated: July 13, 2005

A selection of some of my favorite biographical and autobiographical accounts of the experience of depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

1) His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina

By the time I reached the painful climax of the story--Nick's suicide--I felt like I had lost my own child. Her story conveys the intermingled joys and frustrations of parenting a child who is full of creativity and love yet unable to be the person he so desperately desires to be because of his illness. It also conveys the extremes of love and pain that only a parent who has lost a child can feel.
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2) An Unquiet Mind

What I love about this book by Kay Redfield Jamison is the fact that she shows us that even psychiatrists are not immune to mental illness and the struggle to accept the need for lifetime medication. Her honesty about her illness is commendable.
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3) A Brilliant Madness

I enjoyed this particular autobiography for two reasons: (1) it shows that celebrities are just like the rest of us and nobody's life is perfect, and (2) it points out the link between bipolar disorder and creativity.
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4) The Bell Jar

This story by Sylvia Plath is a thinly veiled autobiography written as fiction. What makes it even more compelling is the fact that in her real life she committed suicide not long after completing this book.

5) Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen's story is a telling portrayal of what it's like to be labelled and institutionalized. It leaves one asking the question of just how effective or appropriate hospitalization is in some cases.
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6) The Quiet Room

Lori Schiller gives us an insider's look at what it feels like to experience schizophrenia and hearing voices. She also offers hope that new medications can bring relief when others fail.
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7) The Three Faces of Eve

A classic story about multiple personality disorder. I would also recommend reading "I'm Still Eve", written by Eve herself, to get the complete story.
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8) A Child Called It

I'm including this book by Dave Pelzer about the abuse he suffered as a child (and would recommend the two follow up books as well) because of the message it offers any victim of abuse. You don't have to spend the rest of your life in emotional pain; you can triumph over your past and live a fulfilled life.
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9) The Lost Boy

If you read "A Child Called It", I can guarantee you will also want to read this one. It's the continuing story of Dave Pelzer's life once he was removed from the home where he was abused.
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