A Surgeon's Life with Bipolar Disorder
by John A. Emery, MD

"Experts tell us that up to 4% of our population has bipolar disease."

An esteemed physician bares all, describing his life, professional and personal, with bipolar disorder. The author trained in medicine without incident and was already a successful physician before his clinical symptoms and diagnosis came about in his late 30s. His life before the diagnosis was filled with exciting moments. Emery writes in an entertaining style about golfing with the Governor of Oregon, performing surgery near the front lines during the Vietnam War, and knowing entertainers and sports stars. His life was clearly already worthy of a memoir.

But, the real gems in the book are the personal experiences he shares in order to give readers a better understanding of bipolar disease and to help and encourage others who might be bipolar. His writing is raw and riveting. His memoir is bravely and frankly written. He explains the relevant medical jargon without sounding pedantic. Readers quickly realize that bipolar disease can be debilitating but sometimes, at least temporarily, almost a super-power. The manic phase often gives one hyper-focus, with the benefit being accelerated learning, energy, and accomplishments. Emery's writing gives a clear understanding of the disease through detailed empirical experience and helps us understand the complete rollercoaster ride that is bipolar disorder.

The author clearly explains how we are slaves to the neurotransmitters in our brains, which are difficult to measure and poorly understood. Furthermore, Emery describes what was helpful for him and what might also be helpful for other mentally ill persons: "'Hey, I know exactly how you feel' can be a comforting thing to hear... when the conversation gets to the point where the other patient shares with you what worked for them... it could be very helpful..." Almost everyone these days is touched by mental illness in their family or friendships, and, therefore, almost everyone could benefit from reading this provocative memoir.

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