The title really does say it all. The chaos at hand is the madness (quite literally) of bipolar disorder.
Perfect Chaos is told in two voices. Linea has bipolar disorder; Cinda is her mother. Reading about Linea’s battles with unidentifiable and inexplicable bouts of depression and feelings of pointlessness, about her struggle for diagnosis and treatment is heart-wrenching. Reading about Cinda watching Linea spiral out of control and then picking her up and carrying her (metaphorically and physically) when she literally couldn’t find the strength or the will to live is almost more so.
The story is presented chronologically, detailing the slide Linea’s health takes as she transitions from childhood to adolescence and then early adulthood, when the most severe symptoms presented themselves. Eventually, she devolves from a bright, talented young woman with the world at her feet into a puddle of a girl who cannot bring herself to care if she lives or dies, a girl who tries to find meaning in lines of coke, beer, and razor blades. At that point, her parents literally step in and save her life.
After an in-patient stint in a psychiatric facility that includes electroshock therapy, Linea tries to regain control as her physicians and her family try to figure out a plan for treatment and “recovery” – not only from the drugs and drinking and self-mutilation, but from the disease that has laid waste to her plans for her own life. The disease is always there and always a threat; she has to manage it as best she can with therapeutic treatments, but remain ever-vigilant for the signs of an oncoming episode and make herself ask for help when she needs it. It’s a difficult road for a young woman of twenty to put herself on, but Linea tries her best – and Cinda is always there, right beside her, no matter how rough the relapses get, no matter how scared her daughter’s mania and depression make her.
Mother and daughter have very different voices, but their stories are presented in equally clear, concise, and incredibly open language that conveys the manic (no pun intended) cycles of episodes and treatment that comprise Linea’s life. The book required a lot of energy to read; bipolar is emotional and infuriating and dramatic and perplexing and draining – and that’s just when you read about it. I can’t imagine the strength of character it takes to talk so openly and honestly about the most difficult times in one’s life. Or to be the friend or family member confronted with the onslaught of an episode – or its aftermath. Kudos to both women for their unflinching look at bipolar and its treatments, and for doing what they can to raise awareness and understanding.
A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at Jill-Elizabeth.com, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Wunderkind PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.