Your Voice In My Head – Emma Forrest

Another memoir by another female journalist, screenwriter etc – bipolar, addiction, self harm, suicide attempts … sadly familiar territory, right?

Mania flows like a river approaching a waterfall. Depression is a stagnant lake. There are dead things floating and the water has the same blue-black tinge as your lips. You stay completely still because you’re so afraid of what is brushing your leg (even though it could be nothing because your mind is already gone).

There’s a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw feel to this one, an intentional one, I think. New York, image conscious, boyfriends with catchy nicknames – that sort of thing. I can’t help comparing this book to Marya Hornbacher’s more universal and visceral Madness. 

Her ego comes through so sharply, it dulls the other details. Then again, mental illness (both the wreck and remission of it) is a self-absorbed thing. How could it be otherwise? Let me rather say that it is a deeply introspective book. Self aware too.

But then I have the luxury to find inspiration in the pain because I am a middle-class girl with a tight-knit family.

A thread running through the book is Emma’s (now deceased) therapist, Dr R, the beloved voice of reason.

You fell out of love with madness. That took self-awareness. And it took courage.”

I was disconcerted and interested to read this:

I sit back that night and say to myself, “That was properly mental. That’s borderline personality stuff and you don’t want to be that.”

… because I am ashamed to admit I’ve had similar thoughts myself. I’m sorry …

Halfway through the book I figure my ignorance of celebrity matters might be limiting my approach to the book (oh, she went out with Colin Farrell). That’s also the stage I start worrying, because things are going (too) well and I know happy endings don’t start halfway through books. And of course, it all falls apart. By then, I care, because her character has deepened and the ego edges have been smoothed.

I notice the hand cream by my bed says “Apply generously” and I say out loud, “Fuck you, hand cream!”

So, read it. Read it, because although it isn’t so much about bipolar as it is about Emma, it’s well written enough to be engaging eventually. And all of these young women with their memoirs, well … their stories are not over, just because their books are storyshaped.

“You absolutely deserve an explanation and you absolutely will not get one.”

“Life is futile,” says my new therapist, Michaela, “and no one gets out of it alive. There is only love.”

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