Popular mental health advocate, Rebecca Lombardo, wrote a book called, It’s Not Your Journey: A Memoir. Lombardo’s book actually began as a blog–she began blogging her experience with bipolar disorder as a cathartic experience or what she calls her “own special brand of therapy.” As her blog gained a large following, she decided to share her experiences in a book. There are many subjects Lombardo addresses with unflinching honesty in her memoir including family relations and the holidays with bipolar disorder and love and marriage. The area where Lombardo shines the most is in her exploration of how depression affects body image and self-esteem. People often talk about how cancer affects a person’s appearance and body image but rarely do people ask how mental illness can change one’s appearance. People with bipolar disorder, like myself, who read Lombardo’s journey may feel less alone. But I also think Lombardo’s book is an excellent resource for people without this illness–a window into how their loved ones with bipolar disorder feel. In fact, Lombardo’s husband, Joe, wrote the prologue. It’s Not Your Journey starts with her husband taking her to the emergency room during a suicidal episode of depression in 2013. The bond between Rebecca and Joe, and the evolution of their relationship, is one of the high points in the book.
Family, Friendships, & Triggers
On the subject of family, Lombardo does an excellent job of capturing the tension many people with bipolar disorder feel: We love our family members but sometimes they drive us crazy. Often, the people who love us the most also hurt us. There’s a tricky balancing act–we must build support networks and illness often leaves us depending on others more than we would like but we also have to avoid people who are triggers. Lombardo shares memories of her youth and talks about her siblings. She shares about what it’s like to be misunderstood and how that affects friendships; Lombardo wonders aloud if she is hard to love. Lombardo also shares about her love of her parents; her experience in dealing with loss and grief on top of bipolar depression is gut-wrenching and brave.
Dating, Love, & Bipolar Disorder
Lombardo shares freely about the pitfalls of dating with bipolar disorder, offering readers lessons learned the hard way. After encouraging readers not to settle for significant others who do not treat them with respect, she writes these words:
I’m here to tell you that you do not have to allow yourself to be treated like you aren’t worth it. You are not broken, useless, or a failure. You have just as much to offer this world as anyone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness. There will probably always be that little voice inside your head telling you that this one is going to walk out on you too. Don’t let that voice take over!
Self Esteem and Body Image
As I previously mentioned, most depression/bipolar memoirs do not discuss body image, which is kind of strange if you think about it. Spending a lot of time depressed often means spending days bedridden in your pajamas with unwashed hair. Add to that, medications can often change a person’s appearance. Lombardo shares her evolving thoughts on self-esteem from insecurity as a child to now letting the “scared little kid” inside of herself go. On how bipolar disorder affects self-esteem, Lombardo eloquently writes:
Where does depression fall into this? Isn’t it obvious? You eat because you are depressed. You gain weight because you eat. You hate yourself because you gained weight, and now you are overweight and depressed. Then it starts again. I know the pain of looking in the mirror and feeling worthless all too well.
A Very Engaging Read
Other subjects Lombardo covers include anxiety and self-injury. It’s Not Your Journey is a fast, engaging read. I’ve read many memoirs on bipolar disorder, and I don’t always say that. I recommend this book to anyone–with or without bipolar disorder.
Get It’s Not Your Journey: A Memoir here on Amazon!
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno
Full disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate.