Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D


By all appearances, Lizzie Simon was perfect. She had an Ivy League education, lots of friends, a loving family, and a dazzling career as a theater producer by the age of twenty-three. But that wasn’t enough: Lizzie still felt alone in the world, and largely misunderstood. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, she longed to meet others like herself; she wanted to hear the experiences of those who managed to move past their manic-depression and lead normal lives. So Lizzie hits the road, hoping to find “a herd of her own.” Along the way she finds romance and madness, survivors and sufferers, and, somewhere between the lanes, herself. Part road trip, part love story, Detouris a fast-paced, enduring memoir that demystifies mental illness while it embraces the universally human struggle to become whole.

The Phoenix’s Perspective

I definitely don’t mean it to sound like a pun on the topic, but this book has me split in two ways in terms of how to feel.

Way 1: I thought it was a great read.  Lizzie’s writing style was choppy and random, but it was a wonderful mimic of how she felt life was happening around her.  One of my favorite things about the book is that there are no real chapters.  I love that because life isn’t really sectioned off for us that way — one part flows into the next with specific situations marking the big changes.

As someone who has not dealt with bipolar disorder first hand, Lizzie’s interviews were really insightful.  Not only was it interesting to hear first hand accounts of what going through those experiences feels like, but also it was intriguing to see how different people reacted to their diagnosis and long-term treatment options.

Even more fascinating was Lizzie’s growth through this process.  She wanted to find some group to belong to, but she really only needed to find comfort in herself and her struggle.  She found that, no matter what they had in common, each of them was struggling on their own and finding their own way to face the demons before them.

Lizzie’s journey was an interesting and necessary one.  She set off to find a way to help others, but ended up finding her own inner peace.

Way 2: Lizzie’s master plan was to seek out “high functioning” people (like her) living with bipolar disorder.  She hoped to hear their stories and learn other ways to cope and become a functioning member of society.  By doing so, she wanted to write something that would provide guidance and direction to young people going through the same things.

As much as I think her idea was a good one, I feel that her thoughts on what a “high functioning” bipolar person looks like were limited.  Most people dealing with bipolar disorder go through a lot of trial and error when it comes to medicine – there are some who last years before finding the right combination that help without enormous amounts of side effects.  Not all people dealing with bipolar disorder decide to go to Ivy League schools and become doctors/lawyers/etc.  Not all people dealing with bipolar disorder have the support system that she and those she interviewed had —- neither the financial nor familial support.

If this was your first exposure to people with bipolar disorder, I feel as though Lizzie would have pigeonholed the category for you.  There are many people struggle with this disorder that are functioning members of society who have struggled even more than Lizzie and her interviewees to be able to get where they are.  However, according to Lizzie, their stories are not worth telling because they are not the cream of the crop when it comes to society.

Her book is a good introduction to what living with bipolar disorder may look and feel like, but I don’t think it should be your go to when it comes to this mental illness.

Would I add it to the library?

Although torn, I still think it is a good read and I will add it to the library.


Genre: Biography
ISBN: 9780743446600
Rating:  good

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