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What Goes UpReview - What Goes Up
Surviving the Manic Episode of a Loved One
by Judy Eron
Barricade Books, 2005
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Oct 24th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 43)

What Goes Up is the emotionally wrenching story of a woman, author Judy Eron, who becomes ensnared inextricably in the insufferable web of her husband (Jim's) manic-depressive travail.  Eron is a licensed clinical social worker living in Texas.  Wielding a deeply cutting writing sabre, Eron unflinchingly flays the flesh otherwise shielding her emotions and feelings, and viscerally lays bare her perceived failings, and certainly immense difficulties, making lucid, clear headed decisions detached emotionally from her husband's mentally dysfunctional state of being.  The painful exposing of her vulnerabilities and burdensome sense of guilt powerfully fortify the narrative with great strength.

   Eron's anecdotal recounting of her husband's meteoric ascent into the mentally disturbed stratosphere of mania, followed by his precipitous plunge into the deadly depths of depression driven suicide, adroitly interlaces strong threads of endearing tenderness and love with knotty strands of fearfulness, anxiousness, and crushing despair.  It is the fervent aspiration of Eron that her sobering story of loving a man in the unyielding grip of manic-depression may prove helpful to persons who likewise love someone suffering from manic-depressive illness.  And indeed, Eron succeeds admirably in wrenching open the casement of manic-depression so as to provide readers with a highly revealing, if dispiriting, glimpse of life as actually lived by a man wracked by mania and depression, and by the woman who loved him dearly.

   Manic-depression is a bipolar illness in the sense that the affected person, when untreated, characteristically cycles alternately between manic and depressive phases.  In line with this clinically bipolar course, the book's structural foundation is bifurcated:  the first part (entitled:  "What Goes Up...") fleshes out the manic episode suffered by Jim, precipitated by his abrupt cessation of lithium therapy; the second part (entitled:  "...Must Come Down") focuses thematically on the depressive phase of Jim's illness, culminating in his tragic death, by suicide.  Numerous conversational snippets, recounted by Eron, helpfully and interestingly lend considerable support to the book's structural configuration.  The writing style employed by Eron is very lay reader friendly, albeit scientifically informal and, at times, a bit rambling.

   In the book's riveting first part, Eron does a masterful job of crafting a chronicle of her personal experience of loving a man in the throes of out of control mania.  Exuding poignantly felt emotion, Eron explains that the vicissitudes of her actions, and inactions, with respect to Jim, were twisted and turned by her sense of loyalty to her beloved husband, but also by her  disquieting confusion about what to do.  She was searching for indications that things might again be well for Jim, and for their relationship, but, at the same time, she was being pummeled emotionally by her husband's manic driven verbal blasts.  Eron's pensive ruminations convey the sense that, in retrospect, her reactions to Jim's displays of mania were tinged unhelpfully with naïveté and a misplaced hopefulness regarding his state of health.

With the wisdom of hindsight, the bitter truth probably is that:  when her husband was increasingly being rendered mentally unstable by an ever contracting vise of mania, she simply didn't know what to do to help him escape from the clenched iron fist of his manic episode.

   Some of the particular ingredients in the substantive brew prepared by Eron, in the book's first part, include: comment on how her husband, when well,  was molded perfectly to fit her special needs and wants; sorrowful musings  regarding her retrospectively perceived failure to properly heed "warning signs", concerning  her husband's descent into the punishing nether land of mental illness; and disheartening recollections of her husband's stark behavioral transformation, following  his abrupt truncating of lithium therapy, enveloping:  rudeness, brashness, restlessness, irritability,  and disconcerting disconnectedness from reality.

   In the book's succinct second part, Eron plaintively describes Jim's steep fall from the lofty elevation of mania to the seemingly fathomless depths of severe depression, ending tragically with his suicidal death.  Importantly, and instructively, in the last chapter, Eron enumerates a list of conclusions and recommendations, appertaining to manic-depression, based on her personal experiences and readings.

   Academically entrenched readers, insistent on scientifically disciplined writing and research, may lament that this anecdotally recounted story may in not unimportant ways possibly be anomalously unrepresentative of the life experiences of other manic-depressive persons, and of the persons who love them.  Yet, surely, the cruel realities, vestiges of hopefulness, and heartfelt emotions and feelings elucidated extremely candidly by Eron in her moving story may be of valuable interest to readers in love with persons spinning and reeling in the topsy-turvy world of manic-depression.  Mental health counselors, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists may, as well, be quite gratified and enlightened educationally by the book's illumining contents.

 

© 2006 Leo Uzych

 

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.


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