Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life
Ellen Forney’s Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me was one of the best graphic novels of 2012. An honest, unflinching exploration of her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the book dealt with how she came to terms with the condition and how it affected her as an artist.
But what did she do about it? Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life, the follow-up, covers that. It’s a self-help book, the visual equivalent of a scrapbook of hints, tips, reminders, and other bits of advice she’s learned. It can be dipped into or navigated in bits and pieces, as needed. The publisher terms it a “survival guide”, which for some, it may be. Those not as intimately acquainted with the condition or other mood disorders will still find useful items to consider about staying healthy and balanced. (It’s also a great book for understanding what a loved one in a situation like this might be going through, with plenty of educational information.)
Forney’s introduction calls it a set of “coping tools” from her personal point of view, and that’s what makes it so welcoming. Her letting is chunky and solid, which makes the journal style easy to read, punctuated by many memorable illustrated items. Her tone is friendly and approachable, which is what you want in a “stability maintenance guide”. So many books deal with the dramatic event, but long-term treatment is just as hard, without the recognition.
There’s a ton of good advice here, emphasizing the importance of routine in sleep, eating, medication, exercise, and mindfulness. The first chapter summarizes all this, while following chapters delve into them in more detail. All of them are easy to read, with varying layouts and attractive design. Readers will learn about how to find the right doctor (including financial considerations), types of therapy, coping techniques and suggestions, and identifying red flags. I particularly liked the mantra suggestions, sleep tips, how to reveal the condition and deal with stigma, and her story of walking meditation. My only caveat is that this isn’t really a comic — it’s a hand-lettered book of advice. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)