"Conveys the many varied shades of mental illness, and how walking, diary writing and particularly the intense effort of composing poetry often proved therapeutic."Times Higher Education Supplement

Diary of a Bipolar Explorer

Lucy Newlyn

“To a fellow bipolar explorer, much of ­Newlyn’s book rings both uncomfortably and comfortingly true. Rather than make any extravagant claim for the inherently artistic or creative constitution of sufferers, she meticulously lays out her methods of managing her disorder with the tools she has to hand, both [as] a poet and an academic’: the gift of studious analysis, and the vocabulary of an inveterate reader, who finds apt parallels for the tricks of the mind in a well-thumbed mental library. She records ‘bipolarity’s role in stimulating creativity’ without ever romanticizing it, or suggesting that it confers some form of doomed and glamorous genius, like a draught of Odin’s mead.”-Times Literary Supplement

Diary of a Bipolar Explorer is a quirky, original and beautifully-written book that deserves a wide readership. Its account of day-to-day life with bipolar disorder will resonate with many sufferers and their friends. And its detailed and highly realistic account of an attempt to use poetry to manage a major mental health condition should be required reading for anyone working in the arts and mental health.”
Medical Humanities

“The abiding impressions here are the courage with which major — even devastating –issues are faced, and the realisation that the feelings and sensations described are familiar as part of the pain of being human, if in an extreme form. . . Lucy Newlyn has made an important contribution to the poetry of mental illness in English by her unflinching description of her experience.”
Bernard O’Donoghue,Oxford Magazine

“This book is both useful and beautiful. . . . It’s a direct, accessible, personal work for a wide audience concerned by mental illness, and in many cases with our own experiences, or those of loved ones, to bring to our reading. It’s also unlike anything else I’ve read on this subject, full of a scholar’s lucidity and acuity, a poet’s lyricism and capacity to surprise and move.”—Shiny New Books

“Lucy Newlyn’s account of her bipolar disorder isn’t a ‘misery memoir’, ready to clog railway station bookshop shelves with easy answers and monetisably manipulative content. Instead, her narrative hard-cuts reliable reportage into hallucinatory sections of paranoid delusion, pin sharp diary entries, hard won poetry, and sober reflective analysis. Newlyn doesn’t flinch as she explores the relationship between bipolar disorder and exactly the kind of mindset that has made her a poet and a writer.”
—Stewart Lee

In 2002 Lucy Newlyn found herself incarcerated in a mental hospital in Leeds. She had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act as a danger to herself and others during a psychotic episode after several nights without sleep. The psychosis was triggered by nearly three years of grieving for a dead sister, followed by a vigil at her father’s deathbed during which she hallucinated that his hospital ward was a trench in the First World War.

The episode uncovered psychiatric problems, which led in due course to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder (manic depression). This condition, which involves extreme mood swings, is classified as a disability and requires medication; but it is also a source of creativity, giving access to some unusual dimensions of human experience.

In her fifteen-year diary, Lucy Newlyn discloses recurring episodes of mania, depression, hallucination and paranoid delusion. Describing her struggles with family life and the workplace, she de-mystifies bipolarity and critiques an environment which still, even in the twenty-first century, is suspicious of mental illness. Above all, she celebrates the discovery that writing poetry enables a cathartic engagement with her own condition.

Diary of a Bipolar Explorer is not a self-help manual but a candid confessional memoir which offers no easy solutions. It involves a mixture of observation and reflection, interspersing poetry with prose. Written accessibly, it will appeal to anyone interested in mental illness, creative process and the life of the mind.

Lucy Newlyn , a retired Professor at Oxford University, is Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where she taught English for thirty-two years. She has published widely on English Romanticism (including four books with Oxford University Press) and is the author of two collections of poetry, Ginnel (Carcanet, 2005) and Earth’s Almanac (Enitharmon, 2015). She is currently assembling a new poetry collection, and working on an edition of Edward Thomas’s prose for OUP. She lives in Oxford and Cornwall. The author’s royalties for this book will be donated to MIND.

£12.99 paperback

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232 pp
February 2018
ISBN: 9781909930636