The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: Author explores 'Madness'

Author explores 'Madness'

By Sagirah Shahid
Contributing Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008

Last Wednesday evening, students, staff and community members anxiously gathered in the Trollhaugen room to hear readings from one of America's most distinguished writers. Marya Hornbacher, author of the two well-known books "Wasted" and "The Center of Winter," read excerpts from her latest book, "Madness: A Bipolar Life."

"Madness" provides readers with provocatively realistic insight on Hornbacher's personal struggle with bipolar disorder. Being diagnosed with the disorder in her early 20s and shortly after the release of her first book "Wasted," Hornbacher showed readers through her satirically humorous writing style how the disorder affected her life even during the success of "Wasted."

Born in 1974 in Walnut Creek, Calif., Marya Hornbacher was raised in Edina, Minn. by her parents, both professional actors, who, according to Hornbacher, said she first started developing signs of bipolar behaviors in 1978. This petite, dark-haired and raspy-voiced author was particularly candid during her reading in Trollhaugen about her initial views toward her disorder.

Hornbacher stated that she was "not interested in being bipolar" when she was first diagnosed. Her own avoidance of confronting her disorder as a serious issue to be treated led to a downhill spiral of negative events in her life. After being divorced, placed into a mental institution and going through a series of both terrible and excellent professions, Hornbacher painted a painfully blunt and hilarious description of her journey towards recovery.

With her witty way of addressing emotionally disturbing life struggles, this accomplished young author captivated her Trollhaugen audience. Hornbacher enlightened her audience on the real meaning behind her alcohol and eating disorders, which her previous book "Wasted" exclusively addressed.

During the question-and-answer segment of Hornbacher's reading, she explained that because she was diagnosed as bipolar after the release of "Wasted," she never made correlations between her addictions and her disorder. Hornbacher noted how her alcohol addition and bulimia were "stabilizers" for her and how the comforts of both addictions were to "ease her thoughts and mind."

Hornbacher went on to describe how her addictions escalated into separate problems of their own, perhaps even distracting her doctors and other professionals from the root of all her problems, bipolar disorder.

By sharing how she managed to crawl out of a hole of addictions, abuse and disorders, Hornbacher, with her anything-but-sugar-coated life story, provided the St. Olaf community with reassurance and the realistic hope of a woman who survived the madness of life.

The Manitou Messenger is a student publication of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. It is published weekly during the academic year except during vacations, exam periods and interim. The cost for one year's subscription is $45.00. Postage is paid in Northfield, Minnesota. Manitou Messenger
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