Memoir takes you on psychological adventure through eyes of adopted woman with bipolar disorder

Author Laura Dennis’ memoir “Adopted Reality” tells the story of how expectations of personal perfection inevitably lead to sorrow and failure.

It’s a universal story of our flawed humanness. As a fellow mess, I appreciated the lesson that we don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

For Dennis, her sense of self-worth and her desire to maintain unreasonably high standards arise from her feelings about being adopted:

“I hadn’t been wanted, but now I was wanted. The Dennises were my second chance, chosen especially for me. … My child’s mind deduced that the Dennises could also give me away. So I decided to be the Best Child Ever.”

More than a story of adoption, however, this is a story of bipolar disorder. Dennis describes in painful and surprising detail how her mind unraveled as she descended into a manic episode involving hallucinations about being a bionic spy who caused 9/11 and a death-defying escape from a mental hospital.

Part of Dennis’ trip to “crazy town” (her words, not mine) involved her obsession with her dance career and the typical dancer’s compulsion to be thinner. Any woman who has ever felt too fat will be able to relate.

Dennis does an admirable job of describing her adoption experience by giving credit where credit is due without glossing over the pain she felt about being given away. I was brought to tears by her birth mother’s and birth grandfather’s words about their love for her, even in her absence during her childhood, and I was so happy to read how both her mothers supported her through her mental illness. As a stepmother, I related to both of Dennis’ mothers in one way or another.

I appreciated Dennis’ straight-forward writing style and description, but sometimes I felt like she glossed over important details, especially near the end of her story. After her manic episode and diagnosis of bipolar disorder, she announces she quit her medications cold turkey and a chapter later, the story is done. Sanity can’t be that simple. Dennis is otherwise a good storyteller, and I liked the character Dennis created enough to want to hear more of her story.

I have exchanged a couple of emails with Dennis and the existence of the book itself is evidence that Dennis turned out OK.

Anyone who is adopted, a dancer or bipolar and anyone who knows and loves such a person will appreciate “Adopted Reality: A Memoir” for its honesty, drama and ultimately the peace Dennis finds with her adopted reality.

I enjoyed reading this book on my iPad with my Kobo app. The app is free and downloading ebooks is easy at Kindle is not the only game in town so consider giving Kobo a try (my memoir is available at Kobo, too, and so are thousands of other books from big name publishers and self-published authors). Check it out.


11 responses to “Memoir takes you on psychological adventure through eyes of adopted woman with bipolar disorder

  1. I have a longstanding opiates problem, which I’m currently on methadone for and it does irk me slightly when people talk of cold turkey in relation to something like bipolar meds, most of which to my knowledge have no withdrawal symptoms at all.

    I remember a man coming on BBC London radio talking about making a success by doing what you want to do and saying he had bipolar and had cured himself (he didn’t say how). Some people I think just aren’t going to have another episode anyhow, so when they do quit, they’re completely fine. For no other reason than the fact that the illness has gone away ANYWAY… Know what I mean?

    Every time I have tried to stop my quetiapine (I’m currently on Seroquel “monotherapy” ~ quetiapine only) I either get depressed and very irritable and angry (which takes about 3 weeks to happen). Or pretty much straight away go hypomanic, occasionally manic, and cannot sleep for several days on end, which semi drives me crazy because although I do have “decreased need for sleep” I also have some insomnia mixed in. So I can end up getting tired and ratty as well as manic ~ which isn’t that nice.

    Do you know of any outstandingly good bipolar memoirs? The only one I’ve read is Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind. I’ve heard of Electroboy by Andy Behrman and wanted to get a copy but couldn’t find one. And I haven’t got a debit card so I can’t buy from Amazon… If you know of any good memoirs please leave a quick message at mine: ~~ many thanks 🙂

  2. Monica, you made this book sound so good! Thanks for this report. How hard is it to self-publish? I’m thinking that with the publishers leaving most of the work up to the authors, anyway, these days, it cannot be much harder, and perhaps more lucrative? Just curious.

    • Katharine, I read a fascinating blog about the economics of self-publishing that you might be interested in…

      Is it hard to self-publish? Well, it takes some time and expertise, but if you can write and publish a blog, you can probably figure out how to format a book and create a cover. To be honest, it was a lot easier to self-publish than it was to land an agent.

  3. Dear Glenwood,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I did write in “Adopted Reality” about stopping cold turkey, but tried to acknowledge that this was my personal decision, not right for everyone. I did have withdrawal, but again everyone’s experience is different.

    Bipolar diagnoses can be a very tricky thing, and mine may have been brought on my too many life changes in too short a period of time. All of these life changes were the subject of the memoir itself, and I tried to bring more detail and nuance than can be explained in the comments section!

    Thanks so much to Monica, who did a great job of reviewing the book honestly, and relating the salient aspects that spoke to her. This has been one of the unexpected benefits of self-publishing–in connecting with others and finding shared experiences, memoir can make us feel a little less alone in the world!


  4. Reblogged this on Vicki T. Lee and commented:
    Definitely a must-read for me. I am adopted also. It’s always good to hear another adopted person’s experiences.

  5. You will like the book, Vicki.

  6. Laura, I really like your book cover…..very nice and artfully done! Monica Lee’s husband, Tyler.

    • Tyler, Nice to “meet” you. Glad you like the cover, although I am seriously thinking about changing it–I think I should include something that more closely relates 9/11, and trying to be a perfect little ballerina. It’s on my list!

  7. Pingback: Connected to Adoption | Laura Dennis Blog

  8. Pingback: A reading list for memoirists | Monica Lee

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