Thank goodness for authors like Hilary Smith. Her tongue-in-cheek guide to bipolar disorder could be one of the most useful tools available to those who encounter this stigmatized affliction. This is most likely due to the fact that Smith exists outside the medical community--she's a patient--and she's living with bipolar disorder herself. She's been there, she's done her research, and her narrative exudes sincerity.
Maybe it's just Smith's personality, but the book reads like she might have been on a manic episode when she wrote it. It's incredibly upbeat, flows without a hitch, and pokes fun at the circumstances surrounding a bipolar diagnosis without reserve. And that's the raw appeal of the book: that Smith is not going to eschew any important details. She's going to tell it exactly as she sees it as she relates her experiences.
Despite the casual and humorous nature of Welcome to the Jungle, it is organized without flaw, taking form in a comprehensive study of diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care. Smith's candor makes the disorder seem bearable--fun, even--and can ground the reader in a way only a good friend can. It offers a degree of reassurance that's difficult to cultivate in the antiseptic realm of psychiatry and medical service. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, even hospitalization seem like trivial challenges in the light of Smith's perspective. She has a talent for making every experience into an exhilarating and meaningful adventure.
That being said, Smith still manages to highlight the serious and life-altering effects of bipolar disorder. She masters such taboo topics as suicide just as easily as she provides a thorough illumination of the insurance industry and the inevitable roadblocks that come with trying to obtain health insurance post diagnosis. The reader will come away with a great deal of knowledge while, at the same time, being entertained. Welcome to the Jungle is a complete package.