A Life Spent Running From MadnessBook - 2015
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The former middle distance Olympic runner and high-end escort speaks out for the first time about her battle with mental illness, and how mania controlled and compelled her in competition, but also in life. This is a heartbreakingly honest yet hopeful memoir reminiscent of Manic, Electroboy, and An Unquiet Mind.
During the 1990s, three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton was the darling of American track and field. An outstanding runner, a major sports apparel spokesperson, and a happily married wife, she was the model for an active, healthy, and wholesome life. But her perfect facade masked a dark truth: manic depression and bipolar disorder that drove her obsession to perform and win. For years after leaving the track, Suzy wrestled with her condition, as well as the loss of a close friend, conflicted feelings about motherhood and her marriage, and lingering shame about her athletic career. After a misdiagnosis and a recommendation for medication that only exacerbated her mania and made her hypersexual, Suzy embarked on a new path, and assumed a new identity. Fueled by a newfound confidence, a feeling of strength and independence and a desire she couldn't tamp down, she became a high-priced escort in Las Vegas, working as "Kelly."
But Suzy could not keep her double life a secret forever. When it was eventually exposed, it sent her into a reckless suicidal period where the only option seemed out. Finally, with the help of her devoted husband, Suzy finally got the proper medical help she needed. In this startling frank memoir, she recounts the journey to outrun her demons, revealing how a woman used to physically controlling her body learned to come to terms with her unstable mind. It is the story of a how a supreme competitor scored her most important victory of all--reclaiming her life from the ravages of an untreated mental illness. Today, thanks to diagnosis, therapy, Kelly has stepped into the shadows, but Suzy is building a better life, one day at a time. Sharing her story, Suzy is determined to raise awareness, provide understanding, and offer inspiration to others coping with their own challenges.
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First things first...if you're looking for a book about running, then this is not your book; you should definitely check out Suzy's other, earlier publication, called Fast Track: Training and Nutrition Secrets from America's Top Female Runner. I've read it and it's really good, too. This book is the story of Suzy's real life, the one she didn't even recognize until she'd been able to step away from it and realize that she, like others in her family, suffers from mental illness; specifically, bipolar disorder.
That's not to say that she doesn't discuss her running career; she has made a connection between the way her running career, unintentionally, fueled her illness and she certainly had to find other ways to express herself, to find her "high," after years of training and racing at the elite level. In this book, Suzy is brutally honest; she discusses topics that could be difficult for some readers, like her sexual promiscuity and her penchant for putting herself into dangerous, nonsensical situations. In context, none of that should be too shocking; what's shocking is that it is often, still, so difficult for individuals to receive the correct diagnosis and the treatment they need for their unique symptoms.
I've read a lot of "judgy" reviews of this memoir and, while everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, the reviews I've read by people who also suffer from mental illness are the ones that were the most impactful. This isn't a piece of classic literature, it's not going to answer everyone's questions about why or how or whatever, but it's Suzy's story and I respect her for choosing to share it in an attempt to come to terms with her illness, the things she's done in her life because of that illness, and with the hope that it might allow others to discuss their experiences and ask for help.
If you have a tendency to be judgmental about the stories of those who are dealing with things that you may not be able to understand, then this book will not be useful; I found it to be illuminating and a great way to gain better insight into the world of those who struggle with mental illness.
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