Author: James T. R. Jones
ISBN: 978-061557515546

Over three hundred brightly costumed Disneyland audio animatronic children of the world sing “It’s a small world after all.”  As I read A Hidden Madness, I couldn’t get the Disney music or lyrics out of my head.   “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; it’s a world of hopes, it’s a world of fears. There’s so much that we share that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.”

It *is* a small world and sadly, it’s one where many who suffer from mental illness become victimized by stigma, keeping their illness a secret to save themselves from painful rejection and ridicule. Faced with living with the frustration of chronic illness, the mentally ill are also faced with discrimination and the knowledge that most people cannot understand the path they walk.

Louis D. Brandeis School of Law (University of Louisville) law professor James J.R. Jones knows this path only too well.  Despite suffering for over thirty years from bipolar disorder; despite hiding his illness for decades from co-workers; despite a childhood replete with bullying; and despite five hospitalizations in psychiatric facilities, the author finally realized that hiding his reality of bipolar disease, was killing him.  He experienced the hell of mental illness that can take its toll in a variety of painful ways: an inability to get along with people, dependence on others; powerlessness to deal realistically with real-world issues; inability to handle criticism appropriately; continually dwelling over problems (perceived and/or real); and a physiological reaction to life’s stressors.  Jones has experienced all of these and yet somehow, he had the determination and tenacity to believe in a better tomorrow for himself and for all who suffer from mental illness. In 2009, he began to let others know and two years later, he published A Hidden Madness.

While the neediness of the author (to be liked by others, to be validated, affirmed, encouraged) is a window into mental illness that may be uncomfortable for some readers, the author’s open and frank self-reflection and his desire to write a book that will be of help to others suffering from mental illness overrides any personal concern the reader may have along those lines.  However, because  A Hidden Madness is a book of humanity and hope for those who suffer from mental illness, those who love, are friends with, or professionally care for the mentally ill, this reviewer wishes that the author had included a sub-title to at least allude to the hope available to those who suffer from mental illness.

This hope emerges in the story that the author weaves about his personal life and continues throughout the book, gently reminding readers about the importance of appropriate use of medication and therapy; of having loving family and supportive friends; of being attentive to coping mechanisms; and of having a personality that defies surrender to doom-and-gloom medical diagnoses, but instead rises and marches to the drum that refuses to let disease control one’s life.  

The author has been blessed with such a personality trait.  He has been blessed with a solid education that give him the ability to write. And, he has been blessed with a calling to talk about - not keep silent any more - about his ongoing journey with mental illness.  For the countless millions whose lives have been affected in some way by mental illness, the response to the publication of this book is “Thank you.”

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