Fiction books can be a great way to learn about something going on today that you did not know about such as mental illness. Bipolar disorder is when you have your manic highs and your depressive lows constantly shifting. Patrick Downe’s Ten Miles One Way shows through the mind of a seventeen year-old girl what it is like to live with bipolar disorder.
Teenager Q. introduces us to his on and off again girlfriend Nest. After not speaking to him for two months as a result of a depressive episode, Nest contacts Q. to go on a walk with her. In ten miles, she talks to him about everything that pops into her head. She educates him on trivia facts, the history of hotels, Irish Town, people who go on long treks, her parents, her grandmother, etc. We learn that it is possible that Nest’s bipolar disorder was passed on from her father who got it from his mother.
Nest describes her bipolar disorder as having a chimaera inside her which is a three-headed mythological creature that breathes fire. Her depressive episodes are like “when the chimaera cries and moans” but her manic episodes are like a Minotaur, another mythological creature with the body of a man but the head of a bull. She describes her father as a Minotaur as he has his “Angers” that he cannot control.This whole book shows us Nest’s stream of thoughts tend to stop in mid-sentence and then a new subject comes. We see that she talks too fast and has her thoughts racing. People who are manic also do risky things like Nest deciding to go on a walk with Q. for ten miles without getting anything to eat. Because her thoughts tend to take over, she forgets when she is hungry and cannot sleep.
People who have depressive episodes tend to think about death with Nest having a tendency to picture different scenarios of her death and pictures what the world would be like without her. Even though Nest is clearly smart, she has a vulnerability when she lets out her “chimaera” like when she had a breakdown in the scene where her and Q. almost get hit by a car. This is a good book for anyone to read to learn about bipolar disorder and the underlying message that having someone around to love you can make a great difference.
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