Softbelly: A Memoir of a Young Adult Coming of Age Bipolar by Robert Epperson

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

SoftbellyRobert Epperson’s book is an enlightening journey into a young man’s mental disorder. The book begins with Robert reflecting on his college years and the times that he became antisocial and unable to communicate with others. He had difficulty making human connections and people thought him strange.

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While in college he meets Jennifer Stewart, a young woman with whom he falls in love. They begin their romance with phone calls, eventually moving to more serious activities. After college, they both find jobs in Dallas, Texas, although Robert’s employer eventually moves him farther from Jennifer’s job and they don’t see each other as often.

Robert stays at the job for nine months, eventually becoming disillusioned and quitting. Being away from college causes both physical and mental stress for him and he has a difficult time adjusting to the “real world”. After quitting his job, he picks up Jennifer for a weekend trip to visit his sister, Holly. Robert’s bizarre behavior and the act of hitting his brother-in-law cause them to be asked to leave. They go to his mother’s house where his behavior becomes even more bizarre, enough to scare Jennifer. His family intervenes and his Uncle Tom, also a police chief, take him to a hospital for evaluation.

He is eventually transferred to a psychiatric hospital where he continues to be evaluated until a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made. He remains in the hospital for a while. His family and Jennifer visit whenever they can. Once he is released from the hospital, he stays with his mother. Jennifer and his mother become friends and stay in touch, both deeply concerned about Robert. Through all the ups and downs, manic behavior, and difficult times, Jennifer stays by his side. Eventually they marry.

This book is very intriguing. At times it is very funny, others times it is sad. It gives the reader a long look into bipolar disorder and all the nuances that go along with it. We experience the roller coaster ride of mental illness right along with Robert Epperson. Many people do not understand mental illness, but reading this will give them a greater comprehension of it. I myself feel this way now. The book is well-written, very descriptive, and most definitely worth reading.