The Rapids is an ambitious voyage inside and around the ever-winding mind of a self-proclaimed (and certified) Manic Depressive. The choice of terminology—the author—Sam Twyford Moore’s own.
Twyford Moore makes mention of the conscious decision to distance himself—and The Rapids, in turn—from the somewhat euphemistic label Bipolar Disorder, which is a latter-day leap away from its more potent-sounding predecessor. A sort of clinical rebranding, if you will. Twyford Moore states earnestly, “I don’t like the term Bipolar—in fact I actively distrust it.” He invokes Manic Depression with a sort of matter-of-fact defiance. Linking literary arms with other Manic Depressives against a very real and present stigma, and aligning himself, and The Rapids, on the writer’s side of history.
The adopted format—or rather, the reckless abandon of any one adopted format—serves as both an elusive mechanism of his prose, and a small insight into the default mode of his psyche. He touches on how his current medication impacts his cognitive function and writing patterns in a sort of cruel ironic trade off: Your stability for your ability. Despite this, The Rapids remains quite a ride.
From the jump we are dropped into carefully scattered offerings of memoir and culture—pop and the undoubtedly not so. We read about his family, celebrities, literary icons, and other special someones, a number of which he admits to over identifying with at different periods in his life. Avoiding the thrall of a more confessional, self-indulgent style, Twyford Moore’s own personal manias are reopened cautiously, as if peering inside a vacuum. His retellings feel almost separate and fittingly elevated above his current sense of self and state of mind, which he deduces to now be relatively sound.
Commendably, he does not glorify his encounters with mania, rather serving them up starkly and without garnish. He forays into his dalliances with his estranged mind, some criminality, and his experiences within the mental healthcare system. He zooms out of the sensationalist media portrayals of mental illness and zooms in on the figures that have piqued media attention.
Using visceral descriptors and wry pangs of humour, there is an intimacy that frames Twyford Moore’s musings and an unmistakable kinship warms every page. He speaks of cinema (and some of its sirens) in a way that makes you smell the popcorn and feel the sticky floor beneath your feet. Neck craned up in admiration, sitting a little too close so as not to miss a thing.
Although occasionally steeped in some of the trenches of his journey, The Rapids never feels weighed down in self-pity, or foreboding. There is no underlying victimhood mentality or a vying for absolution. This is not an attempt to wave a white flag of his diagnosis in the face of personal accountability (although the fear of being perceived as such is one that creeps in and out of certain passages).
The Rapids leans towards a biomedical model of mental illness; a perspective that stipulates that mental illness is the result of an imbalance of pathology therefore requiring medication for treatment. At one point he directly implies that a human rights protest against psychiatry would likely be attached to the cult of Scientology—a somewhat glib comment in the face of the psychiatric survivors movement. Notably, however, this is not a flaw of the writing itself, rather an omission of a parallel narrative that probably just didn’t have a place in the already expansive parameters of this book.
Twyford Moore wades in the complexities of his inherent nature and remains in the question. Refreshingly, he does not position himself as a voice of authority, or a champion of any sort of cause. He is a man with a story and a yen for stories. It is his undeniable connection to the written word and its power that weaves this piece together. This book stands as a 21st century mind map to some of the markers of the Manic Depressive narrative and a true testament to the buoys anchored amongst the rapids.
Aisha Younan is a freelance writer, independent recording artist and passionate mental health advocate. She currently works in Sydney as a psychiatric nurse and performs with her band Bomb Threat.