Madness: a memoir

MadnessBCoverMadness is a real world for the many thousands of people who are right now living within it. It never apologises. Sometimes it is a shadow, ever present, without regard for the sun. Sometimes it is a well of dark water with no bottom, or a levitation device to the stars.

Madness, a memoir is an insight into what it’s like to live with psychosis over a period of ten years, in which bouts of acute illness are interspersed with periods of sanity. The world is beautiful and terrifying and sometimes magical. The sanctity of life is at times precious and at times precarious and always fragile. It’s a story of learning to manage illness with courage and creativity, of achieving balance and living well. It is for everyone now living within the world of madness, for everyone touched by this world, and for everyone seeking to further his or her understanding of it, whether you think of madness as a biological illness of the brain or an understandable part of the continuum of the human condition.

  • Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature Non-fiction Prize 2014
  • Nita B Kibble Awards – first published work award winner 2014
  • Shortlisted for Biography of the Year, ABIA Awards 2014
  • Shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards Non-fiction Book Award 2013 
  • Australian Book Design Awards – Non-fiction book winner 2014
  • Australian Book Design Awards – Non-fiction book shortlist 2015                         

 Publisher: Andrea McNamara, Penguin Books Australia.                                                

Cover designs: Allison Colpoys and Alex Ross.

Available at:

“Astonishingly brilliant, brave and lucid.”  Stephanie Dowrick January 2014

A powerful and ground-breaking memoir.”  Writers Victoria May 2014

“This is a mysteriously beautiful book. It is mellowed by its love of literature, art and music (“they provide sustenance”) and its uncanny ability to find solace. It tells one story with such insight and honesty that it will shed light in the dark corners of lives that have only sanity to bear.”  The Age April 6, 2013

“Journey Through a Dazzling Mind…Her powerhouse prose gives you immense insight.” Herald Sun March 23, 2013

“The narrative combines notes kept during episodes of illness, giving a visceral experience of what it is like to be mad, with more connected, reflective and analytical passages….Through it all, she has kept her intelligence and her zest for living..she is a gifted writer and storyteller, so that this book, despite its painful content, is a joy to read.” The Courier Mail March 2, 2013

“The author has written bravely and brilliantly about her experience with mental illness…the narrative is transfixing.”  The Australian March 23, 2013

“Kate Richards is a medical doctor now working in research, and a gifted writer whose book Madness: A Memoir offers amazing insight into the harsh world of mental illness from her own perspective. Everyone should read this book.” Jon Faine, ABC Radio, February 15, 2013.

“The most striking aspect of Madness: A Memoir is that it resonates with us all…An engrossing and inspiring story of despair, fragility, life, death and hope.”  Readings Books Review, January 2013.
“This is a moving, chilling and deeply insightful book that is likely to take you somewhere you have never been before.” Weekend Plus Magazine, SA, June 6, 2013.

30 thoughts on “Madness: a memoir

  1. Dear Kate Richards, I subscribe to Sydney Review of Books, and today saw a review of your first novel, Fusion. But it is your memoir that has my interest. I am a Canadian literary publisher, the house has just released a nonfiction work, a collaboration between two sister writers, one of whom, diagnosed schizophrenic, took her life while the book was at the printers. Her suicide underscores the impetus behind the publication of her work—the Press was begun, and continues, with a house vision to acquire works of exceptional literary quality which also break silences regarding widespread failures of social and political systems: to make books with serious intellectual and emotional content. So much injustice cries out for attention, so much suffering, so many affronts to human dignity need to be met with strong literary force. I am hoping I will still be able to find a copy of your memoir. My best, Beth Follett

  2. I regard myself as a recovered bipolar person, so I just had to read your book. I still have a chapter or two to go, but I have already decided to read it again within a few weeks in case I missed anything through absent-mindedness the first time round. Yours is the only personal account of madness that I have read that has inspired true empathy and admiration and love for the writer. This may only be a little thing, but I was greatly touched by the mental image of Kate and Naava and Zoe curled up in Kate’s bed together, with Kate’s cats pliantly filling in the spaces. It was powerfully suggestive of the love and support that can help people to recover.

  3. Dear Scott, thank you for your response to the book. Much appreciated. Very glad you feel it offers hope. Best wishes, Kate.

  4. Dear Kate,

    I have just finished reading ‘Madness: a memoir’- like others here, I read it within the space of a day or so.
    I found it powerfully evocative, beautifully written, and so satisfying to read, knowing you had recovered enough to write it. I enjoyed the portrait of your circle of friends and contacts as a testament to how much companionship means. I have experiences as a therapist and as ex-carer for someone with a psychotic illness, and on both counts I thank you for the vividness and authenticity of your work.
    I look forward to reading your other book, and your novel, when it’s ready (no pressure!).

  5. Hi Kate.

    You’ve written a truly wonderful book, and I just stopped by to say thank you.

    For those among us who struggle with life on a daily basis, it will offer great hope and consolation. This isn’t even to mention the outstanding literary merits of your writing.

    I wish you much health and happiness in the future. Once again, thank you.


  6. Dear Kate,

    I’m just here to say a wholehearted thanks for your wonderful book.

    It will provide great hope for those who struggle on a daily basis to make it through. (Not to mention it’s outstanding literary merits.)

    Best wishes for a healthy and successful future, and thank you, thank you for laying out your experiences in such a profound and beautiful way.


  7. Hi Kate, I’m wondering if publishing your book was mostly a good experience. Was the experience negative at all? I have 30,000 words of a memoir written so far that details my experiences of psychosis brought on by a long stint of meditation in Thailand. I feel it’s an important story to tell and warn other about the danger of stringent religious practice without proper guidance. I am however a tad concerned about negative aspects of publishing such a story under my own name. Hopefully I’m just being paranoid.

  8. Hi Kate
    I have just finished reading your book, “Madness”.
    You are amazing young woman with so much courage, tenacity, wit and humour.
    Your sheer determination to get through all of your experiences and to logically argue the point regarding your recovery is exceptional.
    Your descriptions of people, life nature and the beauty of the world, truly resonate with me.
    I wish you joy, love, peace and happiness in whichever path you chose to travel.
    Much love and many hugs,
    Dianna James

  9. Kate! I just finished reading your book in 2 days. (It would have been shorter if I didn’t have to sleep!) It was amazing scary eye-opening enthralling addictive heart-breaking awesome. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  10. Kate, I just finished reading your book. I can’t explain in a few sentences how much it touched me. There were times I read your profound words and thought they made so much sense to me, only to soon read that you were heading into a psychotic episode at the time. Oops, I thought. There were other times in the early part of the book when I followed you into your confusion, and wondered if I would come out the other side unscathed.

    After having visited a psychiatrist once, following what he thought was a psychotic episode, and what I thought was not, I began reading about mental health and its treatment in books such as Mad in America, Soteria, and Spiritual Emergency.

    I would love to be able to have a discussion with you, but understand if you do not wish to. I wish you a joyful future.

  11. I have learned about Kate’s story from this audio program
    which was announced on Facebook group “Consciousness studies” here

    Personally, I take an interest in a person(s) who, being experienced in doing science, and after having overcame own mental malfunctions, is now trying to explain these malfunctions by constructing a private version of the theory of consciousness. If there is such a person, then do not hesitate to contact me in any of multiple ways — we will have much to talk about.

  12. Hi Kate,
    Just finished reading Madness and wanted to thank you, not only for your honesty, but also for putting into words what a fellow sufferer like myself often finds extremely difficult to do.
    You are an inspiration!!
    Many thanks

  13. Hey Kate, I had to choose a book to read for an English assignment and I stumbled across your book. I’m not too far into it yet but I already love it! I suffer depression and your explanation of how it isn’t selfish (on page 43) is simply amazing 🙂

    Thank You for writing such a great piece of work

  14. Hi Emma,
    Thanks so much for your comments, great to hear that ‘Madness’ generated much discussion in your book group. I’d be very happy to answer a few questions for your newsletter, if you’d like me to, email:
    Best wishes,

  15. Hi Kate,
    I’m in a smal bookclub and we chose your memoir which we discussed this week. Thank you so much for writing such a thought provoking and honest account of your personal story. Coming from health backgrounds we all found your words provided a precious insight. We were all confronted by your book in different ways. We discussed seemingly everything from ethics, stigma and compassion.

    If you had the time or inclination we would love to hear from you as we write a small newsletter after each book. So often the writing and completion of the book starts an even further journey. You gave us a window into your life which we are so grateful for.
    I wish you all the best in the future and look forward to reading more of your books.

  16. Dear Louise,
    Thank you for your comments and I wish you the very best for your own journey of management & recovery.

  17. Hi Kate – we have a bookshop in Melbourne’s outer East. We have been operating for 19 years. Currently we are working on fundraising through the business to support a charity organisation helping those with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Young suicidal incidents seem to occur more often than we had ever imagined. We have lots of ideas and plans to broaden awareness while making donations (and still staying in business!). We sold several copies of Madness, A Memoir. An inspirational read indeed! Would you be interested in helping us kick off our campaign to let our customers and the local community realise the importance of helping to contribute to those with a mental disorder- a campaign which we hope could grow over time?
    Laraine and Mark Elliott – Collins Bookstore and ABC Centre, 132 Main Street
    Croydon 3136.

  18. I have just re-read this for the third, or maybe fourth time. I voraciously consume books, especially about mental illness, and never has one spoken so clearly to me, there are passages that could have come from myself. This is a great comfort, that one can experience this and remain somewhat intact. I have had several severe episodes thus far, and over 10 years am only just learning what it is to manage. I am one of those 30% who does everything right, sleep, diet, exercise, compliance with treatment, yet I still fall back. I am finally at a point where I can recognise myself slipping and actually talk to someone, unfortunately my team is not as fantastic, public health has serious constraints, but I make do… Hopefully I will find someone to help keep me well for longer than 9 months at a time.

    Thank you for writing this, for illustrating so clearly and beautifully the binaries of mental illness. And for the passage about mental illness being a part, not the whole. Thank you for that passage.

    I could go on, I won’t. Thank you.

  19. Dear Kate,
    Thankyou for sharing your experience with such openness.
    I harrahed when you told your voices to piss off for the first time.
    I also saw how important your relationship with Winsome was-how crucial it is to have someone who does not judge and also means business. The emotional family you created was also is also so important to me in your story, and is a reminder to me how important feeling connected and caring for one another is, and how isolated we can be from eachother. I know I need more of this in my life.
    I have never experienced psychosis or mania, but I have had some challenges to face. This story of you developing your sense of self , as Winsome said and taking control of your life. has inspired me. I will push forward further, and to take care of my life, even those seemingly boring & insignificant things like eating and sleeping well.
    I also thankyou for so accurately describing the public mental health system. I worked in it for some time and it was an incredible experience, one that has not left me in many ways. I am not sure how it has changed but my hope it is it can reclaim or develop a much greater a role in the “healing of the soul”.
    My neighbor gave me this book to read after she retrieved it from her psychiatrist 🙂

  20. Kate Richards writes with extraordinary beauty and acute perception. Her struggle with self makes for compelling reading. Thank you for allowing your readers to share your painful journey and for your insights into psychosis and the loneliness of mental illness. Your courage is humbling. Wishing you ongoing strength and health.

  21. Kate, it’s Clare (good ole RMIT) and what a terrific response to your book: congratulations 🙂 Cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. All the best xC

  22. Hi Kate,
    My name is Katie Richards (same name, weird!) and I am studying to be a social worker. I work part time at a bookstore and I picked up your book the other day and read it non stop for two days – I couldn’t put it down! Thankyou so so much for sharing your story with the world. I found it so inspirational. Reading your book has given me a much better understanding of living with mental illness and has reinforced my decision to work with those suffering from mental illness. I just finished it and I feel like picking it up and reading it all through again. Incidentally you have great taste in books 🙂
    Thank you again!

  23. Thanks Christina, I’ve read the excellent review on your blog – much appreciated.

  24. Hello, Kate. I’ve just reviewed your book for the Courier Mail, to be published some time soon, and also written a blog about it on www.

    congratulations on a wonderful book, which is a joy to read in itself, and I hope will help many readers to understand better their own journey, or to enter the world of madness/sanity with empathy and compassion.

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