Book Review: Comedian Maria Bamford details her mental health issues with compassion and humor

NEW YORK (AP) — “Sure I'll Join Your Cult,” by Maria Bamford (Simon & Schuster)

Comedian Maria Bamford has been a comic and actor for more than two decades, her high voice and quirky persona gracing countless stand-up stages and the occasional TV show such as “Arrested Development” and her own “Lady Dynamite.”

Her long journey with mental health serves as the backbone of her comedy and now her memoir, “Sure I'll join Your Cult.” While Bamford hasn't joined any bona fide cults, she describes the different groups she's joined throughout her life — everything from her family to the Suzuki violin method, as well as Overeaters Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and how they've helped — or not helped — her along the way.

“I love groups,” she writes. “I love social orders that I can push against while still being held by snug boundaries of membership.”

Bamford's first experience with mental illness came when she was a child in the 1980s, when she began suffering from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder called “intrusive thoughts.” She pictured hurting her loved ones and was paralyzed with fear that she might act on the thoughts, even though she never actually did anything to harm anyone. Meanwhile, she was diagnosed with Bipolar II and OCD and her attempts to find the right medication to address her disorders led to three stays in psychiatric wards.

While none of this may sound funny, Bamford is well versed in joking about her maladies and opens up in the hopes that others might not feel as alone as she was battling her illness. The memoir offers a candid look at Bamford's decades in self-help and support group services and compassionately urges anyone suffering to reach out and get help — anywhere they can find it.