A Can of Madness


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98 in stock


By Jason Pegler
Fifth Edition


ISBN: 978-1-904697-53-4
First Published: 2002
This Edition: 2010
Pages: 246
Key Themes: bi-polar, manic depression, depression, alcoholism, mania, drug abuse, recovery

“A Can of Madness does what it says in the… er can. A brilliant memoir of mania; all the pain, humour, fear and despair is chronicled here in prose of clarity and distinction. Unforgettable and important” – Stephen Fry

“This book will help people to understand one of the greatest issues of our time, how to treat those who are mentally disturbed, as human beings” – Rt. Hon. Tony Benn

“The author has done all of us a service by writing about how it feels, not just to be manic depressive, but to have a life of fraught and edgy encounters with just about everyone” – The Times Literary Supplement


A vivid, honest and sometimes disturbing memoir about the experience of having a diagnosis of manic-depression. Like other books in this genre, the author is often painfully honest about his experiences. He recounts a dizzying, dark and sometimes euphoric journey through a world of elation, despair, binge drinking, drugs, raves and psychiatric wards. As well as attempting to educate the reader, the book also provides optimism and hope, showing that it is finally possible to learn to live with, and accept, having a mental health problem.

About the Author

Jason Pegler was born in 1975 and lives in London. Jason was diagnosed with manic depression in 1993 and wrote ‘A Can of Madness’ to stop other seventeen year olds going through what he went through. Graduating from Manchester University in 1998 he founded Chipmunkapublishing the mental health publisher which aims to help mental health sufferers. Pegler is a mental health activist, journalist, rapper and public speaker. In 2005 Pegler won the New Statesman’s Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is a key figure in the mental health movement.

Book Extract

As I was being driven off in the back of a police van in a space suit, I thought I was Donovan Bad Boy Smith being driven to a rave. I could hear music in my head and flashed back to another night at The Brunel Rooms in Swindon. The Brunel Rooms, a hard-core Mecca for druggies from Gloucester and surrounding areas in the early to mid nineties. Donovan was so hardcore when I saw him there that he’d refused to turn off his set at 3. He’d carried on until 3.30 when someone finally turned off the electricity mid flow.

Talking of flows (as opposed to stable mindsets), just how the fuck do you live with a mental illness? Don’t ask me, I’m still trying to find out now. After all, it’s not something you plan, let alone something you’d ever expect to have. As we all say: it won’t happen to me. But it can. And in this case, it did.

And if Hercules and Ajax couldn’t hack it, how the hell could I? Unsurprisingly, I didn’t – and that’s why I wallowed in self-pity for so long.

So, do you want to know what it’s like to be crazy, mad, loopy? Well I’m about to tell you. I’m also going to tell you how it feels to be suicidal for months on end – the fate of the manic. One thing, however, is for sure: The sooner you kill mania the better. For you’re a danger to yourself and other people when you don’t know what you’re doing. The longer mania is allowed to continue, the longer and more severe the inevitable depression will be.

The problem is that mania is a unique and sometimes beautiful experience, even though its genius is flawed and must be quelled. The irony is that it draws strength from imperfection. Think of the Mona Lisa without her eyebrows. She’s more appealing because there’s something that’s not quite right. She is in some way different, contrary to the norm and thus fascinates the observer.

I also draw strength from Van Gogh, as I imagine him painting just down the road from me in Stockwell. Slipping in and out of consciousness when writing, I try to summon up his own ‘madness’.

Finally, I take comfort from the poet and composer, Ivor Gurney. Like me, he was manic, and like me, he came from Gloucester and moved to South London. Apparently, he would often walk from one to the other, singing folk music and sleeping in barns along the way.

Hucclecote, one of the more pleasant areas of Gloucester (although still with its fair share of pingheads and run-of-the-mill crims) is about a mile, mile and a half outside the town centre, on the Cheltenham side. We moved there because my parents were keen that my brother, Harvey, and I did well at school – Hucclecote is a bike ride away from the renowned Grammar school, Sir Thomas Rich’s, in Longlevens. The plan was that we would each would pass our 11+ and get in.

Green Lane, where I lived, was quiet, (lower-) middle class and had a huge green at the end of it. Because it’s right on Hucclecote Road, access to either Gloucester or its more upmarket neighbour Cheltenham, located only seven miles away, is easy. But that’s enough on Gloucester for now. Let’s meet the family.

Also Available

‘Curing Madness’ by Jason Pegler
Paperback / e-Book

26 reviews for A Can of Madness

  1. Fiona Whelpton (verified owner)

    Jason is one of the most amazing, wonderful, warm ,kind, caring, gentle and senstive people I have ever met,he is a close, trusted friend and colleague, who devotes his whole life to EMPOWERING nad HELPING others by being honest and open enough about the pain and mental anguish he suffered as a result of the violent behaviour which can be a direct manifestation of the mood swings associated with the Bi-Polar described in his book.

    The behaviour is a direct description of some of the symptoms of this mental illness. The behaviour manifesting itself during mental illness is NOT CAUSED BY THE PERSON WHO IS EXPERIENCING IT. IT IS NOT THE PERSON’S TRUE PERSONALITY , which is masked through the illness, and often becomes like a caged bird ready to take wing. HATE THE BEHAVIOUR, NOT THE PERSON. should be the rule of thumb when meeting people like ourselves.

    Jason is one of the bravest, caring people I have ever met and has touched and changed my life totally through his willingness to share my pain by being there for me whenever I need him, no matter how busy he is.

    The NHS need to give Jason a key to the acute wards and let him loose in there for three months, then see how many people would walk out of there completely cured. I’m a walking testimony to how Jason’s positivity can cure negative thinking and heal a low self esteem . and can’t wait until the new book Curing Madness and the film Cans Of Madness comes out later next year.

  2. Nicky Luck (verified owner)

    Pegler opens your eyes with his first-hand account of manic depression. A touching read, it helped me gain an understanding of the issues brought about by mental health. It was particularly moving for me as I have friends and relatives that are going through and have gone through similar experiences. I recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the area of mental health.

  3. Fiona BB (verified owner)

    The author has achieved his aim in writing a completely honest autobiography about coping with a mental illness. This book is suitable for everybody; those who are unaware of the tremendous difficulties of living with a mental illness will find this book very shocking as well as a rewarding read.

  4. Brian May (verified owner)

    The story of a young man determined to overcome his manic depression…This autobiography is written with self- effacement. It’s very easy for the reader to have empathy for him, and to imagine his pain and his long fight. To recommend to all disorder sufferers, but also their family, friends, and the general public who wants to learn more about this illness. The happy end gives you the motivation to continue the struggle against the disease.

  5. Claire Martin (verified owner)

    After finishing this book I was moved to tears of joy and sadness by the last page. Such a compelling book (definetly in my top 5 ever). I couldn’t put it down. For all those people who aren’t sure whether to buy it – look past the gloomy cover and the subject matter. This is both funny and gripping and not depressing to read at all. Its told in a very witty warts and all style which really gives this book the edge to other books in a similar genre. Having been part of the old rave scene I could relate to Peglars antics as a teenager. Also having a brother with scizophrenia I could relate to Peglars experiences with his illness, the effects on his relationships and his experience of the mental health system in the UK. However this book has mass appeal and is a potential bestseller, even for those people that aren’t so closely linked to the subect matter. Tell your friends and friends of friends if you enjoy it as much as I did. This book says the unsaid and breaks many taboo’s that sadly still exist in our society. Peglar teaches us that our experiences with mental health issues can be positive ones. A hugely optimistic book. I would recommend this book as compulsory to everyone, including sufferers looking for that little bit of light, families and friends effected by mental health issues, carers and anyone that wants to have a laugh, a cry and educate themselves all at the same time.

  6. Michael Heseltine (verified owner)

    This is the most moving and personally affecting book I have ever read. It’s one of those books you just can’t put down. It takes you as close to the manic mind as you can possibly get.

  7. Janet Heseltine (verified owner)

    A Can of Madness is the best book i have ever read on mental illness. Pegler tells us how it really feels with a gripping style, full of wit, humour, pathos, excitement, pain and laughter. His rare insight into his condition emans he takes himself and the reader from despair to denial then from self management to enlightenment. By the end Pegler has undergone a wonderful transformation making the reader cry, laugh and then support him in his mission to reduce the humiliation of the mentally ill. This beats Prozac Nation and A Child Called It. Spectacular. Also a book for the ecstasy generation. I really cannot praise it enough. Read it today.

  8. Andrew Marden (verified owner)

    A Can of Madness is an amazing book that describes the roller coaster ride of a young man determined to overcome his manic depression and turn it into a positve. The book is very hard hitting but also made me laugh out loud. The author takes the reader through his personal transformation from an uncouth teenager taking ecstasy to someone who grows up realising that they can use their own past pain, get better and help other people. A wonderful book written by someone who really cares about humanity. I would recommend it to anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness. This includes sufferers, carers, academics and the general public. Best book of its kind in this field. Better than “A Child Call It even”.

  9. John Calder (verified owner)

    ‘Jason Pegler’s A Can Of Madness is a moving and intelligent approach to a subject that is so little understood and too often ignored.

  10. The Daily Telegraph Jan 18 2003 (verified owner)

    Mr Pegler wants to encourage those with mental illness to write as a form of therapy, as he has done.

  11. Chas De Swiet (verified owner)

    A Can of Madness provides a strong point of solidarity for those of us from the Chemical Generation for whom things got a little out of hand.

  12. The Times (verified owner)

    The author has done all of us a service by writing about how it feels, not just to be manic depressive, but to have a life of fraught and edgy encounters with just about everyone.

  13. The Independent on Sunday (verified owner)

    You can’t help but marvel at the sheer lunatic magnitude of it.

  14. Health Service Journal (verified owner)

    He convincingly evokes the absolute parallel reality that mania creates and the devastation it wreaks.

  15. DAIL magazine (verified owner)

    A strong point of solidarity for those of us from the Chemical Generation for whom things got a little out of hand.

  16. Eleanor Whittall (verified owner)

    I read your book, ‘A can of madness’ yesterday and it is the most moving and personally affecting book I have ever read. I guess you could say that you have helped one 17 year old with depression, as unfortunately, I am exactly that. The book made me realise for the first time, despite having the illness for over 7 years on and off that there are other people out there who have the same feelings of loneliness and suicide as I do and that there are ways that this can be if not stopped, reduced and helped.

  17. Kirsty Morrison (verified owner)

    My friend who is in hospital at the moment has just finished reading A Can of Madness (he is bipolar, although the diagnosis changes to schizophrenic sometimes). He has just called me to say it has changed his life & taught him not to feel so ashamed. Its a great step forward for him to say that, so thanks.

  18. John Calder – Author of 18 Nobel Priz (verified owner)

    Jason Pegler’s A Can Of Madness is a moving and intelligent approach to a subject that is so little understood and too often ignored. It deserves to be widely read and its contents debated. Certainly the publication now makes this possible.

  19. Angela Sweeney (verified owner)

    A Can of Madness is striking for its brave, honest and often shocking account of one man’s experiences of mania, depression and life in general. The passages where Jason describes the manic states take you with him with their pace and power. At these times the book is at its most vivid, real and alive. I believe I now have a level of understanding of mania that I wouldn’t have had without reading the book.

  20. Emma Leadbetter (verified owner)

    A Can Of Madness is insightful and helpful to those who do or do not suffer/know someone with Manic Depression. It explores the situation in-depth and gives excellent views and advice on dealing with this intense illness. As a sufferer of manic depression I found this memoir helpful and helped me to set small targets for each day to carry on. This book shows that even with an illness like Manic Depression people can still make it in society – even though it is an ongoing situation. Hopefully this book will go on to open many peoples eyes about sufferers of Manic Depression – it certainly helped me….

  21. Bradley Hirst (verified owner)

    What a read, I never knew it was so hard having the illness but to write an interesting and eye-opening book like this takes talent and patience. Go on Jason.

  22. sallie keen (verified owner)

    Yesterday my neighbour passed a copy of A Can of Madness over the fence to me. I read it in one sitting. All I can say is how inspirational it is. While I have no mental health probs myself I am an aspiring writer, studying for a degree in psychology and have my own personal issues with alcohol. Brilliant book; I’d recommend it to anyone no matter where they’re coming from.

  23. Stephen Habel (verified owner)

    This book was so good that I have to read it again, perhaps multiple times. Never in my life did I empathize so much with someone that I never met in person. It is an in depth look at a young man’s bipolarity and how much confusion and pain it causes. I rarely cry, but it moved me to tears. It not only is a great read, but a neccesary tool for understanding that as a bipolar sufferer I am not alone. Brilliantly written with detailed description and uncompromising honesty. A true literary masterpiece.

  24. Anorexia Recovery (verified owner)

    Absolutely superb. I loved this book and engaged with all the characters well. By the end, I wanted to know everything and couldn’t wait to read the next one and buy the music.

  25. Stephanie sorrell (verified owner)

    I was pulled in from the first page and felt myself on a non stop journey.
    This is really The Heroe’s Journey as defined by Joseph Campbell. Jason underwent an initiation, a huge trial through his illness, and returned changed/transformed. The usual directive when getting better, is to cut off and not learn or utilise the experience. Jason went that final step and brought his insights back to the tribe for their healing.

  26. Lesley kirk (verified owner)

    A very well written, hard hitting and heart-wrenching piece of writing, some of which I could relate too as an outsider and partner, having played my own part as Sonia. It is intensly moving and a must for anyone trying to come to terms with manic depression or anyone supporting a loved one. This is by far one of the most direct approaches to the subject.

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