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The grubby truth about mental health memoirs I envy people who remember their illness

The temptation to sensationalise stories of mental health is strong. Credit: Girl, Interrupted via IMDB

The temptation to sensationalise stories of mental health is strong. Credit: Girl, Interrupted via IMDB


October 22, 2022   8 mins

I don’t quite know what to do with mental illness memoirs. I’m naturally interested in their subject, as I suffer from bipolar disorder myself. And they fulfil an important social function: despite the rise of innumerable online voices yelling about mental health and ableism, the reality of psychiatric illness remains unknown to most people. Personal narratives tell us things that medical literature doesn’t. The more stories we tell, the more we might expand our moral imagination for the sick.

And yet I worry, too. I worry because selling a book, especially for any kind of decent advance, is a tricky business, and the temptation to be prurient and sensationalist must be considerable. I am a committed enemy of romanticising mental illness, which contributes to the impression that the mentally ill are somehow living deeper, more “intense” lives, rather than more painful ones. I want mental health memoirists to understand their profound responsibility to tell the grubby, sad truth about this life.

But mostly, I envy people who write mental illness memoirs. I envy their memories. They can recall the details of their psychiatric histories; I often can’t. Years have passed, faster and faster, since the major incidents in the history of my condition. For important portions of that history, I was brutally depressed, or grindingly manic, or actively psychotic, conditions not conducive to the formation of lasting memories. I have spent 15 years on and off (though mostly off) memory-destroying medications, and have now been on them for five years straight. And for most of that time I was actively in denial, about all of it, to the point of believing at points that it wasn’t real. I did not tell my siblings, those I was always closest to, for more than a decade after my first diagnosis. Sometimes I’d assert that I was finally on the straight and narrow, finally cured — an assertion that always, always preceded the next ruinous crash.

Some things I remember like they were yesterday. Some I don’t remember at all. When I write about my own mental health history, I write in ellipses and at a Dutch angle — for aesthetics, yes, to satisfy my own standards as a writer, but also because to tell it otherwise would make me feel like a liar. I just don’t trust my memory of some details.

I have spotted a similar instinct in other mental health memoirs. Girl, Interrupted is imagistic and ruminative, much less a recounting of the day-by-day events of Susanna Kaysen’s commitment to McLean Hospital, and much more a series of pleasantly meandering meditations on the concept of sanity and the self. Kaysen also includes original forms and files from her hospital stay; George Scialabba’s brilliant and haunting How to be Depressed consists of little else.

And then there’s Strangers to Ourselves. It’s not a straightforward memoir but rather a collection of brief vignettes, or case studies, about mental illness, written by Rachel Aviv. Her own story opens the volume. She became anorexic as a six-year-old, barely literate, and mostly unable to define what was happening to her. Aviv leaves unsettled the question of whether she was “really” anorexic — her age and stated motives for not eating complicate the question — and instead contrasts her own condition with those of the older patients around her. By reproducing her own experience of mental illness, Aviv brings a little skin to the game in a text that’s mostly about telling other people’s stories for them.

More important, her personal history segues into Aviv setting the boundaries of her project. The book is about people whose “lives unfold in different eras and cultures, but they also share a setting: the psychic hinterlands, the outer edges of human experience, where language tends to fail”. She explains her holistic approach:

“the book draws not only from conversations with them but from their diaries, letters, unpublished memoirs, poems, and prayers
 It’s impossible to go back in time and uncover what baseline feelings existed before a story was told — when a person’s angst and loneliness and disorientation had yet to be given a name and a vessel — but I find myself searching for the gap between people’s experiences and the stories that organise their suffering, sometimes defining the course of their lives.”

This is what I needed, from this book, up front: both information about how these individual stories were compiled and an acknowledgment that we all, as patients, construct truths with the raw material of memories that so often refuse to cohere, and therefore use the textual record to confirm and supplement our stories. In the opening section, she quotes her younger self as writing: “I had some thing that was a siknis its cald anexorea.” I was initially sceptical: it sounds like an adult writing the way they think a child would write. But Aviv later explains that she had dug out her childhood diary. I didn’t need her to do so to make her recollection of her illness more real; it just helps to know that the exact wording came from the page and not her memory.

Sometimes, texts are all there is to go on. Aviv can’t speak to some of her subjects, such as Ray, a depressive who has been dead for years. Instead, she pulls significantly from his unpublished memoir, which follows his decision to sue a psychiatric facility where he was committed. Ray struggled through psychoanalysis at Chestnut Lodge, where he lived in for long months, only to come later to feel that he had been fooled by a broken paradigm that forbade the use of antidepressants. As Aviv tells it, Ray’s psychiatrist seemed to think of such drugs as a shortcut rather than a cure, and therefore avoided their use.

Aviv tells Ray’s story both for its own sake and to consider the fundamental conflict in late 20th-century psychiatry. The Freudian assumption that all psychiatric conditions could be traced to discrete events in childhood, and cured through excavating these memories in psychoanalysis, dominated American psychiatry for decades. It led a lot of patients to endlessly recite early traumas, without much therapeutic gain. That approach was overtaken by an ascendant hope that new drugs could fix chemical imbalances in the brain and turn psychiatry into a medical field like any other. Now, we appear to have swung back the other way: decades of disappointments in psychopharmacology have inspired many to declare that “there’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance”, which has become an inescapable social media bromide.

What frustrates me is that people seem unable to accept that the interaction between the brain and the mind is extremely complex. That the simplistic not-enough-serotonin theory of depression appears to be wrong does not imply that all neurological explanations are off-limits. We don’t have to yaw constantly between “all brain” and “all mind” explanations. Aviv, thankfully, settles on no pat answers to these questions, instead, simply meditating on them via Ray’s strange story.

Likewise, she uses every case study to examine the nuances of some broader social or economic or political issue. There’s Bapu, a Brahmin-class Indian woman whose religious adherence straddles the line between faith and madness; her story considers the conflict between Western medicine and spiritualism. There’s Naomi, a young black mother whose deepening paranoia compels her to attempt to drown herself and her two young children; her story illustrates how entrenched racism complicates psychiatric care for people of colour. There’s Laura, an affluent young woman who starts taking a cocktail of medications at a young age and finds it very hard to stop; her narrative helps explore the thorny questions of how long patients should stay on drugs. It’s never advisable to draw too deeply from individual stories in analysing societal trends, but the connections Aviv draws to such trends give the book teeth, making it more than merely poignant.

The final section enables us to consider Aviv’s responsibility to her subjects and the difficulties of telling their stories. It focuses on Hava, an anorexic who Aviv encountered at a young age and whose life she sees as something of a road untraveled, given her own early struggles. Hava appeared to be making clear progress in her life, finding a steady boyfriend and planning for her future; sadly, years of making herself sick had damaged her body’s ability to regulate the reflex, and one night she choked on her own vomit in her sleep. She is one the three people profiled who were dead prior to the completion of the book, but Aviv’s deference to their own words makes their stories seem like memoirs all the same.

Perhaps it’s a sign of solipsism that this book often provoked me to wonder what Aviv would make of my story. I crave the simplicity of having my life printed out in black and white text; I also dread the inevitably reductive nature of such an exercise, and I’m scared of what someone else’s eyes might see in my narrative. For me personally, mysteries abound. I couldn’t possibly tell you the name of the doctor who diagnosed me as bipolar. At the time, I was not conscious in a conventional sense and everything that happened seemed to happen somewhere outside of me, people puttering around and talking in strange language I didn’t understand. There was an ER, there was a shot of haloperidol, and there was a stretch in a grey and muted psychiatric facility. Someone must have written my diagnosis down on a chart. Who that was is known only to God and, I imagine, to some mouldering file somewhere that I have absolutely no interest in digging up.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about my own history. Worse, I can’t remember if the weight of years, mental illness and medication has simply obscured that knowledge, or if I never knew. In general, my time in the mental health system has been marked by constant confusion; I would feel like a liar if I said, “and then this month, in 2011, this happened”.

Do the subjects in Strangers to Ourselves struggle the same way? What must it feel like, for those who are still living, to read this book? Aviv tends to avoid the overly literal, rescuing the book from questions of simple authenticity and making it, usefully, a record of how foggy our recollections can be. But I can also imagine readers who might be frustrated by the lack of clear lines between certain truth and imperfect memory. All of us long for order in the stories we read. I think that’s why people gravitate towards mental illness narratives, to clarify something that has been obscured by instability. But how do you faithfully translate what is by its nature not translatable?

I honestly don’t think writers tell lies in mental illness memoirs. I wouldn’t even say they bend the truth. I would suggest, perhaps, that they take the fragments of what they know happened, and through them assert a kind of truth, as part of a therapeutic process. That asserted truth might not look exactly like that of a dispassionate observer — say, one of the many doctors who wander into our lives, speak to us condescendingly, make marks on a chart, and shuffle out of our story. But I can’t see much harm done, when patients tell it themselves. The conceit of a memoir is that other people will be entertained by our misfortune; so long as we tell our stories with integrity, those who suffer through the instability and boredom and deprivation of dignity common to serious mental illness are entitled to our own frames. I only hope that both writers and readers know that the attempt to organise the experience is quixotic and we are narrativising the un-narrativisable. I understand the feeling that we must try anyway.

Aviv, like me, is wary of the way that definition can trap and limit us. In our online culture of mental illness, diagnoses are celebrated: young people wield them like talismans for a sense of validation. And I am not entirely a stranger to the seductive power of becoming one’s diagnosis, letting it become the load-bearing element of your personality. But I am also no stranger to the way that, further down the road, that self-definition becomes cramped and uncomfortable, even horrifying, as you start to want to be something else. (To the newly-diagnosed, I urge you, do not become your illness.) For years I resisted writing anything about my mental illness; now I worry constantly that when I do so, I pigeonhole and limit myself.

“People can feel freed by these stories,” Aviv writes, “but they can also get stuck in them
 a role that at first seemed freeing, but it began to destroy them.” This is the most recurrent theme in Strangers to Ourselves: the double-edged sword of the stories we tell to make our disorders comprehensible. Aviv’s is the kind of mental illness narrative I trust and value the most: suspicious of narrative itself. It’s perhaps a kind I could even write myself. The bigger kind, the longer kind, the “and then this happened on this date” kind, is both beyond my abilities and against my best interest. As Aviv writes, “there are stories that save us, and stories that trap us, and in the midst of an illness it can be very hard to know which is which”.


Freddie deBoer is a writer and academic. His newsletter can be found at freddiedeboer.substack.com.


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Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago


”we all, as patients, construct truths with the raw material of memories that so often refuse to cohere, and therefore use the textual record to confirm and supplement our stories.”
This is probably the hardest of all subjects to write about: how we are incapable of understanding what’s happening, how even those who suffer, who have the ability to write, cannot articulate it. But it occurs to me to wonder if those caught up in mental illness don’t understand the mind of those not caught up in it. The statement above could also be my own experience with memories that refuse to cohere, and that we find other means to make sense of the past. It seems possible that some of their experiences caught up in their “condition” are in fact not much different than those not suffering this illness, that everything that happens to them, that doesn’t make sense, is not necessarily a facet of their illness. We’re all hovering around this space, most of us pulling things together successfully day to day. I’m almost inclined to say it’s not a condition, or an illness, but, all horrors aside, another way of living.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago

I have been around mental illness a fair bit, From what I have seen it seems it is hellish for the person, and I have thought the mass closing of the Mental Health hospital’ back 50 years ago should have been done very differently…only I will not speak of my thoughts on individuals – but this incredible case of mass psychosis we all just saw.

Everyone must be familiar with the words ‘Mass formation psychosis’, the work of Prof. Mattias Desmet. – a excerpt on his book from Amazon book review

In various podcasts, interviews, and in his book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Prof. Desmet outlines the four preconditions that must be in place before a totalitarian leader or message can captivate and mesmerize the masses: (1) a lack of social bonds; (2) a lack of meaning in life; (3) free-floating anxiety; and (4) free-floating aggression. Atomized into alienated, lonely, and frustrated individuals, the masses are then ready to hear the unifying message of an ascendant totalitarian, who is practically summoned into existence by the miserable masses. The leader, through a voice amplified by mass media, transmits to the crowd the galvanizing message that they had been yearning to hear: (a) an identification of the source of their discontent (i.e., the enemy, or scapegoat); and (b) a strategy for dealing with that enemy or problem.

At that point, when the roiling masses snap into some sort of coherent whole, “mass formation” occurs, and in its more extreme expressions, it can become “mass formation psychosis.” Up to a third of the population might be hypnotized and unreachable by any logic or argument,

I refused the mask from day one, totally refused the vax, and fought the Plandemic on-line every way I could – and in person. It took time to get used to always being the one person in the busy place who was not in a mask – it would have been so easy to put one on and avoid the really powerful and weird vibes you got – but I would not, and persevered throughout. (Fortunately I look like a 6 ‘ 2” street person in my full face hair, long beard and wild hair, and torn, paint spattered work clothes (I do construction) or I doubt I could have gotten away with it – but as it was No one bothered me)

From the 1%er Mask/vax refuser I saw this madness in the people. It was weird! People had gone crazy! There is no other way to put it.

The young were sacrificed by kept isolated without school, play, socializing, masked – given the very deaxly vax – to supposedly protect granny – as the children had no problem with covid. Never in mankind has the young been sacrificed for the very old – but the psychotic masses did it – the greatest crime against humanity by its twisted scope, and utter pointlessness of it, yet the Teachers, Doctors, Pediatricians, everyone – just did it – Insanity! Global Insanity!

And so I link the movie made from Robert F Kennedy Jr’s book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health (Children’s Health Defense)’
The book’#1 on AMAZON, and a NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, USA TODAY and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY NATIONAL BESTSELLER’

and here is the movie, free – for another week – the actual book as a film – it got good reviews…..

https://rumble.com/v1orl95-the-real-anthony-fauci-a-documentary-film-by-jeff-hays.html

This was mass psychosis – and it is time the leaders who manipulated this crime against humanity be brought to court.

p.s. writer, sorry to intrude, I do sympathize very much with the plight of the sufferers, but this was madness of Billions of otherwise normal people

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Well said Sir, and I am glad I followed your behaviour almost to the letter.
The one variation I permitted myself was to wear a full NATO Gas Mask (Respirator) when confronted by particularly obstreperous members of the NHS and the like.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
1 year ago

Hehe. My wife was doing her motorcycle test during the pandemic. The instructors wanted her to wear a face mask under her full face helmet and surgical gloves under her leather motorcycle gloves.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

You couldn’t make it up, simply incredible, thank you for that nugget!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

What utter madness!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Your quote put me in mind of this one reputedly by Albert Pike:

We shall unleash the Nihilists and the atheists, and we shall provoke a formidable social cataclysm which in all its horror will show clearly to the nations the effect of absolute atheism, origin of savagery and of the most bloody turmoil. Then everywhere, the citizens, obliged to defend themselves against the world minority of revolutionaries, will exterminate those destroyers of civilization, and the multitude, disillusioned with Christianity, whose deistic spirits will from that moment be without compass or direction, anxious for an ideal, but without knowing where to render its adoration, will receive the true light through the universal manifestation of the pure doctrine of L*****r, brought finally out in the public view. This manifestation will result from the general reactionary movement which will follow the destruction of Christianity and atheism, both conquered and exterminated at the same time.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

 true light through the universal manifestation of the pure doctrine of L*****r… ? Sounds like this is from the Scottish Rite of Ancient and Accepted Freemasons.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Zoroaster has a lot to answer for. Unfortunately if he ever actually lived, he’s dead.
It was Nietzsche who pointed out that Zoroaster was the first known individual to describe and ‘moralize’ actual existence (life itself rather than merely behaviours) as the result of an eternal good/evil conflict. This is very noticeable in politics today, regarding his intellectual descendants on the ‘left’.
Identifying precisely who is innately good and who innately evil is tricky, therefore people who think themselves good just type all opposition of any kind (however justifiable to the rest of us) as evil.

Last edited 1 year ago by Arnold Grutt
Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Aaron – so far as I can tell, mental illness occurs when the mind is sufficiently open to emotional experience but for whatever reason isn’t able to process and respond to such signals, leaving the mind/body being constantly triggered inappropriately. Sometimes there is hypersensitivity involved (being ‘triggered’),sometimes it is a lack of analytical capability to understand the emotions, accept them, then cast them aside.
When I was a kid I was totally shut down emotionally, I mean completely totally. I was like a hard-working automaton, but there was no joy, no real pain (other than physical pain from being hit, falling off a bike etc etc). There were reasons for it, but it protected me from maelstroms of emotions because self-preservation said that shut-down was the best survival mechanism.
When I was an adult that changed. I was treated properly for a year, so I totally opened up in a supportive environment. Unfortunately, coming back to Blighty returned to the ex ante Status Quo and that left me completely open to experience but with no support mechanisms to handle the devastasting melange of negativity and emotion coming my way. Blocking it out worked a bit, but not like in childhood. So I had to deal with it. And deal with it I did, mainly alone, painfully, but often very fruitfully.
I still can’t handle familial psychopaths, that still triggers me. Especially as society lauds them as ‘beacons of feminism.’
Unfortunately, far too many people think ‘therapy’ means talking to a shrink/therapist. For many, that is the worst therapy going. For many, non-verbal activities may be far better, be that sex, drawing, running, jumping out of aeroplanes, places where the subconscious can emerge without harm occurring. Many just bury themselves in careers, ridiculously stressful ones. It keeps their mind away from their thoughts whenever they are awake.
Those who can remember everything are usually the ones who had periods of really supportive ‘therapy’ without calling it that, it was just perfect periods of real life.
Those who need to forget usually have zero emotional support base to face up to it, so keep blocking it all out for survival purposes.
There’s no superior way, it’s almost always dependent on how your life’s course progressed.

Yersinia pestis
Yersinia pestis
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Interesting, because the ranting about ‘Big Pharma’ and evil teachers and doctors is what sounds genuinely psychotic here.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

It’s interesting that this writer chooses to highlight mental health cases about women and related to race, particularly when as was discussed in recent comments on an article about violence against women, that 75% of suicides in the U.K., mostly due to mental health issues, are of men.
Why won’t writers like this confront this issue of male suicide? It might help reveal causes which he’s clearly striving to identify.
But I’m afraid the answer to that question is people in the media writing about mental health just don’t care about this anomalous behaviour by men. If it was 75% of women or ‘people of colour’ they’d be all over it. But no, it’s just mostly white men – even this white male writer and sufferer shows that fashionably woke bias in writing about it.

“the reality of psychiatric illness remains unknown to most people”
Really? Given that it’s been estimated in the USA that something like 50% of people will suffer mental health in their lifetime and 20% will in any given year. I think you may be misinterpreting ignorance of the illness for some other aspect – people preferring not to show their knowledge of it maybe?

Which is a different problem – and noting the writer’s description of his persistent denial over many years of his condition, this is what I’d like to see him analyse, not the memory of his suffering. Why did he deny it? That would seem to be an obvious route to improving treatment with early identification or acknowledgement – and maybe stop people (mainly white men too) getting to the suicidal stage.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

“Why won’t writers like this confront this issue of male suicide?”
Because that’s not what the story’s about. What on earth’s wrong with you people?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

He’s trying to analyse mental health causes, and these often lead to suicide when not treated relatively promptly. A major statistical anomaly in the suicide rate for reasons of mental health that male suicide represents merits consideration. Doh!

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

“He’s trying to analyse mental health causes, 
That is not what the story is about. I understand your concern for mens’ health, but I do wonder what people are taking from these articles when you think it’s about the cause of mental health problems.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Doh! Three thousand women per year are murdered by their male partners. Why don’t we talk about THOSE mental health causes? Try reading “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft. Reframing all of this as “health” as if we’re all complete victims of our choices is infantilizing and counterproductive to almost every human alive, except children.
Let’s see. Men choose to kill themselves–they are victims. Women choose to not marry or to divorce in an abusive relationship–society is the victim, husbands are the victim, children are the victim.

Pamela Watson-Bateman
Pamela Watson-Bateman
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I am bipolar. I always knew, even as a child that I was somehow different and I acknowledged that. I sought help and have been on meds since 1994. They allow me to lead a relatively “normal” life, with occasional relapses.

Men tend to not attend the GP for anything, let alone acknowledging that they might have a mental health problem. Especially in Western culture it is taboo, men are afraid of being seen as somehow “weak”, so they don’t seek help. They expect that they should cope and eventually, sadly, for many it becomes too much. Not only that but the suicide methods chosen by men are often more “successful” than those used by women.

It’s a societal thing.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago

Men are better at suicide than women – how depressing.
I’m sorry for your troubles.

Last edited 1 year ago by Philip Stott
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Thanks for the insight Pamela, and good to hear about your success in managing the illness since youth. My wife has had a serious physical illness since late childhood and it’s affected her whole life as well as her character – making her the very strong (and bleedin’ stubborn) person I admire so much.

On the inadequate male acknowledgement of mental health illness due to societal behaviours – with the benefit of experience, do you think there is anything we can do about it?

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Um, in the US each year around 3,000 women are killed by their male partners. Why doesn’t the media constantly talk about THAT? I’m sorry about male suicide, but they’re using violence against themselves.
Somehow, I’m supposed to be more sympathetic of men who CHOOSE to kill themselves than the women who are victims of men who CHOOSE to kill THEM.
Common denominator here? MALE VIOLENCE USED TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. I’ll support you, but you are not my victim.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“Somehow, I’m supposed to be more sympathetic of men who CHOOSE to kill themselves than the women who are victims of men who CHOOSE to kill THEM.”
You might need to be explain the connection between those two points. I can’t see it. What is the relationship of one to the other?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Yes indeed, and also ask Leculdesac why he/she started his/her comment with “Um”.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Perhaps you could start by being sympathetic at all–or empathetic because you seem to see men as a collective unfavorable other (am I wrong?)–without qualifying that effort of understanding with an immediate but-what-about-this that reflects your truer sympathies.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
1 year ago

Much of ‘mental illness’ is caused by the cruelty of ‘normal’ people. Not all, some is genetic, but a lot of it is the schizoid reality of the media telling you that nothing is impossible save your own laziness being accompanied by utterly heartless brutality of the mainstream if you actually try and do something.
‘Normality’ apparently involves being so desensitised to emotional violence that you can cope with it. It makes me wonder if it also desensitises the ‘normal’ to torture, sadism, killing nameless foreigners etc etc.
I actually find that large numbers of the ‘normal’ are severely mentally ill.
It’s just that deciding who defines what ‘illness’ is and what is ‘normal’ means they are badged ‘normal’.
‘Being a Christian’ and supporting US genocides the world over is one of the commonest ‘mental illnesses’ I’ve seen on this planet.

Kenny Harris
Kenny Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

America is a very materialistic society largely run by big corporations especially their arms industry also individuals look at being wealthy as their main drivers they imitate the Hollywood set preaching from on high about how their views on social injustice are always correct while living in luxury, America has one of the largest wealth gaps in the western world also that goes for the high crime rates unfortunately.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kenny Harris
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Kenny Harris

How much of that is due to the pernicious influence of ‘Kosher Nostra’ may I ask?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Kenny Harris

Well-stated points. I would stipulate that America is a big and varied place that is not only materialistic, but your generalizations are valid.
How luxuriously absurd to advocate a version of social justice that doesn’t involve being less acquisitive and self-involved!

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

It appears that Hava was bulimic, not anorexic. As to Naomi’s severe psychosis: what is the evidence that entrenched racism had anything to do with it, or does that automatically apply to anyone who is black?
My brother-in-law has been institutionalized on and off for 44 years. He is currently in a grim state psychiatric hospital because his parents (now dead) went broke sending him to the “best” facilities and “doctors to the stars”. I don’t know what the answer is in treating people with mental illness, but my family’s experience taught us that psychiatry isn’t science or medicine, it is a money-making scheme decked out as a profession. Psychics are more legitimate; they really have to work at their grift, can’t prescribe drugs, and cost about $20.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 year ago

Thank You so much.
Romanticizing painful conditions seems to be a trend, perhaps because being a victim of any kind has become a virtue.
But mental illness is often extremely painful and debilitating.
People shouldn’t have to be “romanticized” to be worthy of compassion.
People with mental illness can be awful, through no fault of their own. And they can suffer horrific fear and anguish.
We need to seek better treatments and cures for mental illness, and to protect those who are too sick to protect themselves.

Pamela Watson-Bateman
Pamela Watson-Bateman
1 year ago

As a former academic and bipolar sufferer myself the book that I have found most useful is actually a text book. I felt that I needed to understand this illness from the inside, not let it control me.

Goodwin & Jamison. Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar disorders and recurrent depression. Oxford University Press.

Kay Jamison is bipolar herself and writes extensively on the subject. The book is a huge 2 volume tome but is available quite cheaply on Amazon or similar. It looks at both the physical issues in the brain, specifically hormones and their impact on the body, but also psychological issues. I recommend it.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

I’m curious to know what you think about these kind of memoirs after reading the Goodwin Jamison books.

ralph bell
ralph bell
1 year ago

Amazing informative and perceptive piece about this topic, that is often trivialised by the attention seeking or victim seeking, whilst the true experience are often devastating and life wrecking for both the sufferer and those all around them.

Lesli Engelman
Lesli Engelman
1 year ago

Dear Freddie,

I am sick in bed with a virus at the moment so I will keep this brief. Yes, you can have anorexia at a very young age. There are a lot of myths regarding eating disorders and they come in many sour flavors. My daughter was diagnosed with Anorexia/ARFID at age 11. There are many younger than her. The F.E.A.S.T. forum is a good start for education if you question this diagnosis at a young age. Many of these children are neurodivergent, and the best science pins this disease as 75% genetic. Dopamine and serotonin are believed to be involved. Not everyone can deny themselves food, but in some people it feels better not to eat. Once you reach a certain point and starvation mechanisms kick in, the dysautotomia with lack of signals starts the downward spiral. Then, they become hypermetabolic from the catabolic cell destruction and end up needing huge amounts of food to recover during the rapid growth of childhood. Growth spurts are often the environmental trigger. There is so much more to share, but since you doubted the authors anorexia diagnosis, it seems you should research a little more first.
Lily

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Lesli Engelman

“ 
. since you doubted the authors anorexia diagnosis, it seems you should research a little more first.”
He doesn’t doubt the author’s anorexia. Presumably the quoted “really” means he’s taking it from her text. Unsettled is not the same as doubt.
“Aviv leaves unsettled the question of whether she was “really” anorexic 
”
Nor does he question the diagnosis at a young age. Check your facts before you tell someone they should better inform themselves.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Lesli Engelman
Lesli Engelman
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Brett,

You can play with words but the author casts doubt. Whether she didn’t understand at 6 why she refused food doesn’t matter. Not eating is abnormal. I assume Aviv’s words are quoted, his are not. Whether she contrasts her condition with those around her doesn’t matter either. She had a restrictive eating disorder of some type.

“She became anorexic as a six-year-old, barely literate, and mostly unable to define what was happening to her. Aviv leaves unsettled the question of whether she was “really” anorexic — her age and stated motives for not eating complicate the question — and instead contrasts her own condition with those of the older patients around her.”

Many young children with eating disorders, and older individuals as well, don’t understand why they stopped eating.

Kaylee Guise
Kaylee Guise
1 year ago

Mental health memoirs have given me (major/persistent/treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD sufferer) the wrong idea about recovery or what even to expect and aim for in my experience. Some days I can consider myself a “warrior” in the same way a warrior in active combat might sacrifice themselves or at least a limb in a losing battle.

Perhaps “survivor” is a better term as long as it’s used in the context of the present (“I am surviving” vs. “I survived”). I have struggled to find others’ perspectives in having mental illness and never getting better, least of all medical information or statistics about people who simply don’t see much improvement in their symptoms.

I’m all for having hope, but there’s a difference between hope and blind optimism or the pathologization of sadness. I’m sick of the answer to my woes being ignorance at the ugliness of the world or the flaws in the societal contract we are all forced to sign.

Kaylee Guise
Kaylee Guise
1 year ago

Mental health memoirs have given me (major/persistent/treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, OCD, and ADHD sufferer) the wrong idea about recovery or what even to expect and aim for in my experience. Some days I can consider myself a “warrior” in the same way a warrior in active combat might sacrifice themselves or at least a limb in a losing battle.

Perhaps “survivor” is a better term as long as it’s used in the context of the present (“I am surviving” vs. “I survived”). I have struggled to find others’ perspectives in having mental illness and never getting better, least of all medical information or statistics about people who simply don’t see much improvement in their symptoms.

I’m all for having hope, but there’s a difference between hope and blind optimism or the pathologization of sadness. I’m sick of the answer to my woes being ignorance at the ugliness of the world or the flaws in the societal contract we are all forced to sign.

Kenny Harris
Kenny Harris
1 year ago

Just look up damage to the HPA axis that can happen in the early years of child abuse, and that it can be responsible for bipolar disorder and stomach problems ie irritable bowel and migraines brought on with too much tyramine in aged foods also suicidal depression, you can wiki damage to the HPA axis it gives a brief description of cause and affect.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 year ago

I must admit to having a few problems with the notion of ‘mind’. What precisely would be the definition?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Do you mean whether it exists?