Life Inside My Mind is a young adult book, with essays written by 31 authors who either have a mental illness of some sort or are related and have had to deal with someone else’s mental illness in a very close way (eg taking care of a family member with Alzheimers, adopting a grandchild with PTSD). The stories are, in some cases, incredibly personal, narrating a specific occasion where their illness has changed their life.
I found the book to be generally fine. You can tell that most of these authors have practiced their stories with their therapists and even the most personal have a distance to them, a reassurance that everything is going to be ok.
My teenaged daughter, however, ate this book up, reading it in maybe less than 24 hours. That suggests that my ambivalence may be because I am not the intended audience for Life Inside My Mind. So: if you need to buy a book for a teenager, this could be a good one. For an adult, maybe not so much.
The Collected Schizophrenias – a book of essays that functions as a memoir, by a person suffering a mild form of schizophrenia – is both wonderful and terrible. Is this what sublime means?
The writing is beautiful and detailed, though be forewarned that the first essay about the DSM-IV and its history might only be interesting if you’re into the ins and outs of psychological politics. The other essays capture:
- what it’s like to have hallucinations;
- what it’s like to have Cotard’s Delusion, which is being absolutely convinced that you’re dead;
- the oddness of trying to convince your doctor that you’re sane when you’ve been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital;
- how society (read: Yale) treats you when you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia (spoiler alert: not well).
I am a person who always develops a certain amount of empathy for the main character in whatever I’m reading. That meant feeling not entirely well whilst reading this book. My teenager kept asking me if I was all right. I decided to plow through as fast as I could so as to be in this mindset as briefly as possible. Reading the whole book was necessary – putting it down was never an option.
The Collected Schizophrenias was vital to me. Highly recommended.