Saturday, 3 October 2015

Kate Richards' "Madness: a memoir"

“The thing with psychosis, with delusional thinking is … when I’m sick I believe the delusional stuff to the same degree that you might know the sky is above and the earth below. And if someone were to say to me that the delusional thinking is, in fact, delusional, well that’s the same as if I assure you now that we walk on the sky. Of course you wouldn’t believe me, and that’s why it’s sometimes so hard for people who are sick like this to know that they need treatment – to know that they even need treatment.” (page 174)

Now I probably would not normally review nonfiction books; but I found this memoir by Kate Richards incredibly memorable, so something should be said about it (which also means this probably won’t be your ordinary book review).
Richards writes a compact version of her life story in terms of her struggle with mental illness and wellness, including the struggle that comes with wellness. The book is written in a fractured way and really tries to exemplify the voice of someone who struggles with mental illness and how they think or act: including techniques such as run on sentences and how internal voices can block out voices of friends, family and workmates.
Richards is also a doctor, so I will note that she has a strong understanding of medicine, anatomy and prescriptions; which comes through in the book, but may be slightly overwhelming if you’re not an expert. However, these segments are good in solidifying the medical sides of illness and wellness that occur in Richards’ life and to others generally.
I found the book rather heavy to read, but I think everybody should. This book is important for shedding light on how an individual with mental illness may think and relate to the world (I say individual, as it would be different for every individual who suffers in this way in one form or another). It also highlights the way people outside mental illness may perceive, or are seen by mentally ill people to perceive, people who have mental illness.
I think Richards’ book is strong in showing any reader an example of what it is like to struggle with mental illness and just how much it can affect someone’s life in every way: personally, in work, relationally and emotionally. I also think it could point to blank spaces in regards to how mental illness is or can be perceived or even diagnosed at times in the wider society. And if I could hope, it might even act as a way for those who might be struggling with mental illness to not remain silenced, but be heard and know they have a voice in the community so that they can know support, encouragement and help is there for them.
I won’t exactly rate this book for you. However, my advice is to read it. It may not give you solid answers about why or how something is for someone struggling with mental illness, or even show a strong connection to how good some physicians and psychiatrists can be. Yet I do believe it shows Richards’ mind well and not having the answers or the complete understanding shows what it is like to struggle with those internal questions on a daily basis. So if answers are what you’re looking for, you won’t find them in this book. But I do recommend that you read it.
So: read it.

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