by Brandon Ha and Peter Newman
“Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption“
Author: William Cope Moyers
By the time William Cope Moyers entered high school, he had already done things the general population could only dream about. The son of Bill Moyers, former White House Press Secretary and famed award-winning journalist, William spent his Easters hunting for eggs on the White House lawn, regularly flew on Air Force One and often vacationed at Camp David with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Moyers excelled in sports, had a solid B average and was popular among his friends. Things were as normal as they could be for someone who had a U.S. President dine at his house frequently.
Having a famous father did have its disadvantages, as the pressure of being the perfect son constantly weighed heavily on Moyers. While working a summer job in Aspen, CO, he took a puff of a joint offered by a coworker. Immediately Moyers felt at home and peaceful—the edge was off and soon drugs were a crutch for him to be able to lead his “perfect” life. The drug use continued well after college and his marriage to his childhood sweetheart. Unbeknown to anyone, Moyers had a daily coke habit that cost him almost the entirety of his salary.
After finally landing in rehab at Hazelden, one of the premier recovery institutions in the U.S. for addicts and alcoholics, he starts the process of sobriety and self-discovery. In Broken, Moyer’s harrowing memoir about his life with addiction and redemption, we learn that hitting rock bottom can happen more than once. From a former junkie who battled his addiction for decades to leading a campaign to fight against the stigma of addiction, Moyers illustrates it’s how you stand up after the fall—or in his case, many falls—that matters.
William Cope Moyers is currently Vice President of Public Affiars and Community Relations at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota, where he received treatment years ago. He is a regular contributor to Good Morning America. As a former journalist for CNN, his work has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today and Newsweek. Broken is available in the NAMI SCC library, and is a highly recommended read for those struggling with addiction and recovery.
Author: Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader
Over the past few decades, self-injury has been a growing concern among mental health professionals and loved ones of self-injurers. Self-injury (self-harm or self-abuse) is the intentional act of harming one’s own body, usually by cutting with a sharp object or burning the skin with a lighter or lit cigarette.
In extreme cases, self-injurers ingest toxic chemicals and even amputate their limbs. The acts of self-mutilation are not suicide attempts, but a dangerous and unhealthy way to cope with emotional problems.
There are several common misconceptions about those who self-injure, why it’s a rising epidemic and treatment options. “Bodily Harm,” co-written by Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader, attempts to shed light on the disturbing trend of self-injury. As directors of S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives, the country’s first treatment program for self-injury, Conterio and Lader have nearly 30 years of experience dealing with patients who have self-abused. In “Bodily Harm,” they share stories of some of their patients who have gone through the S.A.F.E. treatment program.
One misconception of self-injury is that it is just a phase during adolescent or early teen years and one will just “get over it.” Ceci J., a former patient at S.A.F.E, is a 38-year-old successful attorney who began self-injuring in her early twenties. The fact is, self-injurers come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and is common in both sexes. Another myth is that self-injury is just a cry for attention. Research has shown that most self-injury stems from early childhood abuse and neglect, and many resort to self-harm in their teens because they were never able to properly address those issues. Although outsiders may feel it is a radical method of handling emotional pain, self-injurers find immediate relief and numbness.
“Bodily Harm” is recommended for the self-injurer, their loved ones, and any clinician wanting to learn how to treat this difficult psychiatric disorder. Treatment and full recovery are possible with the help of the two inspiring co-authors. Karen Conterio is a trained alcohol and addictions counselor and a certified group facilitator. Wendy Lader has treated more self-injurers than anyone else in the country, and is an expert on women’s health issues.
“Bodily Harm” is available for checkout in the NAMI Santa Clara County Library.
“Psych Ward Confidential“
Author: Ann Haeberle
Psych Ward Confidential is based on the true story of Ann Haeberle’s devastating loss—of her sanity, her voice and her dignity—and how she fought with courage and faith to regain control over her life.
In poetic form, Ann shares the trauma of her experiences in the mental health system through the rhythm of her words and the depth of her emotion. Ann had a close-knit family, a normal childhood, and a strong sense of identity. Then at the age of 27, she was stunned to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And so began a ten-year journey regaining her mental health, despite the many pitfalls of our mental healthcare system.
Psych Ward Confidential is a worthwhile read not only for those in the mental health profession, but also for those who suffer from mental illness and their families by providing an insider’s view of the often chilling reality of treatment facilities.
This just-published book is available in the NAMI SCC library—a worthwhile read!
“Far from the Tree“
Author: Andrew Solomon
In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with schizophrenia, deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender.
All parenting turns on a crucial question: To what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent should they help them become their best selves? Drawing on 40,000 pages of interview transcripts with more than 300 families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion; most grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision to become a parent.
Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance and tolerance—all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This book expands our definition of what it is to be human.
Andrew Solomon is a winner of the National Book Award for his book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.
Author: Jeffrey C. & Minnie Wood
In mental health care, many know how difficult it is to find the right treatment for mental illnesses. Today, the process to get help can be long and tricky for the unwary. Do you need to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist—or both? What do therapists do? Who can prescribe medication? In Therapy 101, these common questions are answered and much more is explained.
One-fourth of all Americans will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime. As the number of consumers rises, the number of treatment options has also increased greatly. The authors wrote Therapy 101 to help people differentiate between the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of different psychotherapies available for the wide range of mental health ailments.
Therapy 101 is the perfect guide for anyone who feels lost. Whether you are looking for studies on research-based treatments, newer studies or even unconventional methods, of treatment, everything is laid out concisely.
Therapy 101 is currently available at the NAMI SCC library. Jeffrey C. Wood, Ph.D, specializes in cognitive behavioral treatments for depression, anxiety and trauma, and is also a part-time professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. Minnie Wood is an adult nurse practitioner and is a primary care provider at a community health center.
“Playing the Genetic Lottery“
Author: Terri Morgan
Caitlin and Jon were in the back seat of the car as it was weaving in and out of traffic, speeding down the road. Their dad was driving, hastily informing the kids to keep watch for “them” from the back window. The approaching red and blue lights flashing and sirens blaring do nothing to prevent the car from stopping. The car runs a red light into an intersection, blindsided by another vehicle, sending Caitlin to the emergency room.
Ever since she could remember, Caitlin and her older brother Jon looked after their parents, not the other way around. The parents both suffered from schizophrenia, and instances like the car chase were all too familiar to both of the kids. Food was scarce and clothing was minimal but the siblings stayed together and remained strong. When Caitlin was released from the hospital, all she ever dreamed of was having a normal life. Jon was entering high school and had aspirations of attending college far away from the small town of Cumberland, Oregon and distancing himself from the mental illness that plagued their family.
Schizophrenia, like most mental illnesses, is hereditary—a fact that lingers in the back of Caitlin’s mind constantly. Almost daily, she is reminded that at any moment, an episode can occur with any of her parents and put stress on the entire family. Can Caitlin or her brother win the genetic lottery and avoid mental illness? After all the hardships of her childhood, will Caitlin live happily ever after? Sanity is the ultimate prize. This book available for checkout at the NAMI SCC Library.
In high school, Ross Szabo was always a popular guy with a lot of friends. Things started to change when he began developing symptoms of bipolar disorder. After a hospitalization for depres-sion during his senior year, he was the one people snickered about as he walked down the hallways. Szabo was tired of the name-calling and decided to speak in front of his classmates about his experiences with mental illness. The jokes stopped and catapulted Szabo’s mission to speak about mental health to youths across America.
Melanie Hall was taught at a very early age to always talk open-ly about any issues she was having. Her grandfather committed suicide and her family has a history of mental illness, so Hall’s parents made sure their daughter was able to deal with the pres-sures of growing up.
Co-authored by Szabo and Hall, Behind Happy Faces: Taking Charge of Your Mental Health is a guide for American youth. Regardless if a person is in high school, college or currently in the workforce, mental illness can strike anyone at any time. Al- though 1 in 4 will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime, the stigma attached to such illnesses is still ex-tremely severe. Szabo and Hall illustrate through their own per-sonal experiences how to live with a mental illness.
The first step is understanding that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have mental illnesses, whether it is major depression or paranoid schizophrenia, you do not have to isolate and suffer. By having an action plan with your psychiatrist and therapist, learning about the different medications and potential side effects and adjusting your lifestyle to incorporate more sleep, a good diet and exercise, mental illness is manageable. Having your family and friends’ support is also important. There are many support groups that educate not only consumers, but also family and friends, including NAMI’s Family-to-Family Education course. Communication is key in every relationship, but it is extremely important with those with mental illness. Behind Happy Faces is a great guide for young people to take charge of their illness, and gives them powerful tools to be able to live a healthy and productive life.
Behind Happy Faces is currently available in the NAMI SCC library. It is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in learning about and dealing with mental illness in youth. Ross Szabo is Director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign and speaker for CAMPUSPEAK, Inc. Melanie Hall is the creator/producer of the “Face the Issue” PSA campaign.
“The Depression Advantage“
Author: Tom Wootton
Each year in the U.S. about 9% of the population suffers from depression. Less productivity in work or school, isolation and withdrawal from family and friends, and lack of enjoyment in activities are some of the debilitating effects individuals endure. As the pharmaceutical industry profits billions of dollars on selling antidepressants, Tom Wootton wants to change the perception of the illness. In his book, he examines how suffering through depression might not be as bad as one thinks.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Wootton struggled with the highs of mania and severe depression for many years. With each cycle becoming more and more unbearable, he was determined to find any positives that could stem from depression. He began practicing meditation, which led to much self-discovery. Refusing to see depression as an illness, he sees an opportunity for growth and introspection. Wootton details the lives of three saints who suffered from crippling depression throughout their lives and overcame their illnesses. The first step—and often the most difficult—when recovering from a mental illness is acceptance. Although the disadvantages of depression far outweigh the advantages, by understanding the illness one can grow from the experience and become stronger.
The Depression Advantage is available in our library, as are his other books, The Bipolar Advantage and Bipolar in Order. Tom, who has been a speaker at our general meetings, is a leading consumer advocate of depression and bipolar disorder. For more information, go to www.bipolaradvantage.com.
At the beginning of the 19th century, American Founding Father and physician Benjamin Rush presented a new method for viewing the mentally ill. Rush suggested the moral treatment, a humane way of taking care of people afflicted with mental disorders. Gone were shackles and chains used to tie down disruptive psychiatric patients. Rush’s method was first introduced in Europe. Hospitals installed game rooms, dining halls were filled with decorations, and gardens were created where patients were free to wander around. The moral treatment was a major shift in the perception of mental disorders.
This positive shift, however, was short-lived. As state budgets were severely limited, mental health programs were the first to go. The reform that swept across the East Coast took several steps backwards with the rise of eugenics, the scientific notion to improve the genetic composition in humans. Adopted radically by Nazi Germany to eradicate the Jewish population, eugenics in America became popular. Many state politicians and hospital directors justified the sterilization of those deemed unfit because they were a burden on the economy. Hospitals and jails were financially strained, especially during wartime. The mentally ill were treated viciously, with some not seeing a doctor for months or even years. Fortunately as World War II ended and Nazi Germany fell, so too did eugenics.
Mad in America takes a hard look at treatments of mental disorders throughout history, therapies such as insulin coma, metrazol convulsive therapy, electroshock and pre-frontal lobotomy, which damaged the brain to prevent aggressive outbreaks in the mentally ill. In the 1950s, Smith, Kline & French (now GlaxoSmithKline) introduced Thorazine, the first antipsychotic ever developed. Shock therapies could now be taken in pill form, and profits from these pharmaceutical companies have increased annually ever since. Now in the 21st century, there is still much to be discovered in the field of mental health. The mistakes made in the past will shed light on healthy treatments in the future.
Robert Whitaker is an American journalist living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mad in America was named by Discover Magazine as one of the top science books of 2002. Whitaker has won numerous awards as a journalist covering medicine and science, including the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and a National Association for Science Writers Award for best magazine article.
Author: Peggy Kennedy
One day in the 1960s, Jack Kennedy rushed home to see his wife, Barbara, strapped to a gurney with the paramedics nearby. Their children, outside and ready for school, would see their mother being taken to Napa State Hospital—a result of her refusal to take her medications. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last.
These memories of her mother struggling with mental illness throughout her childhood forced Peggy Kennedy to grow up fast. The youngest of the Kennedy clan, Peggy details the story of how her family fought their way through the pain of mental illness.
In Approaching Neverland, the Kennedy clan finds strength through Barbara’s bipolar disorder. As the children grow up and leave home, they are all still very connected in helping their mother through the difficulties of managing her illness.
Years later, after a long stretch of stability, Barbara suffered a major relapse and was once again hospitalized. Jack was asked if he had ever thought about leaving Barbara, to which he shook his head and replied, “She’s my wife.”
Many who have taken Family-to-Family classes at NAMI SCC will relate to Approaching Neverland. Those who have someone with a mental illness in their family understand the difficulties of treatment. Peggy Kennedy illustrates how their family was able to cope, survive and move forward in light of it all. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Currently available in the NAMI Santa Clara County library, Approaching Neverland is a recommended read for both consumers and their families. Peggy Kennedy has been producing events in the San Francisco Bay Area for over twenty years, ranging from the Chinese New Year’s Parade to the Bay Bridge Celebration, and has also been a keynote speaker at a NAMI-Walk SF Bay Area Luncheon in 2010. She lives with her family in Northern California. For more information, please visit approachingneverland.com.
In 1975, Mark Vonnegut wrote The Eden Express, a memoir detailing his experiences with schizophrenia—which we eventually discover is a misdiagnosis. The book garnered attention from consumers and mental health professionals, and propelled Vonnegut to pursue a career in medicine after his recovery. Years after attending Harvard Medical School and practicing as one of Boston’s renowned pediatricians, Vonnegut suffered his fourth psychiatric relapse and was strapped down to a gurney at the same hospital where he worked.
The Vonnegut family has a history of mental illness, including his famous father, American writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who was crippled with severe depression for long periods of time. Mark Vonnegut shares his life living with mental illness in his second memoir, Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So. Vonnegut leaves no stone unturned as he details his struggles with alcohol, living in the shadow of his father, and the road of recovery from bipolar disorder. Determined to not let the illness impede his professional and private life, Vonnegut maintained his sanity by keeping busy. From softball games and medical conventions to AA meetings, he was able to live a happy and stable life. With pure honesty and eccentric sense of humor, Vonnegut gives the mental health community not only hope, but unconditional love too.
Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So is currently available at the NAMI SCC library. It is recommended for both consumers family members. Mark Vonnegut is currently a primary care pediatrician in the Boston Area. Vonnegut was voted Boston Magazine’s number one Pediatrician. He served on the National Institute for Health Consensus Conference on ADHD in November, 1999.
“The Buddha & the Borderline“
Author: Kiera Van Gelder
For nearly 20 years, Kiera Van Gelder ran through the gamut of treatment and therapies for her pain, severe mood instability and self-harm. The doors at clinics, 12-step programs, churches and pharmacies were constantly revolving in her life. Nothing seemed to make her suffering subside. At the behest of Van Gelder’s boyfriend, she called the local hospital to give therapy one more try. She was finally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), a fitting description to her inability to live a functional life.
Van Gelder details her struggles with borderline personality disorder and the journey to recovery in her memoir, The Buddha and The Borderline. She is open and honest about the need for validation in her personal relationships, the myriad of unstable moods and her torrid past. Van Gelder embraces Dr. Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and practices Buddhism philosophy and meditation daily. Van Gelder’s battle wih BPD is empowering to anyone affected with mental illness.
The Buddha and the Borderline is available in the NAMI SCC library, a highly recommended book for both consumer and their families. Kiera Van Gelder, MFA, is an artist, educator and writer. She is an international speaker and advocate for borderline personality disorder.
When the third-largest recorded earthquake hit in the Indian Ocean in 2004, a devastating tsunami reached the shores of Sri Lanka and neighboring countries, killing hundreds of thousands of people and displacing millions more. It was an international emergency, and at the heart of addressing the crisis was Debra Wentz, an executive director of a Mental Heath Agency in New Jersey who understood the importance of identifying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the affected population as soon as possible.
The diagnosis and treatment of PTSD by international mental health professionals proved to be more difficult than initially thought. Ethan Watters details the psychological aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in his 2010 book Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche. Watters also examines the skyrocketing rate of anorexia in women in Hong Kong, the difference between treatment of schizophrenia in Zanzibar and the U.S. and the multibillion dollar marketing campaigns by companies of antidepressants in Japan.
The DSM-I (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disor-ders) was first published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1952 and over the years has become the international standard for diagnosing mental disorders. Watters attributes the DSM as a major factor of the American influence in the mental health field throughout the world, for better or for worse. Although there is no denying the benefits of the DSM, many non-Western disorders have been left out. As more and more disorders are being grouped together, those suffering from a rare, unpublished illness can be mistreated.
Crazy Like Us is available in the NAMI SCC library. It is recommended reading for both consumers and their families to further understand the cultural impact of American psychology across the globe.
“Manic: A Memoir“
Author: Terri Cheney
One Christmas Eve in the 1990s, Terri Cheney found herself alone in the freezing cold in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Locked outside her rented condo, she impatiently waited for the lock-smith so she could give herself the ultimate Christmas gift: a deadly cocktail of pills and a bottle of premium tequila. Cheney was depressed, and the suicidal ideation she had battled for years finally reached its boiling point. Days later, she awakened at the county hospital (her version of hell) to another failed attempt at ending her life.
For most consumers, the struggles between the highs and lows of manic depression, commonly known as bipolar disorder, are all too familiar. Terri Cheney chronicles her bouts with the illness in her New York Times bestselling memoir, Manic. As a lawyer in the ultra-competitive and notoriously exclusive LA entertainment industry, Cheney shares her difficulties with her personal and professional relationships, an overwhelmingly demanding job, and losing the most important man in her life, her father.
Cheney’s stories are powerfully illustrated and give the reader an inside glimpse of the destruction and chaos of bipolar disorder. A truly riveting memoir, where the message for hope is not about peace, not longing for a cure, but for just another day. Preferably a normal one.
Manic is available in the NAMI SCC library. A highly recommended read for both consumers and their families. Terri Cheney is currently on the board of the California Bipolar Foundation and the Community Advisory Board of the UCLA Mood Disorders Research Program. You can visit her website at www.terricheney.com for more information.
Research has recently demonstrated that learning illness self-management, in addition to medication, can significantly improve the quality of life for anyone with bipolar disorder. Here at last is a practical guide to illness self-management. It includes many exercises that will help you chart your moods, discover your early warning signs, avoid behavior likely to lead to episodes, and examine possible denial. Methods of illness self-management like these, together with medication, have helped me avoid further manic episodes. I most heartily welcome this book and urge you to consider using it on your own, with your therapist, or in a group. It could change your life.
“Triggers, Managing Medications, Coping with
Symptoms and More“
Author: Ruth C. White and John D. Preston
An excellent book on the practical aspects of day-to-day coping with bipolar disorder. This book is a good choice on first hearing of the diagnosis. The advice comes first hand as Dr. White herself learned to cope with bipolar disorder. It covers the fundamental issues of getting treatment, taking medication, identifying triggers, reducing stress, getting good sleep and more. I am particularly pleased to see education emphasized along with medication and psychotherapy as one of the “three strategies of treatment.” We have come a long way since the dark ages of mental illness. Books like this help us to continue that progress.
“Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families“
Author: Francis Mark Mondimore
A very informative book for patients and their families. It starts with a detailed discussion of the symptoms and diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It covers all of the most common medications and their side effects. The history of the development of our understanding of the disorder is covered together with a little of the genetics behind the disorder. There is a brief discussion of what is understood of the effect of the disorder within the brain. The final chapters give advice on how to live with the disorder and best reduce the chance and the effect of further episodes. This is the patient’s handbook that I most highly recommend.
“The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide“
Author: David J. Miklowitz
Books on bipolar disorder tend either to be an autobiography of someone’s struggle or a medical discussion of the illness and its syptoms. Here is a book written by a medical practitioner that investigates the issues that one faces if one is diagnosed with the disorder and explains practical techniques to cope with the symptoms. It goes beyond, “What is bipolar?” to investigate, “Okay, so what can I do about it?” It looks at the issues involved in accepting the diagnosis. It not only looks at what medication can achieve but also at what it takes to accept ongoing medication. It spends a lot of time discussing techniques for self-management: recognizing one’s own mood swings and methods for coping with them. It concludes with a discussion of the effect on the family and on work situations. I highly recommend this book to anyone diagnosed bipolar or who has a family member with bipolar disorder. It is one of the few practical guides to coping with the illness.
This handbook has become the standard reference on schizophrenia for patients and families, comprehensive, compassionate, and well written. The author, who himself has a sister with schizophrenia, describes the illness from the inside and from the outside. He discusses the history, statistics, the prognosis, and the treatment of the disease. He considers rehabilitation, and practical issues of caring for a family member with schizophrenia. He is not shy of calling attention to the inadequate treatment frequently received from the public health system. An appendix features an excellent book review in which Fuller reviews some 50 of the best books and 15 of the worst on schizophrenia. He spends a paragraph on each book and is not afraid to state plainly his opinion on those that he feels have shortcomings.
“I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!“
Author: Xavier Amador with Anna-Lisa Johanson
A readable and very practical book focused on the issue of helping a mentally-ill loved one who has little insight into their illness. Dr. Amador presents recent research into the issue of poor insight and then offers practical, step-by-step advice on how to help your mentally-ill loved one accept treatment. His advice comes both from many years spent as a mental health professional and also from personal experience with his brother who has schizophrenia. (10th Edition)
“The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression“
Author: Andrew Solomon
An encyclopedic work on depression stretching well beyond most works on this difficult subject. It contains the author’s experience of and reflections on depression, and the stories of many others in different walks of life, but contains much more. From the ancient Greeks, whose theory of black bile, “melania chole,” gives us the word melancholia, to the depression of trauma survivors in Cambodia. From treatment offered by the ancients to current mainstream and alternative treatments. From depression among the poor and indigent to the politics of depression and its representation in Congress. A comprehensive, beautifully written work.
“Chronic Sorrow: A Living Loss“
Author: Susan Roos
Roos is a therapist and the mother of two daughters. One girl died at an early age; the surviving daughter is severely autistic. After a number of attempts at therapy for her own underlying depression, Roos realized that while most therapists have an understanding, vocabulary and repertoire of interventions when dealing with grief, few understand the impact and ramifications of dealing with a living with a loss. Applying “grief work” in these situations is at best, inadequate.
Chronic Sorrow is written for therapists and professionals who will be working with people who have sustained life changing, and diminishing circumstances that will continue until they die. She writes for better understanding of the continuing grief parents feel for a child of any age, who because of injury, illness or genetics, will never reach their full potential. She calls this “other loss.” Roos also writes for people themselves who as teenagers and adults sustain an injury or illness that robs them of the future they had planned for themselves; leaving only fear, self doubt and even self-loathing in its wake. This she calls “self loss.”
Chronic Sorrow is not a particularly easy read, nor does is it deal specifically with or about, mental illness. But it addresses and respects the special kind of sadness a person dealing with mental illness in himself or herself or in a loved one, often experience. If you have been disappointed in the help you have received from professionals, this book is worth much more than $13. It should be required reading for anyone working in a helping profession.
“An Unquiet Mind“
Author: Kay Redfield Jamison
The classic autobiography of bipolar disorder by a professor of psychiatry who is herself bipolar.
“Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness“
Author: William Styron
A nationally acclaimed author describes the indescribable—an episode of acute depression. He recalls in beautiful prose the anguish and the isolation of the abyss. Those of us who have travelled this road will find much that we recognize and gain comfort from a fellow traveller who describes the journey with a skill beyond our own. Those who haven’t may perhaps get a taste of that foreign county.
The author interweaves the personal stories of people suffering from mood disorders, mostly bipolar disorder and depression, with the neurobiology behind the cause of the symptoms in the brain of the sufferer. Occasionally a little technical for the lay reader, but an excellent viewpoint from which to present what we know of the processes in the brain that give rise to mood disorder and the working of the medications used in their treatment.
The author skilfully makes a story of scientific research read like a detective novel, almost a page-turner at times. To tell the story he gives us a history of the scientific progress in understanding mood disorders. He continues with a very readable introduction to genetics and heredity with examples of diseases whose genetic basis is now understood. Finally, he gives us a glimpse of how scientific research is conducted and how far we have progressed in locating the genes responsible for the mood disorders, bipolar disorder and depression. A thoroughly engrossing read for anyone with an interest in the genetic basis of mood disorders.
In this wide-ranging book the author presents the neuroscience behind the major mental illnesses in (mostly) language accessible by the lay reader. An introduction to the structure of the brain is presented together with elementary genetics. From there we move on to explore what is known of how the brain can go wrong, and the role of genetics, in the major mental illnesses. A good introduction to the illnesses is given: schizophrenia, mood disorders, dementias and anxiety disorders. The biological basis of mental illness is highlighted with examples of brain scans from normal and ill subjects. The author does well in tackling such a wide and technical subject, yet making it relevant for the general reader, though we are left feeling that so much more about mental illness and the brain remains to be understood.
The author, a brain scientist, describes her own experience of recovery from a stroke that completely disabled the left side of her brain. A very readable book that offers a remarkable insight into the inner workings of the brain and casts light on the recovery process. While a stoke is a very different brain trauma than bipolar disorder, similarities of experience are evident in both the loss of functionality and in the recovery process.
“The Naked Bird Watcher“
Author: Suzy Johnston
Suzy’s autobiography is well-written, engaging, and very readable. She records her struggle with depression and its treatment as a young person. I found it easy to identify with her experience of depression. I recommend this book for anyone currently engaged in the struggle — it will offer insight, give assurance that they are not alone, and encourage the hope that if Suzy got through so can they.
In addition, Suzy’s mother has published her side of the story in caring for her daughter in “To Walk on Eggshells“ by Jean Johnston.
“The behavior of the analysts…was not simply that they kicked patients when they were down. Even worse, they first knocked patients (or their parents) to the ground, by blaming them for having caused their own illness, and then they kicked them.” The author examines psychoanalysis in the 1950s and 60s when it was applied as a treatment for serious mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, autism and obsessive compulsive disorder. Well written, very readable and very frightening. At least in the days of leaches, the leaches were occasionally helpful…
“Friends and Family Bipolar Survival Guide“
Author: Debra and Mark Meehl
A useful guide for anyone that cares for or lives with someone with bipolar disorder. It is full of practical advice and information based on the author’s experience of living with her bipolar husband. Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences the illness the same way, so not everything will apply. Personally, I would like to see more emphasis on education and less on spirituality, but these are my own preferences. A useful book on the day-to-day matters of living with and helping someone with bipolar disorder.
“New Hope for People With Bipolar Disorder“
Author: Jan Fawcett, Bernard Golden & Nancy Rosenfeld
This book is written by three authors: a bipolar patient, a professor of psychology, and a professor of psychiatry. As such the style is somewhat inconsistent and is more a collection of separate essays than a coherent work. A wide range of topics are covered but not to any great depth. The chapter on psychotherapy contains a good introduction to cognitive behavior therapy. There is a chapter on childhood and adolescent bipolar illness, and also one on living with people who have bipolar disorder, subjects not commonly covered in an introductory text. The book will serve as an acceptable introduction to bipolar disorder for those with the disorder and for their loved ones. However, my preference would be for the books by Mondimore and Miklowitz.
“Bipolar Puzzle Solution:
A Mental Health Client’s Perspective“
Author: Bryan L. Court, Gerald E. Nelson
Peer support groups are an important source of information, understanding, and support for people with bipolar disorder. All of the questions that were asked in one particular bipolar support group were written down, with answers, and published in this book. The author is a bipolar II patient and his answers have been reviewed by his psychiatrist. The questions cover a wider range of topics than is found in other handbooks for bipolar patients however the question and answer format limits the depth of each of the answers to typically a few paragraphs. The author’s personal struggle with the disorder comes through clearly. However, the author’s experience is with the bipolar II form of the disorder and I felt that aspects of the disorder unique to bipolar I were missing. The author’s religious faith is interwoven with advice on coping with the disorder which I found irritating as I suspect will others who do not share the author’s religious beliefs. Overall the book presents an unusual mix of personal experience and practical advice aimed at patients and those who support them.
The author tells the story of her husband’s year-long manic episode and finally his depression and suicide. She tells us of the agony of their separation, her thoughts and feelings at the time, the decisions she made and why she made them. With the benefit of hindsight she points out errors and how she might have handled things better. She tells a moving story in a well written and very readable way, illustrated with notes from her journal. Those caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder will find comfort in this book, assurance that they are not alone, and practical suggestions for how to maintain their own sanity while helping their loved one.
“Advocating for Someone with a Mental Illness”
Author: Sonya Nesh
The book offers practical information and resources to family members, consumers, professionals and crisis line workers. It is based on the experiences of Ms. Nesh who has been the president of NAMI Mendocino County for eight years. She addresses the most common situations from obtaining an accurate diagnosis and gaining medical stability to dealing with the problems that advocates frequently face. There is a chapter on support and self-care for advocates and family members. The book concludes with a series of sample letters that could be helpful to advocates dealing with situations for the first time. There is a copy for loan in the NAMI office or copies can be purchased from the office for $15.