The first year of this blog remained pretty strict in format. I allowed myself three choices. One, write about my 9-day hospitalization at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after a psychiatric breakdown. Two, write about life in the days that followed returning home from said hospitalization. Three, allow myself some artistic liberty to post songs of meaning to me lyrically each Saturday. That was it. That was the list.
With year two upon me, I find myself expanding my horizons. Feeling free to go where my mind may take me. Maybe some pieces of my life that led up to the actual breakdown. Possibly glimpses into my contact with other individuals facing battles with mental illness. Or in the case of today…venturing into the ever-dangerous land of recommendations.
Today’s recommendation is doubly dangerous. Why? I’m glad you asked. The reason is a simple one. I haven’t finished it. The book. The book I am about to recommend, I haven’t finished reading it. In fact, I am just over halfway through it. But have found it mesmerizing and personal enough to believe in the beauty of it regardless of the conclusions it draws.
I should note at this point that I often take that approach to a book, and recognize that not everyone is able to. I can enjoy a book even if it ends at a place of conclusion that I 100% disagree with. If it is well written. Thoughtful. Reflective. Challenging. Insightful. It can still be a read that I am glad I embarked on. Granted, the less I agree with it, the more of those things it better be in greater strength, but nevertheless, it is possible.
The book is No One Cares About Crazy People: The chaos and heartbreak of mental health in America. If the title seems harsh, just wait until you read the background leading to it. The author, Ron Powers, is no stranger to the written word having won the Pulitzer Prize and weaves a very dramatic and personal fabric throughout the text. In almost alternating fashion, chapters swing from autobiographical to a historical review dating back to the 1800s of mental health care within the United States (and even touching on a few global aspects). Having been personally touched by the plague of schizophrenia on two of his sons, it is a deeply transparent and sincere reflection. There is no attempt to be unbias. No desire to remain outside of the story. And that is likely what makes it the work that it is.
Two-thirds of the way through it, I have found myself deeply moved to sadness…anger…frustration…and at times, fear. It is a rare work based on extensive research and able to provide factual data, that is also able to express individual thoughts and takes without there being confusion within the author’s own mind or that of the readers’ as to which he is doing when.
I am not a book critic. Therefore, I will conclude my words here. Reviews and analysis can be found for those looking to investigate further before reading. I can only say that in my experience, I have not found enough of these texts. It is a book that needed to be written and needs to be joined by others. A book that gives voice to people that suffer from mental illness, and those that walk beside us. A book that continues to declare that while recent generations have promoted the “coming out of the closet” of numerous people groups, the closet is still locked for those whose minds keep them forever captive.
I look forward to the remaining 100 plus pages, and yet I don’t. The hope and the pain. The gains and the losses. Suffered by the Powers family, and others like them. But don’t take my word for it. Read his for yourself.