Monday, September 10, 2012

Mental Illness - are you on the spectrum?

Over the past few months I've read three non-fiction books about people living with mental illnesses. 

Living with Max By Chloe MaxwellLiving With Max by Chloe Maxwell ~ I laughed and I cried
′It feels terrible for your son to want to hurt you so bad that you bleed, and to look into his beautiful eyes and see nothing but hatred. What mother could deal with that? Not me, that′s for sure. I loved my son, but I was no longer sure whether I was the right mother for this job.′

Chloe Maxwell seemed to be living the dream: discovered at sixteen as a model, she went on to become a household name as a TV personality. Then she met rugby star Mat Rogers and a great romance was born.

Inside, though, Chloe was fighting her own demons: her parents′ separation in her teens had led to a deep sense of insecurity. Then Mat′s father, football legend Steve Rogers, died after taking prescription drugs and alcohol.

Chloe treated her wounds with an ′alcohol Band-aid′ until the birth of Mat and Chloe′s son, Max, heralded a new beginning. But it soon became clear that Max was not like other boys: the few words he learned faded away, his rages transcended any regular toddler tantrums, and he seemed to exist in a bubble, cut off from everyone.

Heartbreakingly honest and moving, LIVING WITH MAX is the story of how Chloe and her family learned to face the challenges of autism and release the little boy locked within.

Me and Her - a memoir of madness by Karen Tyrrell ~ I felt her crazy moments! 
ME AND HER: a Memoir of Madness reveals how Karen Tyrrell, a dedicated Australian teacher is repeatedly harassed by parents at her school to breaking point and beyond. In a fit of desperation, she escapes and runs. Police and medical professionals discover her hiding in a lonely motel, forcing her into the frightening world of the psychiatric system. The reader is taken back to the classroom, discovering how the harassment affected Karen as we journey through her gradual decline and disintegration leading to her incarceration. Later Karen performs an 'experiment', purposefully stressing over a disturbed student, keeping herself awake at night - all in order to kick-start the creative ideas she craves. Karen reveals her psychic relationship with her psychologist, her pitch-black manic dreams and her two personas. ME wife, mother, writer and teacher. HER manic, psychic, healer to the living, telepathic to the dead, and she's very psychotic. Why did she become so crazy? How did she claw her way back from Insanity?

No Way Out But ThroughNo Way But Through by Graham Aitchison ~ challenged me - in a good way.
No Way Out But Through is the written account of Graham Aitchison's journey from mental illness to a true sense of clarity and peace. This book takes the reader through the darkest parts of Graham's soul through the various tools and thinking methods he has used to help himself to heal and into a realm of insight that can only come through surviving the darkest parts of life itself.

I noticed while I was reading these books, that triggers in my own life were set off. The last, No Way but Through, took a while to read because it opened my mind to many of my own personal issues. 
Do I have any of these mental illnesses that I've been reading about… umm.. no… but perhaps I'm on many spectrums.
Seriously… where does the spectrum start and stop?
Living with me is hard enough – but, while reading, I kept coming back to the thought – imagine if my children (I’m sure they have inherited too much of me), my husband or I were on the extreme end of one of the spectrums.
Mental illness isn't obvious. Most people suffering from disorders or problems look perfectly normal. But daily life can be a challenge for them.
What has reading these three books done for me?
I am encouraged to show more love and respect for anyone and everyone living with challenges of any kind.
People do come out of the illnesses to live very normal lives.
I'll continue to pray for miracle healings

book blurbs copied from Goodreads


  1. Mental illness is a lot more common than most of us think. I belive the stats are that 1 in 6 of us will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives. Now that is scary! But then again most people will probaby recover and go on to have successful happy lives. There - thats better!!!

  2. Thanks Michelle, for reviewing and supporting ME & HER: a Memoir Of Madness. Thanks for bringing three books on mental illness to light, which will widen discussion on Recovery ... Yes, we do recover!
    cheers, Karen :)

  3. Great post. I'll check into getting these books. My sister died as a result of her 20-year battle with mental illness, so I had a front row seat on this issue. Thanks for sharing these resources and your thoughts.

  4. you are so right about the sliding spectrum thing. Since our daughter was diagnosed with Tourettes 10 years ago, she's seen so many psychologists and been labeled with so many "disorders" that they became pretty meaningless. I don't think anyone knows where the line is between normal and not, nor do I think there is any "normal." We've accepted that whatever she is or is not, she'll be able to work through it and find ways to cope. And she has. It's been rough, but between her and God, they've managed some amazing work.

  5. What a lovely perspective, Michelle. I think you're wonderful for acknowledging that many other people are suffering silently. Showing them kindness doesn't seem like much, but it does help.

  6. Thanks for sharing these. I haven't read a book on mental illness in a while. My degree is in psychology and I used to devour those books. These look interesting and I enjoy memoirs.

  7. Great reviews, Michelle. Lots to think about there in only a few sentences. I can only imagine how reading them all has heightened your understanding and sensitivity needed for this subject. Thanks for sharing. :)

  8. Michelle, you are so right. Love, compassion, kindness are so important. The human mind is a fascinating mystery.

  9. I read several memoirs of people struggling with bi-polar disorder for novel research and it was so fascinating. I'll have to check these out.

    "Normal" mood swings can be scary enough. When I read about people who are off-the-charts it puts life into perspective and gives me a whole new reason to be thankful for the comparatively little problems I have today!

  10. Good for you. I've worked with a lot of kids suffering from a wide variety of mental illnesses over the years. It's such an invisible condition most of the time - and people do forget to be kind. If we could all remember that, it would make life soooooo much easier for some of these kids and adults.

  11. I have asked our local library to purchase "Me & Her" by Karen Tyrrell - can't wait to read it. The Graeme Aitchison one looks good too ...

  12. . I had a huge awakening one time when i was not very nice back to another friend pulled me aside and told me how that woman suffers terribly with depression and that was her first time out of the house in many months. i learned so much that day.
    no more judging anyone!!!!

  13. These all look like interesting reads, certainly heart-wrenching.

  14. Interesting post. I like your way of thinking.

  15. These seem like fascinating books. So many people suffer in silence from mental illness of some sort. It breaks my heart. There are so many challenges in life and everyone has something that they grapple with. The more compassion and understanding, the better.

  16. Thanks for the run-down on these books. Yes, living with these kinds of things would be tough. Love and respect is key.


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