Book Review: “Girl, Interrupted”

This month’s book review is for another movie/book combo.

Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts at wraemsanders@gmail.com.

I’m not sure which I like more- the book was intriguing, but the movie is a bit more in-depth. I guess it depends on whether you are more of a book or movie person.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This book review does briefly discuss suicidal thoughts, attempts, and similar topics. Please read at your own discretion.

Book cover

Title and why I chose this book:

“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

It’s not often that people tell their story of mental illness- at least not from the time frame that Susanna does. This book was based on her story in the 1960s when it wasn’t acceptable to tell anyone you had a mental illness, much less write a book about it. I think it’s interesting to look at a person’s story from another angle, even if it’s a different time.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

If you aren’t familiar with what it was like to be a patient in a mental health facility during this time period, Susanna’s story will give you a peek into it. Many of us are a bit curious about that, myself included. I think it’s because of my work in similar facilities. I’ve read quite a bit about facilities in the past and how patients were treated, and it wasn’t always positive.

What did I like about this book?

I like Susanna’s honesty. She breaks down her thoughts and the events that occur in the story so that the reader can understand exactly what is going on. Some of those events may be a little hard for us to comprehend because we weren’t there to witness them, but she tries her best.

What didn’t I like about this book?

I thought that the book could have been a little longer, I think it ended a bit abruptly. Everyone has their opinions on this, so maybe it’s just me. The tone of the book was a bit formal for me, but I had to remind myself of the time the book was set in.

Plot:

Susanna is hospitalized at McLean Hospital in 1967. Her hospital paperwork is actually included in the book, with some things blacked out. This wouldn’t have happened today, thanks to HIPAA. I’ve seen this in other books, but it still astounds me.

She is hospitalized following a suicide attempt- I won’t include details, but she does detail the attempt and events that follow it. She also discusses suicidal thoughts and means.

I had a laugh while reading her description of “maximum security” and McLean’s checks system. This is the way that mental health workers (“orderlies” in the book) are able to assess patients on a 1:1 (constant), 7.5, 15 or 30-minute basis for their safety. Try doing 7.5-minute checks while hugely pregnant. I did this while pregnant with Lily and it was a bit challenging.

Susanna signed herself in voluntarily and thought she would be there for two weeks- this became almost two years. She got along with her roommate and the other patients around her, and after her release, was able to find two of them. She was released after she was offered a proposal for marriage.

What was Susanna’s diagnosis? I won’t spoil that for you. It’s in her paperwork.

I’ll let you find it in the book.

Quote that I liked:

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified.”

Just because you’re broken inside doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”. Everyone’s a little broken, right?

Come back next month for another book review!

Picture courtesy of Google

Book Review- “The Spark:A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius”

Kristine Barnett wrote this book about her son, Jacob, and it is amazing. I’ve read it three times, and I’m still in love with it. Jacob is incredibly gifted and also has autism.

He was diagnosed at two years old. Kristine and her husband were told that his autism was so severe that he would most likely never talk or even tie his shoes, but he beat the odds due to her dedication. She also ran an in-home daycare while raising him and his two younger brothers.

I identify with Kristine so much throughout the story- she and I both had small strokes at the age of 30, mainly due to extreme amounts of stress.

Mine, of course, was brought on by a migraine, but it came from stress. To this day, I struggle with speech issues (aphasia- look that one up, it’s a lot of fun), short term memory loss and migraines. To find out more about my stroke and its impacts, you can read Invisible Changes

Kristine realizes very early on that Jacob (he is known throughout the book as Jake) is showing signs of something, but isn’t sure what. Her mother is the one that realizes that it may be autism and hands her a list of signs.

Jacob was very fascinated with shadows, barely interacted with others, barely spoke and had other signs. I won’t spoil the story for you, but the shadow fascination leads to bigger things in the story. It’s pretty great. This kid’s very intelligent.

She has him evaluated and is devastated by the results. Her husband is in denial for a while but does come to accept the diagnosis.

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Julian was about four when we started seeing behaviors. I was still quite busy with Lily’s developmental delays and her assorted therapies at that time, so I wasn’t sure what to think. He became more aggressive and less of the affectionate, sweet little boy I knew.

He stopped hugging us. We lost the big kisses he gave us at night. He began throwing what I thought were big tantrums. He would scream and yell at his siblings, and I became very worried. I was heartbroken and worried about what to do, what I wasn’t doing.

We had him evaluated- I was actually relieved to get a diagnosis. It gave me a better idea of how to help him. He was diagnosed with ADHD (severe, combined) and autism in late 2011. That story can be found in Looking At the Bright Side

He still won’t hug us, and I miss that. Julian’s got an adorable smile that everyone loves, and I offer him hugs when he is upset. I know he probably won’t take it, but he knows he can have one whenever he needs it.

Kristine tells the story of her family in a very relatable way. I believe that’s why I like it so much. Even if you don’t have a child or know one with autism, it’s a great book to read. You can tell that she is very dedicated to her family and work. She gives so much hope to the reader in her story, even during the not-so-great parts of their lives.

My favorite quote from the book is “Certainly people with autism are in our world. They’re just not thinking about the things we want them to think about.” This is so true! I’ve worked with a lot of kids with autism, and they think about a lot of things I would never think about.

You would be surprised at the things they are capable of thinking about. They may not be able to verbalize it very well, or even at all, but they can still think of things we may not be aware of.

I also see this with Julian. We can be at dinner and watching the news and he’s thinking about a video he watched last week on YouTube. (I know this because I asked.) He once got an award for “Out of this world thinking” in elementary school. Let these kids, let all kids think and dream. You’d be surprised what they may come up with.

Pic courtesy of Google

Book Review: “Fall to Pieces”

I love to read memoirs. For some reason, I really enjoy reading memoirs of those with addiction, and this was before my drinking became a problem. I’ve read “Life” by Keith Richards, which was fantastic but took three weeks because it’s over 500 pages.

I’ve also read Nikki Sixx’s book, “The Heroin Diaries”. It was a bit wild, but still very interesting. I’m just waiting for a member of Fleetwood Mac to come out with their memoirs. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I”ve read “Fall to Pieces” before, but it was a bit different re-reading it this time. This book was written by Mary Forsberg Weiland, the first wife of Scott Weiland.

He was the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots, one of the best rock bands of the 90s. If you’re too young to know who this band is, you might want to go on YouTube. They were a great band. Scott died in December 2015, unfortunately from an overdose.

Book cover

The book opens with a very descriptive explanation of her childhood in California, a bit in New Jersey after her mom’s remarriage and, of course, when she met Scott.

Mary also became a model while moving around and became quite successful while still a teen. She also met her best friends during this time. She became friends with Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have remained friends for many years.

It wasn’t until I read Scar Tissue, his autobiography, that I understood all the while Anthony was being my true friend, his own soul was being badly shaken.”

This stood out. We don’t always know what our friends are going through, much less anyone else. People hide things but still make things look at least bearable. I’ve been there for my friends through their own issues but yet struggling through my own.

The story of her relationship and later, marriage, with Scott, is so well detailed. She tells of the good, bad and in between. They were together off and on nearly a decade before marrying, and they had two kids together- a daughter and a son.

During this time, Mary drank and used a lot of substances. She knew it wasn’t the best way to live, but it took multiple attempts to finally stop using.

Mary also has had a long battle with bipolar disorder, possibly beginning when she was a teen. It’s hard for her or anyone else to know. She wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, and this is well documented in the book. She struggled to accept this diagnosis along with being an addict.

Many people with either issue do. I will say she is being treated and is sober, but I won’t spoil the ending for you on how she got there.

Mary shared a quote from a community college class:

“In recovery, we look for progress, not perfection.”

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This is very accurate. Nobody is perfect, and anyone recovering from any kind of addiction certainly isn’t. Progress is what counts the most. It is not close to easy, and anyone who tells you it is- they are not entirely correct.

One of my best friends, Tyson, once asked me if I was okay while sitting at dinner and the talk to turned to beer for a while. I wasn’t a fan of beer to begin with, and he knows this, but he was making sure I wasn’t thinking about having a drink.

I wasn’t, but I am very grateful that he asked. It took a year before I could even go into a sports bar. “One day at a time” is the best quote I have ever heard that applies to recovery.

As many of us know, Scott and Mary did not work out (the section about the end of their marriage is a sad one) but they were able to co-parent, at least as of the writing of this book. I’m one of the millions of fans that were saddened to hear of Scott’s death. He was incredibly talented, like many others, but yet, he had an addiction that he was never quite able to end.

Pic courtesy of Google

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash