Your Voice in my Head By Emma Forrest

Title: Your Voice in my Head

Author: Emma Forrest

First Published: 1st January 2011

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Blurb:

Emma Forrest, an English journalist, was twenty-two and living in America when she realised that her quirks had gone beyond eccentricity. Lonely, in a dangerous cycle of self-harm and damaging relationships, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding and effortlessly optimistic psychiatrist – a man whose wisdom and humanity would wrench her from the vibrant and dangerous tide of herself, and who would help her to recover when she tried to end her life. Emma’s loving and supportive family circled around her in panic. She was on the brink of drowning. But she was also still working, still exploring, still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love. One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there. He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family. Processing the premature death of a man who’d become her anchor after she’d turned up on his doorstep, she was adrift. And when her significant and all-consuming relationship also fell apart, she was forced to cling to the page for survival. A modern-day fairy tale of New York, Your Voice in My Head is a dazzling and devastating memoir, clear-eyed and shot through with wit. In a voice unlike any other, Emma Forrest explores breakdown and mania, but also the beauty of love – and the heartbreak of loss. (From Goodreads, 24th November 2013)

Review:

When Emma discovers that her Psychiatrist has passed away she begins to reminisce about the man who had helped her to begin stabilizing her rather turbulent life. We learn about both Emma and her Psychiatrist through Emma’s words.

‘Your Voice in my Head’ is a novel written with a rawness that epitomizes the deep depressions Emma has encountered, along with the risky behavior of her highs.

This is a novel about grief and loss, as well as about finding strength, and using the lessons of those who are dead to help you in your future. It shows us the selflessness of some people, and the selfishness of others. This is a novel about people. The good and the bad. However, unlike many novels about mental illness, in this novel Emma manages to work, and continue with life even when this seems impossible. This was ‘nice’ because many books out there about mental health, memoirs and fiction, deal with people who do not function, cannot work and often are institutionalized. In this case it was a breath of fresh air to see someone dealing with severe mental illness but still holding life together, however precariously. Considering the majority of people with mental health problems are treated in the community and manage to work, it is a group highly under represented in the book world.

At the time of reading ‘Your Voice in my Head’ I had just suffered a bereavement and initially gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on my Goodreads account. However, I feel after writing this review that I did not appreciate this books as much as I think I would have if I were to have read it at a different time. I now believe this is a novel I will have to re-read in order to give an accurate rating, but due to the points I raised above I will give ‘Your Voice in my Head’ a 4 out of 5.

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Henry’s Demons By Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Title: Henry’s Demons: A Father and Sons Journey Out of Madness

Author: Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

First Published: February 1st 2011

Blurb:

On a cold February day two months after his twentieth birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton, England, and nearly drowned. Voices, he said, had urged him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world in Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned from his wife, Jan, that his son had suffered a breakdown and had been admitted to a hospital. Ten days later, Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Narrated by both Patrick and Henry, this is the extraordinary story of the eight years since Henry’s descent into schizophrenia–years he has spent almost entirely in hospitals–and his family’s struggle to help him recover. (From Goodreads, 7th June 2013)

Review:

Amazing. Breathtaking. Frank. Emotional. Frightening. Facinating. Informative. Exciting. Everything really.

I loved this book and I have read a lot of non-fiction books about people’s experiences of mental illness and frankly this is the best in the long long list that I have read!

This novel is written by both Henry and his father Patrick, starting with Patrick receiving that life changing phone call from his wife telling him that their eldest son was in a psychiatric ward. Here Patrick takes us through the journey of a parent entering the unknown world of mental illness. The wish for a quick fix, the realisation that mental illness does not go away just because you are given a drug.

Henry gives us a glimpse of his world, what happened to him. Although you may think isn’t Patrick telling us that too? Yes he is telling us what happened to Henry, but he knows he cannot explain the experience Henry had. This is one example of the uniqueness of this novel. What Henry experiences is real to him, despite the fact that they are symptoms of Schizophrenia they are as real to him as computer screen in front of you is to you.

Henry writes with a frankness that leads you through his journey. You feel for what he and his family have been through and are still going through but you also learn the side of Schizophrenia that many do not know about or fail to appreciate, some times people enjoy their hallucinations, and this is the case for some of Henry’s hallucinations, they made him feel part of nature, free…

Patrick writes with the eloquency that a journalist should have. He does not sugar coat, and cites research and talks in a balanced way about the mental health system and the pros and cons of the system. Looks at the history of mental health care without sounding like an intro to clinical psychology book! But also is the father who has watched his family deal with the unpredictability of mental illness and the steep learning curve in understanding the ‘disorder’/’illness’ – whatever you want to call it – along with the complexities of the system. Patrick also takes account of the different perceptions of Henry’s Schizophrenia – Henry’s, his, his wife, his younger son, the nurses, Henry’s friends, Doctors, Psychiatrists, the Police etc.

This is a well balanced novel that shows a family’s continuing journey into previously unknown land.

5 out of 5

Somebody Else’s Kids By Torey Hayden

Title: Somebody Else’s Kids

Author: Torey Hayden

Publisher: Harper Element

UK Publication Date: First Published 1981

Blurb:

“Were all just somebody else’s kids…”

A small seven-year-old boy who couldn’t speak except to repeat weather forecasts and other people’s words…A beautiful little girl of seven who had been brain damaged by terrible parental beatings and was so ashamed because she couldn’t learn to read…A violently angry ten-year-old who had seen his stepmother murder his father and had been sent from one foster home to another …A shy twelve-year-old from a Catholic school which put her out when she became pregnant…

“What do we matter?”
“Why do you care?”

They were four problem children-put in Torey Hayden’s class because no one else knew what to do with them. Together, with the help of a remarkable teacher who cared too much to ever give up, they became almost a family, able to give each other the love and understanding they had found nowhere else. (From Goodreads, 17th February 2013)

Review:

I have read several Torey Hayden books and have enjoyed them all! In this story we meet several children all with their unique problems. You learn to love them and frantically go through the pages to see what happens next. One of the things though is you don’t always know what happens. Torey was a real teacher, the children real. And after the year is over life goes on and her class moves on too. These novels are filled with heart and understanding. You will be touched by them and once you have read one of Torey’s novels you will be hungry for more.

An author I highly recommend. And this book is yet another fantastic novel. Invest in Torey Hayden!

4 out of 5!

Ant Then I Thought I Was a Fish By Peter Welsh

Title: And Then I Thought I Was a Fish

Author: Peter Welsh

Publisher: Self Published

UK Publication Date: 1st January 2013

Blurb:

PATIENT NAME: Peter Hunt Welch SEX: M ADMIT DATE: 10/18/2000 DOB: 02/28/1980 HISTORY OF PRESENTING ILLNESS: The patient was a fairly poor historian, appearing unable to provide a coherent description of the events preceding his current hospitalization. In a rather vague and disorganized manner, he acknowledged the presence of persecutory concerns. He reported unusual experiences like having seen the earth and the bottom of the sea. In the emergency room, he reported concerns that he might have killed a buddy of his and that he could take a friend’s soul from his body. He also reported his ability to be in contact with God. Initially he denied any alcohol or drug use. Later on, he admitted having had LSD on several occasions. He described his trips as traveling the world and touching things. He also acknowledged the use of heroin, crack cocaine, mushrooms, ecstasy, and speed, but he was not able to provide more details. THIS REPORT IS STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. Redisclosure is prohibited by law. NOTE: This information has been disclosed to you from records whose confidentiality is protected by federal law. Federal regulations (42CFR part 2) prohibit you from making any further disclosure of it without the specific written consent of the person to whom it pertains, or as otherwise permitted by such regulations. A general authorization for the release of medical or other information is NOT sufficient for this purpose. PERMISSION REQUEST: I would like to ask myself if it’s okay to put my medical records in a book to entertain total strangers. I need explicit permission. PERMISSION APPROVAL: Because of our tautological relationship, I hereby explicitly grant myself the right to publish this information in whatever form I please. (From Amazon.co.uk, 13th February 2013)
Review:
Okay, so I got this book after seeing it was a Kindle Freebie for a day or so and with my interest in mental health was interested to see this authors take on his experience. Unlike many of the books I have read about mental illness the author has only had one instance of serious mental illness, compared to the recurring problems many people are faced with. Ultimately he has concluded that his illness was to do with the drugs he took at the time and his lifestyle which tipped him over the edge.
This is a well written book, which captures the bizarre adventure Peter takes and his view of the experience compared to what nurses or doctors wrote while his was in a psychiatric ward. It shows the destruction drugs can cause without being a book to chastise those who take them on a recreational basis. Linked in with his experience there is some academic background to why he may have responded the way he did, but sometimes I felt these were given as far too clear cut and established then they are in reality.
I think the important thing I got from this novel is that it is an honest retelling of an experience which influence the authors life and is one which is worth reading. After the main text is other peoples stories, I did not go on to read these, but will return to them at a later date. They give response of others to the authors experience, questions the author has been asked via his website and their opinions.
An interesting read and one which I think many of those who dabbled in drugs would find interesting, or those with an interest in mental health.
3.5 out of 5

Overly Medicated By Shaun Lewisham

Title: Overly Medicated

Author: Shaun Lewisham

Publisher: Shaun Lewisham Enterprises

UK Publication Date: 1 edition (10 Dec 2011)

Blurb:

Welcome to ‘Overly Medicated’: A collision Between One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Shameless.

Overly Medicated is a social biography based on my life story and is set against the backdrop of the West Midlands. It is set over a period of three decades starting in 1987 and uses Gary Walker as its feature character. The book follows Walkers path through life from hooligan to husband, his battles against drug addiction and mental illness and his attempts to escape the cobwebs of his tortured past. Overly Medicated recounts the story of a man scarred from the break up of his marriage, resulting in him raising their only daughter as a single parent. His own attempted murder and the termination of his unborn child. Walker finally hits rock bottom and is admitted onto a psychiatric unit after a failed suicide attempt. Overly Medicated details his fight back from depression and addiction and recounts his pathway to becoming a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and the manager of a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Home. It exposes the hypocrisy encased in the mental health system and tells the story from both sides of the divide.

Overly Medicated is a story of love, triumph, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, fortitude and friendship. It contains a social narrative on Britain via the author’s individual standpoint and reflects on his political and social development. The book is aimed at making the reader, laugh, cry and ruminate over the experiences of one troubled man. This book is sad, funny, honest and true. Overly Medicated is a rollercoaster of contrasting emotions; I hope you enjoy the ride. (From Amazon.co.uk, 22nd January 2013)

Review:

‘Overly Medicated’ is a book based on the authors life and this shines through the writing. All characters have the depth of reality and you get a good understanding of the times, the politics and the life that the main character – Gary Walker – leads. It is a story of ups and downs. Mistakes, achievements, met by more mistakes and yet more achievements. You want to scream at Gary when he starts on yet another destructive path, then pat him on the back when he achieves what would have seemed impossible.

For a female reading this book the football ‘hooliganism’ focus at the beginning is a bit off putting and I think it is more a novel for the males in this sense. But you are dealing with a persons life. And the further through you get the more you understand Gary’s behavior and why he does the things he does.

The novel is eloquently written and you can tell that the author, though having experienced the life of his main character, was always an intelligent men with a true understanding of language.

It is a novel I would urge mental health students and staff to read. Gary’s idea of care is spot on. He learns from his experience of being in treatment the failings of the system and how to combat that. A holistic approach – which many of us will study but not practice.

This is a journey – a rather eventful journey in that. But it is life and life is just that – a sequence of ups and downs. A novel written with understanding, insight and skill.

A read for all interested in mental illness, alcoholism, crime and drug use. Do not be put of with the male angle because there is a lot in this book which will aid your understanding of the above issues.

A 4 out of 5.

Do you think your clever? : The Oxford and Cambridge Questions By John Fardon

  Right this is a bit different to my usual books that I review on here but hey ho. And also a short and simple review!

This books gives example answers to those tricky Oxford and Cambridge entry interview questions. The author goes about answer these questions even though most often there is not a truly correct answer. But many different answers which show how you think. The aim of these questions is for these universities to be able to recognise those who think outside the box.

This is a book which you jump in and out off, rather than reading continuously. It is an excellent way to create discussions and in some cases quieten that relative who always thinks they are right!

If you are interested in education and want something to read or spark discussion this is a fit for purpose. An excellent Christmas gift for the intellect in the family!

4 out of 5 for me due to the diversity and talking points such a book brings. Reminding us we don’t know the answers. Most often we only know several possible ‘best fit’ answers – if we even know that! A book to get you thinking and wondering!

Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician By Michelle Williams

   Ever wondered what Morticians are like? How can they do such a morbid job? The unseen part of the hospital. Well if you have (or haven’t) this is an excellent read!

Michelle Williams applies for a job as a Mortuary Technician and to her surprise is taken on. She takes us through the beginning of her work, learning the ropes and hearing stories from the two other Mortuary Technicians and the pathologists who come in all shapes, sizes and personalities!

This is a journey with amusing stories and some sad. It opens up to the world what is an often forgotten and unseen job which many of us could not do. The problems they face and deal with by using puns and joking, yet having complete respect for the deceased and their families.

This explains the life in the mortuary with all the smells, sounds, fun and sadness. An interesting and educating novel for all those interested in medical issues and have a good sense of humor.

Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin By Norah Vincent

A non-fiction novel where Norah Vincent, an immersion journalist, admits herself to three different styles of mental health facilities in America.

Although I am UK based I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in mental health issues and psychiatry. The mental health service does differ between the UK and the US  but there is much that can be learned about what is ‘good’ treatment and ‘bad’ treatment when it comes to mental health.

Norah, who has had mental health issues in the past admits herself in three mental health facilities – firstly a state run facility, secondly a private facility, and thirdly a ‘new age’ retreat program.

Although this is non-fiction there is a story in there. Norah has issues with depression and throughout her immersion she begins to benefit from some of the treatments. It shows where there are good and bad practice, and the other constant problem of health insurance within the US and mental health treatment.

A very formative and interesting view of the treatment in the US coinciding with the authors journey to greater mental well-being.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone!