On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

Other People By Kelly O’Callan

Title: Other People

Author: Kelly O’Callan

First Published: 7th March 2014

Publisher: Createspace

Blurb:

Painfully shy and socially awkward, Ginny avoids engaging in a world filled with “other people” as best as she can. After a failed suicide attempt, Ginny is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and begins a journey towards improving her distraught life. In her quest to fit in among other people, Ginny studies the behaviors of her picture-perfect new neighbors, Jim and Nina, and tries her best to mimic their life skills. But, will Ginny’s attempts to be one of the other people help her fit into their world, or send her crashing back deeper into the dark, isolated world she is desperately trying to escape? (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014)

Review:

‘Other People’ is about Ginny and the way her life begins to change after her new neighbor, Jim, finds her during a suicide attempt. In arriving at hospital Ginny begins the process of therapy and is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

‘Other People’ is the first fiction novel that I have read about Borderline Personality Disorder and there were both good and bad things in this book. Firstly, this book acknowledged the true complexities and extreme emotions an individual suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is inflicted with on a daily basis. It highlights what can appear like a simple situation to most people can be devastating for an individual suffering with this disorder.

Another aspect that I enjoyed about this novel is that it had a regular story line that intertwined friendships, relationships, and their complexities and further complexities by bringing in an individual dealing with emotional instability.

However, I was not happy with the fact the psychiatrist in the novel described Ginny as a ‘borderline’. It really feels, to me, that those with Borderline Personality Disorder are ‘borderline’ and ‘borderline’ alone. Further, he describes such individuals in such a diagnostically list like manner, simply explaining ‘borderlines’ alongside diagnostic criteria. Although this is important to understand individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder it just didn’t feel ‘real’ to me.

This novel is the first of what I hope will be many novels that deal with personality disorders and the complexities they add to individuals suffering from them. Further, this novel begins to challenge the idea that individuals with personality disorders cannot get better, a debate that is long running in psychology and psychiatry circles. However, many individuals learn to deal with emotions and begin to lead successful lives.

4 out of 5.

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.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest By Ken Kesey

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Author: Ken Kesey

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 1962

Blurb:

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. (From Goodreads, 21st August 2013)

Review:

‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the first modern classic I have read in the last two years, and I wish I had picked it up earlier! I had seen the film with Jack Nicholson a few times before I picked the book up, and like many book lovers I felt the book was much better – though the film is still fantastic!

As you can tell from the blurb, this is a novel set in a psychiatric hospital in America. We see the arrival of R. P. McMurphy onto the ward and the destruction he brings to Nurse Ratched’s ward. Nurse Ratched has control, she has always had control. She controls the patients, the staff, the doctors, everything. McMurphy however fights against her regime. Narrated by the Chief, a long-term, half-indian patient, we see the changes McMurphy brings to the ward, and the twisted response of Nurse Ratchet. I found that the novel presented Nurse Ratched in a more sinister way than the film, and felt a real hate for her whilst also recognising the patients fear.

This is a novel where the narration is fantastic. We see a troubled mind and the way the Chief see’s the world, the fog that controls time on the ward is fantastic imagery and way to present the heavy sedating drugs. There is humor, there is fear, there is power play, there is tragedy,  there is imagery, there is everything. This is a novel where I copied down so many quotes, where I just fell in love with the writing style, and a novel that I will read again and find new aspects, and new view points.

A novel that everyone should read. A novel I wish I studied at school. A novel that I will read again and again and again. A novel which I can’t give a proper review of because there is so many things to talk about, so much to take account of, and just so much packed into the pages.

Go out and buy this book if you have not got it. If you have, read it now. If you have read it before, read it again.

5 out of 5