Craziness also runs in the family. I can trace manic depression back several generations. We have episodes of hearing voices, delusions, hyper-religiosity, and periods of not being able to eat or sleep. These episodes are remarkably similar across generations and between individuals. It's like an apocalyptic disintegration sequence that might be useful if the world really is ending, but if the world is not ending, you just end up in a nuthouse. If we're lucky enough to get better, we have to deal with people who seem unaware of our heroism and who treat us as if we are just mentally ill.

This is Mark Vonnegut's second memoir. (Kurt Vonnegut's son.) The first one explains how he had a psychotic break while a young man living on a commune. Due to the circumstances, everyone at the commune just thought he'd become spiritually advanced. Eventually, his parents stepped in to rescue him. It concluded with the note that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia but apparently "recovered," which is unusual, especially given that it all went down in the 1960s. I had wondered if he'd been misdiagnosed.

His second memoir picks up many years later. He became a successful doctor... who periodically had psychotic breaks, to go with his drinking problem and falling-apart family life. But it's not primarily a story about pain and problems, but about one man's particular life. Every life has problems. Usually they don't involve being put in a straightjacket every ten years or so. But that's Mark Vonnegut's particular issue, or one of them, anyway, and he treats it very much in the manner of "everyone's got problems."

The memoir is at least as much about being a doctor as it is about having a mental illness of a somewhat mysterious nature. (He gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder later, but that might not be it either. Whatever he has, it's atypical.) It's also about life, and art, and being a misfit in a screwed-up society, and also about being his father's son (Chapter title: "There is Nothing Quite So Final As A Dead Father"). And accidentally poisoning himself with his shiny new hobby of mushroom hunting.

It's all over the place and hard to describe, but enormously funny, enjoyable, quotable, and wise. Its humane, humorous, epigrammatic tone reminded me a bit of James Herriot, and I love James Herriot. Unless you're really squicked by medical stuff or triggered by mental illness, this is the sort of book I'd recommend to just about anyone.

Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir
meara: (Default)

From: [personal profile] meara


Wow, this sounds like exactly something I would be interested in reading! How much do I love that it is the future, and I can hear about this, go to Amazon, and seconds later have a sample on my Kindle? Yay.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


I have this but haven't read it yet - I have read Eden Express a couple of times, and it's interesting because it really traces that kind of tipping point between "dropping out of society to be enlightened" and "major psychosis." But this one sounds more relaxed and humorous.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


It is very, very funny. I think I fell for it around this line:

"I can pass for normal most of the time, but I understand perfectly why some of my autistic patients scream and flap their arms -- it's to frighten off extroverts."
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong

Belated thought


it's interesting because it really traces that kind of tipping point between "dropping out of society to be enlightened" and "major psychosis."

By way of parallel: Just Like Someone wanders rather happily back and forth across the tipping point between "trying to save the world through primary care pediatrics" and "major psychosis".

Having read The Eden Express way back when, it was lovely for me to find this book and go: oh, that kid, he turned out well.

For values of "well" which include the odd psychotic episode and being a recovering alcoholic and Xanax addict. Which, sometimes, they do.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong

Re: Belated thought


Via the Fat Nutritionist, a thought-provoking quote:

Health can be redefined as the manner in which we live well despite our inescapable illnesses, disabilities, and trauma.

- Jon Robison
wordweaverlynn: (Default)

From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn


I loved The Eden Express -- I'll have to look for this.
smw: A woman sits at a typewriter, pages flying, a plug in the back of her awesomely big-curly hair. (Default)

From: [personal profile] smw


There's another book for my to-buy list. The representation of an atypical mental illness has me particularly eager to read.
zdenka: A woman touching open books, with loose pages blowing around her (books)

From: [personal profile] zdenka


Sounds intriguing.

(One very minor issue: the word is properly straitjacket. Strait as in tight or narrow.)

From: [identity profile] anait.livejournal.com


Its humane, humorous, epigrammatic tone reminded me a bit of James Herriot, and I love James Herriot.

That's a high recommendation!

From: [identity profile] desperance.livejournal.com


I loved his first book, and keep it by; I didn't know there was a second, so thanks for this.

Also, am currently reading yours...
.

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