Family traditions are wonderful things, but when those family traditions involve mental illness, the idea of keeping such a tradition loses its luster.
Adrienne was from a family, unbeknownst to her, that had a tradition of mental illness. People didn’t talk about it. People said to forget it. The problem was that Adrienne eventually suffered from mental illness herself and it was something she was completely unprepared for, if anyone ever truly can be prepared for mental illness.
Adrienne is a writer. She moves with her husband to Knoxville, TN. She likes her new home well enough. She and her husband are expecting their first child. They know it will be a girl. During the pregnancy Adrienne worries, of course, as almost all women do, but it’s after the pregnancy that things get dicey. Adrienne feels she cannot be a mother. The burden of going through a somewhat traumatic birth and then trying to take care of a helpless infant takes its toll on Adrienne. When the baby is two weeks old, Adrienne checks herself into the hospital.
She knows there is something wrong with her. She starts a stay in the mental health wing of the hospital. By this time she has learned something about her family’s past with mental illness. Adrienne wants to leave the hospital, but knows she couldn’t handle it. Through a combination of therapy and medication, Adrienne is eventually allowed to leave the hospital and go back home to raise her baby. It’s not easy. She was diagnosed with postpartum depression, but depression must have been lurking around for a while.
She goes day by day. Eventually things get to where Adrienne can return to work and handle herself, but it’s not easy, mental illness never is.
What I liked
Adrienne’s book has given me so much insight into childbirth and mental illness. Adrienne doesn’t sugarcoat being pregnant and giving birth. She doesn’t sugarcoat the depression that comes afterwards. She’s very open about it. Indeed that was one of her purposes for writing this book. She wanted more people to be open about mental illness. The things Adrienne says about society and mental illness are true. We do treat it weirdly. We don’t know how to react to people who have mental illnesses. We don’t understand that people just can’t snap out of it.
We’re talking about genetic and chemical imbalances here, not just mood adjustments. Adrienne is very plain about all of this and I applaud her for it. Seriously, way to go, Adrienne. I am grateful that Adrienne was brave enough to write about her experience with both depression and postpartum depression. People like to pretend those things don’t exist and give them cutesy names like the baby blues and being down.
I think this is such an important service. We need to talk about things like this so people don’t think they’re the only ones suffering. We need to talk about things like this so the people who aren’t suffering from mental illness will quit being jerks about it. They’re never going to quit being jerks about mental illness unless they have the information to understand that it’s not simply a mood adjustment.
I am thoroughly impressed with this book.
What I didn’t like
There’s not a lot I didn’t like. Some of this was rough reading because of what happened to Adrienne and how awful it all sounded, but reality is rough. We need more reality in our lives. Sometimes we need to stop pussy-footing around each other while using endless amounts of pleasantries and just say it like it is. Mental illness is an illness. Adrienne is lucky that she doesn’t encounter too many people who treat her weirdly about it.
I’m sorry that Adrienne had to go through all of this. I feel bad for her. I understand what she felt because I’ve suffered with depression. I understand that emptiness and that unease she has with herself. It’s not easy; it’s extremely difficult.
Don’t you ever just tell someone who is depressed to just “cheer up;” it’s not going to do a darn bit of good.
If I run across other things Adrienne has written I will definitely read them.
If you suffer from mental illness, do you think people who don’t suffer can “get it”?
Do you think we should talk more about mental illness? Why? And how?