Friday, September 30, 2011

An Unquiet Mind, Revisited

Just ran across this review of "An Unquiet Mind" that I wrote a couple of years ago. As I go back through blog posts, Twitter feeds, book reviews, etc., it amazes me how difficult a time *I* was having... and how I was paying NO attention to that whatsoever. It was all about someone else. And really, in this book, that's how Jamison seems to think it should be.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and MadnessAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just had the opportunity to re-read this book when it was offered on the Kindle, and I was surprised. I seemed to remember it as being immensely insightful the first time I read it, but consider that that was immediately after my husband's initial bipolar 1 diagnosis. This was the first book everyone was recommending back then.

Now, several years of living with a bipolar spouse later, I read it and think, "Meh." I have tremendous respect for Jamison as a leader in this field of study, but I can't figure out what she was going for in this memoir. It seems to have been written more FOR herself than about herself, if that makes sense--it reads as very personal and cathartic.

Is it helpful for others, though? I'm not so sure. There are some wonderful passages in which she borrows from images in poetry and literature, and those, for me, make the book worth reading. But I don't get much of a sense of hope for those dealing with manic-depressive illness, because Jamison's resources were/are simply out of the reach of most of us.

If my husband had access to the level of care that Jamison has enjoyed throughout her life, he'd probably be doing much better. Who WOULDN'T thrive with near-daily psychiatric attention and round-the-clock home care (which, just by the way, is provided by friends/family/lovers, most of whom happen to be practicing psychiatrists)? Heck, I'd like to get in on some of that, myself. As it is, we receive financial assistance from our physicians, to lower our co-pay, so that he can see a therapist (not an MD, but a psychologist) once a week, and even that's a burden. Then there's couples therapy, because this disease puts a mighty strain on a marriage.

As someone in the "caretaker" role, to use Jamison's own terminology, I found the message of the memoir a bit burdensome. Yes, she shows great appreciation for her loved ones and their unflagging support. She also puts ENORMOUS weight on that support as being the key to her success. That only reads as a compliment the first few times, then it becomes a sledge-hammer of obligation and guilt.

I don't know--I'm conflicted this time around. It's a bit of "thank you for being there," and a bit of "but for you, I'd be dead." That's a lot of pressure, gratitude or no.

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Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)Feed by Mira Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bloggers, zombies, and political far, so good!

OK, forgot to update when I finished this one. Not really sure what to say, though, because there are sequels, and I'm kinda hamstrung by SO MUCH SPOILER. BUT. I really, really liked the "zombie origination" canon put forth in this novel. Very clever and creative...and plausible, if you just don't peek too far behind the curtain. I also like the idea of the CDC having to become all badass in the face of the Zombie Epidemic.

The most unbelievable part of all was the character of the Republican presidential candidate who was a super-good guy, honest, ethical to a fault, etc. COME ON, now. Zombies are one thing, but that? Suspension of disbelief only carries so far. ;-P

Anyway, not as epic and detailed and researched as World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, but then, it's only part one of what I understand is a trilogy at least. I'm not sure that I'm terribly interested in the sequels after the way this one ended, but we'll see how bored I get in the upcoming months and if I cave and go for part 2.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dear Child: There Are Things I Want You To Remember About Your Father

Dearest One, you have seen a lot that is not good. Too much for your age, by far. Arguments that never should have happened in front of you. The turmoil and consequences of over-spending issues. Anger. Lots of misdirected anger. All things that go along with having a parent with a mood disorder. You know that he and I can't be married any more, and you know most of the reasons why. But this is not about that. I want to take a moment, and tell you some things you may not know, or that you may not be remembering in this tumultuous time, about your father when he is stable, and the ways he treated me which were good--even if, at the same time, he was doing things that weren't good--that's called "compartmentalizing," and maybe we'll talk about that another time. But for now, here are some things that happened during good times that I want you to remember.

Your dad was the first man in my life who really "got" me. Understood me. Knew where I was coming from; finished my sentences. Read and appreciated the same BOOKS as I did (that one was HUGE, and quite possibly sealed the deal).

We could break ourselves up in hopeless laughter just by exchanging a look and an implied inside joke, and sometimes by pointedly NOT looking at each other for just that reason, in circumstances where snorting laughter would not be

Your father listened to me...a lot, and he remembered what I said. I could mention how much I enjoyed something, or how I wished I could find a rare out-of-print book that I'd read once in college...months would go by, and then suddenly a surprise: season tickets to the Symphony; a copy of "Horses of the Sahara." That kind of thing.

Your dad never let a day go by without telling me I was beautiful. Never. Even when I decidedly was NOT beautiful (like waking up from surgery, all green and bloated), he would tell me that I was; not because he thought I wanted to hear it, but because he thought it was true.

Until the night we separated, your father had never, ever, even once, even in the deepest rage (and you know there were some hellacious rages), called me a name. Not. Once. Yes, he cursed and raged at me on many occasions, but nothing from him ever started with anything like, "You are such a(n)...".

Your dad wrote me poems. Love poems. Many of them, over the years, and I hope that I've saved enough of them for you to get an idea of what we had when things were good.

I know that you know how many years I fought for, advocated for, and took care of your father. What you might not know is that, before you were born, before we were even married, he did the same for me. He slept on a pull-out bed in a tiny hospital room hundreds of miles from home for two weeks, while I slept an unwaking sleep and my body decided whether or not to give up. He did incredibly thoughtful things to help bring me out of that pseudo-coma, from locating my favorite essential oils to fragrance the room, to seeking out my favorite music to play for me as I slept. He harassed nurses when I didn't get enough attention. He questioned doctors, and went with me to every appointment. He could have walked away at any time, but he didn't.

When told that I would likely never have children, he declared that he wanted to marry me no matter what. I even remember the conversation--me saying, "But what if I can never have children?" And his immediate answer: "Then WE can never have children."

All by himself, he picked out the most perfect, amazing engagement/wedding ring I could ever have imagined--you know I'm not a big jewelry person, but that ring is just perfection. It belongs to you now. Let the diamond represent you, the precious gem we created out of love, and let the bands on either side of the diamond represent your parents, one on each side, embracing you with love your whole life through, even if we don't all live together.

When he found out that I was pregnant with a little girl, your father wept with joy. Not just a couple of tears; he absolutely wept, he was that happy.

The man rescued a goose with a broken wing from the side of a busy interstate, just because I looked at him, and he knew what I was thinking. We took it home in a Wal*Mart sack with its head poking out, and it lived many happy years on our pond.

On the way home from a dog show once, on a very lonely stretch of highway with no towns for miles in either direction, we came upon an older lady looking lost and alone, standing beside her car with the trunk open, and a very flat tire. Without hesitation, your dad pulled over, got out, and changed the tire for the stranger. He did this sort of thing often, once upon a time.

He taught you the "Whoo, Pig Sooie" cheer before you could walk.

Your dad has always been good about playing with you, at least when he was having "good days." He didn't hesitate, on those days, to get down on the floor with you and build things with blocks, to cut out construction paper shapes, to draw pictures and color, to play board games and card games...even though you are a notorious cheat, and frequently change the rules mid-game if it looks like you're losing.

Your father has always been, and still is, so proud of you and who you are. Never let anything that has happened between he and I affect what you have between the two of you.

I'd like to say that there have been as many good times as bad for the two of us, and for a long time I believed that... but looking back, and knowing what I know now, I'm afraid that's not the case. I do not know what your assessment will ultimately be of that sort of up/down/mixed-up ratio between the two of you, but I can tell you that when he could, he tried hard.

He mostly, for you, did the best he could with the tools he had. And he loves you as much as he can possibly love anyone or anything. Since we are now removed from the daily turmoil and chaos, my hope is that we can all get along and be a family--a different kind of family than we once were, but a family nonetheless. I think that, ultimately, even though I know he misses you desperately, your father is glad that you have gained some peace in your daily life, and that you're no longer walking on eggshells every day.

Child, you are loved and cherished. By both of us, even if one can no longer be with us like before.