Madness is a real world for the many thousands of people who are right now living within it. It never apologises. Sometimes it is a shadow, ever present, without regard for the sun. Sometimes it is a well of dark water with no bottom, or a levitation device to the stars.
Madness, a memoir is an insight into what it’s like to live with psychosis over a period of ten years, in which bouts of acute illness are interspersed with periods of sanity. The world is beautiful and terrifying and sometimes magical. The sanctity of life is at times precious and at times precarious and always fragile. It’s a story of learning to manage illness with courage and creativity, of achieving balance and living well. It is for everyone now living within the world of madness, for everyone touched by this world, and for everyone seeking to further his or her understanding of it, whether you think of madness as a biological illness of the brain or an understandable part of the continuum of the human condition.
Occasionally I meet someone who is wide-eyed and innocent when it comes to mental illness. Not ignorance so much as complete and utter naiveté. These are people who admit they have had absolutely no experience with mental illness, whether it be themselves or by association. I’m always flabbergasted over this. I never know what to think, my brain freezes.
I see mental illness all around me. So many people have chronic depression, anxiety disorders, social disorders, personality disorders, you name it really. I’m always hard-pressed to think of someone who doesn’t, even mildly, suffer from some form of chronic illness. This is without bringing my brain into it which is chock-a-block with enough chronic conditions for ten people.
Madness: A Memoir is a great read for many reasons. I see it as an excellent introductory story to start with if you have had no experience with chronic illness, especially of the mental kind, and aren’t sure where to begin. Kate’s account gives an idea into life with psychosis, but with bypassing the confusion psychosis can cause the individual.
It’s easy for me to say so as I have my own forms of mental illness. There is much present in Kate’s story I can relate to. Issues with the health system, losing sense of self, lacking human contact, and truly believing the irrational are only some of the aspects people with mental illness can relate to. Kate has a great way of opening up about her experience. There’s a cadence to her writing style, which at times reminds me of irrational episodes, but the delivery is wonderfully structured.
I can understand if someone would not quite understand certain elements though. It is possible to question why someone wouldn’t seek help when they need it, or go so far as to try to cut their arm off, but that’s psychosis for you.
Speaking of which, that’s how Madness begins; she’s trying to cut her arm off. Is it any wonder I read this book in a few days rather than my usual week of reading? None at all! I was riveted. I was riveted all the way to the end. It wasn’t exactly fascinating, but it was engrossing from a chronically ill person’s perspective. It’s eye-opening being able to read another’s thoughts as they’re going through something that can be mirrored in part in your own life.
If you are interested in, or are considering, reading a true account of someone’s long-term experience with psychosis, I’d recommend Memoir: A Madness. I was moved enough to want to do something and I felt connected enough to not feel alone. Kate’s story impacts on many different levels.