Considering how prevalent mental illness is, why do so few bloggers talk about it?

The aim of this blog is to write about my experience with mental illness, developments in my life as well as issues in the field of mental health all the while keeping a feminist framework.

I hope you can take something from this blog, whatever that may be.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness

Ive just started to read ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’ as I am on a kick to read books related to mental illness. It got me thinking, however, that I hadn’t reviewed another mental illness themed book that I have read! Two months or so ago I went to the launch of the book “Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness”. It was really interesting. The co-authors spoke and had a short Q&A. I even ended up winning a $50 gift certificate to a local book store so I definitely have warm memories of the evening.
Anyways, this book is a collaboration between two brothers. One drew the pictures, in this intriguing scribbling style, and the other wrote about his family’s history of mental illness. Not only does this book document the experience of their younger brother with schizophrenia and his suicide, but also the artist’s history of mental illness.
The combination of imagery and text weaves an interesting story and leads the reader along a path of questioning. How do we relate to others? How do we deal with the suffering of others? How do we deal with our own pain?
What I liked about this book was that it painted a very realistic picture of mental illness. It is a raw portrayal of a severe disease. The book talks about doctors, medicine, institutionalization. It also focuses on the short comings of ‘the system’ which I particularly liked – there are so many shortcomings that we do not like to admit to.
One critique I had was the doomed attitude read in the book. So jaded by the system the brother who writes the family’s story is pessimistic in his outlook of the future. While this is, in its self, realistic, it is unhopeful and I think that ultimately, the reader wants to see hope for the characters. Meeting the brothers and asking them a few questions I could see there was hope: they had strong bonds between most of the family members, the brother was getting help and was gaining new support systems often, there was stability. These are details missed by readers of the book who do not have the opportunity to meet the co-creators.
I do recommend this book for those readers who want to see a realistic view of mental illness, but should not be swayed by the doom-y outlook. There is hope. We see hope when a mental illness sufferer (or survivor) stabilizes or recovers; when they find solace in an activity that can distract them from the pain or channel their energy; when new treatments come out. There is hope when one person is able to live one more day.

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