“No One Cares About Crazy People” by Ron Powers

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Photo provided by author

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers takes a look at the state of mental healthcare in America vis-à-vis his family’s experience with mental illness.

While some of the information (because it’s not just a memoir) such as the history of abuse in mental institutions and how deinstitutionalization of mental patients led to homelessness was fascinating, but I don’t need to know what studies have to say about deinstitutionalization, for example.

Because of this type of data, I began losing interest and found the book mostly boring. The chapters that discuss an aspect of mental healthcare were filled with facts and figures, none of which interested me. So I skimmed those chapters and only read the ones about the author’s 2 schizophrenic sons, and how the parents dealt with the illness. They both paid close attention to their kids’ behavior and mental states, good and bad.

No One Cares About Crazy People is informational, but what I found particularly interesting is the family’s story in relation to mental illness. I’m more interested in the human side of things rather than facts and figures. It’s not a bad book; I just didn’t like it. I’d say it’s worth a read, especially if you want to school yourself about mental healthcare in the U.S.

For a more in-depth review of this book, check out Mental Health @ Home.

“Gorilla and the Bird” by Zack McDermott

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Rolling Stone

Zack McDermott chronicles his psychotic/manic and depressive episodes in Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love. The author, a public defender, takes readers through his psychosis. It’s the raw, hard, truth of his experience and is difficult to read because, being bipolar myself, I could relate.

He describes his various experiences of going to the hospital and ending up in the psych ward. His stays sound frightening because my own experience with psych wards is tamer. For example, I’ve never had a nurse say to me, “I’m not a mental patient” (Loc. 2632) The context is irrelevant. The fact that the nurse said this is unacceptable.

McDermott also writes about growing up in Kansas. Gorilla is the nickname his mother gave him because of his size and the hair on his back. McDermott’s mom is the Bird, so named because her neck movements resemble a bird’s.

I have to be honest. I had a tough time reading the interactions with his mom. He doesn’t ever call her “Mom,” just “Bird” throughout the book. I realize that the word “mom” is a social construct, but I still found it weird that the author addresses his mom by a nickname. Also, their relationship was wonky to me — I got something like a sexual vibe from it. Even the author states, “I had a grand Oedipal complex” (Loc. 3578).

Also relatable (to me) is McDermott’s low self-esteem. At one point he says he might as well have “a permanent rubber stamp that I was a certified fuckup” (Loc. 3206). This type of declaration appears more than once.

Though, as I said, parts of this book can be difficult to read, I highly recommend it.

“Natural Disaster” by Ginger Zee

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target.com

I became interested in reading Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I Am One.,  by TV meteorologist,  Ginger Zee, because the media was saying that she was opening up about her mental illness (depression) in the book. Now, it’s not bad, but there’s only one chapter out of 20 or so, that addresses her depression, and even then she glosses over the events in her life while she was in the hospital. “[T]here are years of stories and experiences I don’t have time or don’t think are appropriate to share” (Loc. 1633) she writes.

Natural Disaster covers her life and career from childhood to present day. When she was feeling depressed, she wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Also, though I understand that it’s the title of the book, she uses the phrase “natural disaster” way too much. Overall, it was enjoyable, albeit not for her struggle with depression. I do think that Zee fans would really like this book.

“Mental” by Jaime Lowe

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penguinrandomhouse.com

NOTE: This isn’t a book review. Just my thoughts. ☺️

The full title for this book is Mental: Love, Lithium, and Losing My Mind. The author, a journalist, writes about her experience with bipolar from the time she was 16. The book opens with her going through a manic episode as a teenager. As such, I found the first chapter difficult to read, but it does illustrate what I imagine a manic episode would be like. (I’m bipolar 2, so I’ve experienced hypomanic episodes rather than full-blown mania.) Lowe goes on to chronicle her life since that first episode. It struck me as chaotic and cringeworthy, but she survived to write about it.

The author also writes about the history of lithium, as well as bipolar disorder. Her accounts aren’t too technical or anything like that, so it’s a pretty easy read. Overall, the book wasn’t too difficult to get through — just that first chapter, for me.