Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks

From Google Books: Elyn R. Saks is an esteemed professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist and is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Law School, yet she has suffered from schizo-affective disorder (a form of schizophrenia) for most of her life, and still has ongoing major episodes of the illness. The Center Cannot Hold is the eloquent, m oving story of Elyn's life, from the first time that she heard voices speaking to her as a young teenager, to attempted suicides in college, through learning to live on her own as an adult in an often terrifying world. Saks discusses frankly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, the voices in her head telling her to kill herself (and to harm others); as well the incredibly difficult obstacles she overcame to become a highly respected professional. This beautifully written memoir is destined to become a classic in its genre. The title is a line from "The Second Coming," a poem by William Butler Yeats, which is alluded to in the book.

January 25, 2013. Elen Saks had an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times:  "Successful and Schizophrenic" It is well worth reading.

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
By Elyn R. Saks
Published by Hyperion, 2007
ISBN 140130138X, 9781401301385
340 pages

Also available in audio format.

This is an extraordinary book which gives insight into the mind of a professional with schzophrenia. It ranks with Kay Jamison's book, "An Unquiet Mind."

Here is a talk given by Elyn Saks to a lay audience at USC Law School. You will have to go to the posting of January 26, 2009. Saks bio.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lucky by Alice Sebold

1. This is the true story of the brutual assault and rape of Alice Sebold, author "Lovely Bones." This book is not for everyone because it details a quite disturbing rape in the first several pages. What follows is a realistic look at what a victim would experience as they go through their recovery and trial. The author is quite fortunate in that her rapist is caught and sentenced to a maximum sentence for the crime. While this book can be shocking at times, it gives an excellent insight to what a victim of this sort of crime would go through as they heal." Sonnet Davis, Resident Scholar

2. Alice Sebold documents the account of her rape in 1981, as a college freshman at Syracuse. The horrible incident is only the beginning--the book details all of the aftermath as well. She has to deal with telling the police, her friends, and family, who try to be supportive but don't know how to. She becomes known as "the girl who was raped" by fellow classmates. She finishes out her first year of college, discovering that writing has become a method of catharsis in dealing with the rape.
Later, Alice faces her rapist in court and must testify against him. Maintaining a normal life as a college student has become difficult for her. She makes some friends and even goes on a few dates, but the healing process is a long one, and the rape haunts her for some time. However, despite the rather graphic description of the rape, the novel is overall triumphant and encouraging." Cassie, Resident Scholar

A powerful, dark, memorable book. Took bravery to write.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese

From Publishers Weekly
In his eloquent memoir, My Own Country, Verghese described a parallel story, that of a stranger (himself) and AIDS both becoming part of a rural Tennessee town. Once again, Verghese weaves his own story with that of a place and another person to come up with something moving and insightful. As he tries to cope with a new job on the faculty of Texas Tech School of Medicine, the move to El Paso and the breakdown of his marriage, he meets David, a medical student and former tennis pro. Tennis matches with David reawaken Verghese's passion for the game, and soon the two become regular partners. Their connection is complicated by their shifting roles: Verghese, David's teacher in the hospital wards, becomes his student on the tennis court. For Verghese, the matches offer an escape from loneliness; for David, a recovering drug addict, even more is at stake. Only on the court can they reach a state of grace: "our tennis partnership was special, different, sacred like a marriage." Ultimately, as David's life takes some disturbing turns, Verghese finds himself forced to choose between his role as friend and that of authority figure. While David's story provides the main narrative drive of the book, it's interwoven with Verghese's descriptions of his AIDS patients, his relationship with his sons and meditations on El Paso's distinctive landscape. It's a hard trick but Verghese combines all these elements into a cohesive whole, moving easily between moments of quiet reflection and anxious anticipation. If, as he writes, "to tell a life story [is] to engage in a form of seduction," then Verghese is a master of romance. Agent, Mary Evans. Author tour.-- to engage in a form of seduction," then Verghese is a master of romance. Agent, Mary Evans. Author tour.

Also see excellent review "Match Point" from the NY Times.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison

Kay Jamison's An Unquiet Mind is a memorable ride. In our opinion, it is perhaps the single most important book about bipolar illness. It took great courage to write this, and it gives the medical and lay reader great insight into this disorder.

From Amazon Review: Review
In this book Kay Jamison turns the mirror on herself. With breathtaking honesty she tells of her own manic depression, the bitter costs of her illness, and its paradoxical benefits: "There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness and terror involved in this kind of madness.... It will never end, for madness carves its own reality." This is one of the best scientific autobiographies ever written, a combination of clarity, truth, and insight into human character. "We are all, as Byron put it, differently organized," Jamison writes. "We each move within the restraints of our temperament and live up only partially to its possibilities." Jamison's ability to live fully within her limitations is an inspiration to her fellow mortals, whatever our particular burdens may be. --Mary Ellen Curtin

"I have often asked myself whether, given the choice, I would choose to have manic-depressive illness. If lithium were not available to me, or didn't work for me, the answer would be a simple no... and it would be an answer laced with terror. But lithium does work for me, and therefore I can afford to pose the question. Strangely enough, I think I would choose to have it. It's complicated... I honestly believe that as a result of it I have felt more things, more deeply; had more experiences, more intensely; loved more, and have been more loved; laughed more often for having cried more often; appreciated more the springs, for all the winters... Depressed, I have crawled on my hands and knees in order to get across a room and have done it for month after month. But normal or manic I have run faster, thought faster, and loved faster than most I know."-- Kay Redfield Jamison

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Jester Lost His Jingle by David Saltzman

From The The Jester Has Lost His Jingle was written and illustrated by David Saltzman as his senior project at Yale before he died of Hodgkin's disease on March 2, 1990, 11 days before his 23rd birthday.
The 64-page hardcover full-color book has reached the best-seller lists of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly. The self-empowering message of the story - "When you're feeling lonely, or sad, or bad or blue, remember where laughter's hiding…It's hiding inside of YOU!" - is never lost on youngsters.
In David Saltzman's charming tale, The Jester awakes one morning to find laughter missing in his kingdom. So he and his helpmate, Pharley, "a piece of talking wood," set off on a quest to find it. They ultimately discover that not only can laughter redeem a weary world, it also can provide the best tonic for anyone facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

In a moving Afterword, Maurice Sendak, the esteemed children's book author-artist of Where the Wild Things Are, writes about David's Jester:
"Our lives briefly touched. But I remember him among all the eager, talented young people I've bumped into along the way. I remember the face - the enthusiasm - the intelligence and unaffected extraordinariness of David Saltzman. It is difficult to remember all the bright, promising youngsters. It is easy to remember David.
That he died before his 23rd birthday is a tragedy beyond words. That he managed through his harrowing ordeal to produce a picture book so brimming with promise and strength, so full of high spirits, sheer courage and humor is nothing short of a miracle. Even the rough patches that David the artist would surely have set to right had he been given the time become all the more precious for the wild light they shed on his urgent, exploding talent.
David was a natural craftsman and storyteller. His passionate picture book is issued out of a passionate heart.
David's Jester soars with life."

Here is a tribute to David Salzman.

As I Live and Breathe

From Google Reader: Jamie Weisman was a patient long before she was a doctor. She was born with a rare defect in her immune system that leaves her prey to a range of ailments and crises and that, because it is treatable but not curable, will keep her a patient for life. In this probing and inspiring book, she brings her sojourns on both sides of the doctor-patient divide to bear on the issues of the flesh that preoccupy us all. It is a worthy addition to the best that has been written about our physical selves, a meditation on our extraordinary powers of healing and the limitations that leave intact the miracle and tragedy of being.

From Curled Up With A Good Book: Jamie Weisman is a doctor with true empathy. Empathy is not just feeling pity for someone, but is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and walk around in them. To know what that person knows in that situation, to understand exactly how they feel. Jamie Weisman suffers from a congenital immune deficiency disorder.

It took eleven years of misdiagnosis, unnecessary surgery, bone marrow biopsies and the insult of being called a hypochondriac. After all of this, being around good and bad doctors, Jamie decided to become one herself. Her unique understanding of what a patient feels gives her the ability to comfort her patients, to help them understand what they are being told and how it will affect them. She can put herself in their shoes and walk around because she’s been there.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins

Full title: Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient

From Amazon: Anatomy of an Illness was the first book by a patient that spoke to our current interest in taking charge of our own health. It started the revolution in patients working with their doctors and using humor to boost their bodies' capacity for healing. When Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a crippling and irreversible disease, he forged an unusual collaboration with his physician, and together they were able to beat the odds. The doctor's genius was in helping his patient to use his own powers: laughter, courage, and tenacity. The patient's talent was in mobilizing his body's own natural resources, proving what an effective healing tool the mind can be. This remarkable story of the triumph of the human spirit is truly inspirational reading.

DJE: This is a classic and well worth reading. It is can be gotten from many sources relatively inexpensively.

Time on Fire by Evan Handler

My Comedy of Terrors

From Library Journal
Until he was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 24, Handler was a talented actor with a promising Broadway career and all the time in the world. But the bleak prognosis transformed time into "a concrete entity" not to be wasted. Resigning his understudy's role in Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues, Handler checked himself into New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, embarking on a five-year battle to get a second chance at life and time. Adapted from his successful off-Broadway one-man play, Time on Fire recounts with grim humor Handler's hellish journey through the land of the sick: insensitive doctors; experimental chemotherapies sometimes worse than the illness; awkward sex with his girlfriend in a hospital bathroom; remission, relapse, remission. Self-absorbed (with the actor's desire to be at the center of attention), Handler does not always come across as an admirable figure; he was hard on his supportive parents and girlfriend. "I must have been sheer hell to be around," he admits. "But I know it saved my life on several occasions." His honesty and tenacity, however, enable readers to cheer his eventual recovery

DJE: This is a memorable, irreverent book. Well worth reading. It's hard to get, better to try a library unless you are willing to spend ~ $10 including shipping from ABE Books.

Darkness Visible by William Styron Review
In 1985 William Styron fell victim to a crippling and almost suicidal depression, the same illness that took the lives of Randall Jarrell, Primo Levi and Virginia Woolf. That Styron survived his descent into madness is something of a miracle. That he manages to convey its tortuous progression and his eventual recovery with such candor and precision makes Darkness Visible a rare feat of literature, a book that will arouse a shock of recognition even in those readers who have been spared the suffering it describes.

This book is < 100 pages. It is memorable and important.

Darkness Visible can be purchased inexpensively from ABE Books

Don't Leave Me This Way by Julia Fox Garrison

Or When I Get Back on My Feet You'll Be Sorry

DJE Review on Amazon: This is a stunningly important book which should be required reading for all medical and nursing students, and all others who are concerned with the acute care and rehabilitation of stroke patients, whether they are part of the professional therapeutic team, family or friends. This book is destined to become a classic in the field. It will also be invaluable to patients and families who are facing daunting challenges. With humor and the wisdom of experience it is a guide to overcoming the often overly pessimistic predictions of many care givers. Ms. Garrison's book is well-written, indeed often funny. Beware... if you pick it up, you may be glued to your seat for hours.

Can be purchased for ~ $1.00 from ABE Books.

Being Brett by Douglas Hobbie

Chronicle of a Daughter's Death

From Publishers Weekly
In this painfully honest account, Hobbie (Boomfell) details his daughter Brett's five-year battle with Hodgkin's disease. Brett, a talented 23-year-old artist, had just begun an independent life in San Francisco when she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Although the initial treatment appeared to be effective, the disease recurred and Brett continued chemotherapy and radiation, also undergoing a devastating bone marrow transplant. Hobbie paints a vivid picture of his energetic, loving daughter and their relationship, as well as the emotional impact of her condition on his wife, his other daughter and son and on Brett's incredibly supportive lover, Beth. When Brett's condition became hopeless, she returned with Beth to Massachusetts to be near her family. Hobbie's harrowing account of Brett's last days is a shattering portrait of how a family struggles through the loss of one of its beloved members.

This bok is available for ~ $1.00 from ABE Books

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

From Publishers Weekly
"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who despair," begins Solomon's expansive and astutely observed examination of the experience, origins, and cultural manifestations of depression. While placing his study in a broad social contex-- according to recent research, some 19 million Americans suffer from chronic depression--he also chronicles his own battle with the disease. Beginning just after his senior year in college, Solomon began experiencing crippling episodes of depression. They became so bad that after losing his mother to cancer and his therapist to retirement he attempted (unsuccessfully) to contract HIV so that he would have a reason to kill himself. Attempting to put depression and its treatments in a cross-cultural context, he draws effectively and skillfully on medical studies, historical and sociological literature, and anecdotal evidence, analyzing studies of depression in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Inuit life in Greenland, the use of electroshock therapy and the connections between depression and suicide in the U.S. and other cultures. In examining depression as a cultural phenomenon, he cites many literary melancholics Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, John Milton, Shakespeare, John Keats, and George Eliot as well as such thinkers as Freud and Hegel, to map out his "atlas" of the condition. Smart, empathetic, and exhibiting a wide and resonant knowledge of the topic, Solomon has provided an enlightening and sobering window onto both the medical and imaginative worlds of depression. (June)Forecast: Excerpted last year in the New Yorker, this pathbreaking work is bound to attract major review attention and media, boosted by a seven-city tour.