I tend to drag my feet when asked to do book reviews, and I was turned off by the use of the phrase “mental patient” on the cover (in a quote from someone other than Helen Smole, but it still made me hesitant to read the book).
Well, I finally recovered from my knee-jerk reaction and read the book. I’m glad I did. Smole provides keen insight into the experience of a severe mental breakdown, important reminders about taking enough time and investing enough focus on recovery, and helpful information on the treatments, therapies, self-help techniques, and supports that she has tried over the course of her recovery and is currently practicing to maintain her mental health and well-being.
People with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses and their loved ones are likely to benefit from Smole’s description of the series of breakdowns she experienced on the road to accepting the fact that she has a mental illness. She describes the fear and denial she had to overcome. Her over 11 years of denial seem inconceivable, but when you read about her journey, it seems perfectly understandable why the diagnosis can be so difficult to accept.
What struck me most about Smole’s journey is how hard she worked at her recovery, and this is true for many who struggle with mental illness. It is almost like a full-time or at least a half-time job to keep appointments with doctors and therapists, research the illness and different medication and treatment options, keep a log of moods and medication changes, engage in therapy and self-help strategies, and make lifestyle adjustments to remove stressors and triggers.
Smole also reminds us that recovery doesn’t necessarily mean a return to life as it was before diagnosis. Recovery can be a rebirth, a transformation to a new and better life. Such a hopeful message is always welcome.