Book Lovers Corner: ‘Sharp: A Memoir’

C.R. writes: By now, you’ve probably read or at least heard of Sharp by David Fitzpatrick. PsychCentral’s Margarita Tartakovsky interviewed the author last summer.

I read the memoir for the first time recently because I was seeking information on self harm. I don’t recall a book making me cry before. Actually, not merely cry but sob out loud. The language and the story are roiling, painful, raw, lush, and ultimately very uplifting—but absolutely not for the faint of heart.

David was obviously a very bright, sensitive child. But when his brother started to abuse him, he taught himself how to practically nullify himself with passivity. In college, during intense drug and alcohol binges, his roommates also abused him, covering him with food. This went on for the majority of his time in school. He doesn’t fight back, but remains passive.

At some point, he describes a veil dropping down between him and the world. The veil didn’t lift for 17 years. Only after 30 hospitalizations, and multiple incidents of manic episodes, depression, and self harm, including what can be described as orgies of cutting and blood-letting.

Yet, with the support of therapists, especially one who really helped him set and work on goals,  as well as love from family and friends, and medication, David’s veil lifted. He completed an MFA in writing, got married, and wrote a bestselling book.

He has the unique ability to open himself up to the world and invite it in. That sensitivity, is perhaps a component of his personality that opened himself up to such pain, but it also informs his awareness of the beauty of life.

Upon discussing this book with others, including the cutter who suggested I read it to better understand what she was going through, I was reminded that Sharp might be triggering to some (which Margarita Tartakovsky did point out in her blog post.) Perhaps especially for people who are depressed or bipolar and/or who self-harm.

If you haven’t read Sharp and are worried about being triggered, discuss this first with your therapist. Perhaps he or she can read it with you or you can read it in a group.  If you feel reading Sharp might be too intense for you, you can still take in some of David Fitzpatrick’s message. I suggest the video, above.

David Fitzpatrick emerged from the depths of mental illness and self-loathing to self-awareness. He appears to live and write with bare-bones honesty. He also is immensely talented, with a bit larger than life writing ability, and he has something to say that’s never been said in this way before. There’s a compelling mix of sweetness, innocence, and the darkest dark.

His journey, like his book, can teach us how to learn to love your self, to appreciate your talents, your kindness, your goofiness, your love-ableness, and to take that first step out of the clutch and thrall of the pit inside. It’s a story of hope, hard work, and grace.