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Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir Paperback – September 27, 2011
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I wrote Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So because I was increasingly annoyed with my younger self, who had wrapped up everything with a bow. You can try but you don’t just get to get over mental illness at age twenty-five, go to medical school, write a book, get married and call it a wrap.
In the seventies I was in so in love with the medical model I almost thought I had invented it. "No shame. No blame." I was thrilled to not have my health be dependent on the sanity of society or the wellness of those around me. I was magnanimous about not wanting to credit insight or hard work or circumstances like the kindness of others. Now, the medical model has morphed into "Shut up and take your pills." What passes for care is medication, medication, and more medication, the purpose of which is only incidentally and occasionally to help the patient get a life.
Much of mental illness is genetic, but I’m now quite sure there are people with more or less the same genetics I have who never go crazy and others who never get well. As a kid who wrote a little and painted a little and played a little music, I certainly didn’t want my mental health riding on anything as flimsy as my creative abilities but, among other things, I’ve come to see that a willingness to write, paint and play music is more than a little important to progress and just trying to keep my feet under me.
It was the feeling that good things had happened to me in spite of myself, that I had a rich life that showed itself in my house and how I practiced pediatrics and how we lived as a family that made me want to write Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So. I’m grateful to the gritty clench-jawed kid who wrote The Eden Express, I think it’s an excellent book, but I’m glad I’m not him anymore.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
By Mark Vonnegut's own admission, "craziness" ran in his family and manic depression affected at least four generations of the Vonneguts - and maybe even more. Alcoholism also seemed to be a common theme, with his great-grandfather drinking when he needed to escape from the voices he heard in his head. His maternal grandmother went through periods of psychiatric hospitalization.
When he wrote The Eden Express, Mark believed he had schizophrenia and was even formally diagnosed as schizophrenic. But he later decided that he actually had a form of bipolar illness, characterized by periods of mania as well as depression. Perhaps that is the prime reason his new book has more of an emphasis on bipolar illness. Vonnegut now questions the vitamin therapy which he credited in The Eden Express for much of his recovery. He has revisited that treatment option, noting it didn't work for many others.
Having read The Eden Express, I was eager to find out what had happened to Mark Vonnegut in the years since its publication. As it turns out, he'd not only gone to Harvard Medical School but became a practicing physician, all described in detail in his latest work.Read more ›
This is memoir also, of perseverance, told through a collection of thoughts, vignettes, and longer pieces. Vonnegut writes about attending Harvard Medical School (of twenty programs he applied to, his only acceptance); a passage describing his first patient death, alongside a staff nurse, reminded me how often nurses guide doctors-to-be through that experience. He writes about his practice as a pediatrician, including criticism of contemporary healthcare and the health-insurance industry. He includes passages about his own childhood -- his weirdly prescient (and mentally ill) mother; his plainly weird (and genius) father (before he was successful and famous); the orphaned cousins his parents took in and raised as his siblings. He describes a medical mission to Honduras. He examines marriage, fatherhood, being alcoholic ... and a fourth psychotic episode, wherein he takes us inside his mind as it breaks down.
Each chapter opens with a personal photo or sample of his own artwork, and he includes bits of advice about sanity and sobriety throughout, for example: "It's possible within any given moment of any given day to choose between self and sickness. Rarely are there big heroic choices that will settle matters once and for all. The smallest positive step is probably the right one."
Vonnegut is curious, optimistic, fun, philosophical ... and this gentle memoir is highly recommended.
Mark Vonnegut has written only one other book, a memoir 35 years ago. The Eden Express, an insider's tale of mental illness, was a smashing success, enough to finance the author's med school and buy him a house. I must have read the book, probably soon after it came out, because my brother said I lent it to him years ago. But I can't remember it at all, so I'll have to find a copy and read it again. Since I'm a few years older than Mark Vonnegut, I guess I'll just chalk my forgetfulness up to age. Because I love this new book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For young people with mental illnesses trying to navigate academic, romantic, and professional life with some kind of grace, this book is a godsend and Mark is an angel. Read morePublished 11 days ago by al
This book is so out of touch with reality. The authors famous dad sold this book. I have severe Bipolar, Borderline, ADD, Anxiety, and suicidal depression. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Summer Skye
And makes fun of Kurt too. Very good read. Highly recommend this book to anyone. Five more words required periodPublished 10 months ago by Nuggetroid
This book is such a masterpiece! The author has such an insightful point of view on life. I have so many things I've underlined in book, because it is just FULL of great knowledge... Read morePublished 11 months ago by steph
Pretty much the sequel to "Eden ...", by the same author, and just as powerful. The impact comes from the matter-of-fact style of memoir writing of a "recovering"... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Lamplighter
Charming. It gave lots of insight into Vonnegut's type of mental illness.Published 12 months ago by LOIS