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Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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Mark Vonnegut on Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So
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.
From Publishers Weekly
Two not unrelated challenges--being novelist Kurt Vonnegut's son and suffering episodes of schizophrenia--shape, but don't confine, this mordantly witty, slightly subversive memoir. Vonnegut (The Eden Express) weathered a scruffy childhood with his as yet obscure dad ("I'll always remember my father as the world's worst car salesman") and was hospitalized for three bouts of psychosis in his 20s. He recovered and went on to Harvard Medical School and a successful career in pediatrics--then a fourth psychotic break upended him 14 years after the first one. (Taken to the hospital where he worked, he found himself greeting colleagues while tied to a gurney.) Vonnegut vividly conveys the bizarre logic of the voices and delusions that occasionally plagued him, which he finds not much nuttier than what passes for normalcy. (He's especially incensed by the insurance bureaucracies he thinks are ruining medicine.) His father's son, he writes with a matter-of-fact absurdism--"The patient who just died lies there quietly and everyone else stops rushing around trying to do something about it"--champions misfits, and attacks the system. All his own are Vonnegut's hard-won insights into the value of a humble, useful life picked up from pieces. Photos.
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Top customer reviews
Dr. Mark Vonnegut, a pediatrician based in Massachusetts, is an individual who has bipolar illness, (formerly known as manic depression) and through Mark Vonnegut's eyes, the reader comes to understand that with the right management, this often-crippling condition can enable a person to have a family and a career to live a fulfilling, happy functional life.
Those who love Kurt Vonnegut's novels will enjoy this peek at the Vonnegut family history, and in particular, snippets about Mark's life and about his parents, and particularly on Kurt Vonnegut's intense, post-traumatic WWII stress.
I saw Slaughterhouse Five again after first reading this book in 2011, and fully understood how earlier impressions of Slaughterhouse Five in the 70s failed to do the novel justice, as SF is actually a story about war and post-traumatic stress and that it became a cult classic by virtue of its popular appeal, which ironically did not do the novel justice.
Aside from Mark's bipolar illness, growing up with someone who experienced the horrific level of trauma that Mark Vonnegut did in the WWII theatres he participated in, is also extremely stressful, and this reader cannot imagine the toll this took on Kurt Vonnegut's life, at a time when little attention was paid to PTSD. Mark Vo
Mark Vonnegut's memoir is a fascinating and gripping story, is humanely written and brightens a readers perspective on bipolar illness.
This is a very important book for anyone to read, particularly anybody who has ever known anyone who has bipolar illness, as it sheds light on the all-too-often dark (and hidden) shadows of mental conditions.
Maybe it will help those who don't claim mental illness as part of their dossier, realize that the mentally ill can contribute as well. And those who do have mental illness as part of their life, may find that a person doesn't have to be defined by it.
If you have a mental illness, if you know someone who has a mental illness, or if you're just curious, this is a terrific book.
Most recent customer reviews
insight and understanding. Very well written.