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Book Reviews   |    
How Do You Grab a Naked Lady? A Memoir

by Sharon L. Hicks ; Bloomington, Indiana, Abbott Press, 2012, 276 pages

Reviewed by Deborah L. Flores, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.650105
View Author and Article Information

Dr. Flores is associate clinical professor with the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California.

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Sharon L. Hicks’ book is a view into the unpredictable world of bipolar disorder with her mother and all the consequences that come with it. Sharon’s mother began exhibiting affective symptoms after Sharon was born in 1940. After about a year of depression, Sharon’s mother was treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and was immediately better (or was she?). Her mother was always on the irritable-manic end of the spectrum and was emotionally abusive toward Sharon and her father when she was in this state. She was also hypersexual, frequently disrobing in public and cursing like a sailor during her episodes. The title of this book was derived from a time when her mother disrobed in a department store. A police officer tried to cover her with a blanket before arresting her, but she continually threw the blanket off and had to be taken away in the nude.

Sharon describes her disillusionments with psychiatrists who had promised to make her mother well or better, when in reality they had at times stabilized her or sometimes even made her worse. At one point they had suggested a lobotomy, but her father had rejected the procedure. Another time, her mother had received multiple sessions of ECT, which helped with her manias but left her with severe memory lapses. To Sharon, this was not what the psychiatrists meant when they promised to “make her well.”

Throughout all of the struggles with her mother, Sharon was also trying to live a “normal” life of her own but managed to get involved in multiple relationships with emotionally and physically abusive men. She also took over her father’s failing real estate business after his passing and managed to get it out of potential bankruptcy.

Sharon’s mother was eventually diagnosed as having dementia and was placed in a locked facility, where she was cared for until she died of a stroke.

This is an emotionally intense book. It is an entertaining and uncomplicated read for those who have never experienced a family member with mental illness. One will empathize with Sharon’s yearning for a more predictable mother figure, the fear of realizing her mother’s manic indicators, and the sadness of losing her childhood and a lot of her independence by having to parent her mother until the very end.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.

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