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Book Reviews   |    
Brief Reviews
Psychiatric Services 2006; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.57.5.749
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• Richard McLean's Recovered, Not Cured (Chicago, Independent Publishers Group, 2005) is subtitled, A Journey Through Schizophrenia, and it is exactly that. The book is a multimedia journal composed of McLean's writings, his artwork, and Internet messages from persons with schizophrenia. No book provides better insights to the reader about what it feels like to struggle through life burdened by the perceptual distortions and cognitive burdens of schizophrenia. McLean writes, "It seemed the part of my mind that controlled logic went out the door …. I felt as if I could not concentrate. I was sensitive to every nuance of social hierarchy, and talking to people was hard work." He adds, "I needed to be more insignificant …. I get sick of neutralizing thoughts that might be taking me into delusions, or suppressing ideas in this way. I feel as if I'm being robbed of something." This book is a view of schizophrenia that should be read by everyone. At the end of the book it is hard not to pay homage to people who have the courage to face life every day with the chronic disorder schizophrenia.

• Suzanne Tocher's Well Connected: Journey to Mental Health (Wellington, New Zealand, Philip Garside Publishers Ltd., 2001) is, like Recovered, Not Cured, a multimedia presentation. It includes prose, poetry, photographs, and drawings. The transitions between these modes of expression are not always smooth. The strongest part of the book is the recreation of hospital notes followed immediately by Tocher's comments about her actual experience. For example, the February 25, 1978, note reads: Hospital Note: "Everything fine. Discharged." Tocher's note: "Each day I plot how I'm going to kill myself." Tocher is the product of a dysfunctional family, a story about which would be humorous if it wasn't so sad. Her father is a traumatized war veteran who runs the family like a never-ending boot camp. She refers to him as "The General." Mother, "The Colonel," is along for a bumpy ride while Tocher is victimized. In 63 pages, many of which have either pictures or very few words, Tocher takes the reader through her developmental years, her inpatient treatment, and her emergence to recovery. The book can be read in an hour and is worth reading. It is not a bad resource to have patients read and use in treatment. Well Connected would be a particularly good read for inpatient groups.

• Kayla Williams' Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army (New York, W.W. Norton and Company, 2005) is a story, as the subtitle indicates, about being young and female in the U.S. Army. Williams's experience is in Iraq. Williams describes the Army as a "massive frat party with weapons." She provides a list of 25 preparatory steps for deployment to Iraq, including such suggestions as, "Hire a garbage truck to run all day and night in your driveway for correct ambient noise. Keep a pit of manure burning for proper fragrance." She adds, "Only eat food that is prepared by strangers, making sure that you never have any idea what it is, or what's in it." She also reminds us that, "Like death, like taxes, military incompetence is something you can bet on." Williams informs the reader of how soldiers deal with combat, "The first thing any soldier did in a combat situation was learn to dehumanize the enemy." Hence, demeaning slang terms are used to describe the enemy. Williams reminds us that, male or female, most of the time, most of the people in the military and in Iraq feel "powerless." Running throughout the book is Williams's description of her history, how it affects her in the service, and how being a female affects her experiences in combat. She reports, "I heard that a female in the army deployed to Iraq was either a bitch or a slut. That was the choice we faced." Although sometimes too superficial, Williams' account provides a better picture than most readers already have about what combat in Iraq is like and a far better picture than most of us have access to about what life in combat is like for a female soldier. A book with 288 pages with big font is a quick read, with a tone much like that of a novel.

• In Paula Kamen's All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache (New York, DaCapo Press, 2005), we are taken through a cornucopia of interventions that the author, born in 1967 with chronic head pain starting at age 24, has tried. Medications include Flexiril, Depakote, Imitrex, Sansert, Klonopin, amitriptyline, Inderal, Anaprox, Cafegout, Midran, desipramine, Compazine, phenelzine, Sparine, Toradol, calcium channel blocker, Paxil, Norgesic, Fiorinal, Percodan, Darvoset, and Vicodin. Nonpharmacologic interventions include nerve blocks, osteopathic manipulation, hypnotism, transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation, ice packs, energy work, meditation, neuro-feedback, guided imagery, magnets, vibrating hat, fig tea, immersion in lavender, movement therapy, Bach flower essences, cranial sacral nerve treatment, restricted diets, homeopathy, reflexotherapy, herbal remedies, light therapy, Chinese medicine, and intravenous dihydroergotamine. Kamen reminds us that, "The fact that our culture often glosses over the complexities and difficulties of chronic pain only compounds the suffering, self-blame, and isolation of patients like me." Further, she indicates, "In our society, illness as a metaphor is an especially potent and pervasive force when the illness is invisible … when it is experienced mainly by women, and when the causes are largely unknown." Chronic pain sufferers, Kamen points out, get marginalized with other populations, which she refers to as "roaming hordes of the methadone-seeking, demented, and just plain down and out." Chronic pain causes withdrawal, isolation, anxiety, and protectiveness to avoid paying one day for the preceding day's excess. That payment comes in the form of exacerbated pain. An important message is that headaches are not "all in one's head." All in My Head is unfortunately a much longer memoir than it needs to be. Despite the fact the book is written chronologically, it is a work that one could pick up and just start reading at any point. At half its length, it would be much more valuable to both professionals and patients.

Box of Mustaches: The Darkly Funny, True Story of How Twin Brothers Survived Their Mother's Madness (Lincoln, Nebraska, iUniverse Publishing, 2003) by Stan Evans is the story of Evans and his twin brother, born in 1963 to a 16-year-old woman who is both mentally ill and totally irresponsible. The boys' parents divorce when they are five years old, but their father is gone long before that, having volunteered to serve in Vietnam, ostensibly to escape from his wife. Although the book's cover indicates that the tale is "darkly funny," I found it mostly sad. Evans's mother abandoned her children to any source she could, including the boys' maternal grandmother, babysitters, day care, foster homes, an orphanage, the movies, friends' parents, the family automobile, and alone. The take-home message here is that a mother's total self-absorption is exquisitely painful for her children. Evans writes, "When mom finished her convalescence at the hospital, she used her free time to bleach her hair, get a boob job, and bump and grind in strip clubs." Evans's mother never provides grounding and makes remarks like, "I think mental illness can be fun. You just have to have the right one. I always wished I'd had multiple personality disorder. Then I could be a mad Martha Stewart hosting a tea party in my head." This short, 161-page book traces Evans's life from beginning to just about the present time. With no foundation with either parent, there is little relationship between either parent and the adult Evans. Evans, a television writer and producer with a history that includes acting and stand-up comedy, sometimes tries to be too cute. This book is useful for adult children of mothers with mental illness and for professionals working with both the adult children and the mothers themselves. Used properly, this could be a good text in preventive psychiatry.

Got Parts? (Ann Arbor, Michigan, Loving Healing Press, 2004), whose author is only identified as ATW, is derived from the author's own experiences with dissociative identify disorder plus from members of her therapy group of individuals with the disorder. Got Parts? is another multimedia presentation with photographs and drawings in addition to text. Got Parts? is a fascinating guide to how to live successfully with dissociative identity disorder. These patients' points of view are not quite the same as the views of psychiatrists who specialize in working toward reintegration. Their perspective rather is to organize the parts into a successful team. Not only does Got Parts? provide information, it's a morale builder for persons with the disorder and encourages them to persevere. Got Parts? should be read by anybody who works with persons with the disorder or is interested in this phenomenon. It could also be read by persons who are simply interested in first-person accounts and want to read a personal account written by a committee.

• Charles Barber's Songs From the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors is not what its subtitle implies. Barber, who has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and is treated with fluoxetine, tells this tale of working at the largest homeless shelter in New York, located within a complex of buildings known as Bellevue. Part I of Songs From the Black Chair is devoted to the author's relationship with his childhood friend Henry, who becomes a suicide victim. Part II focuses more on Barber's own psychiatric history and his work at the Bellevue shelter where man after man enters his basement office, sits in the black chair, and unloads his soul. Barber writes well, and some of his comments are delightfully insightful, such as, "I was ready to return to Harvard University, which I now regarded with a certain healthy vigor as simply a very large group home of its own, complete with its own token economy." His descriptions of the men who visit him—"a thousand men a year come and sit in the black chair next to my desk"—can be heart-wrenching. My disappointment with Songs From the Black Chair is that despite what would appear to be efforts to the contrary Barber seemed very far away from all that he wrote. Barber indicates in the epilogue, "I am still not skilled in speaking directly about things …." That's exactly my problem with Songs From the Black Chair.

• Angelina Szot worked as an LPN at Danvers State Hospital from 1948 through 1972. Hence, she witnessed this Massachusetts state hospital rising to its peak census and then participated in the "deinstitutionalization" or "dehospitalization" era. Danvers State: Memoirs of a Nurse in the Asylum (Bloomington, Indiana, AuthorHouse, 2004) is an up-close and personal view of life on the wards. Szot's first day: "The wards were scary—dark and gloomy, full of people unfit for the outside world. It seemed as if the daylight couldn't penetrate this hidden enclave that appeared to be bursting with people. There were 150 patients crammed on each floor. Even to a novice like me it was obvious that the wards were designed for far fewer patients." Szot works the second shift often, which is from 6:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., and is assigned only to the female wards. She describes "the violent wards" as "all the rooms were teeming with patients. These patients were like savages, really, like animals, when I think of it. We didn't have tranquilizers available to us, so we would just have to listen to their maniacal tirades. Nonsensical words would fill the hallways." The impoverished condition of life in the state hospital seeps through like the leaking pipes in the facility's rotting ceilings. Patients are dressed "when clothing was available." When there is no clothing "PJ tops and johnnies … would suffice." Unfortunately, Szot mixes sensitive insights with graceless derogatory remarks such as "The vast majority of patients were total loonies." She also says, "Sometimes you'd have a patient from a back ward that was a little off center, nothing too severe, but sometimes they'd go off their rocker." Life for nurses and aides can almost be as difficult as it is for the patients. Their tasks are overwhelming, their supports insufficient. About the physicians, Szot notes "We had some of the worst doctors around. No 'serious' physician wanted to work in an insane asylum." The staff, which is inadequate in number and in training, is left to care for 3,600 patients, and the focus is daily turmoil to avoid mayhem. Danvers State is a sad look back, sad both for what it portrays and how somebody who was actually there would portray it.




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