email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAll That You Leave BehindAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BodiesBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecause We Are BadBecoming AnnaBecoming MyselfBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEarly ExposuresEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGetting OffGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Am Dynamite!I Am I Am I AmI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNever EnoughNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Apparent DistressNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsRXScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabServing the ServantSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Amazing Things HappenSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaTen Years a NomadThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Art of MisdiagnosisThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Bright HourThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family GeneThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Infidel and the ProfessorThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Mother of Black HollywoodThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Neuroscientist Who Lost Her MindThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Only Girl in the WorldThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Quiet RoomThe RecoveringThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThings We Didn't Talk About When I Was a GirlThis Close to HappyThomas S. SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Going to Need More WineWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I Left, Why I StayedWhy I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou All Grow Up and Leave MeYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Firstly, I am not
entirely convinced by the edifice of using fancy fonts to illustrate confusion,
pain, damage, humiliation, and various onomatopoeias: at times it is effective,
at times not. I am ambivalent. At times it detracts from the strengths of a
survivor's account of traumatic brain injury followed by dense confusion and
loss. At time it illustrates much of the fogginess of her brain, for the
Speaking of the
uninformed, the word recovery is also problematic as so many times even
specialists (albeit naļve ones, to quote Muriel Lezak) use the term to mean
improvement, rather than return to pre-injury cognitive status quo. Again,
Anthony and others now use the term in psychiatric rehab to imply recovery of
psychosocial status, so I am beginning to be somewhat more than resistant to
back to the true storybook, Lynsey is a teenager clearly functioning well on
the psychosocial stage, enjoying her life and her identity, when, as it does,
life turns on a dime, and she falls off a chair. It's not a trivial injury,
and Lynsey, as she knows her, dies off into a murky retrograde amnesia. The
anterograde amnesia bit isn't great either, and the burden and sense of
estrangement from herself and others dominates the book, as she lives in the
twilight zone of return to family and school, looking like a zombie.
She repeats many
of the themes so common to this tragic group, who bear the stigmata of their
injuries silently and invisibly. Like Twinkies, if it looks good, surely it is
good? So for Lynsey, those outside of her brain see her apparent return to
physical wholeness as indicative of recovery. Unable to see the bad brain,
others make fundamental attribution errors and see bad girl, and that includes,
most painfully, the professional carers as well as her schoolmates.
After all, if your
leg is gone, and you bear a prosthesis, all around you will note that you no
longer enter the hurdles dash, and will be sympathetic. When your brain is
maimed, invisibly, your failure to dash through the hurdles of everyday life is
regarded as indication of bad person, not bad brain, or bad family. We are
superficial in our evaluation of others when the scars are not evident.
So Lynsey descends
into bulimic anorexia, a scrabbling attempt to gain a sense of control over a
visceral brain gone mad, her depression evident and painful to read.
She leaves her
school, finds another, where no one knows or expects anything from the old Lynsey,
someone she has grown to hate, or grieve, in bouts of sad rage.
ignorance of the public comes over again and again. For instance, when a bully
assaults her, a passing adult regards her as 'drunk.' When told of her injury,
the same passer-by notes, oh well, the blow may restore her memory, I have seen
that on TV.
or James Bond educates us. Heavily and serially conked on the noodle, such heroes
wake hours later, have sex with a blonde, go "Ow" and then go on to
solve a complex case. In Dances With Wolves, Kevin Costner's character
gets a significant concussion a few times, in rapid series, and yet he goes on
to represent the Lakota Sioux in their fight against discrimination: this is
our education in brain injury.
struggle meanders through the book, not so much a journey of recovery, but of
exquisite and overwhelmingly lonely pain. She is acutely aware that she is
damaged goods, afraid that no one will want her, afraid that someone will, and
then will find that she is now a straw girl, of no substance, lost in time,
lost in space, and meaning, to quote Frank N Furter, a changed character from
another world, of uncertain gender and social role, and alone. It is her
loneliness that dominates the pages of her fractionated recall. One of the
saddest moments in the book is her observation of her grandmother's decline in
dementia, her shock at seeing someone else in her family acquiring brain-based
disability. Lynsey writes of the concept of poison seeping through the cracked
chest, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My eyes circled her bedroom, one last
time, penetrating the dust of the untouched furniture before stopping to rest
on the vast, vulgar crack in the mirror. As the mist on the grey windows
clouded over, all my secreted memories of the hospital come seeping back into
my mind like a poisonous gas (page 138).
Out of school, unable to continue, Lynsey
joins the club no one wants to be accepted into, the Brain Injured Community.
Hovering around on the periphery of her mind, circling the firelight, are the
vampire figures of catastrophic reality, holding the sense that there is not
complete awareness of deficit, and if she lets the crack open too wide, then AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH
will come through like poison (that's what she does with fonts).
It's a painful and
sad little book. I know its blurb paints it as a reconstruction, a triumph over
adversity, but her closing words are no different to her opening really, with
burden and estrangement dominating.
You are just left
wondering why it has to be so hard. There are many such accounts in
publication, many from the UK,
as Lynsey's is. Her loneliness and pain are condemnations of the care offered
her, of her incarceration in a psychiatric ward, a strange place in a strange
world, populated by middle world carer-figures. Her treating psychiatrist
writes that it is interesting that from the mist of her disaster, Lynsey
emerges as a poet and writer: it in fact is not unusual. Humans in pain have
turned to such edifices to try to re-make contact with the world, to reconnect
with a world that no longer makes sense. After the loss of most of her right
sided frontal and temporal lobes, leaving her brain damaged, epileptic and with
Borderline Personality features and rapid cycling mood, another survivor
writes, in her unpublished "Magnum Opus",
"I woke up in
a world gone mad. I had lost myself, my family, my friends, my boyfriends my
career, my life, my Faith, my self. I had gone from being my mother's shining
star to being my mother's burden. Damaged goods, who will ever want me?"
She goes on to live her life, return to
university, and marry, and live her finest hours.
I wish the same
for Lynsey, 14 years after her injury, now a 28 year old, dependent on her
family, and now involved in a day to day struggle to find her socks, her diary,
gloves, jacket shoes, and the lost bouquets of her stemmed life.
© 2004 Roy Sugarman
Roy Sugarman PhD, Clinical
Director: Clinical Therapies Programme, Principal Psychologist: South West Sydney Area Health Service, Conjoint
Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, University of New South