Wednesday, 4 November 2015

mental illness as contradiction

Because I keep newspapers around the house until I've read them,  I've just read a Guardian article from May about a young woman who wrote a memoir about her experience with anorexia. In an excerpt quoted in the article, the antonyms come thick and fast as she describes how she feels in the midst of her illness [my emphasis]:
I am too big and too small and too much and not enough and too frightened to change and too sad to stay the same. I am an addict and a slave to the beauty myth and I diet and regress and reject and control and cry for help and I still can’t stop the ring-ring-ringing in my ears telling me that something bad is coming, something bad is coming RIGHT NOW. I want to shine and I want to be invisible and I want to be myself and I want to be anyone else in the world and in the end I think the only solution is to get smaller and smaller and smaller and then one day to disappear.
I find this an evocative description. I can identify with any of the feelings there--but I typically have them one at a time, not noisily at once. The repetition of parallel structures gives the paragraph a sense of speed, so that the contradictions feel like they're climbing on top of each other. The combination of the familiar feelings and the jackhammer delivery seems to carry me into an empathetic position. I do think this is one of the most effective descriptions of a mental illness that I've ever read.

The book is: The time in between: a memoir of hunger and hope by Nancy Tucker (Icon Books, 2015).

1 comment:

  1. “… one of the most effective descriptions…” –Absolutely.