I have been trying to think of an adjective to describe Madness: A Memoir. Intense, compelling, incredible, remarkable? It is very readable and yet it is also a difficult read. To put it down and say I enjoyed it seems almost too flippant given the subject matter it is covering.
Kate Richards is a Melbourne medical practitioner working in medical research. She has a brain that has amazing capacity. She is highly academic, musical, engaged by literature and art. She also has a brain that is terribly sick. Her memoir details how acute episodes of depression and psychosis have manifested themselves in her life over a period of 15 years. It is not pretty. There are episodes of self harm which, given her medical background, she is able to describe in confronting clinical detail. There are episodes of addiction, neglect and extreme highs. There are periods of wellness before illness strikes again. It is exhausting to witness her struggle to stay on an even keel. If you watched the ABC series Changing Minds, this will give you an idea of the territory covered.
This book will not be to everyone’s liking. It’s probably not something to chill out with at the beach. But as a window into the world of mental illness, it is a fascinating read. With physical illnesses there tends to be a progression we can forecast, but with mental illness, it is a roller coaster and we don’t know how long the ride is or how it is going to end. Will the roller coaster level out and glide back to its gate or will it crash? Will the ride stop, allowing you to laugh and relax before it all of a sudden starts to hurtle once more along the tracks? I am pleased I read this book. I will leave it up to you whether you think it is something you would be interested in placing on your ‘to read’ list.