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Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So by Mark Vonnegut

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Here's some free salutary advice: If you talk to God you're praying, but if God talks to you, you might be mad as a hatter.

Stories by congenital overachievers normally depress me, but Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So is swaddled in a straitjacket, and as such is very relatable. The Eeyore gloominess and mordant humor of the writing is laugh-out-loud funny and irresistible. How can you argue with this anodyne wisdom:

"Introverts almost never cause me trouble and are usually much better at what they do than extroverts. Extroverts are too busy slapping one another on the back, team building, and making fun of introverts to get much done ... I can pass for normal most of the time, but I understand perfectly why some of my autistic patients scream and flap their arms - it's to frighten off extroverts."

In 1971, at the age of 23, Vonnegut (son of Kurt) suffered three major mental breakdowns while living on a hippie commune in British Columbia. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he found himself locked in a Vancouver psychiatric hospital while he conversed with Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Fyodor Dostoevsky, painted with Van Gogh, and played sax with John Coltrane. Four years and much medication later he wrote The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity which was a smashing critical and financial success, allowing him to finance Harvard Medical School. In 1985, he triggered another psychotic episode when he went cold-turkey to quit drinking and using prescription sleep aids. To this day his voices remain-- just a little more offstage, and less intelligible.

Dr. Vonnegut feels that the stigmatization of mental illness remains a huge hurdle to recovery. Too often, patients are treated with "hushed-up" hospital stays and massive overdoses of medication. Family and friends shy away, in a way they never would if the patient was ailing from a heart attack or cancer.

Don't miss the brilliant final chapter which is a perilous epilogue entitled "Mushrooms". Penned with Vonnegutian gallows humor, it describes his fascination with unearthing various fungi as a prelude to cooking and eating them, leading to gut-busting calamity.

Submitted by Jane @ East


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 25, 2011 12:54 PM.

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