Monday, May 15, 2017

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward (review)

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, but all thoughts are my own. This post also contains affiliate links that I may make commissions from.*

When I got the opportunity to review this, I actually knocked one of my children over on my way to the computer so I can email immediately back and say, yes! Yes, absolutely get me on this tour, please tell me I'm not too late. I am willing to beg for the opportunity to be on this tour because I'm currently too poor to buy books because everything fun is out of our monthly spending plan but I fear that I am Guilia. That I might be her soon and I am scared of that more than anything. I wanted to know what to expect and this book... I cried. And I am so scared. 

A heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.

Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.

I have always dealt with a bit of depression, my whole life. Right after Olivia it was at its absolute worst, and it was the first time that I felt like I had to medicate myself. I felt shame and absolute humiliation. After about eight months I felt nothing at all so I wanted to get off of them so I just stopped. About a year later our marriage hit a major bump in the road and I thought for sure we were getting a divorce but the day I went to file I found out I was pregnant, so there I was, my husband was jobless, I was pregnant with an almost two year old, and I had divorce papers in hand, cue mental break down. So I was put back on an anti-depressant that was safe for pregnancy. I cried all of the time but I felt nothing at all so I don't know how helpful it was. As soon as I could get off of it, I did. I went several years with no medication, I had bouts of feeling down, but I managed it with diet and exercise. I tried to fill my schedule with fun things so I didn't give myself the time to go into the hole. 

Then we had Lucy. All hell has broken loose. Since then I have struggled with mental health. A lot. Enough that I am seriously considering checking myself into a three month facility, anywhere that will help me, that can focus on trauma and depression. I don't know if I'm fixable but I know I can't live like this forever. I know that there is a real quality versus quantity argument in my head when it comes to me as a mother and the mother my children had before Lucy is gone, she is not ever coming back. The mother they have now is terrible. She's mean, she's not present, and she doesn't want to be here. It's the worst feeling in the world, so I identified with Giulia so much in this book. But it also made me feel guilty because I bet my husband Matt could identify with Mark in the book because I know immediately after Lucy's birth Matt felt helpless and had no idea what to do. I imagine that's the spot he's in now with my depression but I can't help him because I don't know what to do either. 

This book follows the story of Mark and Giulia. The meet in college, fall in love, get married, and start their lives in the most idyllic way we all hope to. It's perfect. They start their careers, they both have plans, they get an awesome dog named Goose, and all is well. Except things start happening with Giulia. It starts with a lack of sleep and ended in a terrifying first psychotic break. Her first hospital stay was confusing, terrifying, They both soon learn that the mental health system in America is essentially is a guessing game, nobody actually knows how to diagnose or treat you, it's all about treating you with medications and messing around with dosages and hoping for the best. Everyone responds differently and what works for you for awhile, might inexplicably stop working and you're right back in the hospitable. I identified with Giulia's frustrations and her anger at losing her independence and her inability to feel heard- that's how I feel so often. But at the same time, I understand Mark's frustration because as a parent your child's safety and well being as to come first. I can understand Giulia not wanting to be on medication long term, a lot of them make you feel absolutely awful and the side effects are no joke. 

I want to share one of the passages in the book that really spoke to me. I have had a really hard time trying to describe what my AFE and Lucy's birth has done to me and to Matt, but our marriage, too. Everyone keeps telling us how lucky we are to have each other and it's all I can do to roll my eyes and not punch them in the face because I feel so angry. But this. This is what it's like: 

"It's like you've survived a tsunami, Mark. I'm sure you've saw the footage from the tsunami that hit Indonesia. Entire buildings wiped out. People swept away. Horrifying stuff. It's not hard to imagine you and Giulia on one of those beaches. You were in bliss together, and then the wave hit. You grabbed on to a tree and each other and held on as the waved pushed and pulled and tried its damnedest to rip you apart, but you kept holding on. For nine months, you held on."... 

"Exactly!" I said. "Which should feel good, right? So many people don't survive. Families are torn apart by mental illness. Ours wasn't. People kill themselves every day. Giulia didn't. So why don't I feel happy?" 

"Look around you, Mark," my therapist said. "Look at the carnage: the demolished hotels, the uprooted trees, the crumpled cars. The realization that not everyone made it. The worst is over. But the way you once knew it, is gone." She was right. Nothing was the same. Nothing could ever be the same. Our bliss, our puppy love from college, our charmed lives, it was all gone. Giulia's psychosis and depression would color the rest of our relationship. Maybe even my own happiness wouldn't come as easily as it always had. I would have to work for it and have the courage to do the work."

And that is what scares me. That my depression is going to color everyone else's happiness. It's one thing for it to change the rest of my life, one thing for me to be the one to actively have to work at it but for everyone else in my family to have work at being happy every day because of me? To me, that is unacceptable. I am not OK with that and that really upsets me. This book also shows you, in heartbreaking detail, that the vows "in sickness and health" are difficult to adhere to and shouldn't be said flippantly but often are. So often young couples stand at an altar and just say their vows without really thinking about what they mean and give up so easily on marriage. When things get hard, or they don't know what to do, they get divorced and hope the next go round is easier. Mark and Giulia are proving that while it isn't easy, it isn't without rewards. They may have difficult times but they have good times too. 

And just... my heart goes out to you guys. I'm terrified of my own journey because I'm cognizant enough to realize that I'm not getting better. I don't know what's wrong with me but I know I'm not dealing with simple depression anymore and I know I'm not going to be able to be flippant about my medication anymore and I need help and I am terrified to be hospitalized. I'm grateful that Matt hasn't thrown in the damn towel because I know I am a nightmare to deal with right now. But this story is just everything. I devoured it this weekend, I cried. It's no coincidence that it's Mother's Day weekend, I was an emotional hot mess and this book was everything that I needed. Five stars. Easily. You need this in your life. 

If you, or someone you love struggles with mental illness I highly encourage you to read this book. You can purchase your own copy on the Harper Collins website but you can also find it on Amazon. 

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I am so very, very glad that you were able to read this book and see that there are other people going through things similar to what you're going through. I hope that you are able to get the help you need, little by little, so that you can function in every day life and find some happiness again.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!