Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Book #3 of 2010 ... or How I Almost Lost My Mind.

My third book of the new year is ...

"Hillbilly Gothic" by Adrienne Martini

Let me preface my review of Martini's memoir of her battle with postpartum depression with my own tale. In February 2002, I was nine months pregnant and anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first child (now known as Jacob). I had many delusions about parenting that are common to those who actually have no idea what it means to be a parent. I had dreams about blissful days filled with leisurely walks and a cooing, content little baby.

What I got was a screaming, red-faced (albeit adorable) little guy and my own personal descent into Hell. If Jacob was awake, he was crying or otherwise making his miserableness known to anyone within a one mile radius. (Seriously ... my neighbors later told me they considered not having kids after hearing the sounds coming from our house.) I was a sleepless wreck. Add to it a decent case of postpartum depression where thankfully instead of turning on my son I decided two things were wrong in my life: breastfeeding and the help from my husband (or lack thereof). I stopped nursing and for all intensive purposes my husband "checked out".

I imagine living with a wife who could turn from placid (not happy, just there) to raging maniac was not an ideal situation for him. I also know he was overwhelmed by the fact that our life was upended. (Truth be told, my husband enjoys being the center of my attention -- a place that for good or bad was replaced by a needy, crying newborn.) It took a good year for my family to get itself righted again (it certainly helped that around ten months Jacob decided to sleep for more than two hour stretches AND we figured out he had reflux.)

So all this background is to say I could understand Martini's experience one hundred percent. Even down to coming from a family where both mental illness and the associated evils run rampant. (My father is a bipolar alcoholic with a penchant for gambling away ... oh mortgage and federal tax payments. He comes from a long line of alcoholics with mental illness. Lucky me, I won the genetic lottery!)

Martini's account of her Appalachian background and family's mental illness is not pretty. Her own descent into "madness" actually made me physically hurt for her. That's not to say she sets herself up to be pitied. Far from it. She recognizes that her story is a common one and because there is still a stigma associated with all mental illness, especially postpartum depression and its darker sister postpartum psychosis, it is a necessary story.

I can't say that I recommend this book to everyone - its a tough story to read. But if you do choose to read it I don't think you will be disappointed (and you might even be a little more understanding for having read it).


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8 comments:

Liz said...

I completely agree with you about saying the book is a tough read. While I haven't read this one, i have read other memoirs and I find the ones dealing with mental illness ones I have to put down for a bit sometimes, because of my own relatives' experiences with it. At the same time they can be so powerful. Take "bipolar bare" (no cap letters -- don't want people to be confused!) by Carlton Davis. He lays out ALL the details: drug use, sexual deviation of his life dealing with bipolar disorder. And he also talks about the treatment and dealing with the treatment. It's very well done, with a great interweaving of of stories, viewpoints, images and diagnoses. Hard to read, as it sounds like "Hillbilly Gothic" is, but worth it.

Liz said...

Your "book No. 3" count reminded me that I'm tracking books for 2010. I think I would have forgotten otherwise - thanks!

travisandkatie said...

Do you get all of these from the library? And out of curiosity, if you buy books from time to time, do you keep them after you read them or trade them in? Oh, and I like that you're doing the book reviews because I want to get better about reading more this year. The not reading is affecting my brain function and I'm visibly losing IQ points.

I'm Jen. said...

I get a majority from the library. The ones I do buy, I share with my Mom. If someone in Tennessee wanted me to send her a box some time, I could do it.

travisandkatie said...

I'm all about some good reads, but I don't know that I have anything to send in return - unless you want some Faulkner or Eudora Welty from the college days. What would be even cooler...me coming there and getting some in person. Then, I wouldn't have to lust after all the snow in your Wordless Wed. picture. Lisa Patton and weather team were wrong again. All the schools are out and we have no snow.

I'm Jen. said...

You have to come and go sledding. There is a crazy hill here where people will sled using anything including kiddie pools and modified bikes. It was like being back in KY.

I miss the fear of "blizzards" in Tennessee.

travisandkatie said...

You're missing a real doozy today. Snow Bird has every school district in TN out of school and there's only a very fine dusting in the grass. The streets are just wet. It's made for a very long day at work for everyone who didn't listen to their mother and become a teacher.

Amber Koter-Puline said...

Thanks for sharing about your PPD. Our family histories and some of the risk factors for PPD are similar. Hope you are well today and enjoying motherhood. There are lots of us Survivior Mamas out there in blogland! Take care.

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