NAMI Bookshelf June 2011
Mental Illness with a Dash of Comedy: A Perfect Mix
By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator
Mental illness is a serious topic, one that requires thoughtful consideration and discussion. Sometimes though, a little laughter can make a difficult subject, and a trying time in you or a loved one’s life, much easier. On Sunday, June 16, at the Clarice Smith Center at the University of Maryland, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) presented Now What?!, a lively and enjoyable performance that made learning what it’s supposed to be—fun.
Comedians Rick Green and Patrick McKenna and ADHD expert Dr. Umesh Jain combined scientific theory along with sketches and personal stories, that while very funny, rekindled many stressful—and even painful—memories to many audience members. The opening act placed a delightful depiction of the situation facing many parents today who take their children into a doctor to see if he or she might be diagnosed with ADHD. They discover that many of the questions that their child is responding to, pertain to his or herself as well; the questions about inattention, the questions about unconsciously coping with certain situations (such as repeatedly pulling all nighters), the questions about behavior in childhood—they all resonate. They discover that they, too, have ADHD.
Part of the reason for this lack of diagnosis and discovery of ADHD in adulthood is because ADHD was not identified specifically as its own distinct illness until only recently. Previously, many of the symptoms exhibited by individuals living with ADHD were attributed to other mental illnesses, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Additionally, ADHD was thought of only as a childhood illness, one which you grew out of as you left your years of adolescence. Although there is a high cormobidity of ADHD/ADD with another mental illness, it is still its own distinct illness, even in adulthood.
Along with amusing skits, a good dose of scientific explanations behind what ADHD is, where it comes from, what the symptoms are and how can it be treated, Green and McKenna also offered 20 daily tips that you can use to help to manage your life with ADHD. Some of these ideas related specifically to controlling ADHD tendencies, while others were ones anyone can adhere to, including one of my favorites, “Where R U? Doorknob.” In this tip, Green and McKeena recommended that before you enter into a room, you take a moment to remember who you are in that situation. If you are coming back home after a demanding day at work, your family does not need that stressed out individual, they need a loving family member.
Many more of these suggestions, along with countless thoughts that individuals with ADHD have experienced are included in Rick Green and Dr. Umesh Jain’s book, ADD Stole My Car Keys: The Surprising ways Adult Attention Deficit Disorder affects your life… and strategies for creating a life you love (Big Brain Productions (2011)). Filled with more than a 150 entries, this book is a perfect guidebook-of-sorts for anyone who has a loved one living with ADHD. Each entry is an imaginary question or though from an individual who has, or think they might have ADHD. With a response from both Rick Green and Umesh Jain, you are provided with both a scientific response as well as somewhat comedic response, both worthwhile and valuable. The end result is a fun, easy-to-read book that provides information as well as laughs and hope for anyone living with ADHD/ADD.
Information about ADD Stole My Car Keys and other services offered by Rick Green, Patrick McKenna and Umesh Jain, such as upcoming webinars and informational videos can be found on their website, www.totallyadd.com.
Book Review: Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me by Sylvia Harris
By Brendan McLean, NAMI Communications Coordinator
Ecco (2011), $25.99.
At the starting gates is where Sylvia Harris finds her calm. There she can control her mania as she controls her horse’s excitement below her, trying to breathe together as one. Harris tells of her life with bipolar disorder in her memoir Long Shot, and provides a glimpse into the difficult path faced by many living with serious mental illness.
As a young girl growing up in a military family, Sylvia moved constantly. She found companionship with all types of creatures but it was horses that truly fascinated her. They made her feel alive. At the age of 12, Sylvia was lucky enough to have a horse bought for her by her father. For months, every afternoon after school, she would bike to the farm where her horse was stalled and ride. But almost as soon as she was given her horse, it was taken away. Her father refused to give her an explanation (although monetary reasons were surely to blame).
Athletic and popular in high school, Sylvia had already begun to map her future. She was engaged to her boyfriend. The thoughts of owning her own house, starting her own family and moving away from the escalating problems of her home brought Sylvia much delight. In just a matter of weeks, however, her life began to unravel. She received an envelope from her fiancé; it contained a picture of another woman holding a baby: her fiancé’s baby. Only days later at graduation, her father left and moved across the country. With her mom on disability and herself sinking into “some sort of emotional abyss,” Sylvia would experience her first bipolar episode the next year.
Sylvia’s depiction of her bipolar episodes chronicle the pain her decisions have caused pain to not only herself but to those she loved around her. Sylvia continues to struggle with her bipolar disorder, but with psychotropic medicines, spiritualism and her love of horses, she passes through life with a little more ease.
Book Review: The Common Loon by Rachel Corday
By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations
PublishAmerica (2010), $34.95.
This memoir by Rachel Corday, Ph.D., an expressive arts therapist, teacher and theater professional, covers a period of 40 years in which she experiences life inside psychiatric hospitals in Portland, Ore., Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, New York and London. She attests to the character, integrity, creativity, warmth and humility of individuals living with mental illness. “Once you hear the cry of the common loon,” she writes, “your life is changed forever. The common loon dives deeper and stays submerged longer than other bird.”
The Common Loon is a reflective, provocative book, noting that although people living with mental illness often need medication and support, “for the most part, what is called therapy has forgotten its heart.” People seek help where they can and “when somebody comes along and shows us love, it is so unfamiliar that we hardy recognize it.” To be effective, Corday claims that therapy must be genuine and not superficial.