Friday, 20 October 2017

Book review: The Flawed Ones

The Flawed Ones - A Story of Mental Illness, Addiction and Love by Jay Chirino

Jay Chirino has experienced depression and anxiety since childhood. His mental illness lead to self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. All of this is openly and honestly admitted in the opening lines of the introduction to his new book The Flawed Ones. The introduction is strong, and relays Chirino's struggles, his motivation behind the book, and the admission that he is still on meds for his mental health. (Thank God someone is admitting it!)
"...a few months back, someone asked me what I wanted most when I was going through my depression, and after thinking about it for a while, I figured it out. What I am trying to accomplish with this story is to help you see that you are not alone."
However, the book isn't a memoir. Instead it draws on Chirino's real life experiences with mental illness, addiction and the psych ward, blending fiction with his lived reality.

Following admission for a 72-hour psychiatric hold, Jay experiences life on the psych ward and the many characters that call it home.

The book deals with not only the expected themes of mental illness, stigma, and addiction, but also with religion, perception, love and failures of the healthcare system.

Its strongest points are when Jay is in conversation with his psychiatrist. He relates what it's like being in a depressive episode, telling the story of his mental illness and where it came from. Clearly, these are pieces that come from Jay's real experience, rather than a semi-fictional account. This is not a memoir, but I often wished it was. Chirino's real-life story is the most intriguing part of the book. There's an honesty to the words in these parts that is lacking elsewhere; even if his memories to his psychiatrist are full of more flowery embellishments than most people would ever share verbally.

The blend of fiction and reality wasn't always seamless. Characters were overly described, rather than revealed. The constant commenting on women's appearance comes across as seedy rather than what-I-hope-was-the-intended subtle. But its strengths lie in the honesty of mental illness and addiction and the hope of recovery.

The book is due to be published on 1 November 2017.

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*Disclaimer* This book was given to me in return for a review, however the review is entirely my own opinion. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

What’s left to say?

I’ve beaten my mental illness to death. Or at least, I’ve beaten talking about my mental illness to death.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I’ve found myself with nothing left to say.

I have depression and anxiety. I've had them ever since I can remember, but was formally diagnosed six years ago. Ever since, I've tried to use my diagnoses for good through campaigning, blogging, and raising awareness and money.

But how many times can I repeat my mental health story? How many times must I say that it’s okay to not be okay? That it does get better? That recovery isn’t always possible? That medication doesn’t have to be bad?

I’ve been saying it offline and online for the past six years and it feels like it’s all been for nothing, because what’s changed?

I’m frustrated at the lack of progress in mental illness in this country.

Services are badly under-funded and under-staffed. People on waiting lists can’t wait any longer.
I still hide my mental illness in work.
Celebrities are still mocked for their breakdowns.
TV continues to perpetuate the stigma around mental illness with unfair and untrue representation.
Halloween events still run ‘insane asylums’.
We justify acts of terror on mental illness.

It feels like we take a step forward only to take another one back.
So what’s left for me, or anyone, to say?

I know that there’s no immediate fix to the stigma, the lack of resources and support, or to my own mental health battles. But keeping up this fight is exhausting. I want the battle to be over. I want to be able to tell people when I'm having a bad day without fearing they'll think less of me or treat me differently. I want to be able to socialise and have conversations without having to discourage someone from describing their mood as ‘depressing’ or having to explain why a mental illness doesn't make someone 'dangerous' after every mass murder.

I want there to be nothing left to say when it comes to mental health because we all accept, acknowledge and support it.