I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Books likes this come only ever so often. I have not loved a book like this in years.

Love grows from the rich foam of forgiveness, mongrels make good dogs, and the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.”

5/5 stars.
Hardcover, 897 pages.
Read from March 28, 2017 to April 5, 2017.

I can go for years sometimes without reading a book that truly blows me away. A book that I need to devour, can’t put down, and find few faults with. This book has become one of those rare books for me. The last time I read a book a like this was back when I read  Jane Eyre, which was back in 2012.  Like Jane Eyre, this book will give you all the feels. Unconventional and real, this book brought me to near tears numerous times. That is a feat that almost no other book can claim.  This book is now one of my personal favourites.

Dominick and Thomasare identical twin brothers. While the two of them may look identical the brothers have remarkably different temperaments. Dominick is masculine while Thomas is soft and fragile. As children, only Dominick seemed to be able to withstand the harsh and abusive nature of their step-father. As the boys grow, Thomas continues to exhibit peculiar behavior until it finally becomes clear that Thomas is more than just different; he has a severe form of schizophrenia. Dominick has spent his whole life trying to get away from Thomas’ shadow as tragedy seems to envelop the two men.

As adults in the present day, Dominick is regrettably divorced and still in love with his wife but he is unable to deal with the anger and emotions of a lifetime of living and dealing with Thomas. Dominick loves his brother and would do anything for him but the turmoil of dealing with the severely mentally ill takes its toll. When Thomas acts out violently in a public place Dominick is there to help him. As more tragedies befall Dominick, he attempts to sort out the legal mess his brother created and reluctantly start on his own journey of self-healing and forgiveness.

What is beautiful about this book is that it highlights the real trouble, guilt and anger that comes in loving someone with a mental illness over a lifetime. The imagery of emotions in this book is full spectrum. At one point, I remember thinking that it there is no way that Dominick could handle another major incident in his life but really, it was because as a reader my heart was aching for the character that I was now so attached to. Dominick’s journey is one of resilience, understanding, and ultimately about forgiveness. Mostly towards himself. Thomas’ story is also one of resilience; one that is often less understood. His inner turmoil to make sense of the world around him with his paranoid and invasive thoughts is exhausting. Thomas truly believes that his acts of paranoia will save the world from war. He is genuinely distressed that he cannot control any aspects of his life and that no one listens to his ideas and pleas. Can you imagine how that would feel? As is the case of many people with schizophrenia, the comprehension of their world is so different from our own but it does not make it any less real for them.

The style and approach of this book is both delicate and masculine, an intentional approach to help address the frail concept of North American masculinity and the trouble that it causes so many men. Dominick hates that Thomas is gentle and soft but really it is because he was afraid that he too might also be like that. Dominick treats these traits as if they were the worst fault a person could have; a testament to the harsh upbringing of his overbearing father and passive mother. The themes of forgiveness and growth demonstrate everyone’s journey and progress through life, though both the ups and the downs.

While many readers have found fault with the length of this book, I could not. I was sad when I finally finished this nearly 900 page tome and regretted reading it so fast.  I found that the author’s work was concise, necessary, intricate and well-thought out.

I want to recommend this book to everyone as I believe there are many facades of life that the characters in this book either embody or go through that few adults would not be able to relate to.  Do not be afraid of the length of this book, I assure you that every page is well worth it.

A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands

I knew Amy. Lots of people I grew up with could say that but did anyone know her struggles?

5/5 stars.
ebook, 162 pages.
Read from September 14 to 15, 2016.

I knew Amy. Not as well as I would have liked or for very long, but we grew up in the same town and had solid year together in the Studio Theatre class in our high school, the very one mentioned in this book. Her death hit the community and anyone that ever knew her hard. Perhaps this review is a little biased because of that connection but I am thankful that Debbie shared Amy’s story and her struggles.

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Amy as I remember her in 2003 – Studio Theatre – Foothills Composite High School -Okotoks, AB

Amy passed away in the summer of 2012. She was shot through a garage door with a bullet that never should have been shot and was not ever intended for her. She was 27 years old. Amy was eccentric, fun, independent, beautiful and confident. I’ll never forget some of fun times we had or the few inside jokes we created together. I remember envying her. However, few would have ever known the struggles that she dealt with and the problems it would cause in her adult life. Even more, few would have known about the struggles Amy’s family went through in trying to help her.

Amy had borderline personality disorder (BPD). A mental health condition that is characterized by overt and unstable emotions as well as abnormal behavior and relationships with others. Sufferers often have an unstable sense of self and extreme sense of abandonment that can often lead to dangerous behaviors.

Amy’s condition drove her to abuse drugs and mix with a crowd of people that ended up resulting her death. The book details the intimate struggles that her family had to endure while trying to deal with Amy. I cannot fathom the amount of pain and how trying it would have been trying to manage Amy. Her family loved her dearly but at the same time did not want to be enforcers to her behavior. They knew she was troubled but it wasn’t until after Amy’s death that they came to determine that she had BPD. The book spares no details and gives the deep down trauma of living with BPD and what it does to loved ones. While the book was heartbreaking to read, it is also immensely insightful.

I had the pleasure of working with Debbie on during a Dewdney theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest around 2005. Debbie made a stellar Lady Bracknell and she never ever showed any signs of the potential turmoil that was effecting her private life. I am so glad that she wrote this book. Not only has she shed light for all that loved Amy but she is spreading awareness of about BPD. I hope that the writing process has been a healing one for her. No mother, or family for that matter, should ever have to endure what she went through. It was very brave of her to publish this book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with BPD or has a loved one with BPD. Or for those who have had mental illness effect them or someone that the have loved. And especially for anyone that loved or knew Amy.

 

BFRB Awareness

Oct-1st-7th-2015

Today is the last day of the BFRB Awareness week. BFRB stands for body focused repetitive behaviors and they effect 1 in 50 people. There are a variety of types of BFRBs but trichotillomania (hair-pulling) and dermatillomania (skin-picking) are the most common. For today’s post I wanted to compile some of the reviews and articles I’ve written about dermatillomania as well as some I’ve been featured in to get finalize the last day of this awareness week in hopes that they will reach someone struggling and to help  spread awareness.

In Februray 2015, I was interviewed for an article on skin-picking that was featured in a major newspaper. While there are some inconsistencies with the article, it has been widely and positively received and has helped to bring awareness to dermatillomania. Read more here.

A collaborative creation, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars is a book shares individual stories of different people who are dealing with dermatillomania. I contributed my own story and wrote a review to promote its publication. Learn more about this book. All proceeds from the book purchase go towards Canadian Body Focused Repetitive Behavior Support Network (CBSN).

One of the books I recommend to anyone dealing with dermaillomania is Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop by Annette Pasternak. It’s one of the most comprehensive books out there for skin picking and Annette herself is very familiar with the condition as she use to struggle herself. Read my review here.

Finally, I wrote a guest blog piece for the CBSN on relapsing with dermatillomania and covered some tips and tricks that help to get over this hurdle. Read more here.

For those who have a BFRB and are looking for more help and resources, CBSN has a tips & tricks page as well as page for general resources and information. CBSN also offers live and online peer support for those looking for help. Click here to learn more.

Those that deal with BFRBs often feel immense amounts of shame.  I speak so that those who are too afraid to, know that they’re not alone.