Title: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir
Author: Mark Lukach
Genre/Audience: Non-fiction, memoir, mental health, adult
Publication: Harper, 2017
Source: For review, TLC Book Tours
My first reaction to this book: WOW. I loved it… or as much as one can love a book about mental illness and difficult subjects, which is a lot even if it’s sometimes hard to read.
Mark and Giulia were leading a “charmed” life with a beautiful love story. They had recently moved to San Francisco and were settling into married life and careers when, at the age of 27, Giulia inexplicably and out of nowhere suffered a psychotic break. Recovery was long and painful after a month long stint in the local psych ward. The marriage they once knew was gone, and in its place, pieces that would need to be rebuilt. Eventually, after a full recovery, things seemed to be back to normal until a second breakdown after having their son, and another one after that.
Mental illness is tough. It’s hard to talk about, hard to admit to. But this memoir? This memoir, you guys… brutally honest, uncomfortably real. I cringed and I soared and I recoiled in horror right alongside this amazing young couple. The thing about mental illness is that it doesn’t preclude anyone. No one is immune. It offers no explanations, no sympathy, no nothing. For Giulia, one day it wasn’t and the next day it was. I was pulled into her story and Mark’s story and I couldn’t read fast enough. I mean, really. This book read faster to me than some of the craziest suspense novels I’ve ever read because I was just fascinated by their story and hoping and praying and waiting for the end result to be good. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.
I know mental illness is so personal but I love that Mark and Giulia let us into their story, the highs and lows, the fights, the tears, the frustration… all of it, no holds barred. I love how open and honest and thorough Mark is in describing their experience, and how it is to love someone with mental illness. I love that Mark isn’t afraid to show us that it’s HARD to love someone with mental illness, but that you can love them just the same. I love that he shows us vulnerability, anger, resentment, fear – the times he lost his temper along with the times he was nearly a saint (though I doubt he’d call himself that!). I love that they’re sharing their story because somebody somewhere will read this and say “aha! Me too! I’m not alone!” Oh and also? There’s a Bulldog so… instant love right there, you know.
I’ve had anxiety and depression for most of my life, and while my issues are not nearly as severe as those depicted in this memoir, I feel grateful anytime people are willing to open up about their experiences with mental illness. It’s a relief to know that someone gets it, that there are people out there who SEE that these are real illnesses, despite not being able to physically see them. You can look fine and yet not feel fine.
This book just gripped me from page one. I could not put it down and I will be passionately recommending it to most everyone I know. It is full of raw, beautiful, easy to read writing, depicting a very real and very hard story with glimmers of hope throughout… I cannot recommend it enough!