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review 2018-02-28 20:33
My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir - Mark Lukach

I'm torn over this book. On one hand, any new resource is a good one. We have a dire need for more views on mental illness, and this writer husband needed an outlet. Many people in similar situations will gravitate to this in future, because it's one of very few similar books dedicated solely to mental illness. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with illness of a loved one. It's hard, and this man has the ability to just focus on his experience because he doesn't have to deal with the issues that quickly take over in 99.9% of cases in the US - inadequate care, lack of insurance, lack of resources, lack of support systems, huge financial hardship, homelessness...


This book does best early on, when he's furious, scared and confused at the sometimes arbitrary, often misleading and always rigid rules of psychiatric care. I highlighted huge sections of these early encounters with hospitals and staff because despite many feeling feel similarly, in the decades I've been in the field very little has changed beyond some nicer wording. So I cheered him for this.


My discomfort with the book came after that, when suddenly some really naive life choices are being made by a couple who has experienced an upsetting but single psychotic break. I have many questions I would like to ask, but that's not how books work.


Then there's the issue that these seem to be the luckiest two people on earth. Yes, even after the psychiatric diagnosis. Both have parents, family and friends alive, willing and able to drop everything, fly in from other countries and stay to help. There is not a single word in this book about the myriad ways insurance tries and usually succeeds in screwing the mentally ill - this would likely be because they can pay for treatment that isn't covered or because they stayed within an HMO-type system at Kaiser. Kaiser isn't known for cutting-edge mental health care, so perhaps that's why some things seemed strangely unexamined.


When her illness starts, both are able to quit jobs and even travel before they decide to start a family. Through it all they're still living a very nice lifestyle, despite it being far from the one they'd imagined. But that's how any illness works.


By the end, the book covers three episodes and hospitalizations in five years, and it seems like he thinks he's got it all worked out. Five years into severe psychiatric illness is a very short time. I don't even know that his lovely wife actually qualifies as severely mentally ill. She is able to hold down a job between her three episodes and has a between period. Of course it feels painstaking to all involved, but cancer of any stage feels painstaking, yet there are still stages.


Everyone has a right to tell their story. What I hope is that this book will not be anyone's sole resource. I just read another from Patrisse Khan-Cullers in When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir that shows a very different experience with a similar diagnosis in the same state. When it comes down to it, finances play a huge part in one's ability to get any care at all. Jail was the best the state of California could offer to her brother who had a well-documented lifelong case history.


Everyone has a right to tell their story, but this one felt a bit pat in the latter parts, like he has learned what the right things to say are, and he's saying them, but if I had this guy on my therapy couch, I'd be asking some tough questions about the pretty words. He got his feelings out, and that's what I got from this book: his feelings. It's a very one-sided, tiny slice of the beginning of his family's mental health journey. I wish them well, but I can't say I'd recommend this book to many people.

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review 2017-12-26 16:58
My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward
My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir - Mark Lukach
Their marriage started out perfectly, they fell in love in college and they had hopes and dreams about their future. They both found jobs and they fell into a routine. Giulia began to doubt her ability at work and anxiety slowly crept in. It began with one night of insomnia and grew to two nights, then three, then sleep was something of her past. A Skype call to her mother prompted her father to immediately fly out for a visit. The Devil would not leave her alone. Giulia could not be reasoned with, she is irate. They take her to the hospital (the Devil accompanies them too) and she is admitted. This is her first visit to the psych ward.
Her diagnosis was schizophrenia but later on, they decided perhaps this is not correct. Mark begins to feel that their normal life is gone. He is losing his wife and gaining a patient. After an incident at the hospital between the Devil and God, they release Giulia. I was horrified that they discharged her when I felt that she was not ready. I felt that they just did not know what else to do with her. At home, Mark is happy to have her home while Giulia feels the opposite. It takes time for the two of them to find normalcy again. They begin to fall into a routine again as she attends an outreach program and Mark works. The illness is taking a toil on their relationship as she needs constant supervision and both of their emotions are being pulled in opposite directions. Depression is hitting both of them but with different effects.
It was an engaging and insightful look into the lives of a couple as they deal with her mental illness. It became frustrating at times as I “waited” with them for the next episode to occur. Giulia knew that she would have this health issue for the rest of her life and she tried to take medication to prevent the attacks but nothing would work to stop them. The couple would just wait and watch for the symptoms so they could stop the severity and/or stop a full-blown attack. It was stressful, I thought. Then, they add a child into the mix, it became even more stressful.
I enjoy this novel, I thought the husband’s comments and thoughts were honest. He loved his wife but didn’t know what to do, he also became resentful at times, and he also knew he needed to think about the other individuals in his life. It is a complicated and complex issue. A great novel about mental health.


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