I am reading two books at the moment: The Woman Who Thought Too Much: A Memoir by Joanne Limburg and The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks. Without having finished either, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I recommend both.
While The Woman Who Thought Too Much details Limburg’s struggles with OCD and The Center Cannot Hold is about Saks’ struggles with Schizophrenia, you can see similarities in their stories. In both cases it takes some time for a clear picture of the illness to emerge. Both women struggle with experiences that cause them serious difficulties but cannot quite be pinned down. Over many years the illnesses and their understandings of them crystallize somehow and at this point the battle is swung. At least, that’s how I see it.
The level of honesty in these books is astounding. They reveal things that I’m sure I would be reluctant to (and I am already reluctant to reveal plenty of my experiences) but I am convinced that it is important that they do. Only this way can we gain a true picture of what these illnesses mean. A textbook or a list of diagnostic criteria will never be able give such a full picture.
Both women are obviously highly intelligent. I won’t submit to the cliche that their madness and brilliance are two sides of a coin but, rather, I think it is heartening to realize that even in seriously diseased minds something formidable lies at the core, untouched or even strengthened by what goes on around.
I will write more about these books once I have read more!