Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Three Faces of Eve

is the coolest book! I grabbed this one off the shelf above The Imp of the Mind simply because its title intrigued me. I had no idea what it was about (although I should have guessed given it was in the psychology section) and that made almost like a suspense novel.

The Three Faces of Eve, by psychologists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervy M. Cleckley, was originally published in 1957 and is one of the earliest modern accounts of multiple personality disorder. Rich in descriptive detail and ontological inquiry, the book felt more like a novel than the true account it actually is. (In other words, I never would have guessed that it was written by couple of doctors!)

Eve White was a real woman who went to her doctor complaining of severe headaches and random bouts of amnesia. The doctor, who couldn't find anything physically wrong with her, referred her to psychologists Thigpen and Cleckley and that's when the fun begins. Thigpen and Cleckley have no idea what to make of their patient, or her alter the provocative and insouciant Eve Black, but they stumble along anyway, trying to help Eve function in the world. As her marriage falls apart and she gives up her beloved daughter, Eve begins to succumb to her illness only to have a third alter emerge who changes everything. (I won't tell you anymore because I want you to be biting your nails with anticipation just like I was!)

According to Wikipedia--this information may or may not be reliable--the real woman, Chris Costner-Sizemore, was unhappy with the portrayal of her in the book and in the movie that Thigpen arranged to be made of the book. So she wrote her own entitled I'm Eve and A Mind of My Own. Those books are totally on my reading list now!

The blog-apy is working

When I started this blog I had intended to use it to help monitor my moods. I guess I was thinking that if I could write about being depressed it might help ease the feeling. Like therapy but on a blog. You know, blog-apy. Turns out though that I'm usually not up to writing when I'm feeling down. I thought I'd go for it today though, cause, boy, do I feel lousy!

I think fatigue really exacerbates my depression and I didn't get much sleep last night, so this morning turned out to be one of those mornings. You know, the kind where you wake up, trip over seventeen giant piles of toys while trying to get up the stairs, change diapers to a shrill chorus of whines and screams, hand wash bowls and sippies since there are no clean dishes to more whining even though you relented and turned on the darn TV, and keep repeating to yourself, "this too shall pass, this too shall pass."

Just doing the amount of work it was going to take to keep us all functioning felt like too much today. I guess that's one of the things I hate most about being depressed: the amount of work and conscientious effort it takes for me to have a "normal" life. I have to be sure to take my medicine at the same time every day, I have to exercise every day, and I have to get plenty of sleep, because if any little thing is out of place in my life I can't cope with all the other demands. It feels unfair because I know other people can let things slide a little and not risk disaster. My life just feels so precarious sometimes.

You know what, though, it's naptime and nobody has died yet. (Although, when the 2 year old pushed the baby off the couch I thought someone might.) I got all but three dishes mashed into the dishwasher and the home teachers canceled (bless them!) so I don't have to worry about cleaning or vacuuming our front room. Today might be okay after all.

Hmm . . .I feel a little bit better. . .maybe the blog-apy is working . . .

Monday, January 21, 2008

1500 pages in 3 weeks!

Maybe it was the pneumonia that kept me up nights this last week, but I have now read five books (adding up to more than 1500 pages) this year! I am quite proud of myself, especially because the books weren't all easy reading--I really had to focus :) I've already posted on the first book, The Imp of the Mind, so here are my thoughts on the other four I've read:

1. Charlie's Monument by Blaine Yorgason
I had such fond memories of this book from my readings of it during my tween years that I was hesitant to pick it up again. But, since the sisters in my ward wanted to do it for our Enrichment book club I acquiesced. I have to say, I wasn't surprised that I liked it when I was twelve. The melodrama of a frontiersman born with one arm and crippled legs seems ready made for teenagers--which in fact it was (more on this in a moment).

I admit to being torn as a reader. The literary, college educated part of me really didn't like it. The language and the overall craft was so poor I spent more time wondering about how doctrinal it's overall message was than about teh actual story. The other part of me, the emotional, I-never-get-any-sleep-and-I-could-use-a-little-pick-me-up part, REALLY liked it. I was surprised to find myself cheering when he got the girl, a little weepy when Charlie's kids died, and strangely satisfied when I closed the book 27 minutes after I started it. Something in me really liked the idea that even though the odds were against this kid, he found a way to make his life a success and that he still mattered to people. Poor writing aside, it really struck a chord.

The truly interesting part of the book was the afterword where Yorgason talked about how the story came to be. Turns out it was inspiration for an especially needy Seminary class he was teaching. The crazy part is that, unbeknownst to him, it was a true story. One of his grandparents was born crippled and lived a life remarkably similar to Charlie's, even building a monument out of rocks on top of a hill. The manuscript miraculously survived a flood (when nothing else of Yorgason's did) and even though it was originally self-published has been selling copies ever since. The persistence of the book seems to be a testament to the ideas embodied by it's title character.

2. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
This was such a good book! I really enjoy Oliver Sacks and like every other person to reveiw the book thought it was a perfect marriage of subject matter and author. The only thing I found myself wishing for was a cd of the music he references. Knowing what the music the patient's had been listening to really would have enriched the reading experience.

3. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Patricia Karamesines, a contributor at A Motley Vision, reviewed this book and, since I am often intrigued and moved by what Patricia writes I decided to try this one. It was quite enjoyable. I read it during the worst night of my pneumonia and it was a welcome distraction from my(literally) rib-cracking cough. I found Enna a likeable character and enjoyed seeing her grow and learn throughout the novel. I especially appreciated Hale's willingness to let Enna struggle and make poor decisions. Since it was teen fiction I expected a sticky-sweet, happy ending--which is exactly what Hale delivered.

The most interesting thing for me though was the metaphorical possibilities of Enna's fire abilities. I have to say that I found her description of burning akin to my own feelings about depression. I should clarify that I am mostly the angry/anxious type of depressed person and my most depressed moments usually involve yelling and breaking things. Enna's assumption that she could control her fire while giving in to it, and it's eventual consumption of her helped me view my anger in a new light. Hmm . . . this seems like it could be a post all on it's own.

4. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 1 by B. H. Roberts

This has been my favorite book so far this year. I found it absolutely readable, interesting, and, honestly, a page turner. It's unfortunate that this set is out of print because it is chock full of fabulous stories from Church history. The most interesting things to me were the chapters on the history of the Danites, Jospeh Smith's prophecies about the destruction of Missouri, and the "other psychics" working and living aroudn the young Jospeh Smith. I especially appreciated Roberts' willingness to take on false doctrines and untruths spread by anti-Mormon groups. It really satisfied the intellectual part of my testimony and reminded me that intellect and faith are not always in opposition. Granted, the books are old and plenty of new research has come to light, but I still felt I learned a lot. I would really encourage anyone who has access to these books to pick them up.

Friday, January 11, 2008

In case my sister-in-law decides to read my blog . . .

I feel like I should explain why I have this blog. So, Heather, this is for you!

I decided that I needed to blog for a few reasons. Reason number one: I felt like I needed to spend more time writing in order to improve my craft. Not that blogs are all that arty, but, for me, the more I work at writing the better I am articulating myself.

Reason number two: I'm not in therapy at the moment and when I write, about anything really, it relieves my mental pressure. It makes me feel less lonely and more alive--both of which combat my depression.

Reason number three (and this is the big one): I feel like LDS women, and men I suppose, are still reticent to talk about depression as a chronic illness and a fact of life. I registered this blog after having a conversation with my sister about a young mother in her ward. This particular woman, let's call her Molly (as in Molly Mormon), is currently having marital problems, financial problems, and is really struggling keeping up with her life. After they chatted for awhile my sister asked Molly if she felt she was depressed. My sister suggested she might need a little professional help to get through her current struggles. Molly laughed and said something to the effect of, "There is no way I'm going to be that girl." When asked what she meant by this Molly said that she didn't want to be one of those Mormon women who had to pop a pill every morning because they couldn't deal with life.

Now how the conversation went from there, I'm not really sure. Maybe Molly really wasn't depressed and didn't need help. If so, good for her. But what struck me about their conversation was that even if Molly had needed help, she was unwilling to get it simply because of some nebulous, negative stereotype. What exactly does she think it means to have depression? If she knew me, would she think less of me for having an illness and accepting help? And, what if she really does need professional help, whether in the form of medicine or therapy (which pretty much everyone can benefit from)? Is she unwilling to get it because it would, well, mean asking for help, and good LDS women don't do that?

Unfortunately, I don't think the young mommy in my sister's ward is alone in her perception. And that's why I started this blog. Maybe, by adding my voice to the discussion, the stereotype would start to fall apart. Maybe, other people would start to talk too. Maybe we could all start to offer and accept meaningful assistance when it was truly needed. Maybe being depressed wouldn't be so bad after all.

Of course, for all that to happen, I need some readers. But that's a whole other kettle of fish!

One book down, 51 to go!

Well, the first book I read wasn't on my list but it was well worth it. It was a non-fiction book called The Imp of the Mind and was written by a psychologist named Lee Baer. The book, as it subtitle says, explores the silent epidemic of obsessive bad thoughts. Dr. Baer defines bad thoughts simply as unbidden, socially unacceptable thoughts. As an example from his own mind he offered the fact that every time he sees someone driving a pickup truck with a dog in the back, the image of the dog being thrown from the truck and run over by his own car enters his mind. It's not that he actually wants to hurt the dog, but that the image comes into his mind and he can't shake it. He says that this is really normal and that most people have something like this. Occassional bad thoughts strike everyone, but, and this is why his book is important, for some people these bad thoughts take over and can destroy their lives. People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulisve Disorder, depression, and especially post-partum depression (that's me! that's me!) are extremely susceptible to this disorder.

The book details the different types of bad thoughts and ways to combat them, but I suppose what I found most valuable was just his willingness to bring this subject to light. In his first chapter he details the struggles a new mother has with bad thoughts about her infant and it was as if he had been inside my head. At first I was horrified to have these very dark and frightening thoughts articulated--heaven knows I spent a lot of time hiding from them. To be honest, I had never even told my therapists about them. I had heard that Brooke Shields mentions them in her book on PPD, Down Came the Rain, but seeing as I'm terrified of reading her book I wasn't sure. To have Dr. Baer talk about them in such an open way really took a lot of their power away.

I don't know that this is a book I would recommend to people at large, but I found it valuable. And I would readily recommend it to anyone who suffers from any of them above conditions. It's always nice to know you're not alone, and that you're not as crazy as you think you are :)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A book a day keeps the crazies away!

Well, okay, I can't read one book every day, but I have set a goal this year to read one book a week. That's right, 52 weeks, 52 books. I already have a few titles selected, but I would love recommendations! Leave me a comment and let me know what you are reading.

Here's the first bunch I've chosen, in no particular order:

1.A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 1 (by B. H. Roberts)
2. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 2
3. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 3
4. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 4
5. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 5
6. A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volume 6
7. Charlie’s Monument (ward book club selection)
8. Enna Burning
9. Not in Vain: the story of Ellis Shipp (possible ward book club selection—I’m reviewing it)
10. Musicophilia: tales of music and the brain (neighborhood book group selection)
11. The House of Mirth (neighborhood book group selection)
12. Love in the Time of Cholera (neighborhood book group selection)
13. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (neighborhood book group selection)
14. Our Mutual Friend (neighborhood book group selection)
15. Wives and Daughters (neighborhood book group selection)
16. Pillars of the Earth (neighborhood book group selection)
17. The Beautyful One Are Not Yet Born (neighborhood book group selection)
18. All Quiet on the Western Front (neighborhood book group selection)
19. The Woman in White (neighborhood book group selection)
20. Wild Swans—three daughters of China (neighborhood book group selection)
21. USA by John Dos Passos (vol 1)
22. USA by John Dos Passos (vol 2)
23. USA by John Dos Passos (vol 3)
24. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
25. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut